Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Aid to Massachusetts CPA Exam-Takers

The Massachusetts Society of CPAs will hold a lottery to award $350 vouchers to 25 candidates planning to sit for the commonwealth's CPA exam between May 1, 2007 and April 30, 2008. To be eligible, candidates cannot receive payments or reimbursements for exam fees or review courses from their employers, or a bonus on passing. Download the application here.

A Market Check for Accounting, Finance Executives

James Rubin interviews Shane Hill of Hudson Highland Group on JobsintheMoney. I hate to sound like a broken record, but here's another career insider talking about the importance of communications skills:
The higher you go on the organizational chart, the more paramount are communication skills. I know when I've got a good candidate, even if their technical skills aren't exactly what the client's after, if the candidate articulates well, you can teach them a lot of other things.
A Recruiter's View of Accounting and Finance [JITM]

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ryan & Co. Names Sweet a Principal

Jon Sweet has joined Ryan & Company as a principal. He'll lead the firm's Strategic Business Advisory Services practice and will oversee strategy, marketing and business development from its Phoenix office. Sweet has a BA in Business Economics from Wheaton College. (Here's a press release.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Business Skills, Too

Bryant University is creating a "master of professional accountancy" program that will teach a mix of advanced accounting and other business skills.

...the new two-semester, 10-course master’s program will include corporate-focused courses such as corporate governance, strategic cost management and multinational accounting, as well as project management for accounting leadership and research and communications.

These courses are intended to complement the five technical accounting courses that are required for most graduate accounting degrees.

Here's the story from Providence Business News:

It's about more than accounting [PBN]

California Non-Profits Looking for Finance Pros

An increasing number of California non-profits are creating or expanding their in-house financial operations because of SOX-like legislation, increased funder demands and a move toward standarized accounting procedures.
Previously, many non-profits relied on outside accounting firms to handle their affairs. Now they believe creating their own financial units will enable them to handle the heavier workload brought on by the more vigilant environment. This, in turn, will create job opportunities.

James Rubin reports.

Non-Profits in Calif. Seek Financial Expertise [JITM]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Opportunities in Hospitality

On JobsintheMoney, I just posted a story by Scott Krady about the demand for accounting and financial professionals in the hotel business. The economy's pretty good, businesspeople are traveling, and that's leading to a need for CPAs, controllers and the like throughout the industry.
"It's more difficult to find people than it is to find clients," says Kelly Nelson, vice president at Bristol Associates, a firm specializing in the placement of hospitality professionals. Nelson estimates that the top talent is commanding 10 to 15 percent higher compensation than they were two years ago.

Hotel Industry Needs Accounting Staff [JITM]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Plight of the CFO

Fortune has an article on how the job of the CFO is changing, and how the market is evolving with it. Among other things, more companies are turning to temporary CFOs. Below are links to my summary on JobsintheMoney, and the full article.

CFOs find the job's just not worth it [Fortune]
Change Afoot in the CFO's Role, Approach [JITM]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Be Prepared

In today's Wall Street Journal, Perri Cappell answers this question:
During a second interview, the employer asked my earnings requirements. I gave a range, and he agreed to the top number. Later, I learned companies typically pay more for this job. Can I bring up salary again?

The answer, it turns out, is "probably." And the article makes it clear why you should be sure to do your research on companies and salaries before you head into for your interview.

The Right Time to Talk About Salary [WSJ - $]

Monday, January 22, 2007

Looking for the Power Behind the Ad

Here's an article from The Wall Street Journal on why you should try to find the actual hiring manager who's behind the job postings you're looking at. It's not accounting/finance-focused, but it's still a good perspective.
It's a myth that HR staffers will be offended if you go around them, say senior HR executives. "To be perfectly honest, if I were her, I would be trying to get to the hiring manager," says Patrick Manion, vice president of global human resources for Flextronics International Ltd., a Singapore-based electronics design and manufacturing company with U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif. "Everyone else is just a gatekeeper."

Want That Job? You Should Call Hiring Manager [WSJ - $]

Deloitte Launches 'Balance' Blog

Deloitte & Touche launched what is claims to be "the first corporate blog to explore the issues and personal experiences women and men face in pursuit of career advancement and work/life balance."
Hosted by Cathy Benko, Principal and High Technology Sector Leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP and National Managing Director of Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative, the blog provides a forum for candid discussions that aim to help professionals enhance their careers and find ways to make flexibility and choice a staple of the workplace.

The blog will be updated every Thursday. It's at

Friday, January 19, 2007

Long Island Firm Finds the Right Candidates

Somehow, Melville, N.Y., accounting firm Marcum & Kliegman is finding the people it needs to accomodate its expanding practice. It hired 120 people last year, and is looking for 175 to 200 more in 2007. One part of its strategy: Convince New York City accountants that Long Island is a better place to live.

Despite accounting crunch, it’s long addition at M&K [L.I. Business News]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Five Sales Secrets for CPAs

"Over the last 20 years I have delivered customized sales training for over 500 CPA firms and have eight published books on selling professional services," writes Allan Boress, CPA, CFE, on AccountingWEB. "Unfortunately, we were never taught in school how to bring in business. And most CPAs and consultants make these costly mistakes without realizing it."

His "Hidden Sales Secrets for CPAs" include:

#5: Learn how to state your idea concisely – and quickly - in a manner people
understand and see value in immediately.

#4: Never conduct the initial sales interview on the client’s turf.

#3: Learn to listen to the client without interruption, without interjecting your brilliant ideas at the wrong time, by not using unexplained terms of law, and being so open that they are open with you.

#2: There must be enough marketing and contact to catch the potential client at the right time in the buying cycle.

#1: Utilizing a systematic approach to conducting a sales examination is critical. It will tell you where you are in the sales process, and inform you if and when to close the sale or secure commitments.

Read it, print it, save it - it's an excellent primer on sales which - whether we want to admit it or not - is something all of us have to think about.

The 5 Hidden Secrets to Boost Your Sales Now [AccountingWEB]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Back to the Big 8?

Will the push toward greater corporate responsibility create more Big Four-sized accounting firms? Jay Whitehead, chief executive of the magazine the CRO, seems to think so.

Sure, Sarbox accelerated CPA scarcity in 2002. Then SEC Chairman Christopher Cox’s stock-option enforcement layered on more pressure. As a result of a CPA shortage and SEC-inspired anxieties, both the NYSE and NASDAQ report up to a ten-fold increase in companies that have delayed their quarterly or annual financial filings since 2005. Both trends cause CFOs pain. But the bigger CFO challenge comes from their lack of choice in accounting firms.

He lays out a good case.

CRO POV: Final 4 Fears [CRO]

Life After An IRS Career

KPMG's Forensic Practice has hired former IRS Special Agents James Dowling and Don Temple as directors in its anti-money laundering group. Dowling, a former senior policy advisor to the White House Drug Policy Office, will work from Los Angeles on fraud and money laundering issues. Temple will be based in Baltimore office, working with KPMG clients on anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing activities. [KPMG]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Urban Accounting

Came across two interesting profiles in local newspapers today.

The first is on Linda Swift, whose firm, United Tax Service, has seven employees in two offices in Milwaukee's central city district. She's one of the eight percent of CPAs who are of color, and one percent of CPAs who are African-American.

Given the dearth of minorities in the accounting profession, Swift believes it's critical that African-American children see more role models like her in the community. That is why she chooses to operate her accounting and tax service in the central city, where the only finance professionals many kids are exposed to are tellers and bookkeepers.

The second item is an interview with Tommie Vassel, president of the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants. Of the hiring situation in New Orleans, he says:

What I’m hearing in the accounting profession as far as firms are concerned is that most of them have an abundance of work but they lack the more experienced
personnel to actually do the work. Some firms are actually starting to turn down
potential clients because they just don’t have the staff to fulfill the workload.

She sees — and fills — a need for accountants in central city [Journal Sentinel]
Look Who's Talking: Tommie Vassel [New Orleans City Business]

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dissension in IRS Ranks

IRS agents are being pushed to close corporate audits so quickly, the service is leaving real money on the table when it reviews the returns of medium and large businesses, reports David Cay Johnston of today's New York Times.
One longtime auditor in New York said that when ordered not to pursue an issue “you just write ‘closed per case manager’ to cover yourself.”

The auditor was asked why she did not file an official memo indicating that she disagreed and that she believed it was premature or improper to close the audit.

“Why would I do that?” the auditor replied. “So my manager will give me a bad performance review?” Others gave similar explanations.

IRS officials - including Deborah M. Nolan, Commissioner of the IRS's Large and Mid-Size Business Division - say the complaints are either misinformed or misguided.

Ms. Nolan said agents who believed that an important issue should have been ursued should report the matter to higher-level supervisors or go to the inspector general’s office. She said she was not aware of any such complaints.

Whatever's going on behind the scenes, the Times says the end result is many experienced corporate auditors have set their sets on retiring as quickly as possible. Said one auditor: "A lot of audit experience is about to walk out the door … And then what will happen?”

Agents Say Fast Audits Hurt I.R.S. [NY Times]

Can't Find A Job?

I get a surprising amount of e-mail from accounting staffers who aren't able to find work nowadays. At first, I have to admit, I wondered what was wrong with them. Turns out nothing's wrong, but they need better credentials, specifically their CPA.

"The transition from accounting pro to CPA does require work, but it's well worth the effort," says Steve Riordan, a professional recruiter in the New York office of Manpower Professional, a staffing firm. He points out that the salary boost financial professionals realize with a CPA, plus the demand for those with the licensure, more than justify the time and effort needed to obtain the designation. Today, firms aren't interested in training people to understand the more complex accounting rules and regulations. The CPA shows you have the needed skills. Says Riordan: "The folks without the designation often find themselves stuck and not moving up the ladder."

Read Myra Thomas's story about this on The link's below

Licensure a Key to Accounting Success [JITM]

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Big 4 On Best Companies to Work For

All the Big Four are on this year's Fortune list of the best 100 companies to work for. You can read the whole list here. While a number of investment and financial companies made the list, no mid-sized accounting firms did.

For a reality check on the list, read the comments posted on Fortune's Web site (here). A notable one:

I worked for Crowe Chizek for a few year, not one of the big 4 (accounting firms) but in their words "The Unique alternative to the big four" and while the firm likes to trumpet how GREAT our jobs are, how HAPPY all the employees are, what a SPECTACULAR work life balance they have...BS. Working 80-90 hours a week in order to have your Fridays off...not fun at all. There was always this HUGE push for more billable hours, more billable time, etc. etc. (ad-nauseum). "Productivity" was something the bigwigs wanted us to focus on constantly, which turns out guessed it...more billable hours. I spent so much darn time entering and tracking down to 15 minute intervals exactly what I worked on, it was silly. I hated it. Politics were very important as well, if you were liked, you advanced. If you weren't, you would languish for years as a staff accountant, and then get fired, or you would just be fired. I had one relationship fall apart due to the hour/time commitment. I now work for a non-profit as an accounting manager, very easy going office, no OT, no Busy Season, and several old Crowe employees work here as well. It's very easy to get burnt out in public accounting. Very Very Easy.

Anyone who works for a Big 4 and wants to chime in, just add your comment below.

100 Best Companies to Work For [Fortune]

CPA Opportunities in Wealth Management

Vince Pallitto is a CPA in Florham Park, N.J., who's expanded his business to offer wealth-management services to his clients. He told Myra Thomas:

The reason I originally got into financial planning was because of the years of poor financial advice that others gave my tax clients. CPAs are the best people to handle investment planning for individuals. I don't know how you can give investment advice without understanding the tax implications. Tax preparation is a reactive approach. Tax consulting is a different story, as it's more proactive.

Honestly, tax practices are dwindling. Younger generations are more computer savvy, and they are more willing to prepare their returns on their own with retail software packages. The IRS is moving to having people file online. If you're relying purely on tax prep for your income, then moving into financial planning is a good move.

You can see their entire conversation on

In N.J.: CPA Clients Seek Wealth Management Advice [JITM]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan...

Here's an article from the Payson (Ariz.) Roundup (one of the best-named newspapers I've ever stumbled across), about a CPA and her husband going into the restaurant business:

The Kirschbaums share a common ambition, one that balances the extremes of their personalities. Brenda, 33, is the bean counter. She pays attention to the details and makes sure business runs smoothly on the back end. John taps into the energy created by social interaction. He's the customer service half of their partnership.

Couple buy into Payson through landmark restaurant [Payson Roundup]

From CPA to CFO?

The importance of having a CPA may waning if you're following a path to the CFO's office. James Rubin recently spoke with Scott W. Simmons of financial recruiter Crist Associates:

What types of positions should a candidate have before a comptroller or divisional CFO role?

FP&A roles, director of financial planning and analysis roles, are good. Not too long in the tooth in staff roles - somehow moving out into the operating roles. You should look for three-, four-year stints in each of your movements. The market likes to see progression. An international assignment, CFO of a region, is key.

Is a CPA essential?

Case by case. Some companies require a CPA. It really came back into fashion over the last few years when Sarbanes-Oxley hit the street. But I will tell you over the last 12 months, I've felt it softening.

How important are softer skills?

In a research study we put out every year, we have seen the COO position vanishing. What we have seen is the rising prominence of the CFO from just a straight finance focus to a strategic part of the puzzle. And because of that clients tell us, "Don’t get me a bean counter. Get me somebody who I can sit in a room with and talk with from a strategic perspective about where our company's going, what decisions need to be made near- and long-term."

James, as usual, had a great conversation with Mr. Simmons, which includes a lot of food for thought if becoming a CFO appeals to you. It's all on

Plotting Your Path to the CFO's Office [JITM]

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Who's Blogging Now?

You're not alone in reading blogs. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox reads the to get a sense of what people out in the real world are saying:

... he also uses technology to get an early peek at how the public will react to SEC action on issues.

"Blogs are a great way to infer passion and depth of feeling," he said at the summit. "They give you an early read on the ... response you might expect."

But Cox said he does not rely on blogs to find the way forward on tough issues. "Blogs in many cases are so irreverent," he said. "They don't wait for facts."

Well, some don't wait for facts. Anyway, the article makes a point of saying Cox has actually posted comments on a blog - that of Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz. On, Marie Leone uses that tidbit as a jumping off point to say:

But now we see that the Chairman speaks from experience, albeit a little blogging does not make an XBRL expert. Nevertheless, when President Roosevelt named alleged bootlegger and business mogul Joseph Kennedy, Sr. as the first chairman of the SEC in 1934, reports at the time speculated that part of FDR's rationale was to appoint a former law breaker because he would recognize an illegal scheme better than anyone.

Maybe President Bush had a similar motivation. He appointed a blogger to champion the technology movement at the SEC. Or perhaps, Cox—a former California Congressman—has larger political aspirations and knows that a skillful grassroots blogger can win the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks, of the voting public.

I'm thinking all that might be a stretch - well, not the part about Cox having larger political aspirations (He's smart, articulate and he smiles like a Kennedy; I'd have larger political aspirations, too). But you know blogs are going mainstream when the head of the SEC uses them.

SEC's Cox uses blogs to gauge public sentiment [Reuters via Yahoo]
The Blogging Regulator []

Monday, January 08, 2007

Face to Face with E&Y

Ernst & Young is looking for 5,500 interns and new graduates this year, and it's adopting social networking as part of the hunt. The Wall Street Journal says E&Y has launched a page on Facebook, complete with discussion boards and other information aimed at college students. (The firm has to pay a fee for the privilege.)

About 5,100 Facebook users have signed up as "members" of the Ernst & Young page. Ernst & Young recruiters monitor the site and respond to some queries, such as how to get a job at the firm and what types of educational backgrounds it seeks. The recruiters identify themselves as Ernst & Young employees and word their responses informally.

In one of those dangers-of-the-Internet exercises, I went over to MySpace and searched for user Ernst & Young. E&Y's not there - but the resulting text ads lead off with a link to the Web site of… Deloitte & Touche.

Ernst & Young Reaches Out To Recruits on Facebook [WSJ - $]

Friday, January 05, 2007

What Armanino McKenna Looks for in CPAs

Our own James Rubin talked with Zandy Ryder, recruiting manager at recruiting manager for Armanino McKenna LLP, one of the 100 largest accounting firms in the country. Among other things, she told James:

The CPA licensure is always preferable, and recent public accounting experience. Someone who has come from a Big Four firm is always a plus. Someone who has experience performing professional services for a variety of industries and clients of different sizes is also a plus. We're looking for people with experience in such areas as high-tech, SEC regulations, Sarbanes-Oxley, and individuals who have previous managerial or supervisory experience.

The reason a Big Four background is attractive is because those people have had
exposure to different industries and to (clients who have to deal with the) SEC, among other areas. They seem to be able to assimilate to our firm the quickest.

The full interview is here.

Calif. CPA Firm Seeks Experience, Communication Skills [JITM]

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Here's A Quiz

Who are survey respondents talking about when that say ________ has given them the silent treatment, taken credit for work they didn't do, and broken promises? Is it:

  1. Their pre-schooler
  2. Their spouse
  3. Their boss

The Answer: 3.

Yup, the boss. Wayne Hochwarter, an associate professor of management at Florida State University's College of Business surveyed 700 people in a range of fields about how they were treated by their supervisors. Among other things, they said:

  • Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" in the past year.
  • Thirty-seven percent reported that their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
  • Thirty-nine percent noted that their supervisor failed to keep promises.

Such behavior had a real impact. Hochwarter says employees stuck with such bosses "experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust." They were also less likely to put in extra hours and - no surprise - were less satisfied about their work. It doesn't take a great leap to figure out, as Hochwarter did, that employees with putzy bosses are more likely to leave than those who aren't happy with their pay.

So, what do you do if you have such a boss? First, stay visible, Hochwarter says. Staffers tend to blame themselves - a common theme in abusive relationships - and their instinct may be to hide. Don't do it. Remember, that others probably know your boss is a jerk, and you shouldn't prevent them from noticing your good work.

His second suggestion is, I think, tougher: Keep your chin up. "It is important to stay positive, even when you get irritated or discouraged, because few subordinate-supervisor relationships last forever," he says. "You want the next boss to know what you can do for the company." That's very nice, but if you've ever lived through a bad boss, you know how hard it can be to face going into the office every day. So, I'd add be realistic when weighing how much you like your work against how much you want to work in a decent environment. It's not a bad time to be looking for work in accounting, after all.

Finally, remember there is a not-so-fine line between being a bully and real harassment, discrimination or violence. If you've got a boss like this, be sure you know where to get help, whether it's through HR, a lawyer or even the authorities.

Who's afraid of the big bad boss? Plenty of us, new FSU study shows []

Off-Topic #4: The Worst Credit Card in the World

My friend Ellen Cannon, an editor at, has just started a blog about credit cards. Ellen's the kind of person who can read things like, say, the Statistical Abstract of the United States and then produce 400 or so actually readable words on its Table 1167, "Percent of U.S. Households That Use Selected Payment Instruments from 1995 to 2004."

One of the tasks Ellen's taken on is digesting all of the fine print that's run at the very very bottom of credit card offers (in what's called "mice type"). It's a quest to find what she calls "the worst credit card in the world." Her current candidate is Tribute MasterCard, whose terms include:

Available Credit Limitations: Your initial credit limit will be $300 and the following fees will appear on your first statement: Annual Fee of $150, and an Account Opening Fee of $29. After making your initial minimum monthly payment of $20, following the receipt of your card mailer, your available credit will be $141. You will be billed a Monthly Maintenance Fee of $6.50 ($78 per year), beginning after you make your first purchase. Your available credit may also be limited, from time to time, if you give your account number or card to a merchant that processes advance authorization, such as a hotel, motel or car rental office. Such an authorization may limit your ability to make purchases and take cash advance on your account until the authorization is cancelled by the merchant and your available credit released.

Take a minute and do the math. Ellen's blog, "Plastic Rap," is here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Where People Make the Difference

Last year, Wal-Mart begin using a new scheduling system that called in workers - accounting staff, among others - based on store traffic in almost real-time. Today, news broke the retailing giant is about to move many of its 1.3 million workers to such a system, de-emphasizing predictable shifts in favor of more dynamic "personal availability."

Because Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart, it's a safe bet that other retailers will begin moving in the same direction. The Wall Street Journal says Payless ShoeSource, RadioShack and Mervyns already have. On the site Blogging Stocks, Peter Cohan coined a good term for this: Just-in-time employees.

Wal-Mart Inc.'s latest innovation is to treat its employees just the same as its inventory. For too long, many of Wal-Mart's employees have had regular work schedules. Wal-Mart excels at stocking each store with the items that customers want to buy and shunning the rest; and it's finally dawned on management that Wal-Mart can apply this same just-in-time approach to putting employees in its stores.

Now, before you think I'm going off-topic remember Wal-Mart saddled accounting employees with this system early on. And let's also remember that the workload of many accountants depends on the daily flow of traffic in their business - think hotels or other retailers. If you base your decision-making on pure numbers, I suppose there's much to be said for this approach. You only pay for staff when you actually need them. If you're on the staff, however, your pay becomes a lot less predictable, as does the time you get to spend with your family or just doing things outside of work.

I daresay, there's a good bit of difference between a cashier at Wal-Mart and an accountant or other professional in the back-office. But approaches like this have a way of creeping through the corporate world, so I wouldn't call this a happy development.

Wal-Mart Seeks New FlexibilityIn Worker Shifts [WSJ - $]
Wal-Mart's Just In Time Employees [Blogging Stocks]

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Off-Topic #3: Things I Learned This New Year's

In no particular order:
  • The test of a good butcher is whether they've got a sign on the door that reads Bring Deer to Side.
  • My wife and I are no longer capable of killing a bottle of champagne between the two of us, even on New Year's Eve.
  • When grilling king crab legs and New York strip at the same time, don't forget the meat keeps cooking even after you've taken it off the heat.
  • When people in your neighborhood start banging pots and pans at midnight, it doesn't sound as impressive as they think it does.
  • You don't need a full bottle of champagne to sleep well (See #2).
  • Dogs don't care that it's the morning after.

Robert Half Salary Guide Available

Robert Half Finance has published its 2007 Salary Guide, which provides estimated starting salary ranges for more than 100 accounting, finance and banking positions, as well as an overview of the issues currently impacting the industry. You can request a copy here.