Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: A Guide to Managing Your Own Education

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Steven Valdez
Associate, KPMG

Time and time again we are told to manage our careers and drive down the next industry,
company, or position we are interested in.  The equally as important part of managing your life comes in the form of managing your own education. 
  • Make Your Self-Education A Priority: On the constant evolving list of priorities it is important to put your continuous education that you can’t be forced to do at work at the forefront.  Take this responsibility and really own it, because no one else can assign you better educational lessons of your interest than yourself.
  • Go For The Tiny Wins: Education doesn’t always have to come in the size of a 1,000 page book, 5 hour video series, or driving across the country to attend a conference.  The most effective way to educate yourself is through many tiny learning sessions over a period of time when you can squeeze it in to your demanding schedule.  Define generally what you would like to learn and begin to take the time to lay out various videos or articles.  Bookmark interesting articles or websites in your browser for quick access.
  • Block Off Time In Your Schedule: Make your learning time important enough to block off the time on your work calendar.  Take an extra 30 minutes at the end of a couple days out of the week to learn a few things of interest.  Over the course of a couple months you would have expanded your tool belt tremendously.
  • Constantly Reevaluate Your  Why: It will come as no surprise that desires and interests are ever changing.  Keeping that in mind, ensure that you spend some time reflecting every so often on the path you are traveling to see if you need to realign your self-education with dynamically changing interests.
Steven Valdez is an associate with KPMG in Richmond. In his spare time, he works with the VSCPA's Young Professionals Advisory Council, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce Richmond Business Council and his alma mater, Longwood University.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ways to Overcome ‘Impostor Syndrome’

At some point in their professional lives, everyone, no matter how successful, feels like they’re a fraud. Even luminaries like Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Neil Gaiman, Sheryl Sandberg and Sonia Sotomayor have written or spoken about the feeling of impending doom that would come with being “found out.” And that great indicator of the national pulse, The Onion, published an article earlier this year titled “Report: Today the Day They Find Out You’re a Fraud.”

At StartupBros, Kyle Eschenroeder listed 21 ways to overcome that feeling. Here’s his list:

1.     Come off it. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s healthy to recognize that you’re not as important as you think you are. The standard of perfection that you feel you have to hit probably isn’t as high as you think.
2.     Accept that you have had some role in your successes. After all, you did something to get where you are.
3.     Focus on providing value. As Eschenroeder says, “The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else.”
4.     Keep a file of people saying nice things about you. You can revisit them whenever you’re feeling down about your work.
5.     Stop comparing yourself to that person. You don’t need to hit the standard of Einstein or Gandhi, or even that perfectly put-together classmate on Facebook. Learn to respect your own experience.
6.     Expose yourself totally. Eschenroeder describes impostor syndrome as a kind of “twisted arrogance.” This is akin to “come off it,” in that other people likely don’t hold you to as high a standard as you hold yourself. Let down your guard — it’s freeing.
7.     Treat the thing as a business/experiment. If no one is responding to certain things you do, don’t do them. (Job requirements aside, of course.)
8.     Say “It’s Impostor Syndrome” and it immediately becomes a little less terrible.
9.     Remember: Being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. Failure is part of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a fraud.
10.  “Nobody belongs here more than you.” Of course, the opposite is also true — you don’t belong where you are more than anyone else.
11.  Realize that when you hold back, you’re robbing the world.  Going through life convinced you’re a fraud prevents you from giving all you have to offer. The best way to be truly free and productive is to move forward despite your doubts.
12.  You’re going to die. And that creates a sense of urgency. Do you want to spend your entire life holding back because you felt like a fraud?
13.  Stream-of-consciousness writing. Do it for half an hour. It will put you in touch with what’s going on inside yourself.
14.  Say what you can. Even if you’re an expert on a topic, you don’t have to know everything about it. Focus on what you do know.
15.  Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing. Everyone fails. You’re not an impostor for trying something risky.
16.  Take action. Eschenroeder says, “Impostor Syndrome lives in abstraction. It is impossible for it to survive when you’re taking action. Taking action proves that you’re not a fraud.”
17.  Realize that you are never you. You’re constantly changing into the person you’ll be. You are getting better.
18.  Authenticity is a hoax. It’s natural to present different sides of yourself or your work to different people.
19.  See credentials for what they are. Don’t measure yourself by credentials — measure yourself by your work.
20.  Find someone you can say “I feel like a fraud” to. Just verbalizing it can help you defeat it.
21.  Faking things actually does work. Keep trying to do things, even if they probably won’t work. You’ll get there eventually.

How do you get through those moments of professional doubt?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Are the 'Defining Dozen' the Right Metrics for Your Firm?

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) posted a list last year of the 12 metrics CPA firms should track in order to better define how well a firm is capitalizing on existing relationships and setting the stage to expand into new ones. The aim of these metrics is to provide qualitative feedback and help firms manage their reach with clients.

The AICPA identified the following key metrics:
  • Lifetime value of a client (sum of all revenues generated from the firm's service offerings over the lifetime of the client)
  • Cost of client acquisition
  • Client retention rate
  • Average number of services per client
  • Average number of top-client "touches" per month
  • Average client response time
  • Number of cross-selling opportunities versus such opportunities won
  • Request for proposal (RFP) win percentage, other proposal win percentage and pipeline win percentage/conversion
  • Average number of professional development hours per firm member (monthly and annually)
  • Utilization rate and realization rate (by service offering)
  • Staff-to-partner ratio
  • Revenue growth per year (actual vs. expected)
Does your firm track these metrics or similar ones? Are some of these more useful for firms of specific sizes or practice areas?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Exact Amount of Time You Should Spend Working Every Day

According to Fast Company, the Draugiem Group says they've hit upon the exact number.

Draugiem, a social networking company, used the time-tracking productivity app DeskTime to see how the most productive employees spent their time. The results were surprising — the 10 percent of employees with the highest productivity spent LESS time working than the average employee, taking a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes they spent working.

Fast Company wrote: "Employees with the highest levels of productivity worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose, then rested up, allowing their brains time to rejuvenate and prepare for the next work period."

When Julia Gifford of The Muse posted the study's results, she said those 17 minutes were generally spent completely away from the computer, whether the employees were taking a walk, chatting with coworkers or reading a book. She said the study shows the importance of reassuring employees that it's okay to step away from the desk without worrying about appearing lazy or unproductive.

Fast Company offered the following tips to ensure you're getting the breaks you need:
  • Schedule breaks into your daily calendar
  • Set a timer to remind you when to take your break and when to return to work
  • Make realistic to-do lists
  • Prioritize tasks, setting three major tasks to focus on for the day and adding others as they pop up
What do your most productive employees do during the work day?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: Tips for Staying Positive at Work

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.
By Shelly Verougstraete, CPA
Team Accountant, Joyner, Kirkham, Keel & Robertson, Richmond
It is easy to stay positive at work when things are going well but we have all had those days where nothing seems to go right. Even with long days (and sometime nights!) at the office, it can be hard to stay positive. With deadlines, endless phone calls, and emails, happiness can disappear. However, there are some ways to stay positive in the most difficult situations.
  1. Treat yourself – Go for the Venti latte. Grab a square of chocolate for an afternoon treat.
  2. Stay away from the Debbie Downers.  Stay away from the actively disengaged people at work. These are people that are negative about everything. They will bring you down and drain any enthusiasm you have left after a long day.
  3. Talk to your colleagues – Letting your struggles build up inside is a recipe for trouble. Sharing your issues with a co-worker can help ease your mind and who will receive beneficial encouragement from others.  You  might also find that a co-worker can help you out too!
  4. Challenge negative thoughts with positive ones - Negative thoughts can seem hard to avoid or erase.  Negativity is all about your mindset. Try to find the bright side of the situation.
  5. Smile! – Simply smiling, even when you are in a bad mood, can boost your happiness. Smile at a passing co-worker. Smile as you answer a client’s question. Smile even while you are by yourself. Check out this blog post on the science of smiling. (https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-smiling-a-guide-to-humans-most-powerful-gesture)
Smiling cannot only improve you attitude, but help you become more successful and possibly live longer. If that is not a reason to smile, I do not know what is!

Shelly Verougstraete, CPA, is a team accountant at Joyner, Kirkham, Keel & Robertson in Richmond. She is a graduate of Longwood University.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arthur Andersen Is Back

Back when the Big Four was the Big Five (which was after it was the Big Eight, of course), Arthur Andersen was the fifth of the biggest of the major players in the accounting industry. Andersen would not survive the Enron and WorldCom scandals that were revealed at the turn of the century. But now it's back, at least in name.

A group of former Andersen partners have changed the name of their current firm from WTAS to Andersen Tax. The new Andersen, founded in 2002, decided to return to the name because it best reflected the firm's culture.

The firm will remain an independent global tax firm with no audit practice and will be completely owned by its partners.

Arthur Andersen and its affiliated firms peaked at more than 85,000 employees worldwide, but shuttered its U.S. accounting operations in 2002 because of problems with its audits of Enron and WorldCom. The firm never declared bankruptcy or dissolved and has focused on resolving various lawsuits since then.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mixed Results in Small Business Jobs Index

The newest iteration of the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index showed a slight decrease in the national index, with small business employment growth slowing slightly in August, the third decline for the index in the past four months.
The Mountain region (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) moved into the lead among regions, with a 1.66 percent index, and Wisconsin took over as the top performing state. Dallas held steady as the top metro area, topping the rankings for the third consecutive month.
The South Atlantic region, consisting of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, had a 12-month percentage change of 0.37 percent.
Nationally, the index fell 0.11 percent from July.