Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What Do You Look Forward To?

by David Jensen, CPA
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC

For those of us in public accounting, busy season is right around the corner. While this time is rewarding in many ways, eventually the long hours can become overwhelming. In my experience, the best way to keep a positive attitude during this stressful time is to have fun activities planned. Having something to look forward to can be a big help in getting you through a long day, week or month. Here are three activities that help keep me going during busy season.

Last busy season, a couple of coworkers and I got together at 6:00 p.m. every day to do push-ups. We started with one and added an additional push-up every day, so that by April 15 we reached 100 total. It was a quick and fun team-building activity that was also goal-oriented. If push-ups aren’t your thing, take a walk around your office with some coworkers. Having a little something to look forward to on a daily basis can be a big stress reliever. The key is to find something that is quick, so that sticking with it doesn’t become a burden.

I also wanted to create something that accomplished more than a quick daily tension relief, so I started a weekly running club within the firm. We meet once a week, running a one-mile loop starting and ending at our office. Participants can do as many loops as they like, but usually we are all done after 30 minutes of exercise. Last year, about 20 percent of the office participated. We even created a leaderboard where we competed for the fastest lap time.

The staff in my office gets together after work once a month. Usually we go to dinner or find a happy hour near the office where we can unwind. The first time we played trivia together we won. There aren’t too many adrenaline rushes in public accounting, so the high we felt after that win stuck with us for days. We haven’t come close to winning again, but we still talk about that night as our greatest collective achievement. Finding a couple of hours to relax and vent some frustrations can really go a long way to preserve the sanity of the entire office.

Each of these activities have a few things in common. First, they don't require a big time commitment, which is key because there isn’t much time to spare. Second, they are scheduled ahead of time, so that they can be something to look forward. Third, they involve coworkers who can help keep you accountable; it is much harder to work through a scheduled event if you know that other people expect you to join. Getting other people involved builds camaraderie and a support system that only those in this industry can understand.

Before busy season begins, schedule a few fun activities and invite your coworkers to take part. The key is to focus on activities that will keep your spirits up and enable you to have a positive attitude.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Most Important Words in the Real World

By Blake Clauben, TSCPA Student Ambassador at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tenn.

For a rising senior, very few things are more daunting than the thought of finding a job upon graduating. As a collegiate baseball player with hopes of making it to the next level, I spent my summers playing in the Collegiate League to showcase my abilities to scouts. Therefore, I knew I was a little behind in terms of recruitment for the Big 4 Accounting firms, as several of my friends had utilized their summers working in the field which would aid them in securing an internship upon graduation. 

Instead, my route towards finding a job began by talking with alumni at our annual Meet the Firms program. They introduced me to several managers and partners of their respective firms. I made several contacts, and received many business cards, learning a lot about the different firms. But the greatest lesson I learned in regard to success with my job search came from my accounting teacher- "Say thank you!" 

Sending a thank you for a gift is something I have been doing for years, but writing a thank you for meeting someone was new to me. However, I soon realized that this type of etiquette was far more important than I first understood. 

As overwhelming as that night was for me and as many people as I met, the accounting executives met far more. I discussed my career as a baseball player and as a private pilot- in hopes that something I did or said would make me stand out.

But knowing that they had just met a great number of qualified applicants, I needed some way to reinforce the impression j made.  I used my thank you as an additional way to remind them who I was and what I could offer their firm. Included with the typical "It was nice to meet you." I also reminded them of our brief discussions of baseball, or flying, or my home state of Texas." I definitely feel this helped some of the recruiters remember me and peaked their interested in me further, leading to some follow up interviews. Those interviews were in turn followed up by additional thank you notes, each becoming even more personal until a closer connection began to form. 

I was very fortunate to be offered an internship, and now a job with Ernst and Young. I definitely think the thank you notes helped remind some of the recruiters about me and lead to this great opportunity. So while a high GPA and a lot of experience is what attracts the Big 4, I also believe that I made it to where I am today all because of the 3 words my college accounting professor reinforced:  Say thank you! Because not only are you being polite, but it definitely gives you the opportunity to say much, much more. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why My Internship Wasn’t a Touchdown

By Alyssa Reed, TSCPA Student Ambassador for East Tennessee State University

Internships are said to be the climax of a college career, the application of educational knowledge, where the “rubber meets the road”. And they are all of those things, but internships are much more than just a mini-job before your first real accounting job. 

I had known I wanted to pursue sports accounting since my first day at East Tennessee State University. I researched this particular accounting sector, attended events and spoke with sports accountants. I received a paid internship offer at a public accounting firm (a big deal for a student with no paycheck) and turned it down for an un-paid internship at the ETSU Athletic Department. This made no sense to most people, but I thought getting my start in sports accounting while still in school would be noticed by employers. 
The first couple days were orientation. Not only do you need to follow GAAP, there are NCAA rules, and because ETSU is a public institution, there are state mandated rules. I didn’t even break the iceberg in knowing how all the rules are intertwined, but I did leave my internship with a great appreciation for all the “back-stage” work it takes the administration to have athletes. Through this internship, I learned about accounting for scholarships, reimbursing travel expenses, and where I spent most of my time, travel budgets. 
Taking an 80 person football team from East Tennessee to Montana is not an easy trip. The budgets have to be carefully prepared to ensure the expenses are predicted and controlled. Creating a travel budget involves creating travel plans. Hotels, restaurants, gas, rental cars, grocery stores… the list goes on and on. Trip Advisor became my best friend. Every aspect of a trip has to be considered so that the overall budget remains balanced. We could not have unfavorable budget variances because we were a public institution. This means that the travel options were passed among several staff members including the team’s travel coordinator, head coach, director of finance and associate director of finance.    
I learned that accountants are information getters. The accountants did not make the decisions, but for every decision, the information comes from the accountants and their cost analysis. For those who like to be a behind the scenes worker, this is great. When I attended a sports game, I knew all the effort and planning that went in to seemingly insignificant aspects of the event. To be honest, it’s pretty cool to see the end result.  
As my internship came to an end, I began to have a scary realization. I hated sports accounting. Even the finance directors spent most of their time on travel plans and arrangements to adhere to budgets. I want to be an accountant. Accounting is a great career platform because of the logical and analytical way accountants are trained to think. Therefore, an accountant could enter certain career fields because of their training and not really perform too much accounting work. Yes, I did some credit card audits and some work with tax reimbursements on receipts because we were tax-exempt, but for the most part, my duties were business related more than accounting related. I realized I didn’t want to pursue sports accounting but rather another field that allowed me to perform more of what could be considered “accounting”.
I had picked my major because I like to ensure everything measures up. I feel accomplished when I complete a balance sheet, the books balance, or when the Schedule A is complete. For me, accounting is not a gateway to a hard to enter career field- accounting is the career field itself. Therefore, as I left my internship, I realized what the real treasure of an internship is. Sure, it is great to learn the application of all your schooling, but the real purpose is to experience different career paths with the full knowledge that it is only temporary. You can completely submerse yourself for a few months and decide if this is what area you will continue to pursue. Internships help you find out what you do or don’t like. The best part is that, even if like me, you change your mind about the career field where you were headed, it’s an internship - there is no wrong answer.  

Friday, October 14, 2016


An Important Step in Growing Your Career

by David Jensen, CPA
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC

Volunteering your accounting skills is a great opportunity for young CPAs. As accounting and tax professionals, we have a unique set of skills to offer. Many new businesses and small not-for-profit organizations have limited resources and need help with tasks such as bookkeeping, internal controls, reporting and compliance. Often, these entities are being run by a limited staff with no formal accounting experience. By volunteering your time, you have an opportunity to support an organization you believe in while gaining experience and growing your professional network.

The relationship between you and the organization you help should be mutually beneficial. You offer valuable skills to an organization in need, while they offer you an opportunity to learn new skills and explore new areas of interest. There are thousands of not-for-profits that can provide learning opportunities to young CPAs. The field is broad and the issues can be complex. 

Alternatively, if you wish to gain experience in a for-profit industry, you could seek out start-ups. Many start-ups are run by people with little or no accounting experience. Limited cash flow often impedes owners from hiring qualified staff. Be patient when reaching out to organizations to ensure both parties can meet each other’s needs. When meeting with potential organizations, be sure your responsibilities are clearly defined. It is okay to take on a challenge, but if you are unable to fulfill your duties, you are doing yourself and the entity a disservice.

Volunteering provides an opportunity to grow your professional network. Developing a good reputation and being active in the community is important for a young professional. As someone providing a valuable service, other members of the business or organization will appreciate your help, and will remember your contribution. If you work in public accounting, this can be a valuable step towards building a client base. Leaders of the organization can also be valuable references when job hunting. 

In many ways, volunteering is like an internship. It is a way to get new experience and make connections. It isn’t a full-time commitment and the position won’t last forever. Eventually you will move on, taking your new skills with you. It is possible that a volunteer position could turn into a paid full-time position, but more likely it will be at another organization that needs your unique set of skills. In either case, take pride in the fact that you have put your abilities to good use and perhaps furthered a cause you support.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Five Quick Ways to Save Money

Are you trying to cut down on costs but still finding yourself short of funds some of the time? The Tennessee Society of CPAs offers these simple solutions to help you eliminate unnecessary spending and pump up your budget power.

Take a Gift Card to Lunch
Everyday indulgences, such as a morning latte or a takeout lunch, are a lot more expensive than bringing your own coffee or midday meal, but you may not have to give them up completely. Here’s one way to treat yourself without overspending: Decide how much you can afford to spend at your favorite coffee house or restaurant each month, then buy yourself a gift card for that amount from that establishment at the beginning of every month. Use it whenever you want something special, but don’t allow yourself any more splurges if the card runs out early. This way you’ll still be able to enjoy treats without busting your budget.

Drop Unused Channels 
Do you spend a lot of time watching TV or are you paying for premium channels that you never even use as part of your cable package? It may be smart to evaluate what you actually need when it comes to television service. The average household is expected to pay $200 per month for pay TV by 2020, according to the NPD Group. You could save yourself a nice amount each month by dropping any unused premium channels or other services you don’t actually need.

Reassess Your Ride 
When it comes to a car, is bigger always better? It cost $8,698 on average in 2015 to drive a typical sedan 15,000 miles in a year, according to the AAA, $9,372 for a minivan and $10,624 for an SUV with four-wheel-drive. Those numbers include average fuel, maintenance, tires, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges. If you’re wondering if that means that downsizing is best, check out an information resource like Edmunds.com’s True Cost to Own® site to help you determine what your likely annual costs will be for the makes and models that interest you.

Read more of this article and other Money Management columns on the TSCPA Website.

About Money Management
Money Management is a column on personal finance that is a joint effort of the AICPA and the Tennessee Society of CPAs, as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program. Members of TSCPA are CPAs residing and practicing primarily in Tennessee in all areas of public accounting, education, government, business and industry. TSCPA offers a speakers bureau for many types of business and educational engagements. For details, visit www.tscpa.com. TSCPA is headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn.

Copyright 2016 The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Friday, June 3, 2016

TSCPA Talks Podcast

Have you checked out the TSCPA's newest member resource, TSCPA Talks?  

TSCPA Talks features CPA smarts & CPA stories from members and leaders in the field. Click here to listen to the first two episodes and keep checking back for upcoming talks!  Stream it straight from our website, or add it to your RSS feed via SoundCloud. It is also available to stream or download on iTunes and Stitcher.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Scholar Spotlight: Heather Murray

Heather Murray, a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is one of four exemplary students recognized by TSCPA and awarded a King Foundation scholarship for 2015. The King Foundation scholars receive a three-year scholarship totaling $25,000. The fund was established by Calvin and Jean King to assist accounting students in achieving their college and career goals.

When Murray received the call from TSCPA, she was struggling with financial concerns. “My laptop had just died and my car had just broken down, and I still hadn’t heard from UTC about my financial aid from the school year,” she recalls.

An accounting major with a minor in criminal justice, the ambitious Murray is a Brock Scholar in UTC’s Honors College, a premier program that was mentioned in the New York Times in August 2015.

“Knowing that I’m going to graduate school,” she says, “I try to save as much as I can for upcoming exams and future schooling. The call from [TSCPA President/CEO] Brad Floyd was the last thing I expected. The King Scholarship not only means that I will be able to graduate with my MAcc. without debt, but also means that I have a support system of CPAs across Tennessee who care about accounting students and their goals to continue our wonderful profession.”

Murray was born in Florida but grew up in Dickson, Tenn., with her twin brother, Fox. “My family worked together to help support my father’s business as an auctioneer,” she says. “My mother, who does bookkeeping and claims adjusting for insurance companies, is the person who showed me the importance of being passionate about what I’m doing.”

Her ambition shows no signs of slowing down, as Murray has a finite plan for the future.

“I will graduate in May 2017,” she says, “and then I will enroll in the one-year Master’s of Accountancy program at UTC. After attaining my MAcc. and my CPA license, I will apply to serve in the Peace Corps, where I hope to spend two years serving in a developing community as an NGO advisor, helping people realize their dreams and grow their communities. Then I hope to come back to Tennessee and attend law school. Eventually, I want to start a non-profit dedicated to advocating for public education in Tennessee, particularly focusing on empowering students from low-income backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty through education.”

She sees accounting as the best avenue to accomplish these dreams “because of its versatility and the window it provides into the inner workings of all parts of businesses, governments and NGOs.”

Murray first became interested in accounting as a teenager while witnessing her family struggle through the Great Recession. She says, “The economic implications of the actions of businesses and Congress on individuals revealed to me much about how an individual develops and maintains stability. As personal finance affects an individual’s relationships, self-worth and ability to build a future for themselves and their family, accounting is necessary for every other facet of an organization to run efficiently.”

She is not all business all the time, however, saving time for her favorite hobbies: volunteering, traveling, trying new foods, reading great books, learning new instruments, and spending time outdoors hiking and fishing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Seeking Feedback:

What Should You Start. Stop. Continue Doing?

By Brittney Dickens, CPA
Senior Tax Accountant, LBMC

Now that Busy Season is behind us, hopefully everyone is taking time off to relax and rejuvenate. However, I have learned that this is also the perfect time to actively seek feedback. Asking for feedback is one of the best ways to feel in control of your work, get an accurate idea of what is expected of you, and judge how you can improve even further. Although feedback is essential for our professional growth, asking for feedback can be a bit intimidating.

One way that I’ve found to effectively seek feedback is to set up a Start/Stop/Continue Meeting with your manager. Start/Stop/Continue meetings create an open feedback platform that encourages a quick and timely evaluation.

1. First, let the other person know you would like feedback by sending a meeting request with “Start/Stop/Continue” in the subject.

2. To help the other person prepare for the meeting, be specific about what you would like feedback on by preparing a set of questions, such as:

What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What am I doing well that I should continue to do?
What are some things that are not being done, but should be done? What are things that impede my productivity? What are things that you want me to keep up?

3. During the meeting, be sure to document responses.

4. Then, set goals with your manager for positive change.

Once you've interpreted the feedback, move forward to make a difference! Acting on the feedback gathered by adjusting our behaviors, attitudes and approaches to improve our perceptions in the workplace is the key to success. But how will we know if those adjustments are resulting in positive growth? Ask for more feedback. I believe it should be an ongoing process that becomes part of our regular business routine. Now go take action!

Friday, April 29, 2016

6 tips to master the first 90 days in an accounting job

This article originally appeared in CGMA Magazine, http://www.cgma.org/magazine/Pages/MagazineHome.aspx ©2016, American Institute for CPAS. Used by permission.

By Sabine Vollmer

Near-mastery of a new accounting job during the first 90 days is critical for new hires, survey data suggest.

More than half (54%) of the 2,200 US CFOs polled by financial recruitment firm Robert Half Finance & Accounting said newly hired accountants have less than three months to prove themselves in the new job.

“They’re not asking for perfection,” said Kathleen Downs, Robert Half senior vice president. “They want to see whether the new hire is a good fit.”

They want to see whether newly hired accountants, especially those at the beginning of their careers, are taking direction well, picking up the technology, asking good questions, taking notes, and having a positive attitude, Downs said. The onboarding process also usually includes managers taking the new hires to lunch about two weeks into starting on the job to find out how things are going.

Joseph Rugger, CPA, CGMA, director of finance and operations at Jonesboro Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratory, a health-care provider in Jonesboro, Arkansas, said he usually gives new hires about six months to settle in at the new job. But there are a few things that new employees need to get right the first three months, he said.

Dependability is a must. So is an eagerness to get things done, which Rugger looks for in the body language and actions of new hires. He wants people to promise less than they deliver.

Rugger, who is a Millennial, also has a tip specific for new employees of his own generation. “Please don’t be on your cellphone every time I come by,” he said. “Millennials think they can do three and four things at the same time. You can’t be texting and working at the same time.”

What he’s mainly looking for the first three months is progress, he said. “I’m looking for you not to make the same mistake twice.”

Downs had six tips for new hires, particularly Millennials, to master the first 90 days:
  1. Show up early. Arriving ahead of schedule allows for time to settle in and start on time.
  2. Be a sponge and take it all in. Resist the urge to tout how things were done at your previous company. Learn how to do it your new firm’s way before suggesting changes.
  3. Ask for help. Seek assistance if you need it, but write down how things work so you don’t have to ask the same question over and over again. Request a weekly check-in with your boss to get feedback on your progress and to discuss further training.
  4. Observe the corporate culture. Avoid kicking off your tenure by requesting a change in schedule or extra time off – that should have been handled during the negotiation process.
  5. Say “thank you.” Showing sincere gratitude goes a long way and will make co-workers more likely to want to lend a hand in the future.
  6. Get to know your colleagues. Invite your colleagues to lunch or coffee to gain insights into their jobs and look for ways to assist them.
Sabine Vollmer (svollmer@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

Monday, April 18, 2016

TSCPA Scholarship Application Deadline is June 15

TSCPA awards between $250,000 to $300,000 in scholarships annually, including four scholarships from the King Foundation of $25,000 each.

TSCPA Scholarship award recipients must have completed introductory courses in accounting and/or be students majoring in accounting. Scholarship recipients are selected on the basis of academic achievement, professor recommendation, leadership skills, financial need and TSCPA membership.

The 2016 application portal is now open and will close on June 15. Winners will be announced by August 1.  To being the application process, please click here.

In addition to the general scholarships, the Educational & Memorial Foundation also presents several special scholarships established by TSCPA members and chapters.

Calvin & Jean King Award - awarded to deserving accounting students with a special emphasis on the students' leadership characteristics and financial need.

Paul Royston Award - awarded to the top accounting student in the state.

Robert Knapp Award - awarded to the top accounting student in Shelby County (student does not have to be from Shelby County).

Maxie Patton Award - awarded to the top accounting student at Tennessee Technological University.

Richard Townsend Award - awarded to the top accounting student in the University of Tennessee's master's program.

Will Pugh Award - awarded to a top accounting student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who demonstrates outstanding leadership qualities.

Appalachian Chapter Award - awarded to a student residing in the Appalachian Chapter area and attending an Appalachian Chapter area university or college.

Chattanooga Chapter Award - awarded to a student residing in the Chattanooga Chapter area (student can be attending a school outside Chattanooga area).

Memphis Chapter Award - awarded to a student residing in the Memphis Chapter area and attending a Memphis Chapter area university or college.

Nashville Chapter Award - awarded to a student residing in the Nashville Chapter area (student can be attending a school outside Nashville area).

West Tennessee Chapter Award - awarded to a student attending a West Tennessee Chapter area university or college.

Monday, April 11, 2016

AICPA Releases New Version of CPA Exam

On April 1, 2017, the AICPA will launch the next version of the Uniform CPA Examination (“Exam”), a four-section (AUD, BEC, FAR and REG), 16-hour assessment (four hours per section) that places a greater emphasis on testing a candidate’s higher-order cognitive skills such as critical thinking and analytical ability. Through multiple-choice questions and an increased use of task-based simulations (TBSs) in all sections of the Exam, as well as written responses in BEC, candidates will be presented with questions that test the knowledge and skills that a newly licensed CPA must possess.

To guide candidates along in their preparation, Exam blueprints will replace the current Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skill Specification Outline (SSO). A blueprint for each Exam section will provide greater clarity in the presentation of content, skills and related representative tasks that may be tested on the Exam.

Developed through comprehensive research and the input of countless stakeholders committed to strengthening and preserving the profession, the next Exam remains current, relevant, reliable and legally defensible, and fulfills the needs of the boards of accountancy in carrying out their licensing responsibility.

Learn more about the next Exam by reading the Practice Analysis Final Report.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Listening is Not the Same as Hearing

By Jessica Tarpley Stover, CPA
Blankenship CPA Group, PLLC

Tax season is a time when everyone is busy and many things can be pushed to the back burner. However, not taking the time to question and listen when dealing with clients and coworkers can create unnecessary obstacles for everyone. Knowing how to effectively communicate can go a long way in helping make busy time go smoother.

I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in life, is that its OK to ask someone to repeat themselves. Asking for clarification and really listening and not just hearing can go a long way. If you have a question about something and don’t understand the answer the first time, don’t walk back to your desk confused about how to proceed. Speak up about your lack of understanding and ask for clarification. You can ask the question a different way, or request that your supervisor/client explain things again. Another good tip is to repeat instructions you have received back to your supervisor in your own words to make sure you both are on the same page. It saves time for everybody if you make sure to get your question answered in a way that makes sense to you. The person you are working with will certainly appreciate your effort to understand, rather than feeling like you should have gotten it all the first time. Always remember that listening is not the same as hearing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Scholar Spotlight

Paxton Mitchell, of Murfreesboro, is one of four exemplary students recognized by TSCPA and awarded a King Foundation scholarship for 2015. The King Foundation scholars receive a three-year scholarship totaling $25,000. The fund was established by Calvin and Jean King to assist accounting students in achieving their college and career goals.

An accounting major at Middle Tennessee State University with a minor in business administration, Mitchell says, “This scholarship will help my financial burden of college tuition and will definitely give me more time to devote to my positions in campus organizations.”

Those campus positions include roles as treasurer of his Sigma Nu Fraternity chapter and vice president of finance for MTSU Interfraternity Council.

Mitchell grew up in the Murfreesboro/Smyrna area and spent his time "playing sports constantly, including baseball, soccer, basketball and tennis."  As he got older, he traveled widely while playing soccer year-round, and he still plays for his fraternity's intramural soccer team.

He first became interested in accounting at Blackman High School, where he took two years of accounting classes.  An ambitious student, he now plans on getting his master's of accountancy and sitting for the CPA exam as soon as he is eligible.

"In 10 years I hope to be in a management position at an accounting firm here in Tennessee," he says.

When Mitchell received the call that he'd been awarded the King Foundation scholarship, he was working as an intern at Deloitte, and he remembers the excitement and surprise of the moment:

"I couldn't believe I was receiving this remarkable scholarship.  I remember telling my family that I applied for the TSCPA scholarships, never believing I would receive the King Foundation scholarship.  I tried to keep it a secret from my parents so I could surprise them that weekend when my dad got home, but I was too excited and told my mom as soon as I got home."

Monday, February 29, 2016

Busy Opportunity Season: You got this!

By Paula Novak, CPA

"Busy Season." We've all heard about it. Lived it. Survived it even, some might say. Regardless of your previous sentiments towards this merriment season, as CPAs, "Busy Seasons" are here to stay, so I say: Let's slay this beast! Gathered from experienced employees of LBMC and members of the TSCPA, here are 3 tips to help manage stress through this exciting time:

1. Change Your Train of Thought: I've come to the conclusion that those that stay in this profession, secretly live for busy season. For 7-8 months of every year, you train yourself both technically and professionally for these 4-5 months. What things did you do better, faster, more effectively this year? How much less did you find yourself worrying about the small stuff? Think of "busy season" like marathons, or even self-created tests. You chose to run in the marathon, or to self-create this test, for a reason. Because you know the end reward leaves you feeling albeit exhausted, exhilarated and excited!

2. Treat 'Yo Self: Okay, so technically this came from Donna and Tom off of Parks and Recreation; however, it's a phrase that has been known to float around during this time of year. This one seems pretty easy to accomplish, yet it's so easy to mess up. Here's the catch, when you "treat yourself" to 10 minutes of ESPN or Pinterest, remind yourself that you're not doing anything wrong! It's okay to allow yourself a little indulgence every day. Now, I'm not saying to indulge 10 minutes of every hour, but yes, if you want to have a pudding cup and unplug for 5 minutes every afternoon, I say J-E-L-L-O!

3. Fuel Up: Always have a snack on hand and a bottle of water. I personally love KIND bars-they’re easy, small, and can hold me over between meals. Your body is a vehicle for your brain to function. So when you start to feel anxious, or get the crazy eyes, grab a snack! You’ll slowly start to see the red line go up as the gas light turns off refueling that thinking tank of yours!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Scholar Spotlight

Madeline Enderle, of Knoxville, is one of four exemplary students recognized by TSCPA and awarded a King Foundation scholarship for 2015. The King Foundation scholars receive a three-year scholarship totaling $25,000. The fund was established by Calvin and Jean King to assist accounting students in achieving their college and career goals.

Pursuing a B.S. in mathematics and a B.B.A. in accounting at Lipscomb University, Enderle plans on enrolling in the Masters of Accountancy program at Lipscomb and sitting for the CPA exam after she graduates.

Enderle, who grew up in Knoxville, believes the scholarship will open many doors for her. “I hope to go on after receiving my undergraduate degree to my masters,” she says, “and from there, I would like to eventually receive a Ph.D. I enjoy my studies and am excited by the possibility of continuing my education after receiving my undergraduate degrees; however, the cost of all of my schooling is an obstacle. This scholarship will substantially reduce that obstacle.”

She recalls, “When [TSCPA President/CEO] Brad Floyd informed me that I was to receive the scholarship, I was surprised and elated. I did not know that such a large scholarship was even available. So, it took a minute for the news to sink in.”

In her spare time, Enderle is a pole vaulter on the track and field team at Lipscomb. “I love my team and the sport,” she says. “In addition to being an all-around fun thing to do, it teaches me discipline, how to work as a team and much more.”

Enderle and her older brother Joshua, who is also an accounting major at Lipscomb [and a fellow TSCPA scholarship recipient, winning the Paul L. Royston Award this year] grew up traveling quite a bit with their family, and she has a love of new and foreign places that she hopes she can incorporate into her career.

“In my mind, accounting is the language of business,” she says, “and as such it is crucial for understanding a company, investing in a company, building a company, etc. Accounting is necessary in all industries, so being able to speak it opens up many interesting possibilities, and that excites me. I hope to have a successful career characterized by hard work and innovation.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Time Management Tips: Working Efficiently & Effectively this Busy Season - A Staff Person's Perspective

By: Eamonn McElroy, Tax Associate at CBIZ MHM, LLC

What season comes after the holiday season?  Busy season!

Managing your time and how you work during busy season is really about more than saving hours; it will help to reduce stress and increase productivity.  Here are a few practices that help me manage my time during busy season and could prove useful to you:

• Delegate as much as possible to free yourself for higher value activities.  Delegate what you can to administrative staff, interns, and sometimes staff less experienced than you (especially if they’re looking for work).  Examples include: scanning documents, rolling forward data, and preparing technical items which are both routine and easy in nature.

• Know thy hotkeys.  As accountants, we live in excel.  The time saved by using hotkeys may seem miniscule but can pay dividends over the long-term.  Useful hotkeys range from the commonly known “Ctrl+C” to copy and “Ctrl+V” to paste, to the lesser known but just as useful “Alt+=” to generate the sum function, and finally to holding “Shift+Ctrl” and using the arrow keys to select a large amount of numbers.

• Use calendars, alarms, & flags if they’re available to you.  Microsoft Outlook has a variety of features which aid in managing workflow and helping stay on target for deadlines.  The calendar allows you to create appointments and “alarms” associated with them which are useful reminders.  Additionally, calendars can be shared among team members to help coordinate timing expectations.  Lastly, the mail feature of Outlook can be used to keep emails organized by using flags and color coding.

• Be mindful of the clock, but don’t be controlled by it.  Keep an eye on the clock, but don’t stress if you sometimes go over budget on a project assigned to you.  The ultimate goal is always to deliver the highest quality product to the client within our budget constraints.  If you’re halfway through a project and begin to anticipate that the budget may not be enough, make it a point to communicate with the person in charge of the project to devise a plan for the best way to proceed.

• Lastly, know yourself.  Work when you’re most effective.  Some people like to come in at seven o’clock every morning and get an hour or two of quiet work in before everyone shows up.  Some people like to come in at nine o’clock and work later because they’re more effective in the afternoon and evening.  Know what works for you!  If you work better taking a quick and small thirty minute lunch during busy season, do that.  If a full hour allows you to relax more and revisit your workflow rejuvenated, do that instead. 

Do you have any busy season tips, or any processes that would improve efficiency and effectiveness?  Share in the comment box below!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Scholar Spotlight

Gabrielle Beckner, of Franklin, is one of four exemplary students recognized by TSCPA and awarded a King Foundation scholarship for 2015. The King Foundation scholars receive a three-year scholarship totaling $25,000. The fund was established by Calvin and Jean King to assist accounting students in achieving their college and career goals.

A junior at Tennessee Technological University, Beckner recalls receiving the news, saying, “I was at work, and I went into the restroom to take the call and attempt to contain my shock. I was so surprised. I thought it must be a prank call. When I heard the amount, I gasped, put my hand over my mouth and immediately started crying. I was bursting with excitement and joy.”

Beckner became interested in accounting at the recommendation of her mother, and plans to continue with graduate studies to prepare to sit for the CPA exam. In her spare time, Beckner is an active member of the Delta Gamma sorority at Tennessee Tech.

“I am excited about the possibilities of a career in accounting,” she says. “Both companies and governments find the skills of accountants beneficial. There will be numerous opportunities for employment and growth, and with dedication, you can climb as high as you desire in the field. I look forward to the challenges and constant changes that are found in the field of accounting, and to being a lifelong learner.”

“The King scholarship is such a blessing,” Beckner continues. “The gift provides peace of mind and a cushion so that I will not need to work as many hours and will be able to focus on my studies with more wiggle room in my budget.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How do you use your CPA skills in a non-CPA context?

Lauren Moore, CPA
Elliott Davis Decosimo
CPAs generally need to have strong communication and leadership skills. Because of the skills and relationships I have developed through serving clients and working as a CPA, I have been able to become more involved and really make a positive impact on my community, while continuing to further my professional and personal network. Although my communication skills have helped me get plugged in to the community, I have also been known to kill a good conversation with my family and friends with my boring accounting lingo!

Mark Plumlee, CPA
Community Health Systems
I believe there’s a general misconception about what it means to be a CPA. Many people associate our designation with tax return preparation or providing an audit opinion on a set of financial statements for a publicly traded company. While many of us have served in this capacity, and some of us still do, I believe we use our skills beyond those particular functions. I use mine in order to serve as a treasurer for a home owners’ association, help friends and family members evaluate personal and professional financial goals, and encourage students who are interested in pursuing the designation.

Tina Luffman, CPA
Flood Bumstead McCready & McCarthy

Being a CPA has taught me many things about people and life. As a CPA, I am privy to very sensitive and personal information about my clients, and that has taught me the importance of planning for the future. When I first began my career I thought if I worked hard and earned a lot of money, success and wealth would follow, but I have seen people who work harder and earn more than me fail. The common denominator among those people was failure to have a plan. Financial planning and personal goal-setting are essential to success. If you don’t set goals or have a plan for reaching those goals, then you have set yourself up for failure. I think CPA skills can be utilized in all areas of life, and we can use those skills to educate other non-CPAs. It’s not about debits and credits, but more about creating an organized road map to help others reach their goals.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mr. Miyagi Mentors

By Paula Novak, CPA

While we are sure to have encountered (or will encounter) many mentors or coaches throughout our careers, there’s always that one – “Mr. Miyagi"” if you will – that leaves us feeling like Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, ready to take on any challenge. I know, a silly analogy; however, I cannot help but think if my life were a movie, the song “Eye of the Tiger” would be playing after every conversation with my own mentor, Bill Mooningham.  

It’s not Mr. Mooningham’s accomplished 37 years spent at Ernst & Young, 22 of them as a partner, or the quality teachings he brings to his accounting students at MTSU that are most awe-inspiring. Rather, it’s his confident humility. He once shared a story with his class about the frustrations he dealt with at the beginning of his career as an auditor, trials that most of us will likely experience or have experienced. He ended his story by telling us to not worry, that “there will be a time when the lightbulb goes off, and believe me, it’s a really good feeling when it does.” The advice was so simple, yet I left class that night feeling rejuvenated, excited and anxious to experience my own “career beginnings.” That’s what Mr. Miyagi’s do though, or in this case, Mr. Mooningham. They give you something that seems so simple, knowing that one day this simple teaching (remember “Wax on, Wax off”?) will end up having a great impact. Thus, I leave you with a few “Mr. Mooningham teachings,” paraphrased, that I often find my memory bank tapping into:

1. Have empathy. In today’s digitized world, our empathy is what sets us apart. 

2. Strong body, strong mind. If you prepare your body for a marathon, it’ll be a lot easier for your mind to jump over the few unexpected hurdles you’re bound to run into throughout your career (or audit).
3. Make time for the water cooler. You’ll end up learning the most interesting things and you’ll never walk away empty handed. 

Paula Novak, CPA, is a staff accountant at LBMC, a member of the TSCPA Young CPA Workgroup and mentor. She can be reached at pnovak@lbmc.com.