Betsy's Pretty Good Blog

''I'm doing just fine, thank you.''

September 17, 2014
Stressed woman

Substance abuse is definitely not everyone’s favorite topic.   It makes us feel uncomfortable for many reasons, maybe even more so if you’re a CPA.  CPAs have a great (and well-deserved) reputation for high standards, meticulous work, and looking out for clients’ best interests.  They expect a lot of themselves and other CPAs.   Long hours and lots of stress are not uncommon.    Any impairment of a CPA’s performance is a threat to the well-being of clients, employers, and the profession. (I’m not forgetting loved ones, friends and families either.)

While substance abuse, alcoholism or other chemical dependency may manifest differently in individuals’ lives, there are some common problems*.

  • You drink or use to "manage" emotions and stress (e.g., to celebrate, to relax after a stressful day, to deal with anger). Eventually the alcohol or other drug becomes your primary stress reduction tool.
  • Your behavior becomes less and less responsible. Your work quality may decrease; you may miss appointments; you may begin drinking or using "on the job" or at lunch; you may fail to return phone calls or to show for appointments.
  • Your drinking or using begins to intensify negative emotions. (You may experience increased anger, resentment, guilt, depression, or anxiety.)
  • Your behavior begins to conflict with your values and ethics (e.g., lying, mishandling funds, getting DWIs).
  • The alcohol or other drug begins to take center stage in your life. You quit socializing unless it involves drinking or using; you are preoccupied with drinking or using; you "protect your supply" to avoid "running out"; you begin drinking or using alone.
  • You may engage in efforts to control your use. You may try to control the substance used (e.g., beer rather than hard liquor). You may try to control the amount used (e.g., only two drinks per day). You may try to control the time of use (e.g. drinking only on the weekends). These attempts maybe effective for periods of time, but eventually they fail.
  • Your mental functioning is affected. Your thought system becomes delusional; you may become grandiose; you may have difficulty concentrating; your ability to handle stress decreases; and you may experience blackouts (memory gaps).
  • Your tolerance to the substance increases (that is, more of the substance is needed to obtain the same effect). In late-stage alcoholism, the tolerance becomes wholly unpredictable.
  • Your physical health deteriorates. You experience sleep difficulties, weight changes, malnourishment, intestinal problems, ulcers, and liver problems. Ultimately, the disease is fatal.
  • You drink or use to "manage" emotions and stress (e.g., to celebrate, to relax after a stressful day, to deal with anger). Eventually the alcohol or other drug becomes your primary stress reduction tool.
  • Your behavior becomes less and less responsible. Your work quality may decrease; you may miss appointments; you may begin drinking or using "on the job" or at lunch; you may fail to return phone calls or to show for appointments.
  • Your drinking or using begins to intensify negative emotions. (You may experience increased anger, resentment, guilt, depression, or anxiety.)
  • Your behavior begins to conflict with your values and ethics (e.g., lying, mishandling funds, getting DWls).
  • The alcohol or other drug begins to take center stage in your life. You quit socializing unless it involves drinking or using; you are preoccupied with drinking or using; you "protect your supply" to avoid "running out"; you begin drinking or using alone.
  • You may engage in efforts to control your use. You may try to control the substance used (e.g., beer rather than hard liquor). You may try to control the amount used (e.g., only two drinks per day). You may try to control the time of use (e.g. drinking only on the weekends). These attempts maybe effective for periods of time, but eventually they fail.
  • Your mental functioning is affected. Your thought system becomes delusional; you may become grandiose; you may have difficulty concentrating; your ability to handle stress decreases; and you may experience blackouts (memory gaps).
  • Your tolerance to the substance increases (that is, more of the substance is needed to obtain the same effect). In late-stage alcoholism, the tolerance becomes wholly unpredictable.
  • Your physical health deteriorates. You experience sleep difficulties, weight changes, malnourishment, intestinal problems, ulcers, and liver problems. Ultimately, the disease is fatal.

*From “Career Killers:  Substance Abuse, Depression & Stress in the Accounting Profession” by Don Jones.

While most CPAs will never suffer from substance abuse themselves, virtually all CPAs will interact with someone who does.  Whether you are concerned about yourself, a colleague, or a family member, there is help from Accountants Concerned for Accountants (ACA).    The program provides peer support (from those who have “been there”), assessment, consultation and referral.   Diane Naas, Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor (LADC), will professionally guide you through this challenging process.

It’s never easy to make that first phone call for help.   But you’ll be glad you did.

ACA 952-920-5287

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Do you know about SupplierPay?

July 23, 2014

balance paidAbout two dozen companies, including Apple and Coca-Cola, have signed on to a White House effort to speed payments to their smaller suppliers. It’s intended to boost cash flows and increase investment in smaller businesses.

SupplierPay is a voluntary program in which companies commit either to pay small suppliers faster or help them get access to lower-cost capital.

Learn more about SupplierPay

Ami Kassar expands on the program in his article “Let’s Put Obama’s SupplierPay on Steroids”. In his article, he points out the dramatic difference in the cost of capital for big companies versus small companies. “Big companies can typically borrow money at 2% or 3% interest while….small suppliers are often forced into expensive factoring agreements with annualized percentage rates that average 24%”. Small companies can often wait 60-90 days to get paid, forcing them into high cost borrowing.

We as consumers should make an effort to buy from big companies that participate in SupplierPay. It is one of the most important things we can do to support small businesses. And, if you are part of a company that uses small suppliers, you might just take a look at your own payment history with those suppliers.

The following companies have signed on to SupplierPay:

  • Apple
  • AT&T
  • Authentix
  • Cardinal Health
  • Coca-Cola
  • CVS
  • Ericsson
  • FedEx
  • Honda
  • IBM
  • Intuit
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Kelly Services
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Milliken
  • Molina Healthcare
  • Nissen
  • PG&E
  • Philips
  • Rolls Royce
  • Rothschild North America
  • Salesforce
  • Textura
  • Toyota
  • Walgreens
  • Westinghouse Electric Company

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CFOs are stepping up

June 25, 2014
“Still, another reason for the disappearance of the COO is that CFOs are now also considered prime candidates to become chief executives. While only 6% of the large companies’ sitting chief executives came directly from a CFO post, change is in the air. Today about 9 out of 10 CFO searches carry a requirement that candidates have the potential to lead the company…”
CFOs are stepping up to add operations to their duties

A recent article in CFO Magazine was about companies eliminating the COO position and operating duties being switched to CFOs.

My first reaction was “Wow! CFOs have a full plate now so adding all the operational duties on seems almost overwhelming.” This is a trend. In 2000 48% of Fortune 500 companies had COOs. Now it is 35%.

For a CFO to take on operations (including supply chain, IT, sales, procurement, HR, process improvement, inventory management etc.) could be a real challenge. The article points out that to make this work, it is absolutely necessary to have really strong people in finance and accounting to handle the day-to-day chores. One CFO pointed out that the project management skills he used for finance were really important to him in being able to take on all the operations responsibility as well.

The CFO job continues to morph and grow and demand more and more. Keeping up and developing the skills (including soft skills needed to lead and manage a company) is essential.

Here’s an upcoming course at the MNCPA you might consider

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Happy employees

June 13, 2014

“It’s been my experience that if you want happy employees, then hire happy people. I discovered this simple concept as a Little League baseball coach. While all the other coaches were evaluating the kids’ speed, bat, and glove, I simply kept track of which kids smiled the most. As a result, I was able to build enjoyable teams—win or lose.”
J. Carlton Collins, CPA, Journal of Accountancy, June 2014

We’ve all read advice that hiring for personal characteristics should be primary and then you can teach the new employee “the job”. Of course, it’s a little different with hiring a CPA – they need certain CPA skills. But assuming that the CPA skills are there, what personal characteristics make for good employees?

In the world of finance and accounting, ethics and honesty might top the list of “must haves”. Also close to the top would be responsible, good judgment, persistence, self-motivated, diligent, and prudent. Employees also need to “fit in” with your culture and work well with others as a team. So amiability, flexibility and cooperative may be on the list.

That brings me to “happy”. We all want happy employees. It’s the grease that makes even difficult things go more smoothly. So how do you identify “happy” people? Is it really as simple as Mr. Collins claims? Just look for the smiles? Well, actually that’s not a bad idea. I did a search on the characteristics of happy people and one of the things consistently listed is they tend to smile more. (One caution though – don’t confuse happy with extroverted. Lots of introverts are very happy people.)

Pay attention to the smiles when interviewing and look for those happy people.

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Thoughts on my sabbatical

June 2, 2014
Statue of Canadian Goose

I never thought a sabbatical would be so challenging. I’ve been working regularly since I was 12 years old (first job – detasseling corn) and the longest I ever vacationed was 2 weeks …and that happened once. So having 8 weeks off in a row was somewhat intimidating. I was completely cut off from work – no access to email, voicemail or the network. I couldn’t work even if I wanted to.

At first I thought I had to do something BIG, like a grand tour of Europe, or climbing Kilimanjaro or learning Italian. When you’re given that kind of huge gift, you think you have to have something huge to show for it. It took me a good week to ten days just to calm down enough to give myself permission to let things flow.

So the grand tour of Europe morphed into the Circle Tour around Lake Superior, something I have wanted to do since I moved to Minnesota thirteen years ago. I loved it! Lake Superior is beautiful and amazing in any season and from any viewpoint. And Canadians are wonderful people!

Climbing Kilimanjaro morphed into a lot of riding lessons on Elvis. I bought a new horse over a year ago and never had enough time to really concentrate on riding him enough to turn us into a copacetic pair. Still not completely there, but made some significant progress.

Learning Italian? Well, I did clean out every closet in my house and the garage. (Goodwill thought they had hit the jackpot!) And I did get the garden cleaned out and ready to go at the hobby farm as well as get a survey done, and arrange for carpentry work to be completed there.

It turned out for me that doing BIG things wasn’t really the answer. It was a lot of many not so big things that proved satisfying, including a fun day in Wawa, Ontario, home of a giant 4 ton statue of a Canadian Goose!

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Is an audit failure really an audit failure?

March 24, 2014
Fail

Did you know that the PCAOB pre-screens audits for inspections? I didn’t. Did you know that the PCAOB uses the term “audit failures” in place of “audit deficiencies”? I didn’t.

A short article on CFO.com opened my eyes about some issues around PCAOB inspections.

A recent comment made by the chief auditor of the PCAOB - “When we look at an audit, the rate of failure has been in a range of 35-40%.” That doesn’t mean that 35-40% of all public company audits are failures. Pre-screening obviously eliminates the majority of these audits from scrutiny, but the comment by the chief auditor would lead one to believe the failure rate applies to all public company audits.

Perhaps even more concerning is the way the PCAOB defines the term “audit failure”. Audit failure is an alarming term that typically means there was a clean audit opinion on misleading financial statements. That’s a big deal. Now the PCAOB uses the term when “in their judgment, the auditor failed to obtain sufficient appropriate evidence to support its opinion on the financial statements, irrespective of the fairness of the financial statements in question.”

It was worthwhile for me to read this short article. Clearly, everyone benefits from the best audits possible. Now I have a better understanding that a PCAOB designated “failure” may not be as bad as that word makes it sound.

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IRS program in competition with you

March 13, 2014
freefile logo

CPA Trendlines reports that the IRS program called “FreeFile” may be the reason that 769,000 tax returns are missing from the marketplace. Do-it-yourself software is taking an increasing slice of the tax preparation business.

“FreeFile is a public-private partnership between the IRS and the FreeFile Alliance LLC. The alliance is a corsortium of 14 leading tax software providers who make their products available exclusively at IRS.gov.” FreeFile does not support any state tax returns – a bit of good news.

Read the article

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Are you ready for Generation Z?

February 26, 2014

Future next exit signGeneration Z?????????? I’m still adjusting to Generation Y, so I was caught off guard that there’s this whole other group that I should now begin to learn about. The oldest kids in Gen Z will turn 18 this year, so it won’t be long till they're on our doorsteps, freshly minted accounting degrees in hand.

Called a generation of realists by Sarah Sladek of XYZ University, this group has been born into “school shootings, climate change, terrorism and the Great Recession.” And they’re the ones who are going to have to find solutions to lots of problems that we older people will be leaving behind.

Here’s a short blog by Sarah that will introduce you to Gen Z and I think you’re going to like what you see.

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Have you been visited by a Patent Troll?

February 3, 2014
Patent Troll

Have you or one of your clients been accosted by a patent troll? Well, welcome to the club…and it’s a big club. We’ve had the experience here at the MNCPA. “Patent Assertion Entities” or PAEs purchase patents for the express purpose of filing patent infringement lawsuits against companies to get licensing fees or a legal settlement without actually making any goods or providing any services.

I’ve learned that the seriousness and impact of PAE activities are debated heavily online.
Here’s a good list of posts 

Here’s a recent discussion of whether it’s a real phenomenon 

There are concerns that some small businesses will be hurt by the proposed legislation.
Learn more 

The AICPA is working in Congress to get legislation passed that will curtail patent trolling.
Read up on AICPA's efforts 

This is complex issue for sure, but when you or a client have been hit up by a patent troll, it certainly feels abusive.

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What do you do when a client approaches you with a crazy business idea?

January 20, 2014
Crazy ideas

It’s the New Year and lists get posted online about a lot of things, including crazy business ideas. Of course, the fascinating thing about crazy business ideas is that some of them actually work. I imagine that most of them don’t, but how can you advise a client who wants to make goggles for dogs, or a device that turns a hot dog into an octopus?

I’m interested in hearing from CPAs about the craziest business ideas they’ve heard from clients or potential clients. Tell me how you handled the situation….and tell me if you got in early and made a bundle on backhair advertising!

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