What Does Your Leadership Transition Look Like?

July 24, 2017By Robert Reynolds, CPALeadership, Talent Management and People

During the past several years, our profession, like many others, has identified the need for an orderly and effective transition of leadership to the next generation of professionals as a critically important business issue. While much attention has been focused on this issue recently, the need to attract, retain and develop human capital in an organization is not a new issue. So why do so many organizations continue to struggle with the recruitment and development of the next generation of leaders?

I contrasted the differences between succession planning and transition activities with respect to leadership development in my February 2013 blog, Succession or Transition – You Choose. Succession planning is long-term focused. It is developing a culture and processes that enable you to attract the best and the brightest to join your organization, investing the time and personal energy to clearly define the personal characteristics, competencies and experiences necessary for these individuals to take full advantage of their career development opportunities, and then providing them the training and tools for success. Simply put, if the goal is filling the pipeline with future leaders, “begin with the end in mind.” By contrast, transition planning focuses on the orderly redistribution of leadership responsibilities to ensure the continuation of short-term activities.

For CPAs, the dilemma continues to be finding the proper balance between the development of the technical skills our professionals must possess to effectively serve our clients and employers, with those business or career success skills necessary to effectively lead the efforts of others in meeting the needs of clients and our organizations. Recent surveys and studies have shown that they two are considered equal in importance and critical to your future success.

With the increasing complexity of the business challenges facing our clients, and the need for greater responsiveness to these challenges, simply meeting the technical development needs of our people is a struggle for many of us at times. If this is the world we live in, how do we make the shift or find the time to address the leadership development of our team? I believe taking advantage of the many resources the CPA Center of Excellence® has to offer will greatly help in meeting the leadership development needs of our profession’s future leaders.

The CPA Center of Excellence® is advancing the CPA profession’s critical success skills through education, assessment and knowledge sharing. The Center offers a variety of tools, resources and creative educational opportunities to improve those skills in order to meet future client, employer and environmental needs and demands. The Center emphasizes a competency-based learning model and intelligent collaboration designed to assess your team’s current mastery of these critical competencies, and a road map to address the knowledge gaps identified to provide for long-term career success.

I believe the CPA Center of Excellence® is the greatest member benefit to be offered during the 20 years I have been a member of the Indiana CPA Society. If you agree succession is an important issue for your organization, and the development of your people is vital to addressing this issue, I encourage you to explore the resources available through the CPA Center of Excellence®. As with any important initiative or undertaking, remember “begin with the end in mind,” and that there is absolutely no reason “to reinvent the wheel.”

What Are Your Unconscious Biases?

July 17, 2017By Justin Hayes, CPALearning and Career Development

We can all agree our personal background (how we were raised, our education, etc.) helps to shape our moral and ethical behavior as we get older. For example, many people pride themselves on the work ethic they were taught as a child as they grow into adulthood. Or that they were raised to value their integrity and not to compromise it. These are both great examples of how our upbringing has shaped us in positive ways to be better members of society.

Although I have reflected on this personally in the past, I was not aware that what I was reflecting on was what is more commonly known as unconscious bias. Bias, of course, is having a prejudice either in favor of or against some thing, person or group compared to another. Have you ever taken a moment to consider how your upbringing could have created bias in you? More specifically, perhaps some bias you don’t even realize you have?

I have to be honest, I have not thought about this much in the past. However, I recently was able to attend the Society’s Leadership Cabinet/Emerging Leaders Alliance session where Allison Manswell, with Cook Ross, presented on the topic of “Unconscious Bias.” I hadn’t really been exposed to this topic prior to the meeting. What I learned was that in a very brief manner of speaking, “Unconscious Bias” refers to a bias we are unaware of, which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brains making fast decisions without us consciously slowing down the decision-making process.

As I started to look into this topic, I was amazed at the amount of research that has been done. One of the most interesting things I came across was a study done by the National Academy of Sciences, which found that hurricanes with female names have a much higher death rate than those with a male name. The research determined the reason behind this was that people unconsciously associated a female named hurricane to be gentler and less violent, so they did not take the warnings as serious as they did with a male name. I also found the following exercise in the Journal of Accountancy that is interesting and focuses more on unconscious biases in CPA firms: Take the test: What are your unconscious biases?

What potential unconscious biases might you have, and how are they impacting the decisions you are making? Is this a concept you’d like to explore further in order to get a better understanding of your thought process for making decisions, or the thought processes of coworkers, clients or employers?

What We’re Reading – 7/12/2017

July 12, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on networking, management, and innovation. 


Learn from a seasoned veteran of the business world on his vision of management: 



Do you cringe when you hear the word “networking”? For many people, networking can be intimidating and stressful. Here are six ways you can network if you don’t like talking to strangers: 



Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, shares the challenges and opportunities he’s been faced with, as well as career advice for entrepreneurs. 



Those who came before us often can lead us the way forward. Here are some lessons from history’s greatest innovators: 



Teamwork Is Key to a Successful Business Office

July 10, 2017By John Minnich, CPATalent Management and People

This past week, I attended a National Business Officer Institute conference at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. I had the opportunity to connect with business officers from across the nation during our week-long immersion of study covering accounting, finance, tax, human resources, risk management, facilities and technology.

Apparently, the path to business officer generally occurs indirectly and fills by individuals of various backgrounds, some of whom are CPAs. At our INCPAS Leadership Cabinet and Emerging Leaders meetings, we discuss the importance of attracting younger generations to the CPA profession and routinely brainstorm ways to engage them. I encourage you to share this career path with them as yet another option for future CPAs.

As I move forward with my new role as CFO at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, I find it fascinating to engage first-hand in the operations of a private independent school. At our conference, we discussed several important concepts with regard to staffing a business office. To help paint a picture, the business office staff generally consists of accounts receivable, accounts payable, controller and human resources. Direct reports to the CFO/business officer usually include tuition management and enrollment, financial aid, facilities, information technology, dining services, security, transportation, auxiliary and summer programs, health staff, bookstore/campus stores, post office and support staff.

Several of the highlights covered last week straddle what I experienced in public accounting:

  • Build a strong team – Referring to Jim Collins’ Good to Great, we discussed getting the right people on the bus in the correct seats.
  • Ensure that your team has the necessary skills to perform its functions properly.
  • Stay connected with departmental direct reports to remain informed. Schedule recurring meetings when appropriate.
  • Follow best practices by networking and staying informed through external sources including associations, journals and vendors.
  • Outsource when it makes sense and increases efficiency. For example, private schools must consider the pros and cons of managing dining services in-house or hiring a third party. Similarly, several vendors provide payroll services that a school can outsource.

At independent schools, a strong partnership must exist between the head of the school (the executive director) and the chief financial officer. We reviewed the importance of maintaining open, frequent and timely communication. Through collaboration, mutual respect and trust, each should appreciate different job responsibilities and demands while seeking out each other’s viewpoints. This helps ensure including both the head of school and CFO in important decisions. Each should honor his or her commitments through a shared alignment of mission, vision and priorities.

Sound familiar? What would you add to the list for your organization? Is an education business officer a role you have ever considered, or do you know someone who has?

What We’re Reading – 6/28/2017

June 28, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on retention, management, and development.


Why are some of your best employees packing their bags and leaving? These warning signs might just help you keep your most valued workers.



Giving an employee critical feedback is never fun. It’s part of the job, but doesn’t have to be negative. Learn how to constructively give feedback to your low-performing employees with these 4 tips:



An increase in training programs and employee development is imminent, according to the American Insitute of CPAs. Indiana CPAs and beyond, what are you doing to develop your own employees?



At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.





Role of the CFO Continues to Evolve

June 26, 2017By John Minnich, CPAChanging Role of the CPA

Colleagues routinely ask about my transition from public accounting to a role that combines business operations and education. Serving as CFO at Concordia Lutheran High School continues to fascinate me and allows the opportunity to bring together my experiences with accounting, business, education, nonprofits and technology. For those whom might have an interest in serving as CFO someday, it’s important to understand how the responsibilities overlap yet differ from the controller.

The role of the CFO continues to evolve from having financial acumen to complementing it with business operations, strategic planning and innovation. A thirst for knowledge along with having respect for your teammates makes the journey rewarding! This starts with having an understanding of and appreciation for positions. It’s all part of that expanded role in business that CPAs must embrace, which is addressed in the INCPAS 2025 document.

Controllers, serving a management function, have the responsibility for accounting and record keeping of an organization from a historical perspective. They ensure that established policies are followed and are responsible for financial and regulatory compliance. Depending on the size of the organization, additional duties can include coordination of audits, human resources, insurance, management of information technology, and tax reporting including federal income and sales.

CFOs similarly have financial responsibility yet have a more encompassing function. Using a forward-looking and big-picture approach, they review financial statements to gain perspectives on past performance. CFOs analyze information and work closely with operations and management to develop and implement strategy for the organization to achieve its goals. They serve as stewards, play a key role in operations, help influence the future direction of the company as business leaders and strategists, and act as catalysts driving process improvements and innovations that add value to the company.

A CFO can no longer rely on number crunching and spreadsheets alone as the demands rapidly change. According to an article from Business Insider, CFOs must possess these nine skills:

  1. CFOs must become analytics wizards.
  2. CFOs must manage an increasing amount of risk.
  3. CFOs must adapt to new technology.
  4. CFOs must become better at managing people.
  5. The CFO of the future must guide decisions in a politically charged atmosphere.
  6. CFOs must manage big data as a large part of business operations.
  7. CFOs will make effective decisions with analytics from outside of the enterprise.
  8. CFOs need to understand business drivers and the underlying non-financial information that drives the financials of their company.
  9. Hiring decisions will become a major part of the job for future CFOs. They will need to drive talent acquisition and retention.

In a recent Forbes article, “Three Ways to be a More Strategic CFO,” a discussion centers around what it takes to succeed as a CFO today. Three takeaways:

  1. CFOs must have a passion for and deep understanding of the organization along with intellectual curiosity.
  2. CFOs should have the attitude and aptitude to properly balance risk and reward.
  3. CFOs should be visible working in teams as business partners.

I thoroughly enjoy my new opportunity and absolutely relish collaborating with colleagues whom have expertise in each of their areas. For aspiring CFOs, I hope this helps paint a picture for you. A few months ago, I shared an article, “Teamwork Key to Successful Business Office,” regarding the importance of teamwork and collaboration. During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and learn from what seems an infinite number of talented colleagues at several organizations. As I continue to acclimate with Concordia (having joined in June 2016), I value our teammates with whom I serve. Everyone brings a unique and diverse skill set to each team as they play their positions. We have a very dedicated team of faculty and staff. I certainly have much to learn from an institution rich with history, culture and knowledge, and I look forward to advancing our mission together!

What We’re Reading – 6/21/2017

June 21, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on job recruitment, technology, engagement, and innovation. 


Technology is constantly evolving the accounting industry. Here is a list of trends for firm leaders to keep an eye on. CPAs, how will these trends affect you and your organizations? 



Do you feel appreciated and respected at work? If you have your doubts, here are three signs to look for in your company to see if they truly value you as an employee. 



 Read on to discover why John Graham, professor at Duke Universy’s Fuqua School, shares and addresses this issue. This primary issue faced by CFOs and companies might surprise you. 



Innovation doesn’t always mean discovering or creating the “next big thing.” Instead, it is sometimes the smaller, lesser discoveries that really lead to a company’s success. As CPAs, how can we recognize this type of innovation? 



According to this article from Deloitt University Press, the workforce of tomorrow needs two primary things: engagement and passion. Read on to learn more about why these traits are important and how you focus on fostering them in your own organizations today.   



At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.


Technical vs Soft Skills: What Employers Are Looking For

June 20, 2017By Jason Bainter, CPACritical Thinking and Non-Technical Skills

When you think of soft skills, do you cringe?

You know you need them, but how do you find time to develop them? Well, it’s time to start looking at your soft skill set and how they relate to your employer’s needs. Multiple surveys have been conducted with executive level officers and they are all finding that the C-Office executives as well as staff level are in need of and wanting employees with soft skills in addition to the historical technical skills that have always been in demand.

From my work with clients in the construction industry, I hear CFOs and controllers say all the time that wish their staff had better communication, decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They’re at a loss as to why applicants look so good on paper but once the applicant actually gets into the work, all these soft skills are lacking. At that point, there are only a few options open: do the job yourself, get the staff training, or fire the staff. CFOs and controllers want applicants to be able to be prepared to jump right into the job, and so these soft skills are rising in priority when hiring applicants.

An article from Robert Half Finance & Accounting entitled “CFOs Seek Finance Professionals with Mix of Hard and Soft Skills” provided results of their survey and found that 54% of the CFOs interviewed (2,200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas) gave equal weight to both specialized and non-technical (soft) skills when interviewing finance and accounting staff. When it comes to filling management level positions, 50% of those CFOs said both technical and nontechnical skills were of equal importance.

The following five nontechnical skills were identified in the Robert Half survey as being essential to accounting and finance professionals: business acumen, leadership, communication, relationship building and intellectual curiosity.

The recent LinkedIn survey of nearly 300 hiring managers resulted in similar findings, as it rated the need for various soft skills by position levels, and ranked the most in-demand skills as well as the least in-demand skills. Perhaps most importantly, the survey determined that a lack of soft skills is clearly linked to a company’s productivity. Almost 60 percent of survey respondents indicated that the lack of soft skills in candidates limits their company’s productivity.

The great thing is that now there is a platform on which staff and employees can obtain training on soft skills. The CPA Center of Excellence® has interactive online, competency-based courses on six of the most important soft skills, as well as another on Ethics.

I tested the Ethics course and have taken the Leadership course, and found these competency-based courses to be the best professional education I’ve ever experienced. They are engaging, entertaining, informative and very well presented. The high level of interactivity caused me to learn more effectively and retain more materials than other classroom or online courses I’ve taken. It was also great to see other participants’ ideas and thoughts as you progressed through these courses. The competency-based courses were developed to obtain knowledge from both the course content and the other participants’ ideas and thoughts. These courses are a great way to learn the soft skills that employers are looking for. Once the course is completed, the participant will receive a digital badge which validates successful completion.

If you don’t want to be left behind in this ever-changing business environment, or just want to strengthen your skill set, think about the soft skills you have, which ones need improved, consider some assessment and new training options to get you where you need to be and, more importantly, to where your employer wants you to be.

What We’re Reading – 6/14/2017

June 14, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on change, employee management, and continuing professional education. 


Change is a constant in today’s accounting industry. CPAs, how will these four trends driving change in the industry affect you?



Learn in this interview from FEI Daily how finance executives are handling the banking revolution in speed and satisfaction of customer expectations. 

The Three Things Financial Execs Can Learn from the Banking Revolution: A Q&A With Grant Thornton’s Simon Moss, Part 1


Why are your employees giving you their two-week notice and leaving? This article from CGMA Magazine explains why, and offers five tips you can do to reduce employee turnover in your company. 



Similar to the CPA Center of Excellence’s support of competency-based professional development for CPAs, The International Accounting Education Standards Board has proposed a revision that moves away from traditional credit-hours based learning. Learn more here: 



At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

How Management Accountants Innovate

June 12, 2017By Rebekah Payne, CPAChanging Role of the CPA, Innovation

Innovation is a top priority for the CPA profession. Gary Bolinger discussed innovation at this year’s Professional Issues Update and INCPAS just released its white paper on innovation. And, in recent months, there have been several posts related to innovation on the CPA Center of Excellence® Online Community. It’s imperative for CPAs in public accounting and industry to embrace and influence innovation within their organizations.

Several articles have been published this year on innovation within accounting firms, specifically Big Four firms. Some of these ideas include cognitive computing, big data analytics, surveyor drones for inventory observation, and machine learning technology. Many published examples of innovation in the CPA profession are occurring within public accounting.

So what about CPAs in industry? How can CPAs in management accounting positions (e.g. CFO, controller) influence innovation within their organizations? Innovation requires an investment that translates into cost. A management accountant will have significant involvement in “crunching the numbers” for innovation. This may include building cash flow models, budgeting costs, allocating resources and advising on financing. But focusing solely on these traditional responsibilities of a management accountant wouldn’t be innovative.

How else do management accountants influence innovation? A CGMA Report issued by the AICPA and CIMA provides deeper insight into managing innovation. This report identifies the following areas where management accountants can influence and support a more innovative business.

  1. Create an innovation mindset: Fostering a culture that encourages innovation has to start with leadership at the top, including CFOs. CFOs can help develop incentives to encourage employees to be innovative. CFOs can also help determine the proper metrics to utilize based on a project’s stage.
  1. Nurture creativity: “The goal of operational excellence is to drive businesses toward certainty, while the goal of promoting innovation requires a high tolerance of uncertainty, ambiguity and constant change,” according to the report. CFOs will need to assist companies with adapting financial processes and metrics to align with the stage of each project. Financial measurements for projects in the early stage will most likely be more relaxed than at a later stage. 
  1. Prepare the path to profit: In this area, CFOs will perform some of their traditional responsibilities. Innovation takes those responsibilities to the next level as CFOs need to move from being viewed as a constraint on innovation (saying “no”) to becoming a valued contributor (helping assess “how”). CFOs are essential in managing both projects and risk.
  1. Match metrics to the stage of development: CFOs will need to help create “stage gates” through which each idea can be challenged and refined to prepare for the next stage of investment. As discussed above, part of this process will involve tailoring metrics to each stage of a project.
  1. Take a balanced view on risk across the innovation portfolio: Portfolio management is crucial for a company’s sustainability, and CFOs play a vital role in this process. Management of the innovation portfolio includes defining and understanding a company’s strategy and risk appetite, strategically managing risk, and building both tangible and intangible risks into strategies.

The areas above identify several examples of how management accountants can support and influence innovation within their companies. Are there other examples of innovation that you have observed in your company or clients?

Interested in learning more about innovation in the CPA Profession? Read the Indiana CPA Society’s innovation white paper at this link.