The Blog for the Digital CPA

Samantha Mansfield
Director of Profess- ional Develop- ment & Commun- ity, CPA.com

Mentor, Mentee Relationship - How does it work?

The first time I was asked to be a mentor, a wave of honor and panic washed over me. Someone wanted my input on their career path and success; I was humbled they would ask me. Then, the anxiety of, what does a good mentor do, set in.

Over the course of my career, there were a number of people I would say served as mentors to me, and all had very different styles and approaches; some more effective than others. As the mentee, I owned what I got out of it, and sadly I did not leverage those opportunities to the max because I wasn’t sure what was too much to ask of a mentor.

Recently, I was at the Digital CPA Conference and the speakers shared excellent information that helps the mentor and mentee have better expectations and have a fruitful relationship:

You are not there to answer questions; you are there to ask them.

  • Now who is that statement geared to? If you said mentee, that is true, but I’m also speaking to the mentor. A mentee should come with questions, but a quality mentor should ask the mentee challenging questions back. No one knows you better than you. No one knows the full details of a situation better than you! So no one better than you, mentee, to develop the solution. This does not take the mentor off the hook! You have to be engaged; ask the questions you know the mentee has to address. What would you have wanted someone to make you look at to make a better decision? Your inclination will be to share, “This is what I would do…” Though that is comforting to hear, is it what your mentee should do?

 
It will get uncomfortable

  • John Engels said, “Why do you want to keep others from discomfort? It is what helps us grow and develop, and helped us get where we are.” How true is that!? We have to learn to think through and deal with challenging situations. The mentor should coach the mentee on the questions to ask themselves, therefore, training how to analyze and think through similar situations in the future. Mentee, your mentor is NOT there to give instant gratification of an immediate answer. We are in a world of on demand, but some things just take time. Simon Sinek (spoke at 2013 DCPA) recently recorded a video discussing millennials in the workplace and called out there is no app for building skills, relationships and trust (highly recommend watching this video). Be patient, mentor and mentee, depending on the situation, it may take you both a little while to find the answer.

 
Diversify

  • Mentors can be of all ages, social standings, and professions. Don’t create a stereotype in your mind, but look for a diverse mix of mentors. This has been something I was quite blessed to have and look back with appreciation.

 
As we venture into 2017, set a goal to establish mentoring relationships, be it formal and informal ones. If you need help finding a mentor or mentee, AICPA is piloting a program; check out the process – all are welcome. A good mentor is a coach, not an advisor. Be the best coach and be an attentive student.

What was the best attribute of one of your mentors?


Andy Childs
VP of Marketing, Paychex

Paychex Provides Tax Season Tools and Resources

When you become an accountant, you add a fifth season to your year. Nestled between winter and spring is tax season, a busy and often stressful time when accounting professionals need all the resources they can get to stay on top of critical payroll, tax, and HR issues that could impact their clients.

Paychex knows that acting as clients’ most trusted advisors during tax season and year-round can come with immense pressure; that’s why we’re offering a helping hand in the form of easily accessible, informative tools and resources built specifically for CPAs’ unique needs.

Here’s a rundown of helpful tax season resources from Paychex:

  • For an accountant, the right knowledge can make all the difference in increasing productivity levels and building client relationships. Powered by CCH and provided by Paychex, the online Accountant Knowledge Center features federal and state tax resources, payroll and HR news, free online CPE courses, CCH tax briefings, 150+ financial calculators, the Master Tax Guide, and more.
  • The nature of tax regulations is that they change every year. The robust 2017 Online U.S. Master Tax Guide, published by CCH and accessible through the Paychex Accountant Knowledge Center, reflects federal taxation changes that affect 2016 returns, provides answers to tax-related questions and explains the new rules established by court decisions and the IRS.
  • Part of being a client’s most trusted advisor is having all the necessary information at your fingertips. Paychex Tax Facts provides access to federal and state-specific payroll and retirement rate information, allowing accountants to customize a client-facing version with their firm name.
  • The 2017 Federal Tax Key Facts and Figures includes everyday reference information, such as tax rates and deduction information, that accountants will find valuable not only during tax season, but all year long.
  • With client permission, the Paychex Report Library provides accountants a single source for more than 160 easily generatable and exportable reports, including employee earnings records, W-2s, federal and state tax returns, and more.
  • Again, with client permission, accountants can access payroll, retirement, and benefits data any time, from anywhere with the Paychex Flex® Mobile App for smartphones and tablets. The app allows accountants to view their Paychex data, customize report favorites, and easily view and toggle between multiple clients.

For more information on the resources Paychex can provide you and your firm visit www.paychex.com/accounting-professionals.

Andy Childs is the vice president of Marketing at Paychex, a leading provider of human capital management solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.


Erik Asgeirsson
President & CEO, CPA.com

A Peek at the Road Ahead: the AICPA/CPA.com Executive Roundtable

Earlier this month, we held our annual AICPA/CPA.com Executive Roundtable, a gathering of accounting technology executives, thought leaders and CPA firm partners. More than three dozen vendors packed our boardroom to talk about their software and solutions, and how these innovations can serve accountants and their clients.

It was a very impressive group, one that provided a good indicator of the change coming to the profession. As AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon said during his presentation, you probably won’t recognize what accounting firms will be doing within a decade.

Some themes emerged during the two-day event. Here’s a few of my takeaways:

  • The cloud is transforming the practice of accounting, but we still need to push more firms to adopt. One positive, according to an observer, is that firms are clearly realizing that the cloud is more secure than their local environments. With that said, we still need to remove other roadblocks. Which leads me to the next point...
  • There is still a lot of work to be done in technology integration and product differentiation. CPAs and their clients clearly want help making informed buying decisions around technology and integrated ecosystems. Who is responsible for providing this help? Vendors, the trade media, a peer community? The answer is likely “all of the above,” but I also believe CPA.com will continue to play a critical role toward this end within the profession.
  • Blockchain is on the radar and there was lots of spirited discussion on how it will impact business and firms in the future with capabilities such as smart contracts, immutable records, and shared ledgers. Most roundtable participants expect Blockchain to bring great change, but few attendees are actively investing in Blockchain initiatives yet.
  • Virtual CFO & client accounting services have undergone a significant transformation over the past seven years, but automation and the cloud are bringing increasing changes to tax and audit practices, too. What’s clear is advisory revenue is ascendant, while many compliance-related fees are likely to come under pressure going forward.
  • Finally, relationships and people are the key to driving change and innovation. There is no doubt that technology is the key enabler. But it’s people who have to make sure that business transformation succeeds. That’s why events such as the roundtable are so important in forging those bonds.

What are your thoughts? I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation at AICPA ENGAGE, our Digital CPA Conference and other events this year.


Matt Lentzner
Software Engineer- ing & IT, RoseRyan

Going from good to great: How to be an amazing consultant

Consultants who are great at what they do have the skills required and the experience to match what their clients need, and they have a whole bunch of other must-have abilities that don’t quite fit on the résumé. The following traits are just some the attributes that turn a “good” consultant into a great, in-demand consultant:

  1. They get it done. Ultimately clients hire consultants for results—to do the things they can’t do with their current resources. The more ways a consultant can help out, the more valuable a consultant is. The best consultants are always looking for solutions and efficiencies, and they do what’s necessary to finish a project or fix a problem. In some cases this may involve making copies at 7 p.m. to get a report together. There’s no better-than-you attitude here when job-number one is to make the client happy. They do what’s required and follow through to make sure it happens.
  2. They add value. Consultants who shine consistently go beyond what’s asked of them. They listen carefully to the client and find ways to make the client’s life easier. A client expects a consultant to be an expert and bring in fresh ideas—but the client may not always know the exact right questions to ask. The best consultants have a sense for what each client needs.
  3. They are leaders. You can be a leader without being the one in charge, and great consultants fit the bill. One way to look at leadership is people who take action instead of waiting to be told what to do. They’re effective observers who have the power of persuasion to make smart recommendations when they make sense.
    The consultants who understands what the client wants and then makes it happen are the ones who get asked for by name the next time around (we love when that happens!). If a meeting needs to be called, they call it. If tasks need to be divvied out, they do it. No micromanaging needed. Not only do they step back and see the bigger picture, they figure out what must get done and then gather the resources to do it.
  4. They stay out of politics. In finance and accounting, in particular, consultants are expected to be discreet. They may hear a lot of chatter as they work alongside employees who could be struggling to get past politically sensitive issues. Things may have become messy and the consultants are expected to bring in some calm. The best consultants don’t get sucked in to power struggles and office gossip. They do their job and maintain a professional demeanor.
  5. They are chameleons. Consultants who get repeat clients are able to fit into any environment, whether it’s a loosely structured startup or a tightly wound corporate culture. They shed their personal agendas at the door and take in the personalities and makeup of the company before making any recommendations. They become a part of the team and zero in on what makes sense for the client, at that moment.
  6. They are life-long learners. Clients are looking for people who are on top of the latest requirements and leanings in the field. They want to bring in early adopters who can show them what to do, and they want to know what other companies like them are up to. Consultants can bring them that expertise only if they set aside time to stay on top of trends and innovations. It makes them better at their job—and it makes them more marketable.
  7. They are confident but not cocky. Great consultants have an easy confidence that lets the client know “I got this,” but it never strays into arrogance. Clients want to believe the consultants they’ve brought in to fix a problem know what to do. But clients don’t need a big ego to get in the way.

Consultants who have these seven habits are a special group (we call ours the dream team). They’re experts in their field who are willing to do anything they can for the client. They have above-and-beyond attitudes. And they are all about follow-through, professionalism and thoughtful, quality work.

Matt Lentzner heads IT at RoseRyan, an award-winning consulting firm of finance and accounting aces in Silicon Valley who expertly guide companies forward in any stage of their business lifecycle. He joined RoseRyan in 2005 and serves on the firm’s management team. RoseRyan tackles short- and long-term assignments for clients, from the startup needing an interim CFO and scalable infrastructure to the large enterprise managing tricky transactions and complex compliance issues.


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