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