The Auditor’s Responsibility for Compliance with Laws and Regulations: Where to Stop

It’s long been said that CPAs should not assume the rule of legal counsel. That is true regardless of the level or type of service being provided. One place in particular is the professional requirements for CPAs in the AU-C 250: “Consideration of Laws and Regulations in an Audit of Financial Statements.” And yes, before going further, there are requirements within professional standards in which the auditor must consider, including the specific governmental engagements to test and report on compliance with laws or regulations. For the brief time here, I want to offer my thoughts on the requirements when performing an audit of financial statements. This applies to any audit of any financial statements.


We need to start with the premise directly from AU-C 250: “It is the responsibility of management and those charged with governance offering oversight, to ensure that the entity’s operations are conducted in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations, including compliance with the provisions of laws and regulations that determine the reported amounts and disclosures in an entity’s financial statements.”


The auditor “is responsible for obtaining reasonable assurance that the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether caused by fraud or error. In the audit, the auditor takes into account the applicable legal and regulatory framework.” The auditor is not responsible for preventing noncompliance and cannot be expected to detect noncompliance with all laws and regulations. That too, is from AU-C 250.


As an experienced auditor, that does seem to have its share of contradictions, but no more than the auditor’s overall objectives when conducting an audit. The use of materiality, performance measurement and professional judgment are just as applicable here as they are in other AU sections. The requirements do provide two categories to distinguish compliance with laws and regulations:

  1. The provisions of laws and regulations generally recognized to have a direct effect on the determination of material amounts and disclosures, such as tax and pension laws and regulations.
  2. The provisions of other laws and regulations that have a direct effect on the amounts and disclosures but compliance may be fundamental to the operating aspects of the business, fundamental to an entity’s ability to continue its business, or necessary for the entity to avoid material penalties such terms as an operating license, regulatory solvency or environmental regulations.


In carrying out responsibilities, an auditor has to obtain an understanding of the environment which includes the legal and regulatory framework of the entity, including how the entity is complying with that framework. To do so, an auditor can use specialists, including tax professionals within their audit firm, and management representations and specialists. They can also request and inspect correspondence with licensing or regulatory authorities. Ultimately, auditors must remain alert throughout the audit procedures which may bring instances of noncompliance or suspected noncompliance with laws and regulations.


In the absence of identified or suspected noncompliance, the auditor is not required to perform audit procedures other than those discussed previously.


The challenge of the auditor as outlined above is indeed great. To determine those laws and regulations that have an effect on the material amounts and disclosures is surely difficult. For example, the specific considerations of environmental laws and regulations, the Affordable Care Act, OSHA and ERISA requirements, wage and hour rules…the list goes on and on. We need to stop somewhere and making the professional judgment of where is difficult to determine.


With that said, I cannot think of any other considerations that must be taken into account for an auditor to consider in regards to “obtain[ing] reasonable assurance that the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether caused by fraud or error.”



Art Winstead is the Director of Accounting and Auditing Services for CPAmerica International. He has over 30 years of experience with DMJ & Co. PLLC. He manages technical resources, engagement support, audit practice matters, reviews A&A publications for CPAmerica and is a part of the Expert Services team.

Why You Need to Segment Your Clients


by Nate Biddick, CFP®, Manager, Practice Consulting, 1st Global

Every business in the world runs into the same problem: limited resources. The choices businesses make in applying those resources are paramount to determining the level of success you can reach in your business.


When it comes to running a successful CPA firm or wealth management practice, effectively segmenting your client base is a crucial first step in maximizing the resources and efficiencies of your operation.


Many advisors we’ve worked with prickle a bit at the idea of judging clients. Segmentation is not judging the person or simply looking at your long-time relationships only as dollar signs. Segmenting your client base is the exercise of choosing a set of client characteristics and then targeting service specifically to that group. While segmentation does indeed allow a firm to manage its resources, it also allows the clients to benefit by having their expectations set for the client service they would like to experience from your firm. When service standards are clearly agreed upon and consistently delivered, everybody wins.


Why Segmenting is Important

As a CPA or financial advisor, you have a certain number of clients who naturally require more attention than others. Many clients have needs for multiple solutions and will demand more of your time for this reason. By effectively segmenting your clients, you are able to not only help them find the appropriate solutions they are looking for, but also provide the level of service that higher value clients deserve and require.


Segmenting also helps to establish clear service expectations with your clients. When you have properly identified the needs of a particular client segment, you are in a better position to tell them how you are able to serve them. Take review meetings, for example. For higher value clients with multiple planning needs, setting the expectation that they will only have two review meetings a year may not be in line with the complexity of the solutions they need monitored. This is probably more of an appropriate number for clients with simpler problems to solve. In general, the more complicated clients’ problems are, the more you will need to meet with them. Segmenting helps you determine which clients fall into which category early on in your relationship.


Ultimately, there are a limited number of hours in the day and it’s important that you know how to prioritize clients in terms of your access and expertise. When done correctly, this process helps you delegate tasks among your staff and determine who has access to the advisor. If you’re a senior advisor and you’re spending time answering simple questions that an associate advisor could easily handle, then you’re taking time away from the higher value clients. Write down everything you’ve done for the past two weeks, then take out a highlighter and mark your highest value work. How many of those tasks were services for client segments that an associate advisor, paraplanner or administrator could service as well as (or better) than you?


Everyone deserves to be treated well, but treating people equally is different than treating people fairly. As a business owner it’s in your best interest to make decisions that balance these two ideals. If you don’t make client decisions proactively, then they will get made for you and then the snowball rolls: client needs begin to dictate how your firm operates. Not being proactive in your segments and service is a recipe for having your business run you – not the other way around.


Get Started

There are many different ways to segment your clients, and most advisors only create categories based on the the client’s financial value to the firm. A better way is to consider the client’s value from both a quantitative and qualitative standpoint. The quantitative view means determining the client’s financial value of the relationship to your firm. The qualitative view is determining if the client is a fit with your firm culturally. Are your investment philosophies aligned? Do the clients recognize the value you bring to the relationship? Do you generally enjoy working with them? We believe that a client’s qualitative attributes are as important as his or her quantitative attributes. As stated above, there are limited hours in the day – with whom do you want to spend your most precious resource?


While they may take a lot of work initially, segmentation projects are well worth the time and energy you invest in them because they lead to increased efficiencies in the long term and allow you to take better care of your higher value clients. When you effectively segment your client base, you are essentially building a moat around these valued relationships and working toward ensuring their loyalty down the road. You are providing the highest value relationships with your highest level of service.


We work with many of our advisors to help them effectively segment their roster of clients. When this exercise is complete, advisors are empowered because they have taken the first step in taking control of their business. For a more detailed discussion and specific advice on how to segment clients, give us a call today.


Posted in Practice Consulting on December 3, 2013

Nate Biddick is manager of 1st Global’s Practice Consulting group. Nate’s primary objective is to empower advisors to advance to the next level within their financial services practice by serving clients better and more completely.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame logo), which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements.

1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 12750 Merit Drive, Suite 1200, in Dallas, Texas 75251; 214-294-5000. Additional information about 1st Global is available at

Want to read more from 1st Global? Follow us on Twitter @1stGlobal or on LinkedIn. You can also watch videos on the company’s YouTube Channel.


Success and Being Emotionally Rewarded is Made Up of All the Little Things Along the Way

Each year, one of the most important parts of my job is the planning and attending of the Leading Partner Retreat and Firm Administration Roundtable. Believe it or not, we start planning next year’s meeting soon after the conference is over. From planning calls, committees, speakers, facilitators, hot topics, and last but not least, logistics. These events do not happen without a village. We are lucky at CPAmerica that our staff work together seamlessly, and are also lucky to have members that are very willing to participate and help contribute to the success of the event.


With that being said, you can imagine my dismay when I became ill right before I was due to get on an airplane for Portland. It seemed like a bad dream and surely not truly happening – obviously, those meds were kicking in and making me hallucinate. My initial plan was to postpone my trip and just miss the first couple of days of the conference. My main goal was to not get anyone else sick, but believe me, if I could have guaranteed that small aspect, you all would have been acquainted with one sick pup.

photo 400px tall

Jack Savage, CF & Co., and Ernie Gelpi, Kushner LaGraize (Left to Right)

As I was home feeling pretty bad for myself, the most amazing thing happened. I started to receive several emails and calls from members that I’ve established great relationships with over the last three years. I can’t tell you how rewarding that was. I wasn’t at the meeting, and members felt the need to let me know I was missed. It confirmed to me that it’s not necessarily the special event, vacation or graduation that you should look forward to, but the fact that success and being emotionally rewarded is made up of all the little things along the way: your experiences, relationships you’ve made and your impact on those associates, and friends and loved ones that you deal with on a daily basis. Throughout the year I reach out to members to provide guidance with member services, website training, event planning and to reinforce the familiarity of the relationship where when we do talk, you are not just talking to an associate, but a friend as well. When it comes time to see each other face to face at any of our conferences, your overall experience should be one that is not offered with any other association. CPAmerica is the catalyst for the unique, close relationships among our member CPA firms. It is our job in member services to help facilitate that process.


Long story short – best possible scenario would have been to not get sick and be able to attend the conference that I worked so hard on. In reality – I missed the event but because of many of you reaching out, I felt a part of it in spirit and hopefully through the relationship building and contact we have had throughout the year, my mark was evident with the overall success of the meeting.


Joyce Arthur, Senior Member Services Manager at CPAmerica International. Arthur was previously a Firm Administrator and has worked in the accounting profession for over 20 years. In her role within the Member Services team, she is responsible for the sharing calls, orientations, member communications and is a valuable resource for member firms.


The Importance of Career Coaches for New Business People

When I was early in my career with IBM, I had a sales manager and coach that made a significant impact on my business life. He was able to have the rare combination of being respected and liked.  He often went to lunch with us sales people and occasionally played golf, but all of us knew he was the boss.


Coaches are terribly important and especially to new business people. Despite the knowledge I thought I had and the “vast” resources I was going to “allow” IBM to tap for their benefit, I really had no idea of even the simplest of business protocols.


I was working in a small southern city that was a long way from New York. We took great advantage of the dress code in effect at IBM in the 70s, stretching what they must have had to wear in New York. Looking back, I may have even stepped over even the loose code in our office.


I had a lime green suit I just loved. I wore it at least once a week.  (Remember, it was the 70s) It wasn’t just the light green look, but the material was just right and it fit perfectly. You know the feel when a piece of your wardrobe fits just right. It makes your whole day.


I always wore a white shirt and my tie was very conservative, so I figured I was safe.  For the 70s, it wasn’t that dramatic. It was not a bright or loud suit. Even to this day, I would say it was a quiet green.


One day, my boss called me in to his office. I had my favorite suit on. He was smiling brightly and I knew this was not going to be a “bad” visit.


After a bit of chit-chat, he asked me, “You really love that green suit, don’t you?” It was said in a nearly admiring way or at a minimum, in the manner of an upcoming compliment.


“Yes,” I said, expecting a quick follow up of “it looks good on you” or the like.


My coach told me the following, and I will never forget the following words, “You know what you should do? You should build yourself a good sized fire…and burn that suit. I never want to see it again.” My coach continued, “From now on, I expect to see you in grey, grey pinstripe, navy blue or navy blue pinstripe.”


I was crushed, but I was listening and never again wore the suit or a suit that was not in the greys and blues as suggested. It was not the “feel good” coaching we expect today. Could I have been upset and mad? Sure, but that would have been awfully shortsighted as my coach was not only looking out for me, but was also one of the key people that would help me earn a promotion.


That sales manager helped me understand my environment and put myself in the best position possible to make a sale. With his help, I would never give a prospective customer any reason to dislike me or not buy from me.


Coaches are very important to all of us in the business world. It’s our job to be both that coach when appropriate and to be listening when it’s our turn to be coached.


Alan Deichler is the president of CPAmerica International and oversees the association’s growth and development. Prior to being named CPAmerica president, Deichler was most recently chief marketing officer at talent management software provider HRsmart in Richardson, Texas, where he headed worldwide sales and marketing efforts. Deichler has more than 35 years of corporate experience, having held previous management and executive positions with Capital Formation Counselors, Inc., IBM and Ernst & Young, LLP.

A Key Ingredient to Your Business Development Plan: Lunch?

Generating new business in a CPA firm is a long and difficult process.  It requires a forever-fluid mixing of complex elements, including strategic marketing, research, and relationship networks as well as leveraging good old fashion sales techniques.  These days, successful organizations talk about thought leadership, the power of the internet and customer-driven solutions.  What they really mean is that people like to buy, but they do not like to be sold. Most important, it means that the informed buyer now perceives themselves to be in control of the sales process.  While this is not necessarily so, it places greater pressure on the professional to develop new skills. CPAs who are great at attracting new business today have a talent for asking good questions to the right people at the right time, and developing a keen sense of identifying (and resolving) pain.

Busy coffee break

While it may be true that not every partner in a CPA firm is comfortable or even capable of being a business development star, every professional in the firm can contribute to the firm’s growth. How? Simply by leveraging everyone’s lunch time as an opportunity to talk to clients, referral sources and prospects.


Everybody does lunch, so why not make lunch a strategic part of the firm’s growth strategy? With five opportunities each business week (six during tax season), every owner has hundreds of potential appointments that can be made without impacting much at all on their billable hour routine.


Of course, thinking (and acting) strategically is the key.  Getting everyone is on board is vital. However, dedication to the task will require a great list of potential lunch prospects, some mutually acceptable talking points and a list of goals and next steps that are acceptable outcomes from the lunching effort.


Just having lunch with a buddy is not enough.  A strategic lunch is with someone who is a prospect, referral resource or client that can advance the practice somehow. Acceptable outcomes can range from getting a referral to uncovering a previously unmet need that a client reveals during your time together.  Also acceptable is a lunch that introduces you to a new person that may be useful to building your business.


Investing time in a client lunch reveals more than opportunities, it reveals weaknesses that need to be addressed.  It also is a terrific opportunity introduce other partners, managers and up and coming staff members to important clients in a less structured manner.  In this respect, the partners can mentor the younger team members on how to develop a successful client relationship, or coach them on how to handle a temperamental client.   At the same time, lunch with a client is the perfect way to help another partner into the relationship, providing another key ownership level contact that the client might be able to rely upon in the future.


The same can be said for referral resources.  Many of us don’t think of the transferrable value we have in our relationships, and how we can help others who may not have a deep rolodex (or Outlook Contacts database for everyone under 40) of bankers and attorneys to touch base with on a regular basis.  If you bring a manager or supervisor to lunch with a referral source, ask them to bring a younger member of their team to help develop the next generation of leadership for both organizations.  Such small investments over time pay off immensely.


If it can be measured, it can be improved, so keeping track of your strategic lunch program is also important.  If a CRM (Client Relationship Management) system is not in place, a simple Excel sheet will do the trick.  Routine meetings to discuss outcomes help encourage others and let everyone share learned experiences.


Over the course of a year, a strategic lunch program can yield thousands of conversations, hundreds of leads and dozens of engagements.  The only downside is that your team may need some gym time to offset the extra calories acquired during the year.


Larry Feld is the Director of Marketing at Hunter Group CPA. He has 30 years of experience in the marketing of services. He’s written hundreds of articles, brochures, speeches and websites, and has planned, managed and staffed trade shows exhibits both large and small and managed advertising budgets of several million dollars. He’s also planned and executed integrated public relations plans, facilitated meetings, parties and seminars; orchestrated focus groups and overseen complex print runs. Additionally, he has coached professionals in speaking and networking and acted as both media relations point person and interview coordinator to help professionals through the media interview process.

So Many Apps, So Little Time

Today, browsing an app store can be overwhelming. This isn’t surprising considering there are more than two million apps on Apple’s iOS App Store and on Google play. Unfortunately, this high number makes some consumer-worthy apps go unnoticed.


For me, it’s very irritating to have apps on my phone that I don’t use. Consumers want efficient, user-friendly apps that they will use on a regular basis.


Take a moment to read about ten apps that are not only great for CPAs, but also great for the average person.

  1. Evernote (iOS & Google play): I thought I’d start out with a really great organizational app that helps you remember everything across all the devices in your everyday life. Take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, and record voice reminders. All of these are completely searchable at home and at work. Not only is this a great free app, it’s getting recognized as a top app by New York Times, Mashable and more.
  2. PCalc Lite (iOS): This free app is a fully-functional scientific calculator. Granted, scientific calculator prices have decreased immensely since I was in college, but they can still run you around $15-30.7K0A0788
  3. Scanner Pro (iOS): Portable scanner at your fingertips! Scans and saves a digital version of a paper document. Also, the PDF Expert app by the same company can read, annotate, sign and fill out PDFs!
  4. DocuSign (iOS & Google play): DocuSign provides a simple and secure way to electronically sign documents and collect signatures from others. DocuSign is the most widely used eSignature and Digital Transaction Management platform in the world.
  5. Jump Desktop (iOS & Google play): I’ve said this many times, “I need to access that document, but it’s on my work computer.” This app is a secure and reliable remote desktop app which lets you connect to any computer, anywhere in the world.
  6. Timesheet (Google play): Time entry taking up your time? No need, this free app allows you to record your work with a simple push of a button. You can easily add breaks, expenses and notes. Manage your projects and export your data to Microsoft Excel. Clear overviews and statistics will give you the best working experience.
  7. Accounting Today (iOS & Google play): This free app brings the magazine’s print content, daily news, analysis, videos, case studies and more to the palm of your hand.
  8. Car Locator (Google play): This app may not be for everyone, but for someone that forgets where your car is parked, nothing could be more helpful. Save your location when you park and Car Locator will help you find your car!
  9. Dragon Dictation (iOS): No need to dictate notes anymore. This free app is a voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text. It’s that simple.
  10. CPAmerica International Events (iOS & Google play): Last, but definitely not least. This is our very own event app. Attending one of our events? Download this free app and connect with fellow attendees email, Linkedin and Twitter, access the event schedule and materials, look at speaker bios and get up-to-date notifications.


Considering the high number of apps out there, feel free to comment on what apps you can’t live without. I’m certain I missed many useful ones.



Sarah Coulson is the Marketing Communications Specialist for CPAmerica International. She manages the association’s external communication, including branding, social media, press releases, event marketing collateral and the website for CPAmerica and CPAConnect.


How to Write a Business Article That Clients Might Actually Read

Writing business articles or blogs isn’t much different than any other kind of writing. You have to realize it all starts with the same premise – nobody really wants to read what you have to say.


You have to drag most people kicking and screaming to read anything. If you think just because you put some thoughts on paper that readers will be salivating over every word, I have some condos in Florida I’d like to sell you.


Good business writing has to be interesting, and it has to be understandable. It should entertain readers and promise them a reward for their effort – information that will help them run their businesses better or make their paychecks stretch a little farther.


Getting started

Find an original topic, or take a novel approach to one that’s already been done.  Do your research. Be sure the content is current, is 100 percent accurate and answers any question a reader might reasonably have. Don’t include your opinion unless you are writing an opinion column or blog. If you do write your opinion, make it clear and strong.


You have to catch your readers’ attention at the very beginning, and if you make one misstep along the way, you’ll lose them. They’ll be gone, bye-bye, better things to do.


Picture your readers – maybe weary executives at the end of a busy day – picking up your newsletter, clicking on your blog, glancing at your e-letter. Then think about how much your little piece of writing is competing with in their world.


The good news is, once they actually have their eyes on your literary effort, that’s half the battle. The bad news is, now you have to keep them there.


Even if your target readers are in a field where they’re expected to read mundane, technical information on a regular basis, you can make an impression by writing something that’s interesting and easy to read.


Draw them in with a headline or title that arouses their curiosity, alludes to benefits they’ll receive by reading, and gives them the essence of the content. And then follow through. A headline shouldn’t make promises the content can’t keep.


The first paragraph, or lead, is crucial. Take your time with it, and make it short, interesting and to the point. It should be one or two sentences at most – and it should set the tone for the rest of the piece. A little humor never hurts.


If your lead is boring, you’ve lost them, and they’ll never get to those jewels of wisdom in paragraph seven. So put the most interesting and important information first. Leave chronological order to the historians.


Some dos and don’ts

Basically, just write the way you talk. Keep it conversational, but clean it up a bit and make sure your grammar is correct. A run-on sentence, sentence fragment or misspelled word can wreak havoc with your credibility.


Spice up your writing and add color by using some direct quotes.  “Easy reading is damn hard writing,” Nathaniel Hawthorne once said.


Use action verbs, but don’t go bananas. The same goes for adjectives and adverbs. Overdoing it can make the descriptions less credible.


Keep your writing natural, and remember the writer’s mantra – Write for the reader, not for yourself.


One of the fastest ways to lose your readers is to try to impress them with your vocabulary. Throw in a paradigm, a synergy or a quantifiable, and your readers may suddenly remember that root canal they forgot to schedule.


So keep the $3 words at bay and use the simplest words you can. Note, use not utilize.


And whatever you do, avoid the word whom. Does anybody in the universe like to read that word? Just rewrite the heck out of the sentence so you don’t have to use it.


Acronyms are another killer to readability, especially if you use too many of them. You don’t want your readers scanning down a page that looks like a military field manual (MFM). Use acronyms only when they’re absolutely necessary. Give the reader a break, say group, committee or law, or just write the entire title again if it’s not too long.


Be precise and succinct in your word choice. For instance: for the reason that – because; brought to a conclusion – ended. There’s nothing worse than wordy.


Vary the length of your sentences, and try not to write sentences that need too many commas. Commas stop the eye, and if you’re using a lot of them, the sentence is probably too long anyway.


Dashes – attention-getting dashes – are a much better way to go. Just don’t overdo it.


And try very, very hard not to use parentheses. (They really stop the eye.) If the information is important enough to include, do so without parentheses. If it isn’t, leave it out.


Break up the text and make more detailed information easier to read by using:

  • - Bullets
  • - Numbers
  • - Subheads


As to the conclusion, if you have many readers who get there – Congratulations! But, unless you’re Stephen King or John Grisham, you really don’t need one. A little tie-in back to the beginning is plenty.


If you have a really good conclusion that you think summarizes the article perfectly, put it at the beginning.


Judy Moore, publications director of CPAmerica International, holds an M.A. in journalism from University of Florida. She is a former business editor of a large metropolitan daily, journalism professor and author of hundreds of business articles that have been published in regional and national magazines.

The Rewards of Expanding our Services

I started my career with the Big Eight many years ago.  As a tax practitioner, one of the benefits of being with an international firm was access to its tax resources. For instance, if I had a client call and say, “XYZ just offered to buy my company—what is the most tax-advantageous way to structure the purchase?” I knew I didn’t have to spend hours in the tax library researching all of the alternatives.  I had access to the firm’s National Tax Office which was staffed with experts in Mergers and Acquisitions.


When I joined CPAmerica International several years ago as the Director of Tax, one of my goals was (and continues to be) to bring as many resources to our members as possible.  Over the past few years we have added a number of very skilled member providers and outside providers in many specialized tax areas including:

  1. International Tax
  2. Cost Segregation
  3. State and Local Tax
  4. FATCA and FBAR Experts
  5. Research and Development Tax Credits


This month, we announced to our members a new offering.  CPAmerica and Crowe Horwath LLP National Tax Office are offering an opportunity for CPAmerica member firms to gain access to resources and specialists in the National Tax Office. I am excited that our members will have tax resources very similar to those I had when I started my career, including:

  1. Accounting Methods and Periods
  2. Mergers and Acquisitions
  3. ASC 740
  4. Tax Controversy and Procedures
  5. Information Reporting
  6. Pass through taxation


In addition to the above, members will be able to participate in bimonthly tax update webinars, year-end tax planning webinars and other timely topical subjects.  In fact, in June, we had two individuals from the Crowe Horwath LLP National Tax Office present a four hour webinar to our members entitled “Practical Implementation of the Repair Regulations”.  Frazier & Deeter, LLC’s Meredith Oakley said, “The webinar was excellent!  Probably the best I’ve heard on the topic.”


It is rewarding to serve our members and I am looking forward to furthering our tax offerings.


Linda Harding is the Director of Tax Services at CPAmerica International. She has more than 30 years of Big 4 tax experience and was a tax shareholder with a large local firm.  Harding manages the technical tax resources, tax practice matters and reviews tax publications for CPAmerica.  Follow her on Twitter @LHardingLin.

Why Do We Make It So Hard?

It’s a good time to stop and ask ourselves as a profession – “why do we make it so hard”? We can also ask the same question to regulators and standard setters that we are required to follow in the conduct of engagements. Before I go too far, I do want to acknowledge those of us in practice, that believe “making what we do hard” can be a good thing. Of course it can. We sure don’t want to get to a point when anyone can do this work we do. That is simply protecting our value. And yes, there is no question about it. That is a good thing.


However, it does seem we consistently make things too hard as a profession. We continually make changes in the rules, laws, regulations and requirements we are professionally bound to follow. There may even be a small group of us that support making these rules hard. When I stop to think about it and organize my thoughts – isn’t life hard enough already? Sure it is. Making the right decisions by Business man and mountainfollowing the rules makes life easier. It’s all of those rules, including being able to sort through them or even finding them, that make decisions more difficult than they need to be for us.


So, what got me started on this idea that we simply make things too hard? I have seen a lot of professional requirement changes over the years I have practiced in this great profession. And make no mistake about it, I love and totally enjoy being an active participant on what we do as CPAs on a day-to-day basis. Now, I fully believe change is both good, and from time to time, can be hard. And I believe CPAs are very good at accepting change and being proactive in dealing and gaining an understanding of the constant changes we meet on a very routine basis.


But that still does not answer my question. What got me started on making things hard? It was the new “Revenue Recognition Accounting Standard Update”. The content itself did not bother me that much. Granted we have had revenue recognition accounting principles and policies that have served us well for a number of years. But the update is comprised of 700 pages. I will readily agree with the FASB, a lot of those changes are conforming changes in content in other parts of the codification. But they are still there and sooner or later we will have to wade through them. And for a lot of entities required to use the new update, they provided a transition period of over two and a half years.


Three volumes, 700 pages and two and a half years – anyone of us can figure that is hard.


This update, to me, is making something that is well proven, well used, and well understood harder than it should be. Here’s a thought. What if Bill Gates and a group of programmers similar to him were given the task of rewriting the revenue recognition principles for contracts with customers? I do not think for a second they would have produced such a document/update similar to the one we have been given. As a matter of fact, I almost feel certain, the update they would produce would be easier to understand, more efficient and therefore easier to use. Would they have taken a “flip phone” and created a device similar to what the flip phone was used for and make it bulky and hard to use as the update we have been given for revenue recognition?


We work hard. We work hard, even with the easy stuff. With that said, we tend to make the easy stuff hard. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s make it user-friendly. And for goodness sake, when we explain it to our clients and peers, let’s not take our frustration out on them and make it even harder than it needs to be.



Art Winstead is the Director of Accounting and Auditing Services for CPAmerica International. He has over 30 years of experience with Davenport, Marvin, Joyce & Co., LLP. He manages technical resources, engagement support, audit practice matters, reviews A&A publications for CPAmerica and is a part of the Expert Services team.

What Should I Do About That Employee?

Leveraging Your Team’s Strengths

You know the one.  They have a lot of potential, but there is that one aspect that causes you to waiver when completing their performance appraisal or delegating that special project to them.  Perhaps they are really quick at processing but are sometimes snippy with colleagues, or maybe you see how hard they are working but the numbers on their reports never seem to add up.  Often times these employees can be a great asset to your team if you can give them opportunities to utilize their strengths.


power meeting from above

There are a plethora of personality tests which help identify areas where employees are likely to shine: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Color Code, and DISC, just to name a few.  Matching someone’s personality type with their assignments and roles can be a win-win as people usually enjoy their job more when they are successful, and when individuals are enjoying their job and more successful at it, your firm as a whole is more successful.


The personality program my former company bought into, along with other companies such as Best Buy and Toyota, was called StrengthsQuest.  The foundation of the StrengthsQuest philosophy grew out of a research study from the 1950s which administered speed reading techniques to approximately 6000 participants of various reading skill levels.  Would you guess that the slower readers or the faster readers demonstrated greater progress?  Surprisingly, the faster.  Even though the slower readers seemingly had more room to grow, it was in fact the readers who already excelled that flew off the charts after participating in the program, increasing reading speeds from approximately 300 to 2,900 words per minute.


It is often taught to identify a person’s weaknesses and bringing everybody up to par, however, this program poses that focusing on strengths can actually be of far greater benefit.  So instead of leaving your struggling employee with tasks that they are not well suited for hoping they will grow in those areas, reflect on whether it may benefit everyone to shift some tasks and roles around to those who could perform those best.  Consider having your employees take a personality test and then utilize the results as a team to positively impact office dynamics and allow people to be planted in a place where they can best bloom.


Kaylen Saunders, Member Services Manager for CPAmerica International, holds a masters in Curriculum and Instruction and has experience as a professional development trainer. Saunders is responsible for scheduling and hosting webinars, administering CPE, maintaining the members-only website, and coordinating the CPAConnect Roundtable.