From the Corner Office 2011 Archives

Fall 2011

Communication Skills: Vital to a Successful Career in a CPA Firm
By Elizabeth Boscacci, CPA
When I entered the profession 34 years ago, the image of an accountant was just beginning to emerge from that of someone sitting in a back room working with numbers—not people—to the trusted advisers we are today. While we still need to know our numbers (read: accounting standards and tax regulations), I feel that communication skills are vital to a successful career as a CPA. We must have the skills to verbally express ourselves and take a proactive approach to communicating.

Consider the following opportunities where communication skills are needed throughout your career:
  • Clients: Our clients love attention. It’s one of the biggest reasons they remain loyal to us. Be sure to initiate contact with them and be prompt in returning their contact. Clear communication with clients helps you obtain needed information and determines their needs.
  • Supervisors: Ask questions of your supervisors so you don’t end up spinning your wheels and getting nowhere on a project. Be sure you are clear about priorities, especially when balancing multiple projects. Ask for feedback on your performance. Let them know you are ready for more challenging work.
  • Assistants: As you progress to a supervisory role, communicating well with your assistants gives them clear direction and sets expectations. Provide them with timely and specific feedback on their performance so they can improve.
  • Colleagues: Maintain good communication with your peers. This builds teamwork. As you progress to management you will need to solve personnel matters, interview new hires and mentor those less experienced than yourself.
  • Centers of Influence: If you are comfortable communicating with attorneys, bankers and others in your community, you will develop working relationships, friendships and a network that can provide referrals to you when you need to build a book of business.
Communication is a skill that will serve you well during all phases of your career—be it in public or private sectors. Learning to communicate openly, honestly and respectfully is such an important skill for today’s CPAs that my partners and I have made it one of the core values at Bartlett, Pringle & Wolf, LLP.
Elizabeth Boscacci, CPA” is a general services partner at Bartlett, Pringle & Wolf, LLP in Santa Barbara.

Summer 2011

Why Do You Come to Work?
By Gregory M. Burke, CPA
Do you want to find satisfaction from what you do at work? Consider your motives.

Based on what I’ve observed while working with others, I think many of us come to work concerned with what we will receive. We may not be consciously aware of it, though. We focus the development of skills, promotions and compensation, for example. While these things are important, I’ve never found them to be entirely fulfilling.

There have been a few people who I have met over the years who seem to find a deep sense of satisfaction from what they do. They seem to have enthusiasm for their work, even when it is challenging. It appears to me to be because of their motivation. They aren’t as concerned with what they are getting as with what they are contributing. They view their work as an opportunity to use their knowledge, skills and experience to help others. They tend to focus on doing the best work that they can with respect to the task at hand.

From an employer’s perspective, contributors tend to stand out. Not because they are calling attention to themselves, but because of their attitude and the quality of their work.

This may sound idealistic and impractical. In reality, it is very practical. Spend a few moments at the beginning of the day to think about why you are doing what you are doing. You may find that if you approach your work as a chance to lend your unique talents to the day’s tasks, your experience at work will be more satisfying.
Gregory M. Burke, CPA, M.S. (Tax)” is a director at John Waddell & Co., CPAs.

Spring 2011

One Key to Achieving a Successful Career in a CPA Firm
By Scott Seamands, CPA
Back when I was a young and emerging professional, before we had such a term to describe myself, I wondered what a successful career in public accounting would require from me—and provide for me. Now, 31 years later, I have most of those answers based on my experience at Lindquist, von Husen & Joyce LLP.

As an entry-level staff person in our firm’s audit department my task was to support the audit seniors by rolling forward last year’s work paper formats, performing tests of controls or tests of account balances at our clients’ offices, and by drafting financial statements (and the occasional tax return). As I look at today’s entry-level staff in our firm, things haven’t changed too much—the same tasks are necessary, but the tools are now electronic.

The key trait I found most successful in doing my work was to constantly evaluate the usefulness of the procedures I was performing, which were mostly based on the prior year’s audit file. Did a procedure efficiently accomplish a purpose or, like some of the work papers I saw, was it simply a mechanical exercise that contributed no real audit evidence?

For example, when our concern was completeness of the revenue balances, why were we vouching back to source documents? That is mainly an existence test, providing no comfort regarding potential unrecorded transactions.

Thinking about what are we trying to accomplish when we do a procedure helped me to fine-tune the basic audit knowledge that I obtained in school and during my CPA Exam review course studies.

Asking myself if there is a quicker way to reach the same conclusion, based on my knowledge of each client’s accounting system, helped me design procedures to acquire better audit evidence more efficiently.

I think this key skill greatly helped me progress to manager within five years, partner-in-charge of our firm’s audit department two years later and then managing partner seven years after that. Although I’ve remained in that position for the past 17 years, there has been constant growth, innovation and excitement in my career as I continue to push myself to find faster and more effective ways to accomplish each goal.
Scott Seamands, CPA is a managing partner at Lindquist, von Husen & Joyce LLP.