Archive for January, 2012

CPA Practice Advisor has named 25 to its list of thought leaders.  The 25 will meet February 19-21 in Dallas for what I imagine will be wide-ranging discussions.

Three honorees are well known for their blogging activities:  Michelle Golden (Golden Practices), Tom Hood (CPA Success), and Rick Telberg (CPA Trendlines).  Congratulations, you are all deserving of this honor.

The entire list is:

Greg Anton, CPA; L. Gary Boomer, CPA.CITP; Jim Boomer, CPA.CITP; Jim Bourke, CPA.CITP,CFF; David Cieslak, CPA.CITP; Gale Crosley, CPA; Chris Frederiksen, CPA; Michelle Golden, CPF; John Higgins, CPA.CITP; Tom Hood, CPA.CITP; Randy Johnston; Roman Kepczyk, CPA.CITP; Allan Koltin, CPA; Mark Koziel, CPA; Barry Melancon, CPA; James Metzler, CPA; Edi Osborne; Rick Richardson; M. Darren Root, CPA.CITP; Gary Shamis, CPA; Donny Shimamoto, CPA.CITP; Doug Sleeter; Brian Tankersley, CPA.CITP;  Rick Telberg, and Jennifer Wilson.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Last night I slept like a college student.  In other words, I slept until noon.  Then I took a mid-afternoon nap.  Unable to deny having wasted the entire day, I decided just to go with it.  Turning on my laptop and opening a YouTube window, I clicked on one of my favorites, Michelle Chmielewski

First, a word about who is Michelle.  She is American, yet French is her first language.  She studied and worked under Mark W. Schaefer, an influential social media guru and professor.  I learned about her when Mark featured her video work a few months ago.

Mark Schaefer’s blog, {Grow}, is a definite must read.  He provides excellent content every day! Today’s post (Jan. 21, 2012) is, “7 Reasons Every Job Seeker Needs to Blog.”

Michelle Chmieleski is a talented social media professional.  Today, however, I’m highlighting her personal creativity as reflected in her video style.  Her videos initially focused on technical matters.  Then she switched to lifestyle commentary and she became an overnight sensation.  Her signature clip, “Learn French in One Word,” has logged approximately one million hits.

What I like about her style is the elimination of dead air, the pauses between clauses in her sentences.  It helps that she is extremely well spoken (If I spoke that well I could be a more popular teacher).  And she was born to be cute in front of a camera.  All in all, a nice package.

In the first video clip I embed, Chmielewski in 2010 responds to the Benjamin Rassat documentary, I Am the Media.  Although I like what she says about the social media mindset, what she says is not as important here as how she says it.

In the second video clip I embed, Michelle alerts us to the need for creating video captions (subtitles).  Don’t forget to click on the subtitles button.

Don’t you love her style?

Finally, I show her signature clip, “Learn French in One Word.”  Warning.  I believe she uses one of those words unsuitable for polite company.  I would shun it.  Her style shines through, though, and the clip is as hilarious as anything I’ve seen in quite a while.

You can follow Michelle Chmielewski at her blog, The Observing Participant.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Potty Mouth Carl Levin (Senator and Chair of Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations), famous for his “sh*tty deal” comments to Goldman Sachs executives, has sent a letter (Jan. 3, 2012) to the PCAOB in support of a proposal to require that the lead partner’s name be disclosed (with signature) within the audit opinion attached to annual corporate annual financial statements and listed in an audit firm’s annual report to the PCAOB.

Levin prefaces his support with the following statement,

Poor quality audits of public corporations continue to plague the U.S. investment community, allowing misleading accounting, outright frauds, and substantial losses to occur … These prominent audit failures indicate that more needs to be done to encourage accurate and effective audits of public corporations and increase accountability for poor auditing practices.

Well said, Senator Levin.  It is not only bloggers that note the poor quality of large audit firm audits of large publicly traded corporations, it is also key members of governmental oversight.  The only people who don’t agree are the leaders and partners of the large audit firms that provide the poor quality audits.  They state that audit quality is fine, and nothing should be done that could negatively affect it (such as naming the lead audit partner or mandating auditor rotation).

Levin notes five reasons for supporting that the lead auditor’s name be disclosed:

  1. It would increase audit quality.  Lead auditors would now perceive that they are more accountable for their work, and would strive to avoid generating poor audit opinions.
  2. It would strengthen audit transparency by shedding light on the audit process and key communicators.  It would make it possible for the public to evaluate senior audit officials.
  3. It would strengthen partner and audit firm accountability for audit failures.  This would signal regulatory intent that both firm and partner are to be held accountable.
  4. It would increase auditor independence by making it possible to identify when changes in key personnel are made.
  5. Key corporate officers now must sign public reports and disclosures.  This proposal would increase auditor accountability so that it would be in line with other financial professionals.

Senator Levin, I think you have done an excellent job in reasoning through a controversial issue.

Thanks to Caleb Newquist of Going Concern for the tip.

Debit and credit –  – David Albrecht

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With this blog post, I join the protest against proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).

I join the protest for two reasons.  First, the proposed laws shift the power to the accuser.  The accused must “prove” its innocence.  Second, I anticipate many “unintended” consequences that will limit academic fair use of copyrighted materials.

Kelly Phillips Erb, the TaxGirl, says it well.  She says so many things well.

SOPA and PIPA have the potential to criminalize behavior that might not be criminal. The bills, taken together, are an overreaching attempt to govern. The result is the potential for government censorship of the internet. And that isn’t okay.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Craic is my new favorite word.  According to Wikipedia, it means fun or entertainment that makes for enjoyable conversation.  A baby boomer American might call it a hoot.  But it Ireland it is called the craic.

Can accountants have the craic*?  I’m holding a contest to find out.

Journalist on the Run author Janet Newenham describes a Lake Victoria bridge bungee jumping experience as her craic.

Always up for risking my life for the sheer craic, I decided to do the bungee jump. The idea of throwing myself off a bridge in Zambia and ending up in Zimbabwe excited me to no end… until I got to the edge! I have never been so scared in ALL my life. As my legs threatened to collapse below me I dove off the bridge and saw my whole life flash before me, the land… the gorge… the bridge… the falls… the water. I was falling head first into the rocky roaring Zambezi. Then a huge tug and like a catapult I was thrown back up into the air. I was alive. I wanted more, what a feeling! I was crazy with adrenaline, bouncing up and down, heart beating.

I don’t know if I can top that.  Don’t know if I want to.  However, I am curious as to what might be an accounting craic*.

In the world of accounting, what is fun or entertainment, and makes for an enjoyable conversation?  You know, a work related hoot.  The craic.

For your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift certificate, send your entry (or entries) to albrecht@profalbrecht.com on or before 11:59 p.m. CST, on Monday, January 23, 2012. There are only three rules.  First, it must be related to accounting.  Second, it must be publishable in a “G” rated blog.  Third, my judgment is final.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

* Irish claim that craic should be preceded with definite article the. I’m American, so I will precede it with the indefinite article a.

Comments are welcome.

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The baby boom generation has served well the world of accounting for three or four decades.  If you, dear reader, belong to it, do you remember what it was like starting out?  Even if you do (which is doubtful), be assured that it isn’t like that any more.

As I recall, major life decisions in college revolved around getting a date and deciding which adult beverage to serve with it (still find it difficult to believe that what was eaten, drunk and inhaled didn’t kill us).  For life after college, decisions still revolved around getting a date and deciding which adult beverages to serve.  Any decisions pertaining to building a future were, for me at least, pretty much left to TEDAIT (take each day as it comes).

Accounting majors back then had it easy.  Take classes (but not too seriously), take a job with an accounting firm, plan on switching to corporate after a few years.  We didn’t graduate with much, if any, school debt.  My tuition as a freshman was less than $100 per semester.  Everything else was TEDAIT.

If you, dear reader, are a college student or new professional, you know it isn’t like that any more.  Life is complicated.

Today’s accounting majors have it rough in college.  Many find financial pressures to be distracting and depressing.  Tuition is expensive (so are the costs of living), forcing students to work and borrow incredible amounts of money.  Classes are demanding, requiring more time and alertness than I ever had to apply.  And today’s crushing flood of information from technology means that students are made aware of much more.  Back in my day, friends numbered in the dozens.  Today, college students number their Facebook friends by the hundreds and thousands.  A laptop, smart phone and wifi connection are as essential as shampoo and toilet paper.

Life after college requires planning, now.  Bob Jensen at AECM passed along a link to a clever roadmap for life after college.  The basis for the map is Jenny Blake’s book, Life After College.  The map has been prepare with the assistance of companies Mint and Quicken. Yes, the map is designed to sell a service (and a book).  But it’s still a good reminder of everything which a young person must be aware.  I’ve not read the book, but the roadmap is cute.

The first part of the roadmap deals with necessities:

The second part deals with major life issues.

Again, the entire map can be viewed at Roadmap for Life After College

The images are copyrighted, I assume, by Mint.  Used by permission.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Bob Jensen on AECM today shared a link to a 2004 article by Sidney Finkelstein (Dartmouth College), “The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.”  The seven habits are:

  1. They see themselves (and their organizations) dominating their environment
  2. They identify so completely with the organization that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests
  3. They think they have all the answers
  4. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them
  5. They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image
  6. They underestimate obstacles
  7. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past

There is nothing new here.  Anyone who has ever worked under someone knows all about managerial failures.  I can sum up the list in three words:  pride, arrogance and bullying.

I’ve had bosses before who would ask of my opinion only so they could force me out of it.  The truly abusive bosses don’t even bother.  They simply force people to toe the line.  Independent thinking is not allowed.

Spectacularly selfish people lack the most essential qualities of respect for others and respect of others.

Eventually, leaders with the deadly seven habits fail because their focus on self limits their ability to focus on problems and solutions.  Because they respect no others, no one steps forward to help the executive avoid burning completely when the crash inevitably  happens.

I appreciate this modern age of social media.  Research is emerging that use of social media helps people to have more and more successful face to face social interactions.  That’s right, heavy social media users learn to shift focus from self to others.

That’s one reason why I recommend that accountants use social media.  Accountants are doubly cursed, adding a focus on the bottom line number to a focus on self.  How many times have you heard an accountant say, “You can’t argue with the numbers.”   Well of course you can, but there shouldn’t be an argument in the first place.  Not if you notice, respect and work with others.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

Comments are welcome.

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Sarah N. Lynch has a nicely written article up today at Reuters Canadian.  It’s nice to see her by-line again.  She has always written competently about accounting.

PCAOB Chair James Doty

In “SEC to Put U.S. Audit Watchdog Under Microscope,” January 12, 2012, Lynch reports that PCAOB chair James Doty will be presenting the PCAOB budget request of $227 million before the SEC in an opening meeting tomorrow.

She reports that this is the first open meeting on a PCAOB budget since 2008.  She then goes on to identify several related issues before leaving the reader to conclude that this budget review shouldn’t be a big deal.

First, she reports on the context of the budget review.  At this time the PCAOB is working on several high profile and controversial issues:  auditor rotation, audit partner name on auditor opinion, inspection of U.S. firms, and attempted inspection of foreign firms.  Questions on any of these issues might be asked of Doty.  In addition, salaries at the PCAOB are high for government work, with Doty making four times what boss Mary Schapiro receives.

Then, she reports that Doty commands “respect from both sides of the aisle,” and should represent well both himself and the PCAOB.

Then, she reports that the SEC publicly reviewed the PCAOB budget last in 2008, when Republican Commissioners  Cynthia Glassman and Paul Atkin were critical of the Board.  The current hearing has been called at the request of new Republican Commissioner Dan Gallagher.

Due to scheduling issues, I will not be able to watch the meeting.  It should be interesting to see if political interests will use any SEC commissioners to bring pressure on the PCAOB as it considers its controversial issues.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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OK, I’m hooked.  Bill Hagaman, CEO and managing partner of WithumSmith+Brown, has created two dance videos for his firm.  Although they most definitely haven’t gone viral, they do attract viewers.

The slow loading 2012 video features a flash mob, comprised of dancing WS+B accountants.  A few of the professional staffers can cut a rug (really dance).  I like flash mobs, having seen my first in the hit movie, Friends with Benefits  (although there’s a cute mob scene near the end of Crocodile Dundee.    I would dance in a flash mob.  Perhaps we can try it at the next national conference for accounting professors.

Watch Party Rock, and see if it hooks you.

Don’t you like it?  Two viewer comments on YouTube say,

  • “I WANT TO WORK FOR WSB !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • “Love this! Wish I needed an accountant… I’d hire Withum in a heartbeat!”

If these comments reflect true sentiments of viewers, then the video’s release has accomplished its purpose.

Hagaman commissioned another dance video in 2011.  I’ve Got a Feeling is a low budget ($3,600) offering.  But its amateurishness signals sincerity.  CCH’s Public Accounting Report has a nice write-up on the 2011 video.

Thanks to Rick Telberg for the tip.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Some of my readers no doubt graduated from college before the turn of the century.  It is likely that their classes were taught traditionally.  I know an accounting colleague who is very traditional.  He lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays.  On Fridays he works homework problems that have been assigned for students to work at home.  After the weekend, he is on to a new chapter.  Born before the advent of computers, he still uses an overhead projector.  Many younger profs have ditched overheads for PowerPoint.

Occasionally, new ideas pop up and find aficionados amongst high school and college teachers.  One such new idea is a flipped classroom.

Andrew Douchy writes about “Flipping the Classroom” on his blog, Douchy’s Weblog.  He gave me permission to quote extensively.

In my previous post, I made the point that in the education sector,  we have not (yet) seen the radical technology-driven advancement that has characterised other industries in the last quarter-century because rather than allowing technology to liberate us from the limitations of yesterday, we have typically rejected technologies that don’t fit our existing model and instead put our resources into tools that support the old, comfortable way of doing things.  We’ve replaced whiteboards with interactive whiteboards, text books with texts on CD ROM, Encyclopaedia Britannica with Wikipedia, and pens with Microsoft Word.  In themselves, these tools are all good – but they are good tools that don’t require us to change our pedagogy.

What then, would make a significant change?   One example, I think, is the flipped classroom model.  The “Flipped Classroom” is a term first used by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams some time ago but has started to gain traction in 2011, following Sal Khan’s TED talk.

At it’s simplest, flipped teaching involves using podcasts, (whether audio podcast, vodcast, screencast), to teach students at times when they would normally be on their own doing individual homework. This frees up class time for exercise work that would once have been set for homework, while the teacher is there to act as a personal tutor.  (hence the term ‘flipped’).

In my own experience (I started flipping my classes in 2005 – well before the term was coined),  it also makes time in class for more discussions, debates, role-plays, modelling activities, experiments and group work.  Each of these requires people to be together.  A lecture does not.   It’s not just about doing more online.  It’s about considering what works best online, and what works best face-to-face and curating each of these to make our precious class time more valuable.

This is not just squeezing technology into an existing structure.   It’s allowing technology to break us out of a model that served us before we had the Internet and when the only times teachers had to talk to their students was four class periods a week.

Got it?  Provide video lectures and assign textbook reading for students to study at home. Students come to class for interactive exercises and tutoring from the professor.  Let me assure you, this is not your parent’s classroom.

We have yet to generate high quality, slick educational videos for accounting classrooms.  Besides, flipping the classroom works best when each professor generates his or her own videos.

Here are some examples of videos (available on YouTube) with teacher created content. The first video is authored by Salmon Khan.  Khan has been featured on Ted Talks and the Wall Street Journal.  His videos have received millions of hits (a few hundred thousand per day).

The second video I show is Paul Anderson, a Bozeman high school biology teacher.  He creates slick videos as a means of flipping his classrooms.

I think a flipped classroom could very well work for accounting 101 and 102.  I have queried my Intermediate Accounting students as to what they would like.  They like that I have wordprocessed my lectures so they can read and reread them.  Providing transcripts of my lectures liberates me to design lots of interactive work in my classes.  Yet, mostly my students prefer to work homework problems together, all class and every class.

Not everyone likes the flipped classroom, though.  Stanford is flipping many classes.  Ben Rudolph, a junior computer science major, has blogged about his displeasure:

Online lectures suck. Sure, they’re great for rainy days or people learning at a distance or people that don’t go to Stanford. However, these new classes are getting rid of in-person lectures completely. I met barely anyone in my CS229a class. Everything was done alone in my room, which is kind of crappy especially when there is such a nice campus right outside.

Flipping the classroom is definitely something to think about.  I am evaluating Wacom digital tablets for purchase so that I can become the Salman Khan of accounting.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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When IFRS?

In December, 2011, Leslie Seidman (FASB), and Hans Hoogervorst (IASB) declared convergence between U.S. GAAP and IFRS to be at an impasse.  Chief Accountant James Kroeker said the SEC would need further study on the issue.  Since then, much has been written about the prospects for the U.S. adopting IFRS at this time.

Here is my thinking on the issue, but I really don’t know why I’m bothering.  I’ve played this prediction game before, and have failed miserably.  I don’t have inside contacts at the SEC, so there is no flow of inside information.

I doubt the SEC will make any decisions on IFRS until after the first Tuesday in November (election day) and the results have been certified.

The rationale is fairly simple.  IFRS is unpopular with many American rank and file accountants, small and medium business executives, and smaller investors.  Because observers expect a close presidential election between Democratic incumbent Barak Obama and the Republican challenger, President Obama will not risk alienating voters by adopting IFRS.  There will be time for that afterward if Obama wins the election.  If he doesn’t, then IFRS will wait for the next president.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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I’ve never thought of myself as being influential.  As an accountant, I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of the business world.  Are you influential?  Should you be?

Influence can be defined as “causing an effect through indirect action or intangible ways (Merriam-Webster).”  Influence is causing an effect not through direct force or control.

Marketing folks view someone as influential if he/she can persuade others.  I agree that persuasion fits a part of the definition, that of not using control.  I wonder, though, if some acts of persuasion require application of force.  My arm has been twisted around and around by a few salespeople.

But just how indirect can be the relationship between cause and effect?  Can influence result from “shooting an arrow into the air,” and hoping it lands in such a place as to cause a good effect?  Is being respected as a positive influence a good thing?

I frequently write on the need for accountants to adopt a social media mindset.  A social media mindset involves effective interaction with others (including present and potential clients).  It means partaking in a conscientious give and take.

I consider professional branding to be a basic foundation for delivering professional services.  Reflecting on the mechanics of influence might be equally as important.

Mark Schaefer has written a new book due out in March–Return on Influence.  I am on a list to receive a prepublication copy for review.  I expect good things from this book, because I read and benefit from Schaefer’s blog–{Grow}–on a daily basis.

Check back in March for my review, but in the meantime consider ordering a copy of the book.

My list of recommended books on social media is very short:

  • Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms: The Guide to Establishing Credibility and Accelerating Relationships, by Michelle Golden.  Golden is recognized as one of the most influential people in accounting.
  • Me 2.0, Revised and Updated Edition: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, by Dan Schawbel.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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