Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Slow Cracks in the Ceiling

In college I enrolled in a business law class as an elective which was taught by a former corporate attorney – a no-nonsense woman who once regaled us with a story of how in her first day at law school in 1962, a male classmate leaned over and told her in no uncertain terms that she had taken a deserving seat from man.

Knowing her as I did, I can only imagine her response. It most likely could not have been reprinted in a family publication.

Think about that for a moment in this era of movements like #MeToo.

That scenario seems almost inconceivable today and without doubt would incur severe reprimands if not outright dismissal and/or legal action should it be repeated in the 21st century.

But that was then, and this was now.

I recalled this misogynist episode when I saw an article ranking the best CPA firms in the U.S. for women. The roster was compiled by the Accounting MOVE Project, a nine-year-old annual undertaking that provides a benchmark for the status of women in the leadership pipeline in the profession as well as diversity and the Accounting Financial and Women’s Alliance.

According to the 2018 poll, women currently comprise 25 percent of the management committees at participating firms—up from 19 percent in 2014 and 24 percent of partners and principals at CPA firms. 

According to the AFWA, the below listed firms were measured by a trio of factors related to the advancement of women in accounting:

•    Consistent, measurable progress in advancing women to leadership.
•    Proven and continually evolving programs that retain and advance women.
•    Clear and compelling integration of the business case for advancing women with business results.

So, for those keeping score at home, the best practices for women in 2018 were:
  1. BPM, San Francisco, Calif.
  2. Brown Smith Wallace, St. Louis
  3. Clark Nuber, Bellevue, Wash.
  4. CohnReznick, New York
  5. Kerkering Barbario & Co., Sarasota, Fla.
  6. Lurie, Minneapolis
  7. MCM CPAs and Advisors, Louisville, Ky.
  8. Moss Adams, Seattle
  9. Novogradac & Co. San Francisco
  10. Plante Moran, Southfield, Mich.
  11. Rehman, Troy, Mich.
  12. Bonadio Group, Pittsford, N.Y.

And for those who care, I earned an A in the class - one of the few and far between to appear on my college transcript. And I should mention that she never once told me my seat should have gone to a more deserving student.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Honey-Do List for CPA Firms

This past Saturday my better and half and I decided to take advantage of arguably the most beautiful back-to-back days of the year in terms of weather and went for a lengthy walk. While strolling past a neighbor’s house I noticed he was busy getting ready to stake a “For Sale by Owner” sign into the ground.

Selfishly this set off some minor internal alarms, since he owned what anyone would consider an older and decidedly smaller home, I knew instantly that anyone who bought it would immediately target the property for an immediate tear down and replace it with a much larger structure.

So, we got into a brief but lively conversation about his plans. His children were now grown and had moved out of state and he was growing weary of the seemingly endless New York winters (boy was I with him on that one). They had acquired a piece of property near Naples, Fla., on which they had planned to build their retirement villa.

But first, he had a laundry list of home improvement jobs that had to be completed. At the top of that itinerary was repaving his driveway, then painting several rooms as well as re-grouting his master bathroom.

Strangely I equated this “to-do” agenda with a CPA firm owner who decides its time to wind down and look for a successor firm providing his bench wasn’t deep enough to carry on internally. Almost always there’s work to be done to make a firm more attractive for a sale. Very few CPA firms I’ve seen could be classified as being in “move-in” condition.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Do Go It Alone

In an episode of the classic 1950s sitcom, “The Honeymooners,” the Ed Norton character was bemoaning to Ralph Kramden that he had just gotten fired from his job in the sewer. He insisted that finding other work was going to be difficult, if not impossible, because in his view “sewer workers are like brain surgeons, we’re both specialists!”

I thought about this the other day when I was a guest at an engagement party for my nephew and struck up a conversation with a young man while waiting at the bar for a drink (naturally).

He was a typical Millennial, able to converse and text simultaneously and I gather seemingly without a slew of grammatical errors. He revealed to me that he had just started an IT company that had developed some app whose purpose, and of course functionality, was far over my Baby Boomer head.

So, in my line of work, the next question unsurprisingly, was did he have an accountant?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

You Expensed What?

Years ago, when I first was taught how to fill out an expense account, I was probably more hesitant to write something off than I should have been and thus, probably spent more of my own money than necessary.

In fact, the only thing I can remember being kicked back by the accounts payable department was a $7.95 box of cold tablets I desperately needed once in New Orleans - fighting galactic congestion while navigating a conference in a city that at the time was hovering at 97 degrees with 90 percent humidity.

Upon my return I discovered one of the women in the classified section of the company had been fired for attempting – I kid you not – to write off a fur coat as an expense. Another employee, a group publisher, submitted a receipt for a $1,000 dinner – allegedly with business contacts. Only he was far from discreet and a colleague had spotted him at the restaurant in question with a woman other than his wife.

I harken back to those halcyon days of seeing what you could and could not get away with when I saw the results of a recent survey that concluded business travel fraud is costing U.S. businesses nearly $2 billion a year.

Meanwhile, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners expense reimbursement fraud makes up 17 percent of all business fraud.