As news of the COVID-19 pandemic’s spread intensified early this year, the effect on the U.S. economy and American’s financial situations was unknown. We conducted the AICPA PFP Trends Survey in May to explore how CPA financial planners worked with clients during these uncertain times. The U.S. had experienced tens of millions of job losses, extreme stock market volatility and trillions of dollars in emergency federal programs to mitigate the economic fallout for businesses and individuals. The survey results provide an informative snapshot of how AICPA members on the financial frontlines helped their clients calmly navigate this extraordinary situation.
Daymond John can shut you down with a simple “no” or change your world with a definitive “yes.” He’s a Shark on the Emmy award-winning television series Shark Tank and a keynote speaker at ENGAGE 2020, the premier event for accounting and finance professionals, July 20–24.
John is also CEO and founder of the ground-breaking lifestyle brand FUBU (For Us, By Us), an American apparel company that has sold more than $6 billion in merchandise. He’s CEO of The Shark Group and is a New York Times bestselling author of five books, including his latest, Powershift: Transform Any Situation, Close Any Deal, and Achieve Any Outcome.
You’re in the office and see a colleague approaching. You likely say hi and ask how they’re doing. Your colleague will likely answer with some rendition of good, great or for those who prefer grammatical accuracy, ‘doing well.’ Are they actually great, or did your colleague just lie to you? Many people respond without giving much thought to the question. They may say they’re doing great as they struggle to hold in sadness, frustration or anger. What happens when you read between the lines using your emotional intelligence (EI)? Communication becomes more personal and meaningful when the parties exhibit EI. Being able to transcend normal interactions using EI is becoming increasingly important as technology advances to complete mundane tasks. Machines may be taking parts of our jobs but using our human attributes to be a team player, is more important than ever before.
Some career paths move in a straight line. Others take twists and turns. Opportunities sometimes crop up when we least expect them, and we have to weigh the pros and cons to determine our next steps. If you were asked ten years ago to accurately describe your career path over the next decade, could you? I know I couldn’t.
I started my career at a large firm in audit and now I’m on an entirely different path that I would have never predicted. The winding road that led me to where I am today was built upon a series of experiences and intentional decisions along the way. Could your career course use more direction? Here are some tips to get on track, based on my own personal experiences throughout my career:
Mind-blowing. That is the word that pops in my head whenever I see the statistics on women needing financial planning and the corresponding number of women planners available to provide those services. The numbers tell a story that needs a new ending:
As a training and leadership development consultant for accounting firms, I’ve found that providing feedback is one of the top challenges for management. When it’s done well and promptly, giving performance feedback can yield huge benefits – more productivity, better relationships, and more loyal, engaged employees. However, providing consistent, timely and honest feedback is something many managers struggle with.
The performance review is a prime example of inconsistency in how many supervisors provide feedback. In written reviews managers often address issues that they’ve avoided in face-to-face discussions. By the time the employee reads the review, they feel blindsided. Without a dialogue, how can they share their perspective? How can they fix a problem they never knew existed? This pattern applies to many, if not all, other industries, to the point that major companies such as General Electric are scrapping annual reviews altogether.
Actionable Professional Body Language Tips
Do you remember the last time that someone changed your mind at work? What did the person say that convinced you to change your thoughts? Was it the words they said or how they said it to you?
In professional settings, the nonverbal messages people process consciously and subconsciously change the way they perceive messages. Are you a person that conveys positive and powerful non-verbal cues in your interactions with others? Body language plays a crucial role in how people respond to your words and retain the information you transmit.
Why is it that some people rise to higher levels of success than others? Is it simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? Or are some people born with certain qualities that make them more capable of success than others? When comparing star performers with average ones, a consistent unique strength does emerge, but it has nothing to do with intelligence, education or natural-born talents. The “it factor” these super stars possess is called emotional intelligence (EQ). Recent studies show 90% of high performers at work are also high in EQ. Additionally, people with high EQ make about $29,000 more per year on average than those considered to be low in EQ. The great news is this game-changing skill can be learned by anyone willing to focus.
Bob Keebler spoke at the AICPA ENGAGE conference on “The Best Estate Planning Ideas Today.” Included in his detailed presentation were numerous points of interest beyond trusts. The following is a small selection from his 50-minute talk.
Because of the high limit on unified credit, many clients believe that estate planning isn’t for them. The truth, however, is much more complicated. Depending on the client’s state of residence, their positions in real estate or partnerships that might survive them and many other considerations, estate loss can be considerable. Your clients shouldn’t have to pay more than necessary in taxes on their estate, and as their trusted adviser, it’s your job to guarantee that the family’s wishes for their wealth are honored to the fullest extent possible.
Your practice is thriving, but there are some issues that continue to present challenges. Are other firms like yours facing these issues, too? And what trends are other CPAs seeing that you ought to know about?
Practitioners can find the answers to these questions and more in the results from the 2017 Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) CPA Firm Top Issues Survey . This unique survey, which is conducted every two years, identifies the significant concerns for firms of various sizes and spotlights emerging challenges in practice management. Barry Melancon, President and CEO of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, provided an overview of the survey results yesterday during his Professional Issues Update at the AICPA ENGAGE Conference.
Kevin O’Leary, businessman and co-host of the TV show Shark Tank, says the CPA’s role as a trusted adviser in the marketplace cannot be replaced by technology. That stands in stark contrast to the comments his co-host Mark Cuban made earlier this year.
Score one for Mr. Wonderful.
O’Leary, a keynote speaker at the AICPA ENGAGE Conference on June 13, joined me for a Facebook Live session and spoke with me off camera about how technology is impacting the accounting profession. His comments were on point.
“Half of the work the CPA does is to deal with people, to have relationships with people, and to decide how to work with their desires, their direction, and their vision for their business. That is never going to be replaced by a machine,” O’Leary said.
Technology is evolving faster than ever before, but so too are the needs of businesses. For example, while big data means greater accessibility to information, it also creates a need for the analysis and interpretation of that information. While advances in robotics may change some business operations, companies still need advice on how to run those businesses.
“The truth is that we are going to need CPAs more than ever. Their role is to try to figure out and mitigate risk at every stage, and to say, ‘If we do it this way, here is the tax implication. If we do it this way, this is the cost implication.’ The profession is going to continue to flourish,” O’Leary said.
One message keeps coming up at the AICPA ENGAGE Conference: technology is changing the profession, and CPAs have countless opportunities to incorporate it into their practice. Across conference sessions, conversations keep coming back to the ways practitioners can benefit from deploying to the cloud, embracing social media, providing cybersecurity-related services, using mobile devices and understanding big data. Here’s how:
1) The Cloud
In a recent Facebook Live session, conference presenter Jim Bourke discussed the many ways the cloud can improve a CPA’s practice. It allows staff from around the country to work together to serve clients. It houses data without the burden of purchasing dedicated servers and the infrastructure and personnel to maintain them. It gives CPAs access to client information anytime and anywhere. And it keeps that information secure. “Data is more secure on the cloud than it is sitting in your own office,” Bourke said.
An Update on the Future of Learning from AICPA ENGAGE
2017 is expected to be the year of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and digital assistants, according to Newsweek. Analysts at Gartner also included these technologies in their 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017. It’s likely you are engaging with many of them already. Perhaps you have an Alexa device on your kitchen counter or you’ve asked Siri a question on your iPhone. If you’ve used Uber or Lift or clicked on a personalized Amazon recommendation, you’ve taken advantage of AI. But have you thought about how these emerging technologies will impact your learning and professional development?
The exhibit hall at AICPA ENGAGE has a plethora of tech demos including AR and VR. I stopped by to see what the AICPA Learning Design and Development team has been working on and got an opportunity to try their virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. This was my first time trying these immersive technologies, and I was eager to put on the VR headset to see what all the buzz was about.
Virtual reality (VR) gained popularity in gaming and is steadily moving into educational settings as the VR headwear becomes more affordable. My middle school-aged daughter has used Google Cardboard in her classroom, and VR is beginning to gain ground in professional development as well. The use of this technology engages multiple senses, which can help a learner retain new knowledge in a way that a text simply can’t. It makes it possible to interact with and manipulate content. VR also mitigates the distractions found in a traditional classroom and forces a student to focus. It is perfect for visual learners.
Small businesses are “unprepared or poorly prepared for a cyberattack” according to 75% of the 307 insurance and risk management advisors surveyed through the Advisen and Experian 2017 Cyber Risk Preparedness and Response Survey. Unfortunately, no organization is immune to cyberthreats. These days, most companies should have some basic form of cybersecurity program in place. If yours doesn’t, or if you need a refresher, here are four steps you can take to establish a stronger foundation.
Step 1: Create a Comprehensive Set of Cybersecurity Policies
What resources does your organization have that are at risk? Think beyond the obvious. On-site computer systems, laptops, tablets and mobile phones are immediate suspects, but bring your own devices (BYOD) and wearable technology such as smartwatches can also be compromised. Determine what controls you need in place to ensure information is kept secure. Set your rules for communicating, working with, copying and distributing sensitive data; and document those rules and make sure everyone in the organization receives a copy. Necessary policies typically include an IT policy, information security program (including a risk assessment), employee acceptable usage policy, business continuity and disaster recovery plan, and an incident response plan.
Cybersecurity attacks are becoming more pervasive and seemingly effortless to pull off. Cybercriminals who can execute a successful attack are seizing credit card numbers, bank account information and even Social Security numbers. A 2016 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach is $4 million. You can strengthen your organization’s cybersecurity risk management plan by addressing this one vulnerability: weak passwords.
The capture or reuse of passwords, or “static credentials” as they are often referred to in the IT industry, is standard practice for organized crime groups and state-affiliated attackers alike, according to the Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, whose list of contributors represents a “who’s who” of cybersecurity expertise worldwide, from both the private and public sectors. Likewise, passwords are used against all kinds of targets, from the largest organizations to individuals.
A common misperception is that cyber attackers have become so sophisticated that something as simple as a password is no longer effective. The tendency is to think that if federal agencies and multi-national corporations can be breached, there’s nothing individuals can do to protect themselves. This could not be further from the truth. Individuals have the most power in preventing attacks that exploit passwords, which is why a policy on passwords should be a key component of your firm or organization’s cybersecurity risk management program.
You’ve probably heard the expression use it or lose it. It turns out this applies to learning as well as physical fitness. There is a force that gradually erases all the great insights and instruction you stored in your brain during a learning event called "The Forgetting Curve.” German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus first researched this concept in 1885. The curve illustrates the decline of our memory retention over time if we make no attempt to retain our learning. The further we get from the educational experience, the less information we remember.
The speed at which we forget information is influenced by various factors including the difficulty of the material, how meaningful the information is and how it’s presented. Stress levels and lack of sleep can also have a negative impact. Thankfully there are steps you can take to help you retain what you learned. Here a few of my favorite tips to help you remember.
Conferences are a great way to network, earn CPE and stay up-to-date on new developments in the profession, but for some professionals, the travel time and expense can be obstacles. Virtual conferences offer the same content and CPE credits, but with some features that are unique to the online experience. You may even find that it’s more appealing than attending on-site.
Benefits of virtual conferences
Perhaps the best reason to attend an online learning event is the flexibility to view sessions when and where you want. With a virtual conference, you’ll get to choose from all the same thought-provoking sessions and speakers as on-site attendees. Plus, you’ll likely receive the handouts and presentations in advance of the sessions. This can help you prepare your questions ahead of time if the session includes a Q&A period. You’ll also be able to access sessions that are held concurrently via the archive, so there’s no need to choose between two interesting topics; you can view one via livestream and watch the other later. And if you missed that key point the speaker made, you can go back and listen again.
The biggest benefit to attending an accounting technology event is the convenience of having many vendors, thought-leaders and your peers in one location that also provides CPE credits. These events provide the perfect opportunity to problem-solve, learn and investigate technology during a condensed timeline. Whether you have a project planned or if one is on the horizon, being able to talk to your peers and multiple vendors at your next accounting technology event is a convenience and may shorten your investigation time.
Consider these tips to get the most out of your next accounting technology event.
Move over, Gen X; millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Look around your office and you’ll likely see that one in three of your coworkers is a millennial (born between 1977-1995; a.k.a. Gen Y). Currently there are over 83 million Gen Yers in the United States, and that number is expected to grow. As this generation continues to mature and enter the workforce, understanding millennials and what motivates them has never been more important.
For the first time in U.S. history, four generations are working together, and the age gap between co-workers can be as wide as 60 years. You’ll find traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers working side by side in many offices. Each of these generations has defining traits that are shaped by a variety of factors. These factors include parenting styles, economic trends, technology advancements, historical events and lifespan. This results in different work and communication styles, career goals and values.
Whether you’re rolling the dice to move past “Go” or speeding around curves like Mario, numerous studies show playing games of almost any kind stimulates thinking. Board games, chess, word games, games of strategy and the like are obvious choices. But did you know shooting hoops, playing interactive video games, golf, even playing charades in your living room, are all brilliance-builders too? Name the game and chances are it helps you think better and think faster, but note that different types of games enhance different parts of your intellect.
Innovation is often used to describe the act of doing something new, creative and risky. This definition - especially the part about risk - may not align with traditional accounting ideals. But consider this, if you are not the disruptor, you will likely get disrupted. Innovation may seem risky, but ignoring it could prove fatal. Given the magnitude and speed of change throughout the world, innovation is a necessity for your career, your clients and the profession. Done well, embracing innovation can help reduce risk as you cast a keen eye on what lies ahead rather than hold on to the past. Let’s explore three simple steps (plus a bonus step) to get started with innovation.
I used to be afraid of networking. As an avowed introvert with a moderate case of shyness, too often I would pass up opportunities to meet and connect with people. Much later in life I would discover that networking was an acquired skill and was well within my reach. I let go of my fear of rejection when I realized that networking was not about me, but was about building relationships and finding ways to be helpful to others. I can do that. You can too.
Networking, at its essence, is the simple but profound activity of creating, freshening and strengthening an array of mutually beneficial professional relationships with a diverse cross-section of people. Here are a few tips that will help you up your game, especially when meeting people at events or in large groups.
Disruption in the marketplace, changes to regulations, tax reform, technology advances and globalization make developing professional competencies more important than ever for CPAs. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “continuous and persistent learning isn’t merely a decision. It must become a habit. And as such, it requires careful cultivation.”
Ongoing skill development is critical for maintaining your professional relevance. You need to dedicate time to continue your competency development. But where do you start, and how do you fit it in to your schedule? Digital learning activities provide opportunities to incorporate learning into your daily life and offer flexibility that a traditional classroom can’t. Here are five digital learning activities to try: