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Tantalizing takeaways from the 2018 MNCPA Management & Business Advisers Conference

| August 2018 Footnote

Variety is the spice of life and that's what was served up at the 24th Annual Management & Business Advisers Conference (MBAC18) in June. Hosted at the Minneapolis Convention Center, more than 900 financial professionals and CPAs attended the two-day conference offering more than 48 sessions covering tax reform, technology, personal development and much more. The following are highlights from just a handful of sessions.

Passionately Successful: Making the Most of Ambition and Happiness, Daniel Lerner (Sponsored by Deloitte)

It may not surprise you that lawyers rank at the top for highest earners. But did you know they also top the list in nicotine abuse, alcohol abuse and depression?

It begs the question: Can success and happiness coexist?

Daniel Lerner, positive psychology expert and author, assured MBAC attendees in his opening keynote that you can have both. It all comes down to having the right type of passion.

There are two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. Harmonious passion means what you love is well-balanced with the other loves in your life. You enjoy the process, not just the victory at the end. On the other hand, obsessive passion means you do something for reasons outside yourself, such as status, glory or money. It's not a part of your life -- it's your whole life.

"Harmonious passions are pillars. If you have a bad day at work, you have another pillar to hold you up," said Lerner. Alternatively, having an obsessive passion means you're sacrificing other things in your life. So, if you have a bad day, you're left feeling like you're nothing.

Our culture may suggest you need to sacrifice everything to be successful. But, in the end, harmonious passions have an equal chance of mastery as obsessive ones, but with less self-destructive behaviors. That's something you can smile about.

MBAC maxim: Love what you do, but love other things, too.

Cultural Sensitivity for the Accidentally Insensitive, Shannan Paul

Questions matter -- and so do answers. That's how people make connections with others and help shape our environment.

"It's more important to know what matters to someone than just what they look like," Shannan Paul, a popular personality in the Twin Cities on radio and elsewhere, told her full session of attendees.

First, you need to understand what environment -- or culture -- is. It's the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings. In less than an hour, Paul shaped the environment of the room by making connections with several attendees. She discovered one person's son was recently drafted to the New York Yankees, while another woman enjoys clog dancing. Paul accomplished this by taking the simplest and most direct route: She asked.

For many, it's not that simple as we are surrounded with growing concern around tact and sensitivity. There's nothing wrong with curiosity -- even about other people -- Paul said, but it matters how one engages with another. Change won't happen overnight, as we've seen throughout our history, but intentional changes in ourselves may just breed results in others.

MBAC maxim: Ask questions, but think before you speak.

Implementing the New Revenue Recognition Standard: Best Practices for Successful Adoption, Brandon Morgan and Ryan Tranby

As the new Accounting Standards Codification 606 Revenue Recognition standards take shape, it's important to not put the implementation process on the backburner. The important steps to assist with implementing the new standards, according to speaker Brandon Morgan of Deloitte, are as follows:

  1. Understand, educate and get other people involved
    This is not a solo operation. Revenue is something that is generated by your entire company. Be sure to talk with legal, sales and marketing to determine all aspects of the revenue generation. Have discussions with people to determine what is being done for customers and how that impacts the overall revenue.
  2. Assess and design the contract review process
    Decide how in-depth you want to go into the contract review. If you're a small business that can go through every single one of your contracts, do so; if you're a larger company, you may have to do the review on a portfolio basis. Determine your buckets, revenue streams and how things are broken down. Is it by customer? Business design? Is there a standard to your contracts? If you have a business division that focuses on negotiating everything individually, it might be best to focus on those.
  3. After review, draw conclusions on materiality and complexity
  4. Validate what you've concluded focusing on materiality, standards, business impact and your industry
    Measure twice, cut once and make sure you've identified every contract or different piece of your revenue that could be part of the business. Make sure all the contracts do include everything you think they do.
  5. Implement a plan for best practices moving forward
    Set up processes within your company to stay on track with the new standards.

MBAC maxim: Put the work in.

Beyond Accounting and Finance: Top Technology Trends Affecting Businesses, Blake Oliver (Sponsored by FloQast)

Blake Oliver, senior product marketing manager for FloQast, which offers close management software for accountants, said there are five big technology trends that are likely to affect and disrupt businesses in the next decade.

  1. Application protocol interface (API)
    APIs allow two applications to communicate with each other to streamline business processes. For example, third-party applications can integrate with the general ledger to enhance enterprise resource planning (ERP) functionality. Products like Sage Intacct and Salesforce can link via API to make it easier for a sales team to know the payment status of any customer, while an API involving the ERP, FloQast and cloud storage can make monthly close processes quicker, more streamlined and more automated.
  2. Robotic process automation (RPA)
    Also known as just automation, this technology is becoming more mainstream to complete repetitive tasks faster and more accurately. Many accounting-focused tasks, including data compilation, reporting and documentation, have the potential to be automated -- freeing CPAs up to focus on more important tasks, such as analyzing data and shaping business strategies.
  3. Artificial intelligence (AI)
    AI is another trend that can offer timesaving benefits to business professionals. With this technology, less human interaction is needed for mundane, tedious tasks, such as extracting lease data from contracts or identifying research projects that could qualify for tax credits.
  4. Blockchain
    Think beyond what you've heard about bitcoin. Blockchain is the underlying technology that's bigger than the cryptocurrency. It allows for the transfer of assets between two parties, without an intermediary, via an immutable and public database of transactions. It allows for heightened security and trust -- everyone has a copy of the same database, with a "proof-of-work consensus algorithm" that only allows certain parties to make changes to that database. You can't forge a signature on a blockchain transaction.
  5. Remote work
    As the talent shortage continues to plague the accounting world, this could be one viable solution for companies to find and retain the best employees. Eighty to ninety percent of the U.S. workforce say they would like to telework at least part time -- but only 7 percent of U.S. employers make this available to most of their employees. With technology options for communicating and collaborating -- such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Dropbox and OneDrive -- the only hurdle might be a shift in your company culture or policies. If you're able to expand your remote work options, you're meeting employees' needs while broadening your candidate pool. If your ideal candidate is three states away and you have all the technology they need to get their work done, what's stopping you from hiring them?

MBAC maxim: Change is coming. Prepare yourself.

How to manage meetings with fun and efficiency, Dr. Michael Monroe Kiefer

Think your meetings deserve an award? Before you write your acceptance speech, take in these tips from the master of meetings and popular MBAC speaker, Dr. Michael Monroe Kiefer.

  • Provide refreshments. Bonus points if you provide more than just room-temperature water.
  • Assign different people to different roles at each meeting -- it'll build their skills.
  • Have staff that are hesitant to speak up? Use a round-robin technique to solicit everyone's ideas and opinions.
  • If you want to stimulate ideas and learning, have small items out on the table for people to hold and fidget with in their hands.
  • Meetings don't have to be confined to meeting rooms and chairs. Move around! Try walking meetings or short physical exercises during breaks.
  • If you're needing to get people thinking outside the box, try mind mapping. Write your central idea in the middle, and then branch out with other ideas from that central one.
  • Above all else, start and finish on time. You can have the best meeting, but if you're constantly running late, that's all people will focus on. 

MBAC maxim: Subtle things make a big difference in meetings.