Career Growth for Accounting Professionals

Director of Accounting – San Antonio, Texas

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Career Prep Coach: Accounting – Bethesda, Maryland

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Controller – San Antonio, Texas

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PODCASTS

164: Ryan Lazanis, Founder of Future Firm

Ryan Lazanis, the Founder of Future Firm Inc. in Canada, joined us for this episode of Life In Accounting, the Where Accountants Go podcast. Ryan’s career journey started as many do.  His father was a strong influence in his life, and being an entrepreneur himself, he caused Ryan to naturally have an interest in business and accounting.  However, after a few years in the accounting world, Ryan realized that he enjoyed the accounting business, but not necessarily how other firms performed the work.  It was at that point that he decided to form his own firm built on the idea that accounting could be done 100% in the cloud. That would be quite enough for an interesting story, but Ryan’s journey didn’t end there.  Yes, he formed and built an accounting firm that was 100% cloud-based called Xen Accounting, but then he was fortunate enough to be approached many times about selling the practice.  Eventually he sold to another entity in 2018 that had similar values regarding maintaining their cloud-focused structure. Ryan now owns and runs Future Firm, a Canadian-based company focused on making life better for accountants at other firms by guiding them down the path of becoming cloud-based. If you operate an accounting practice, otherwise work in public accounting, or are considering moving into that space, you will find loads of value in this episode. For more information on Ryan Lazanis and Future Firm, visit www.futurefirm.co Other episodes you will enjoy include:   Joseph Rugger and Jay Kimelman To listen in on this interview with Ryan Lazanis of Future Firm, please use the player below.

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Is It REALLY Worth It To Become A CPA?

You can probably guess where I am going to go with this, but humor me a little as I go through some of my rationale. Yes, I am a CPA, and yes, I believe it makes a huge difference in your career. But rather than just stating my basic opinion on the question, I wanted to outline some of the reasons why I continue to believe that achieving the Certified Public Accountant certification if at all possible truly is a wise choice. This certainly isn’t all-inclusive, but some of the reasons for my strong belief in this area are… To state the obvious… better pay. While being a CPA doesn’t automatically mean you will make more money everywhere, in most places it does. Your career advancement depends on many more factors in addition to this, but having a certification is definitely one of the major factors that employers consider when promoting or hiring in the first place. Better job prospects. Having your CPA certification gives you an additional qualification that you’ve had to earn. It’s not something you can purchase, and it’s not something you can simply invest time to receive without much effort. Passing the exam takes dedication, which is a trait that employers value. Lifetime earnings. Since generally your future pay raises and job offers take into consideration what you have made previously, at least in part, having a CPA certification and starting to earn more affects your lifetime earnings exponentially as time goes on. Cross-applicability. There are many other high-quality certifications for specific areas in the profession, but generally the CPA certification is considered to be the most cross-applicable. For instance, a CIA certification may be desired by an employer for an Internal Auditor role, but most employers will accept the CPA as well. Certified Management Accountants are excellent fits for industry management positions, but generally most employers will consider a CPA to be on equal footing for the role. Regardless of whether or not that is true, that is how the market works currently. Getting your CPA certification opens up more possibilities than some of the other certifications. Professional respect. Regardless of what the reason for this is, it’s difficult to argue against the fact that in general we as a society tend to have respect for people in certain professions, and accounting is one of those professions. And since much of the general public outside of accountants themselves have at least heard of a “CPA”, becoming certified can benefit you in that way as well. No ceiling. The most cruel truth in all of this is that it’s easiest to pass the CPA exam when you are fresh out of school, and it’s at precisely this time that the certification doesn’t seem to matter quite as much. As you go further in your career though, it makes more and more of a difference and eventually a certified individual is preferred for the most prestigious and rewarding positions you may consider. Yet the longer it has been since you finished college, the more difficult it is to pass the exam. Passing the exam effectively removes the ceiling that you will otherwise encounter later in your career. Pass the exam as soon as you can. I realize I’m biased on this topic, and I’m sure there are differing views in the marketplace. Based on my own experience in my career, both initially as a professional accountant and then later as an accounting-employment professional, it’s hard to argue with how much of a game-changer becoming certified as a CPA can be. I hope this list has given you some insight. Feel free to email me with any thoughts or feedback at [email protected] Have a great week! Mark Goldman CPA

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My One Regret as a CPA

A few weeks ago, I was honored to be able to attend the swearing-in ceremony for new CPAs in Texas.  I was attending as a representative of the TSCPA Executive Board.  Several hundred professionals had qualified to become new CPAs.  It was a joy to see them cross the stage to officially receive their certificate.  Most were handed their certificates by a member of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, but several that had family members that were also CPAs chose to have the certificate given to them by their family member onstage.  It was a special moment for all. This was the first swearing-in ceremony I had ever attended.  Believe it or not, I didn’t even attend my own.  I remember at the time, when I was in my mid-20’s, thinking that I just wanted to get on with my life and that walking across stage to receive my CPA certificate was something that I could afford to skip.  While I have thought a few times over the years that it would have been nice if I would have attended the ceremony for the memory if nothing else, I can’t say that I ever truly regretted not attending until that day.  My father was a CPA, and so when I saw the new CPAs that were receiving their certificates from their family members, a feeling of regret came over me. When I was 20-something, I just wanted to get on with my life and I saw my father practically every day at that point.  However, now that my father has passed, I realize what a special memory it would have been if I would have attended for no other reason than to let my Dad hand me the certificate.  It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime chances to form a memory that would have lasted forever.  I regret not attending the swearing-in ceremony and allowing my father, very proud at the time I may add, present me with my CPA certificate. The lesson learned… Writing this caused me to think about what advice I would give to another new CPA that is considering not attending their swearing-in ceremony.  It is simply this… There are many special occasions that you may choose to skip because they come along often.  Christmas celebrations, Thanksgiving get-togethers, or even birthdays.  Deciding to put other priorities ahead of them is usually a mistake, but at least you have the opportunity to celebrate the next one when it comes along.  However, there are some occasions that may not seem as special, but that truly are once-in-a-lifetime events.  They may seem trivial at the time, but consider how you may feel a few decades later.  When you look back, will you be OK with the fact that you chose to do something else?  It helps you put the importance in perspective when you consider how your older self may feel.  Today when I look back at my decision to skip the swearing-in ceremony, I know that I missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a memory.  I regret not taking that opportunity. I know this is a heavier topic than we usually cover, but I hope you have found some truth or insight in it for yourself.  Until next time and as always, I wish you the best in your career. Mark Goldman, CPA Son of Clark Goldman, CPA

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Employees Have Options, Treat Them Well!

As is normal in a longer-term healthy economy, we have seen the job market get ever tighter for employers searching for qualified applicants for key positions. As is also normal in this type of economic cycle, we have seen that employees are much more comfortable quitting their positions to look for something that better fits their needs when they become uncomfortable with some facet of their work environment. While some turnover can be beneficial in that it brings in fresh perspectives, often turnover causes problems within an organization as you struggle to not only find the right replacement for the position, but also to get the new person up-to-speed quickly. The key to keeping your employees longer is to treat them well. Some ways in which to ensure you keep those key individuals that you want to keep include the following: Yes… fair compensation is important. I wouldn’t be honest unless I mentioned the obvious. Yes, it’s important to pay fairly. If you pay dramatically less than prevailing market rates, you leave yourself open to losing an employee for reasons that could have been prevented. You don’t necessarily have to pay the highest compensation in the market, but you do need to at least come close to whatever the market pay is for similar positions. It’s not always simply an economic decision for employees; sometimes is a matter of whether or not they feel respected by their employer, and if that shows in their paycheck. Reasonable workloads. Everyone wants employees that will go “above and beyond” when needed, but if that need occurs over and over, you leave your team with a feeling of burnout. In some cases, employers will even begin to think it’s not an issue because the team continues to get the work done even though additional effort is needed practically all of the time. This can lead to an even bigger issue – multiple resignations. Make sure you assess the reasonableness of the workload periodically to make sure you are not taking advantage of your team. They may put in extra effort for a while, but if the need becomes never-ending, you will find yourself with openings to fill. Flexibility around family needs. Another area where there needs to be give-and-take is in the area of flexibility. Do you expect your employees to “pitch in” and help in other areas when necessary? Do you expect them to stay after hours when there is a deadline to be met? That is the case with most employers. If it holds true for you as well, then some flexibility on their side is generally appreciated. Giving additional flexibility to employees that have family-related demands on their time goes a long way towards building goodwill. Yes, if it becomes detrimental to getting goals accomplished, then something has to change. But if the job still gets done in the end, then a little flexibility really doesn’t have any downsides. Adequate benefits. This is another area where you don’t have to necessarily be the best, but it’s important that you do at least try to provide something that is comparable with the market. Some provision for medical insurance and some paid-time-off are generally expected. You may not be able to cover all of the associated costs, but having some type of reasonable medical coverage is practically an assumption for professionals in today’s market. Vacation and sick leave, or PTO, is also expected, and frankly not that costly. At a minimum, these two benefits should be offered. Not doing so leaves you exposed to the probability of quick turnover. It’s easy in today’s market for your employees to find another employer that offers these basic benefits. Know them personally. This is a touchy area, but deserves some discussion. Is it possible to go too far in getting to know your employees on a personal level? Of course it is. However, is it also possible to alienate your team because you don’t express any concern about them outside of work? Definitely! Make sure you at least have casual conversations with your team members about safe items outside of work. People are less likely to resign when they feel that they work with a friend, versus simply working for a boss. Understand what they value. This is perhaps the most important factor. Understanding what is truly important to each of your team members, and then acting on it, is the best way to ensure low turnover. It’s easy to assume that we know what an individual employee will value, or even worse make broad-based assumptions based on what others value. However, all employees are unique and while some may highly value one aspect of the job, others may find no value at all in that same benefit. We all know this, but given our busy schedules, we frequently fall into the mistake of depending on an assumption without taking the time to get to know each individual. The better you know each individual team member, the longer they will stay with your organization. While some turnover is inevitable, and can even be healthy, excessive turnover definitely will cause severe issues within your company. The first step to decreasing turnover is to realize that your team members really do have options. However, if you treat them well, they are much more likely to stick around. I hope these tips have been helpful for you, and as always, I wish you the best in all your endeavors. Mark Goldman CPA www.WhereAccountantsGo.com  

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How To Stand Out At A School Career Fair

When speaking with an accounting club recently, the topic of how to stand out at a school career fair as a quality applicant came up.  In this particular discussion, we were talking about a very unique career fair where everyone there would be an accounting major.  Although it was unique in that respect, it wasn’t all that unique overall in that it happens at universities all across the nation.  The schools work hard to provide career opportunities for the students, and to provide a quality experience for the employers as well.  However, it becomes difficult to stand out as an individual when everyone there has similar education and has been given similar guidelines for how to present themselves. So how do you stand out in a group where everyone has the exact same educational background as you do?  The answer is that it takes some effort, but it definitely isn’t impossible.  Below are some key tips for making sure the employers you meet will remember you: Follow the rules, but be creative. Some schools have guidelines for what your resume should look like.  You definitely need to follow the university’s rules, but look for small ways to be a little unique.  Perhaps you can try adding a border to your resume or using non-traditional paper stock.  Or if paper resumes aren’t being used, perhaps you should have a business card with your contact information on it.  Or if many students are using cards, perhaps a colored card would be unique.  Or even a vertically printed card or something with a unique shape.  Find some way to make your ‘leave-behind’ memorable.  It doesn’t have to be crazy, just something that will catch their attention. Add some color. If you anticipate the career fair to be a sea of black suits, another way to stand out is to add a little bit of color.  You still want to portray a professional image of course, but adding a little color to your wardrobe makes a dramatic difference when everyone else is wearing the typical dark suit.  Don’t go overboard, but something as simple as a coat pocket handkerchief for guys, or a colored accessory for ladies, can help you to stand out a little.  Obviously you still need to make a good impression through your conversation as well, but if you do, the slight visual difference will help you be more memorable. Relate personally to the recruiter. When you speak with the company representatives, you definitely will end up talking about your experience, education, and career desires.  However, it shouldn’t end at that.  If you want to be memorable, ask them something about their own careers or what they appreciate about their role.  And then most importantly, find some way to relate to what they talk about.  If you can find some commonality in the few minutes that you have, it will make you more memorable later on as they consider who they want to talk to further. Research if possible.  If you know in advance which employers will be attending, and which ones you are most interested in, do some advance research on their recent news or other items that may be important to them.  Many job seekers and students walk up to an employer's table at a career fair prepared to talk about themselves, but most don't come prepared to have a conversation about what may be important in the employer's world.  If you know just a few key facts about recent news or happenings with the employer or in their industry, that is a great way to be remembered as the type of knowledgeable candidate that they will likely want to get to know better. Smile. Yes!  And lastly smile.  As crazy as it sounds, sometimes simply looking friendly will distinguish you from the other attendees.  Not that everyone else isn’t friendly, but so many are nervous that it affects their facial expressions.  If you remember to breathe, relax, and smile as you approach the employer, it will lighten the mood and make for a better experience for you both. These tips are relatively simple, but sometimes can be forgotten as we are trying to make sure we follow the guidelines set forth by the organizers of a career fair.  There again, always make sure you are following the rules as specified by the individuals in charge.  However, if you can find a way to professionally stand out, it’s likely to benefit you as the employers decide who they will contact later about an opportunity. As always, I wish you the best in your career. Mark Goldman CPA (For additional thoughts on preparing yourself for a successful accounting career, check out our book titled "49 Tips For A Successful Accounting Career" either here on our website or on Amazon)

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My Career Is Stalled. What Now?

If you have ever had this feeling, it can be depressing.  Maybe you have been in the same role for years, or maybe you are looking for something new and you can’t seem to break out of the box where the market wants to place you.  No matter how you have come to this place, it can be frustrating and seem even slightly hopeless if you’re not careful.  How do you break out of the feeling of being ‘stalled’ professionally and get your career back on track? Below are some actions to consider as you look to get your career moving back in the direction you desire: What have you learned recently? Doing a little more to learn new skills or keep up-to-date is a great way to take your professional destiny into your own hands.  The more you know, the more valuable you become, and the more opportunities you will have. Who have you helped recently? If you feel that you’ve been overlooked for promotion or by potential new employers, think about proactively offering assistance.  It could be for a non-profit, but offering to assist internally within your own company is just as beneficial if not even more so.  Being the individual that is always there to lend a helping hand is a great way to get noticed the next time an opportunity arises. Who have you met recently? If you are doing everything you can within your network, then it’s time to expand your network!  Who have you met recently that you didn’t know a few months ago?  What have you done to get outside of your normal routine and meet new people?  Sometimes if you feel you are being taken for granted by those you know, then it’s time to go meet someone that hasn’t experienced all your strengths yet.  Meeting new people in your profession is a great way to be referred to a new opportunity and get your career back on track. Do you know where you want to go? This may be obvious, but sometimes we want to escape something so badly that we don’t focus on what we want in the long-run.  We get so focused on what we don’t like, that we forget to consider what we truly want.  If you find this happening to you, take some time out to think about what an ideal situation would be long-term.  If you can visualize that the right situation would be, you are more likely to recognize the opportunity when it comes up, or maybe even attract the right opportunity to you. If you read the above items and realize that you haven’t fully engaged on one or more, then there is definitely something you can do to better your situation.  For most people there will be some action you can take, and for the minority of individuals that don’t see an area to work on, I would suggest reconsidering the list.  For most of us, there is always more we can learn, more we can help, or more we can do to expand our network. Until next time, as always, I wish you the best in your career! Mark Goldman CPA PS:  For additional career tools, visit our Courses section or check out our book "49 Tips For A Successful Accounting Career"  

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How Do I Ask For A Raise?

How to approach your boss for a raise is quandary that has existed since practically the beginning of time.  You are hired to do a job, and over time you become better at it.  You either start to take on more or simply become more valuable due to your increased ability to get things done.  This is excellent if your boss proactively recognizes your increased value with increased compensation, but what do you do if this isn’t the case?  What if you start to feel like your increased value to the organization isn’t being recognized, either intentionally or unintentionally?  How do you attempt to bring up the matter? If you find yourself in this situation, there are key items to remember as you try to navigate what can be a very touchy conversation for some professionals. Consider the company status. It could be that you have simply been overlooked, or it could be that while you are doing an excellent job, other things aren’t so excellent at the organization.  If the company seems to be struggling financially or otherwise, be prepared for a possible delay.  It may make sense to postpone the conversation, or it may still be warranted.  That is a judgement call.  However, even if you do decide to go ahead an ask for an increase, be patient with how long it takes to get an answer.  Sometimes it’s still appropriate to ask, but the company’s status definitely plays a part in the end result. Your boss’ mood. If possible, wait for a time when things are going well for your boss both professionally and personally.  Try to avoid times when another employee issue may be overshadowing the situation.  Also, try to avoid times when your boss is somehow stressed at a personal level as well.  With most people, the better a mood they are in, the more open they are to ideas – particularly if it involves going to bat for getting you a pay raise. Make sure your performance is stellar. If you always hit homeruns, but had an off-day recently, it’s best to put off the raise discussion for a while until recent mishaps have been forgotten.  Shouldn’t it matter that you are always stellar?  Yes, it should; however, your case will be stronger if the most recent items on your boss’ mind are your successes rather than one untimely failure.  Waiting until a time when no one is able to do anything other than sing your praises puts you in a much better situation to get the increase you want. Provide a rationale for why it’s warranted. It’s important to be able to state logically why you deserve a raise.  If your sole argument is that you feel you deserve one, or have been employed for a specific period of time, that may not be enough.  Make sure to have additional talking points such as specific achievements or other ways in which you have made a positive difference for the organization recently.  Employment longevity is good, but it may not be enough depending on other factors at the company. Don’t get upset by a “no”. Sometimes you are doing an excellent job, and everything else seems good timing-wise, but for some reason a raise just can’t be approved.  Perhaps it is a company-wide freeze, or perhaps there is more going on than you realize.  While this may seem crazy, to be turned down for a raise due to uncontrollable circumstances and when your boss knows you certainly deserve one can be a good position to be in!  If your boss believes you deserve more and they are unable to give it to you at the time, they will remember it later and potentially reward you even more once they are able.  Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged by a temporary “no”.  Frequently “no” is really just “not now”, and patience will pay off. I hope these tips will be helpful to you the next time you contemplate asking for a compensation increase at work.  As with most things, timing is vitally important.  With a little preplanning, awareness, and patience, you are much more likely to get what you are striving for. As always, I wish you the best in your career. Mark Goldman CPA

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Books

“Hiring For Accounting: A Comprehensive Guide to Filling Accounting-Related Positions” (ebook) by Mark Goldman CPA

This guide comprehensively outlines all the key factors and steps to consider when filling an accounting role. From screening, to the nuances of an effective interview, to managing expectations, to securing an accepted offer, this comprehensive guide is meant to walk you through the process to a successful hire. Even for employers that frequently fill accounting positions, this guide will give you additional valuable insight into the perceptions of the job seeker regarding hiring processes.  A strong thorough screening process is important, but having insight into how the job seeker perceives the process and reacts to it can be equally important. "Hiring for Accounting: A Comprehensive Guide to Filling Accounting-Related Positions" is a 45-page electronic book (e-book) written by Mark Goldman, a CPA and employment consultant with over 25 years in the industry.  It's meant to make your hiring processes easier, more productive, and end with better long-term results. (To order, use the Paypal button below - NO Paypal account is needed.  E-book is emailed to email address used when purchased.  Copyright 2018 Mark Goldman.  Note:  We reserve the right to limit purchases to only end-user employers.) Options Ebook only - $9.99 USD This ebook + "49 Tips For Working With A Headhunter" paperback - $29.99 USD Ebook, paperback listed above, plus 1 Hour Employer Consulting - $99.99 USD

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“49 Tips For Working With A HEADHUNTER” – by Mark Goldman CPA

Our newest book, a paperback available on Amazon or for immediate delivery right here on our website, is “49 Tips For Working With A Headhunter”. In this book, we cover both sides of the equation – the employer side and the job seeker side.  We considered writing the two separately, but since many professionals eventually sit on both sides of the desk, it was better to include all the information for you in one place. If you are a job seeker or may be one in the future, the content in this book will help you know how to best interact with those in the “headhunting” profession so that you get optimal results.  There are many things you can do to make the process smoother on your end based on how the headhunter has to engage with the employers they represent.  This book covers those points.  In a nutshell, it helps you understand the expectations on their side of the desk so that you can better position yourself for the best career match. If you are an employer, the content in this book will help ensure that you get the best results when engaging a headhunter to fill a key position on your team as well.  Many employers may feel that it’s as simple as sending the headhunter a job description, and then waiting for the resumes to pour in.  While that certainly is one way to approach a search, there are many refinements that can be made that will greatly increase the employer’s level of satisfaction with the results.  This book gives you behind-the-scenes insights into how the headhunting process really works, so that you know what the headhunter needs in order to best service you as a customer. Since most of us eventually end up sitting on both sides of the desk, becoming a job seeker and an employer multiple times each in our professional lives, all the points in this book will benefit anyone looking to continue to build on their professional knowledge and further their career. To order your copy of "49 Tips For Working With A Headhunter", please visit Amazon or click below for faster delivery: Quantity Personal copy - $21.99 USD This book + "49 Tips For A Successful Accounting Career" - $34.99 USD This book + "Hiring For Accounting" ebook - $68.99 USD

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