September 20, 2018

Blogging

Why Don’t More Accounting Professors Blog?

I’ll admit, I’ve trolled Tom Selling’s Accounting Onion. From what I hear, Tom doesn’t appreciate my potty mouth but that doesn’t mean I appreciate his salty opinion any less. He hates the idea of IFRS in the U.S., which immediately endears anyone to me, and I enjoy his candid (if slightly more boring than what you all are used to here on Going Concern) tone.

So when I was in full-on troll mode and saw Tom’s recent Why Do Accounting Academics Blog Less Than Other Academics? post, I had to tweet it. Short version of theeems like every bunch of academics except those in accounting seem to blog their bookish little butts off?


Well one blogging academic didn’t like that tweet (don’t shoot the messenger, bro, I am in enough trouble for my actual opinions, I don’t need heat on account of someone else’s *troll win*) and ended up writing an entire post in response *extra troll win*. Associate Professor and Chair of Accounting & Taxation at Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business, Mark Holtzman, wrote the following on his Accounting Ethicist blog:

Last night I read the Accounting Onion’s latest post, asking “why do accounting academics blog less than other academics?” The writer, Tom Selling, offers a novel, if implausible theory:

We (accounting professors) rely on the Big-4 oligopoly to hire our students:

There are certainly tradeoffs to blogging, but they all seem to be roughly the same across academic disciplines, except for the presence of the Big Four. For some reason, that appears to be a net negative in relation to blogging opportunities.

Could it be that blogging by accounting professors is detrimental to the career prospects of one’s accounting students? I’m just asking.

I immediately tweeted that this post was not nice or true. (I then added, in a second tweet, that “Accounting professors don’t blog much because we are too busy with teaching, research and service.” That was admittedly a poorly-thought-out answer – Accounting professors are just as busy as English profs or any other area.)

First of all, Accounting Onion’s theory would suggest that somehow the Big-4 fuel an atmosphere of fear. Here’s a narrative: Accounting academics are afraid to say what they really think for fear of upsetting Big-4 recruiters, and that Big-4 recruiters would viciously retaliate against these academics by refusing to hire their students. That’s ridiculous. I think I can speak for my colleagues when I say that we’re not willing to lie (or withhold the truth) in order to get prestigious employers to hire our students.

Furthermore, I’ve worked for the Big-4 (or I should say the Big-8 and Big-6 – scratch that! I haven’t worked for the Big-4, have I?). In my capacity as a Department Chair, I know many Big-4 recruiters and employees. And we accounting professors do have a lot of far-fetched opinions. But I don’t know any recruiters or partners who would retaliate against students because of their professors’ far-fetched opinions. The Big-4 firms are very systematic about who they recruit and wise enough to hire our students in spite of us and our wacky opinions.

That said, how do we answer Accounting Onion’s question? Where are all the accounting professor-bloggers?

Here goes: I’m sorry to say that accounting doesn’t make for very interesting blogging. See any interesting tax footnotes lately? How ’bout that new FASB proposal? IFRS is already a joke – how many bloggers do we need to point that out? Here comes “Little GAAP.” Is there anything interesting to say about “Little GAAP?” And while I’m at it, have you ever seen the list of topics at a AAA meeting? There could be more accounting professor blogs, yes, but who would want to read all that [email protected]?

He goes on to point out that there are notable exceptions to the rule – Going Concern being one of them – but for the most part, the gist I got was that accounting is too fucking boring to warrant dedicating one’s time and effort to writing about it. Thanks for crushing my lofty career goals and any pride I had (if I ever did) in what I actually do for a living.

Pride isn’t the only thing that makes me take issue with that. I have somehow made writing about accounting my life for the last three years so I get that it’s boring. Trust me, I am the last person on the planet who would have ever thought accounting could be interesting but then I started following the adoption of IFRS in the U.S., SEC employees’ porn problems, massive frauds and interesting police blotters starring CPAs around the country. Know what? It’s not that fucking boring. And I don’t just say that to make myself feel better about my questionable career choices.

Who would want to read about that crap? A lot of people, actually. I am amazed by the amount of traffic I get on accounting-related posts on Jr Deputy Accountant that are months or even years old. Are accountants on top of the news cycle? Well no, there is no news cycle. Thank God I have the CPA exam to write about or else I might be out of a job for as little news we get in this industry. But accountants are just as interested in opinion and information as anyone, if not more.

So? What do you guys think? Would you actually read blogs by your accounting professors?

Jeremy Newman’s Blogging Career Is Coming to End

Related: he’s also stepping down as BDO International’s CEO on September 30:

[After] 33 years in total with BDO UK and BDO International, I will be stepping down on 30 September 2011.

I have had a fantastic career and have been privileged to lead BDO UK for 7 years and BDO International for the last 3 years. I have had some great colleagues, worked with some brilliant people and, in my earlier career, been involved with some terrific clients.

Martin van Roekel, the firm’s Managing Partner in the Netherlands, will officially be the new International Chief on October 1.

Newman says “it is time for a change,” but he “[doesn’t] know what I will do but after 33 years in this business, I am looking forward to seeking new opportunities outside the accounting profession.” He is promising to keep blogging through September, so hopefully he’s still working on his delicate sensibilities.

Moving On [CEO Insights]

New Audit Associate Details Her First Busy Season Via the McGladrey Blog

Who knew that being able to ask all the questions you want is how you have a good busy season?

Via Success Starts Here, the McGladrey career blog meant to give you “[a] view into what it’s like to work for McGladrey”:

Starting as a new hire in Audit at the beginning of busy season was a little intimidating since not only were the hours lengthy but there was so much to learn. Would I be able to learn and understand things quickly? Were the clients nice? Would my team have the time or patience to sit down and teach me about the Financial Services industry? Those were the questions running through my mind during the first few days of orientation.

As I progressed through busy season, the hours got longer and the work load became heavier. I noticed the more work I was assigned the more questions I would ask. Thankfully, my team was very easy to work with since they were more than happy to take time out of their busy schedules to sit down and walk me through certain audit procedures. Knowing that I was free to ask any of my superiors questions made my first busy season experience that much easier.

The associate goes on to describe a bright spot in her busy season, 20 minutes taken to eat cupcakes sitting outside with the Private Equity gang. “Sitting outside and eating a simple cupcake made a world of a difference for the rest of the day,” she writes. Can you imagine having the kind of job where you appreciate the opportunity to take a cupcake break? Oh wait, I forgot who I’m writing for…

Not to be distracted by memories of that cupcake, Emmy wraps up on a positive note (it is unclear whether or not this is a requirement to post on the Success Starts Here blog) “As busy season came to an end, not only had I learned so many new skills but I also kept thinking to myself ‘It wasn’t that bad.’ Even though the hours are long and the work can be a little tougher in the beginning, working with a great team can make a world of a difference. It reminds me that I’ve made a great choice by choosing to work at McGladrey.”

Conveniently enough, McGladrey has added a jobs tab to its Facebook page if this entices you. All you self-loathing masochists out there know what to do.

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Sensitive CEO

Usually Adrienne handles these things but I seem to have started a beef, so here goes. Last Friday, I poked fun at BDO Global CEO Jeremy Newman, after he admitted that regulatory intervention in the UK would b up the audit market,” even though that’s the last thing he wants. “It is a shame it has taken so long and that it will require regulatory intervention,” he writes but then immediately qualifies the statement, “though it is not too late for my colleagues in the Big Four, and others, to act on a voluntary basis to create the environment necessary to allow real competition.”

This overt doublespeak caused me to open my post with this:

Perpetual fusspot and BDO Global CEO Jeremy Newman has not been shy about how unfair he thinks the dominance of the Big 4 is. The majority of his blog posts are tagged “Global Accounting” and several consist of bellyaching about Big 4 this and the Big 4 that. Of course, since the mainstream media has finally picked up on the idea that the concentration of auditors could be a bit of a problem […]

Newman wrote another blog post today starting with “I have never understood Twitter” but then did a Twitter search on himself, “not expecting to find anything” but he eventually landed on my blog post. He blockquoted the excerpt above (and linked!) and then wrote this:

Now call me sensitive, but I do not see myself as a “perpetual fusspot” or “bellyaching”- just someone raising a valid concern and one that has now been recognised by others, including the OFT but also the European Commission, MEPs, the UK’s House of Lords and many others, as being a potential issue. I also don’t think the dominance of the Big 4 is “unfair” – I think it is a risk and not in the public interest. And again this view is shared by others – including those who represent the public interest.

Clearly, Mr Sensitive had never graced this fine publication before but I read most of his blog posts and as I pointed out, lots of posts are tagged “Global Accounting” with titles such as “Big 4 bias – can we ever overcome it?,” “Financial Reporting and Auditing: A time for change?,” “There is a Credible Alternative,” and “Restrictive bank covenants keep the Big Four on top….”

Now maybe I’m way off base here but having so many posts (there are more) attributed to this topic, strikes me as someone who is excessively worried about something (i.e. “fussing“). I’m not suggesting he should start doing Mad Men recaps but there is consistent narrative. Plus, the word “fusspot” is funny. Furthermore, evoking “bias,” “can we overcome” and “credible alternative[s]” inherently speak to an unlevel playing field (i.e. “unfair“). Perhaps I’m too wrapped up in semantics but I think my point has been made.

On the bright side, I’m flattered that Mr Newman was offended enough to write a response of sorts (without naming names, unfortunately) and hopefully he finds some things on GC that are to his liking. Unfortunately he still doesn’t appear to be on Twitter, the catalyst to this whole exchange. I encourage JN to join the fun. Then he’ll be able to keep up on himself.

Blog by Wife of PwC Partner (aka Chief Spending Officer) Details Failed Attempts at More Frugal Lifestyle

Times are still tough for many but few take to the blogosphere to share their tales of coupon clipping, pics from staycations and scouring the racks at Filene’s Basement. One person who felt the need to share her frugal efforts with the masses is Lisa Unwin, the “Austerity Mum” and wife of PwC’s head of consulting in the UK, Ashley Unwin. How tough have things been at Casa de Unwin? Well, it all started when the couple purchased a house in East London that reportedly cost ‘squillions,’ and Ms Unwin thought that maybe a more modest life was in order:

Musing on how to cut the cost of family holidays she suggests forgoing private helicopter flights or cancelling that half-term break in the Maldives in favour of returning to your weekend home in the French Alps.

The closest her family comes to the wartime notion of make do and mend is for the husband to have his designer Berluti shoes resoled – at a specialist cobblers on Bond Street, she reveals.

Now that’s sacrifice! However one thing her “Chief Spending Officer” husband wasn’t able to give up are his handmade shirts:

“Not even Prada is good enough any more, can’t recall why,” she reveals.

Then, there’s the ankle-biters:

[H]er two children – nicknamed the “diva-in-waiting” and the “smallest man with the biggest attitude” – have come to believe it is normal “to have a seat that turns into a bed if you’re on a flight for more than three hours”.

For her part, Ms. Unwin was thinking about going back to work (she’s a former Deloitte communications director) but there were conditions:

Claiming she would “love” to go back to work, she bemoans how the cost of childcare makes it impractical. “It would need to be something that I could do between the hours of 10 and two – well, actually 11 and two three days a week to enable me to go the gym,” she concludes.

Sadly, Ash wasn’t so keen on the attention the blog was getting, “Mr Unwin is understood to be acutely embarrassed by the disclosures and she has now agreed to take down the blog.” Lisa is looking for ‘another way to write’ but our guess is a freelance gig with Going Concern is out of the question. Even still, the offer stands Lisa – email us.

Five Ways Not to Suck As an Accounting Blogger

Initially Caleb got butthurt and thought I was writing this article about him but I guess that means he thinks he sucks. I can’t name any accounting bloggers that actually suck and know plenty so here’s how not to tip that number past 0 if you’re thinking of taking it up.


Write about what you enjoy Believe it or not, there are people who care about: CPA exam experiences, SOX compliance, non-profit accounting, accounting technology, Big 4 bashing, rence, accounting education, the Fed (cough), tax law… you name it and someone is writing about and looking to read about it right now. If you write about what you think people want to read about, chances are they won’t read it. Someone out there is totally into keeping LIFO even after we adopt IFRS so if that’s your thing, go for it but stay true to what you’re into.

Don’t isolate There are some folks who get away with being reclusive hermits or narcissistic pricks that don’t engage with the broader group of us (I won’t name names) but for the most part, if you want people to embrace what you’re doing, you’re going to have to bite it and talk to them sometime. Don’t trip, we’re not that bad. You can pick and choose which of the bunch you associate with and no one is saying you have to like every other accounting blogger out there. But at least find a few who don’t annoy you to talk to and share ideas with every now and then. If Dennis Howlett can manage, so can you.

Don’t get stuck in your niche Even if you’re strictly into LIFO, think about reaching out beyond your specialty and even beyond accounting to areas like finance, law and politics. It’s OK, it’s all relevant. The great thing about writing about what you love is that no one can tell you how to do it, not even us. The broader your subject matter, the more appeal you’ll have.

Actually try The thing about writing for this audience is that you have to keep doing it without getting much interaction back. We’ve personally seen countless state societies of CPAs abandon or under-evaluate their efforts in this medium simply because they didn’t get the Seth Godin reaction they were expecting. You aren’t Chris Brogan and accountants aren’t going to flock to your content by the bazillions, there are only so many of them to reach in the first place. Being in such a small, specialized group, it’s important to remember that you might not get the reaction you want right off the bat, if ever. But if you give up early, you’ll miss out on that reaction later.

Don’t think you know your audience’s expectations The best way to figure out if you’re delivering to your target is to access your site’s analytics and see who is coming from where and how. But even if you’re a stat whore like some of us, you can only tell so much about your audience from your side. Listen to what people are saying and try to recognize patterns in what is well-received and what is ignored. This isn’t just a blogging thing, you can use that sort of wisdom with e-mail marketing, Twitter, whatever. They’ll let you know what they like so don’t be so busy yelling your point to listen.

And as a bonus 6th tip, try to shake things up a little. This didn’t make the list because it really doesn’t work for everyone but for some of us it’s the only way to do it. If you aren’t afraid of being humiliated out of the industry with your big fat mouth, try pushing the envelope every now and then. Trust me, it feels awesome.

Is Philadelphia’s Tax on Bloggers That Big of a Deal?

Every state, municipality, township and hamlet is desperate to close their budget gaps. With such desperation comes a flood of bad ideas that include taxes on everything from juggling to hot air balloon rides.

The Philadelphia City Paper ran a story last week about the $300 Business Privilege Tax that the city is imposing on bloggers, freelancers and other contractors since they are engaged in the activity for profit. Seemingly, another stupid idea.


The City Paper speaks to a couple of bloggers – clearly doing it as a hobby – that are technically engaged in a for-profit activity because they have ads on their blogs. They were notified by the city that they owed the $300 for a lifetime business privilege license (you can also opt for a $50 annual license). The Philadelphia Department of Revenue argues that “simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business.”

Supposedly, changes to the city’s law are in the works to be introduced next month that would exempt the first $100k of a business’s profit.

However, there is a far simpler solution to this problem that is mentioned by Christina Warren over at Mashable which is, quit running ads on your blog. Maybe the city’s tax is excessive, annoying, desperate for reform or just plain stupid but if you don’t run ads on your blog – that wasn’t designed to make money – you avoid the business privilege license altogether. It’s as simple as clicking a mouse and the government is out of your life (at least this respect).

Or continue to be stubborn and fight the bureaucracy of the Philly City government. Your choice.

Pay Up [Philadelphia City Paper]
Philadelphia Tax Code Sparks Big Controversy with Small Bloggers [Mashable]

Talking Social Media With the New Jersey Society of CPAs

From the very first day we swapped our totally unprofessional Twitter account for one with less F-words and started finding accountants to follow, we have been constantly impressed with the concentration of accounting folks in social media. But in the constantly-evolving world of Internet communication, there are always a few bright spots that stand out as ahead of the curve, and the New Jersey Society of CPAs’ communications strategy sets itself apart as one such bright spot.

We were able to get a few moments with NJSCPA’s Don Meyer to discuss their strategy, successes and the drive behind their major social media push of the last three years. Operating with three goals in mind – driving member retention through a greater level of engagement for current meorking and learning opportunities for current members; supporting existing membership acquisition programs – the NJSCPA has learned to use the power of blogs and social networking to reach potential, new and long-time Society members as well as CPA exam candidates across the country. Turns out that we got way more insight into the NJSCPA social media brain than we can share here and were terribly impressed by their varying campaigns, daring strategy and dedication to delivering information.


AG: First things first: let’s talk about your social media campaigns. What sort of things are you heavily involved in and why?

DM: We launched our first blog, NJSCPA Exam Cram, about three years ago to help guide student members and exam candidates through the exam process. We’ve been on Facebook for almost two years and have attracted more than 1,800 fans. We developed our page to maintain contact with student members who sometimes change mailing addresses and emails following graduation, but we now find that the page is a valuable source of professional and Society information for members in all age groups. Our LinkedIn group, launched almost two years ago, serves much the same purpose, providing information for our members and a place for them to connect. We jumped into Twitter about a year ago. We currently have more than 700 people following us. Our Twitter page is linked to our news blog, CPA Observation Post. We use those tools to provide daily professional and Society updates, but we also use Twitter and the blog to help NJ accounting firms promote themselves.

AG: Is there anything you’ve tried that hasn’t worked out as well as you’d hoped?

DM: We tried a financial literacy blog, but we couldn’t generate much interest. I think there may be too much competition out there and we couldn’t find the right niche. Our financial literacy Facebook and Twitter pages have not taken off as quickly as we had hoped.

AG: Anything that really surprised you when it comes to social media?

DM: I was not a believer in Twitter before we started using it extensively last year. Now I think it’s my favorite social media site. I think it’s a great tool for disseminating news and information quickly and easily. I’m also surprised how successful our Facebook advertising has been. I was skeptical that anyone on Facebook would click on ads promoting our page, but it’s played a key role in helping us promote our presence.

AG: The NJSCPA Exam Cram blog has been around for awhile (we noticed it quite some time ago) and seems to get a great response. Can you tell us more about how this came about and how you select exam candidates to participate? Do you follow them after they’ve successfully completed the exam?

DM: Many of us involved in the Society’s student outreach programs have never taken the exam, so we felt we needed to get the perspective from aspiring CPAs who had experienced the ups and downs. This way if a student or candidate asked us a non-technical exam question (e.g. in what order should I take each section, how should I study, how do you feel when you fail one part of the exam, etc.) we could refer them to the blog. We started out with one blogger but soon discovered that work and personal commitments would preclude any blogger from posting as often as we would like. So we gradually added more bloggers. At the moment, we have five CPA Exam candidate bloggers and one staff person blogger, Janice Amatucci. We don’t have a set procedure for how we pick our bloggers. We ask student members who have been involved with the Society through one of our various student programs or simply ask for volunteers via email or at events. The first five bloggers all passed the CPA Exam and continue to contribute to the NJSCPA by writing articles, serving as team leaders at student events or attending other Society events. To date, we’ve attracted more than 72,000 pageviews.

You can find the NJSCPA all over the place online here.

Details We’d Like to See in Stephen Chipman’s Blog: Partners with Self-assigned Nicknames

We enjoy Stephen Chipman’s blog as much as any casual reader inside of Grant Thornton but he often leaves us wanting more. He talks about New York, Chicago, Atlanta, London, China (God, he loves talking about China) but sometimes we’d like to know what some of the smaller offices have going for themselves.

We know what’s going on in Honolulu, Greensboro, and Madison but what about Grant Thornton Salt Lake City? Or Oklahoma City? What’s going there, Steve-o?


Fortunately, we stumbled upon a little blog that tells us about not one, but 25 things about GT’s Phoenix office. As you might expect, the office gets a place on a “Best Places” list and most of the information shared is about the volunteering the firm does in the local community or raising awareness about [insert major problem, e.g. Americans are fat and don’t exercise] which is really nice.

As much as we like – nay – love nice, we know that similar efforts are made in other offices so we’re craving something local, something unique, something that makes you say, that sums up Grant Thornton Phoenix.

Luckily, they did just that by way of an 80s slapstick comedy that some of you young GTers have probably never seen (and frankly, we don’t really remember either):

Grant Thornton tapped three friends and partners, who called themselves the “3 Amigos,” to start the Phoenix office. Ed O’Brien, Brad Preber and Ken Garrett were serving clients out of different Grant Thornton offices. Each had a unique specialized expertise – O’Brien in audit, Preber in consulting and Garrett in tax.

Mr Preber is also a tournament champion fly fisherman so we picture him as a hunky Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It type but the rest of the amigos are a blank.

25 Things You Didn’t Know About…Grant Thornton LLP [HMA Time]

Stephen Chipman Managed to Not Stop By Going Concern HQ While He Was in New York

This week in Stephen Chipman blog dissection, we learned that SC had another week full of travel, although he managed to resist the temptation to head back to Atlanta for the third straight week. It was typical back-slapping, glad-handing wily CEO shenanigans in Chi-town including a little chat with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell. “Dr. Campbell recounted a wonderful story of his very first diplomatic event with Secretary Clinton at Blair House — entertaining a senior Chinese delegation.”

Yeah. He leaves you hanging. Our guess is that Hil was telling Bill jokes and/or doing armpit fart noises but it’s all a mystery because Stephen changes the subject entirely. C’mon man! You can’t do that!


Anyway it and then on to DC for a speech IFRS and why it’s on the road to nowhere in the US of A:

I had been invited to be the after-dinner speaker for the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Board of Directors meeting. Although I feared the impossible expectation of being a “rousing, after-dinner” speaker on the topic of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), interest was high on the eve of the SEC’s highly anticipated announcement of plans to move forward with their Roadmap for IFRS adoption in the United States.

We’re continually impressed with Steve’s ability to throw in the dry humor, although we suggest dropping the unnecessary quotation marks. Definitely would read more deadpan. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon of unnecessary quotation marks, you’re probably an abuser.

Moving on…

Chiparoo then trekked up to the City where he talked more about IFRS with the Center of Audit Quality, “The lively conversation focused on the SEC’s announcement regarding further clarification on their Roadmap.” And by that he means everyone there is pissed that the SEC is perfectly happy to drag this thing out.

Post-IFRS chat, SC met up with Ed Nusbaum and they did some MSM hopping, “I met up with Ed Nusbaum and Grant Thornton’s Director of Corporate Communications John Vita for a media tour. Ed is a veteran with the press, but press junkets are relatively new for me. We spoke to reporters at Bloomberg, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Thomson Reuters.”

Okay, we’re a little hurt by this. Sure we work remotely but would it have killed you to stop by Steve and leave a note? GCHQ might not have the fancy confines of the WSJ or the ‘Berg but we’d make you guys comfortable as possible. Plus there’s always stimulating conversation. Or just simple call saying “Sorry we couldn’t make it. Next time!” just to get our hopes up.

While we’re still getting over this little slight, we’ll just mention that Steve’s blog, to our knowledge, doesn’t have a name. We’ll take the weekend to mull over this but in the meantime, if you’ve got suggestions, feel free to share.

Stephen Chipman Blog Watch: Back to Hotlanta

Today in Stephen Chipman blog analysis we’re thinking that the rager that he attended in Atlanta got him jonesing for another trip down south because he made another short excursion down to GA but this time it was for some strategory:

Attending a hard-working Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meeting in this wonderful city, I took a break to check e-mail. I thought perhaps I’d had too much BOLD coffee, when I skimmed this alert to our Atlanta personnel:

Please be advised that the downtown [Atlanta] connector is currently backed up due to a zebra escaping from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Zebra has since been captured; however, traffic is expected to remain backed up

Right then, Zebra has been captured.

Two things: 1) is Chip a caffeine junkie? and 2) that last sentence strikes us as deadpan. Do we detect some style here?

Putting wild animals and addiction aside, SC goes on to tell us about a little rendezvous he had in London for some Grant Thornton International back-slapping that he got to do with his predecessor and current GTI CEO, Ed Nusbaum. Nothing really to report other than Steve-o claims that word round the camp fire is that Ed has started sneaking out the back door again but secretly doesn’t give a damn because he’s got the big chair now and he can do whatever he wants. He’s talking like he’ll start walking out the front door, in front of everyone, because he leaves when he wants.

That’s how we read into it anyway.

It seems that while Steve has taking this blogging thing by the horns there hasn’t been much commentary on more fun topics (maybe it’s just us). For example, we’d really like to know if he joined the “Sexy Accountant” group on Facebook or what his biggest audit room pet peeves are.

We’re just saying, don’t be afraid to put it all out there.

Grant Thornton’s Valentine to Employees Did Not Consist of Heart Candy

It’s the middle of February and many of you are somewhere between completely exhausted and death warmed up. This is not lost on blogger extraordinaire Steve Chipman. SC’s weekly info session has been crucial to your survival (even though it’s not meant for all of you). Knowing that his soothing words will only get you so far, he’s taken a different approach this week.

Since it was St. Val’s on Sunday, Chip figured he would mark the day for lovers by boosting your spirits by using the words of GTers less CEO-y than himself.

Today I’d like to offer some inspiration to help us push through busy season. The last year and a half have required so much more from everyone that it’s hard to imagine we can work even harder, but it’s evident that we are everywhere I look.

So what keeps us going? That’s what I was looking for when I reviewed the “I am Grant Thornton” interviews we conducted last fall. We asked a variety of people in different roles, in different offices and at different levels if they felt they made a difference, and, if so, how.

It is hard to imagine that you can work harder, isn’t it? Your spreadsheets are bleeding through your monitors, you’ve ingested far more MSG than is recommended, and your cube farm neighbor (who ordinarily smells funny) is looking hot .

And we weren’t aware of this “I am G to the T” exercise but it sounds stupendous. Who knew your personal experiences would be used at this most crucial time of year? Bet you would have really put some thought into if if you had known your words could possibly have been immortalized on Steve-o’s blog.

Here are some carefully selected examples from SC’s list and our thoughts on each:

When a client calls me and says, “Can I pick your brain?” it’s so great because (1) they recognize I have a brain” – We agree that it’s nice when your client recognizes that you are of the same species.

“I had a client tell me recently, and I’m quoting, ‘We hire Grant Thornton because you get [stuff] done.’” – That’s Stephen’s edit. This is a family blog, people.

“I make a difference every day because I work here.” – And because my mother said so.

“Every day is a great achievement.” – We agree. Crawling out of bed is tough.

“How do I make a difference? . . . You know, I’m happy.” – God, you’re one of those happy people.

“I’ve worked at the big firms. We are not bigger by any means, but it’s a question of caliber. I knew it from my first day on the job here. We’re just a different caliber of firm.” – We’re not size queens at GT.

Steve-o’s send-off has us begging for more and also causes us to wonder A) who is this homecoming queen? and B) is Chip a Bass or a Tenor?

I’m also proud to say that among our great people are a former homecoming queen and a professional make-up artist. Of equal wonder, one of you found the most surprising thing about coming to Grant Thornton was “that all the partners have great singing voices.”

There’s more where that came from, but this is the firm’s Valentine to you.

Thanks for you!
Stephen

You could do back-to-back busy season now, couldn’t you?

Three Tips for New Accounting Bloggers

After a recent GC post on social networking tips for accountants, our friend and superstar social media maven Tom Hood (CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, but you should already know that) asked “what about blogs?

Well, Tom, excellent question! What about blogs?

Blogging for accountants is no different than any other industry and there’s no one template that works for everyone.


With MACPA’s own Bill Sheridan breathing down my neck and stealing my readerbase with quality content (just kidding, Bill) on CPA Success, I imagine our buddy Tom doesn’t need tips on how to start and keep up a great accounting blog. But we aren’t all as new media savvy as Tom Hood and making the decision to blog can be an overwhelming choice if not executed correctly.

Personally, I try to practice a single rule of thumb: to thy own self be true.

While the F-bomb dropping, SEC-cussing-out model may not work for anyone but Jr Deputy Accountant (remember, I’m not a CPA, I just play one on TV), the rule in practice is the same regardless of who is doing the blogging.

So here are a few general hints if you’re an accountant looking to plunge head-first into the exciting world of blogging:

Find a mentor – This part is easy! Comb through accounting blogs (Michelle Golden has a handy and incredible extensive list of accounting bloggers you can check out if you’re absolutely stumped) to find a “voice” that aligns closely with your own. Reach out to the blog author, connect with other accounting bloggers on Twitter, and express your desires openly to the community.

Make a commitment – This can often be the hardest part but blogging requires a dedication to fresh content if you are going to be widely read and accepted.

Find your niche – Accounting bloggers come in all sorts of flavors; non-profit, tax, regulation, technology, auditing, etc. It is important in carving out your corner of the blogosphere to find your voice and embrace the area of expertise you are most passionate about. Ask yourself what moves you as an accountant if you are trying to find out what will inspire you as an accounting writer.

The reality is that no one can tell you what works for you and perhaps you will discover a path that has not yet been taken but should you need a little push in the right direction, trying out these tips should get you there with minimal effort.

The key to sustainable, well-received blogging is a passion for what you are writing about; if you enjoy what you do and want to write about it, that passion will translate for your audience and lead to countless opportunities to express your enthusiasm.

Stephen Chipman Is Slightly Annoyed by the Non-Grant Thornton People Reading His Blog

We didn’t get the third installment of Stephen Chipman’s blog until late last week and apparently while the Grant Thornton CEO seems to be keeping up his promise to come at you once a week, he’s going to be a bit more reserved going forward.

Last week SC shared a few insights from his readers, however we warned that he wouldn’t be sharing the most intimate details (e.g. ragers in Atlanta):

Because large portions of my blog are finding their way to external Web sites, I will answer some sensitive or strategic questions via internal e-mail and send my responses directly to the person who posed them.


Well, shucks. We’re not sure what “external websites” SC is referring to but as far as our humble posts are concerned, we merely provide snapshots that certainly don’t qualify as “large portions”. If you guys are aware of someone reposting the posts in full, get in touch with us and we’ll let them know at GTHQ.

We’re also curious as to what will qualify as “sensitive or strategic questions”. Is SC getting prodded with nosy questions about Sue Sachdeva? If so, he could at least give us a diagnosis on her supposed shopaholic tendencies. That doesn’t seem too sensitive. It’s most certainly not strategic.

We’d also like to hear his thoughts on Grant Thornton being vindicated in the Overstock.com circus. Patrick Bryne said some pretty nasty things about Steve’s beloved firm. This is the perfect opportunity for Steve-o to throw it in Patsy’s face via an all-out blog-off. Does he take it? So far, no. Sensitive? Absolutely not. This is justice. Strategic? Not really. Chip must get enough satisfaction knowing that the firm clear of the whole thing and doesn’t see the need for gloating. We’ve got two words for that: MISSED. OPPORTUNITY.

Because of this new cautious approach, we don’t have any parties or white whales to share this week but SC did mention that he got a little face time with SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker. And don’t think that just anyone was invited to this little sit-down, “I was honored to be included in this very small group, which also included the CEOs of two large competitors.”

Well! We’re assuming Chip is referring to two B-I-G-F-O-U-R competitors and only since only two of them were there, this is pretty H-U-G-E opportunity for Steve. SC won’t turn down a little glad-handing with the Chief Accountant, no sir. Unfortch, he didn’t really get into what was said at the meeting but we’re sure it was a stimulating convo: Olympic fever. St. Val’s gifts for the wives. Maybe some talk about the nonexistent SEC roadmap on IFRS? Here’s to hoping that he’ll open up more this week.

CPAs Friending Potential Clients? Only Time Will Tell

Earlier this week I caught a link from @CPA_Trendlines about the “next generation” accounting firm. The article spotlighted Blumer & Associates, a second-generation firm in South Carolina trying to find its niche in tomorrow’s market. With an eyebrow raised, I continued reading:

Blumer’s “new management” theories, for example, mean a ruthlessly honest kind of client focus, including three essential hallmarks:

• a sharply defined niche focus,
• a “clean” client list and
• innovation “to create new services as awareness of client needs grows.”

Sure, this theory is great if your firm consists of fewer people than most Big 4 engagement teams, but I nonetheless nod in recognition and approval to the idea of change. It would be hard, however, to apply these thought practices to today’s large firms.


Just for kicks:

Niche focus – You mean spreading thin across every crevice of market opportunity, right?

Clean client listOops. Oops again.

Innovation – Slow moving giants are just that. Slow.

Lost in the article’s comments was commentary from management consultant Rita Keller commending Blumer’s challenge to the “one size fits all” approach: “[T]he next generation of leaders will create organizations that are more nimble and open to continual change and new ideas. They will not get new clients at a Chamber networking event, they’ll get them from Facebook and from blogging. They will keep in touch with referral sources on-line, not at lunch.”

Don’t scoff; this might very well be true. The long-term advantages of networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are nothing more than “what-if” conversation bits better suited for the Twitterverse and blogs like this place. But think about it – Millennial’s are connected to hundreds if not thousands of people on Facebook.

These networks started in high school or college and will only grow organically as their careers expand and evolve. Friends and colleagues will move on from public accounting, and their new careers will be accessible via newsfeeds and status updates. Facebooking stalking will have a new (and potentially profitable) purpose.

Will shaking hands on the back nine be replaced by wall posts? Probably not, but the Rolodex is becoming irrelevant right in front of our eyes. Why pick up the phone when a brief Facebook message or direct message Tweet will suffice? Boomers can object all they want, but person-to-person interaction is well on its way out of fashion.

Just don’t go poking that potential client; at least not right away.

Stephen Chipman’s Latest Blog Post: Atlanta Knows How to Party; The End of Suffering

Last week, we were a little disappointed in Stephen Chipman’s debut blog entry; A) it’s not public for the whole world to read and B) it reminded us of a journal except all the good stuff like morning bathroom routine, the wife’s headache, compensating for said headache, etc. was left out.

This week is a little better (no Lost recap and 1,200+ words are big negative points), as he shared with the GT troops about his little excursion down to Atlanta to do some glad-handing at the open house for the new office space there. Chip was impressed not only by the new LEED facility but by the willingness of a fair amount of people in Atlanta that had nothing better to do on a Wednesday night:

What struck me was that these were not people who came through obligation; they clearly wanted to be there. I met many clients, and they all had warm and wonderful things to say about our Atlanta office partners and people. Where some business receptions can be deadly if the mix and tone aren’t just right, people were really enjoying themselves — they stayed, they mingled, they had fun, many enjoying themselves well past 9 o’clock at night. (It kicked off at 5).

Okay, so where are these deadly receptions occurring? We’ve been to some wild get-togethers where some people might not get along but there was no risk of anyone ending up dead. Perhaps he just means “shockingly awkward.” That’s way more believable than a party where a homicide may or may not occur.

And why would he be surprised if people could booze for free for over four hours? If there’s free beer and wine to be had in the middle of the week, that probably is the best thing you could do on a Wednesday.

The only other tidbit worth mentioning is that Steve-o got a little redemption that was over two decades in the making. Back in the 80s when Chip was a manager living in Dallas, chasing SMU tail and starting to network, he was courting a prospect that ultimately went with a “large competitor.” Since that point in time, he has not taken it well:

For years — and this was more than two decades ago — I’ve watched this company from afar, and it’s become quite successful. I felt a pang every time I saw their signs (which were everywhere), and also their advertising at NHL games and sports arenas. With every sign sighting, I got increasingly frustrated that they were not a Grant Thornton client.

Many times SC could be caught looking off into the distance, dreaming about the one that got away. A tear. A lone tear…

Well you can rejoice now bitches! Turns out a current GT client recently purchase this prospect that broke our hero’s heart and is now a client of GT. “After almost 22 years of misery, my suffering has ended,” SC utters. This was his White Whale.

And to wrap it up, SC threw in a nice little pep talk for all of you GTers out there feeling down and out, “We don’t need to be the biggest to be the best.” He’s still thinking about you; even if you’re not in Atlanta.

Still no Lost recap.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Stephen Chipman’s Blog is Live

As promised, Stephen Chipman has started his blog with the first post going up today.

I am excited to provide this interactive Blog designed to foster thoughtful dialogue and information sharing between you and me. My Blog enables me to share with each of you my personal thoughts about our business and other important matters. I hope you find this Blog informative as well as useful. Please check back every Wednesday for a new post.


Unfortunately for you non-GTers out there, the blog is not public like Jeremy Newman’s so not just anyone can help him with his grammar (which we’re sure is impeccable) or spelling.

Despite being the blog being for GT eyes only, he’s still excited about spreading the good word through this new medium:

I’m delighted to be writing my first blog. One of the aspects of our modern culture is the ease of informal communication. As I noted in the announcement, I have no pre-planned features or stories, I’m just going to blog the way others do — in the moment.

It’s disappointing that Chip didn’t start the blog a little earlier, say, when he got the news about Sue Sachdeva’s shopping sprees. Catching him in the moment of that particular bit of news would have made for a good post, no? Plus, since he’s so close to Milwaukee, he might have run up their to see some of this loot himself in order to tell us what he thought of Suze’s taste in clothes, jewels, etc.

Our one beef with Steve-o’s first post is that it has too much of a journal feeling to it. Personally, we’d prefer he got on his soapbox about how the Big 4 isn’t all that, or why he thinks Davos is overrated. We realize that he’s new at this so we’ll give him a little time to get it together. In the meantime, be sure to inform us about his words of wisdom going forward.

Nasty CEO Patrick Byrne; Blogging Is a Good Idea; Against Tax Breaks for Haiti Relief

America’s Nastiest CEO [The Big Money via Gary Weiss]
We’re still wondering if the KPMG Salt Lake City office knows what they got themselves into by taking Overstock.com on as a client.
Gary Weiss notes:

The Big Money this afternoon came out with a devastating (and gutsy) article by former Fortune writer Roddy Boyd on the corporate crime petri dish that is Overstock.com, and its nuts CEO Patrick Byrne. The title is “America’s Nastiest CEO,” and it descristematically harassed and attacked critics to cover up his own incompetence and wrongdoing–stuff that actually is a lot worse than has previously been acknowledged.

Calling all Manchester United fans [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett — never shy with his opinion — segues into an argument for blogging after noting that the Manchester United don’t need to:

There is a blog post over on Social Media Today that demonstrates as well as just about anything I’ve seen written why you should almost never listen to folk who call themselves ‘social media experts/gurus/consultants.’ Awarding itself the grand title: World’s Most Valuable Soccer Team Doesn’t Get Social Media the author proceeds to show almost zero understanding of The Beautiful Game or the people who are part of that world.


After blowing up one person’s argument for social media, DH turns the tables back to why it’s a good idea:

I have for the longest time said that professionals should write blogs. Many seem bemused by the question: we’re too busy, what would we say? we don’t want to blatantly promote, we’re not sure clients would care…the list goes on. Many talk about networking and the need for face to face meetings in order to make the kind of marketing impression they believe will win business.

In case you still think that the traditional networking is still more your speed, DH continues:

Unlike football fans, clients don’t congregate in large numbers every Saturday afternoon although they may do so in smaller numbers in industry specific associations from time to time. And of course you should be making an effort to attend those kinds of event. But in the meantime and if you are serious about running a business as opposed to a practice, then surely it makes sense to stand alongside your clients?

Have you run out of excuses for your firm having a blog?
Don’t Give Special Tax Breaks for Haiti Relief [Tax Vox]
Before everyone gets excited about the possibility of your contributions to the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, et al. being deductible for 2009, don’t forget that many of you won’t benefit from a tax standpoint:

The proposal won’t help the two-thirds of taxpayers who take the standard deduction since it only accelerates itemized deductions. Even among itemizers, those millions of givers who are contributing $10 by text message are not going to care much about whether they can write off those few dollars this year or next.
Those who might benefit–relatively high-earning itemizers who give substantial gifts–can easily address this cash flow problem under current law. All they’d need to do is change their withholding or estimated tax payments to reflect any unusually large gifts to Haiti relief.

And not only that, what about other charities that are not subject to the timing change? Don’t they still need money?

Btw, a 2008 paper by Jon Bakija and Bradley Heim finds that higher-income taxpayers are more likely to adjust their giving to reflect changes in their after-tax cost–another reason they’d be the biggest beneficiaries of this bill. But even for them, this small temporary timing change is not likely to matter very much.
Still, some people would change their behavior, and that troubles me. Will they reduce gifts to other worthy causes in favor of newly tax-favored Haiti-related charities? Many organizations are already struggling with major recession-driven reductions in contributions and this would hurt even more.

Haiti still needs everyone’s help, no question but don’t be shocked if Congress’ latest attempt at helping out doesn’t turn out to be that helpful.

And Here We Thought All Accountant Bloggers Were Doing It for the Forces of Good

Thumbnail image for integrity.jpgThe gamut of accounting bloggers that we’re acquainted with are good people despite their individual proclivities. Things like paranoid fantasies that involve every level of government bureaucracy (we’re looking straight at you, JDA) and perverse obsessions with stilettos that even freak us out (ahem, Francine) don’t make anyone a bad person, just well, weird.
That being said, it was only a matter of time before an accountant/blogger actually turned out to be criminal*.


Russ Fox at Taxable Talk:

About a year ago I discover a tax blog called Apirl15.com. I doubt we’ll be seeing any more of this blog; according to an affidavit from an IRS Special Agent, the proprietor of the blog has admitted to embezzling $8.5 million.
William Murray, a CPA from Sacramento, allegedly told his clients to pay their taxes through a “trust account” system. This “service” would help the clients and make things easier for them. Mr. Murray also allegedly had clients send money that he would allegedly “loan” to other clients.

William “No, not Bill” Murray used the client money for the run-of-the-mill stuff: cars, houses, entertainment (i.e. hookers, llelo), plus it’s alleged that he’s a degenerate gambler. A model citizen really.
Despite this blow to the accounting blogosphere image, you can sleep well knowing that if we ever ask for your money it will be used for the purposes of providing you with the finest accounting rag news publication possible. There are reputations at stake.
April 15th No More [Taxable Talk via Tax Update Blog]
*You were a criminal before you started blogging, Sam.

Jeremy Newman: See? I Told You That There Were ‘Big 4 Only’ Clauses

BDO Global CEO — and infrequent blogger — Jeremy Newman would like everyone to know that he wasn’t dreaming when he stated that some financing agreements included “Big 4 only” clauses.

Apparently Newman was thought to be a little Patrick Byrne-ish on this particular point:

These are views that I have been expressing for some years, although many have questioned the prevalence of such clauses and indeed some have sought to deny their existence.

It was comforting therefore for me to read in the report published by the UK’s Financial Reporting Council in October 2009 entitled ‘Choice in the UK Audit Market’ that reference was made to restrictions in loan covenants. The report from the FRC noted:

‘..it is too early to determine how widespread such obligations are; however, the FRC continues to receive examples of banks imposing loan covenants with ‘Big 4 only’ clauses, including one which imposed a higher rate of interest if the borrowing company chose a non-Big 4 auditor.’

Surely there is now sufficient evidence to recognise that such clauses are a potential constraint on choice in the market place and regulators should be urged to ban them.

So despite the lack of evidence that these obligations are widespread, this remains a matter of “urgency,” according to Newman. There are examples, people. That should be enough for you. The man is trying to build a Global 6 firm after all. Kindly throw in a little additional bank regulation to help him out.

BDO May Be Taking a Crack at This ‘Global 6’ Thing

BDO is done messing around. Having watched Grant Thornton fail miserably at trying to get the bean counter universe to embrace “Global 6 Accounting Organization”, the firm, with the help of global CEO Jeremy Newman’s blog, are stepping it up a notch.
According to Newman’s post for today and Accountancy Age, all BDO firms are now operating under the name ‘BDO’ rather than, for example, ‘BDO Seidman’ for the U.S. firm and ‘BDO Stoy Howard’ in the UK.
The reason for the name change, according to the one managing partner:
Continued, after the jump

Simon Michaels, managing partner at BDO, said the move was not just about the “look and feel” of the brand but was aimed at “significantly increasing our market share”. If we present ourselves as a unified global network… then the clients experience the high level of service and that helps to drive the reputation,” he said.

See? It’s working already. A ‘managing partner at BDO’ means this guy could be anywhere. It’s a global firm, in case you’ve forgotten. And ‘increasing our market share’? Dude may not be saying ‘Global 6 Accounting Organization’ but that’s all we’re hearing.
Newman chimes in on his blog:

At the same time we will be updating the ‘look’ of our visual identity – which will hopefully be evident from this website. Nothing too dramatic – but building on the BDO heritage whilst signalling a more modern approach.

Call us unappreciative of the subtle changes for this new ‘look’ but it seems the same to us. Our speculation is that the new ‘BDO’ is striving for continuity amongst all its offices in order to saturate the market to the point that ‘Global 6 Accounting Organization’ bulldozes its way into the vernacular.
Discuss BDO’s strategy or perhaps your thoughts on ‘Global 6’ in general, in the comments.
BDO rebrand creates unified global identity [Accountancy Age]

Our Invitation to Big 4 CEO’s to Start Blogging

jnewman.jpgWe’d like to think that we encourage free and open discussion here. Everyone is welcome to join the conversation.
And by everyone, we mean if Dennis Nally, Tim Flynn et al. were to tell us in the comments how we deserved a life sentence of footing the Brooklyn phonebook because of our butchering of the English language, we’d be thrilled. Sadly, this is probably nothing more than a pipe dream.
Jeremy Newman, the CEO of BDO International, is by far the closest to fulfilling this dream. J. New, you’ll be interested to know, has his very own blog.
More, after the jump


Not surprisingly, the blog doesn’t seem to have the class or brilliant readership of other accounting/finance blogs that we know about but we give the dude credit for putting himself out there. Granted, if someone calls him a “hack loser” it probably won’t get published in the comments but you’ve got to start somewhere.
So this is our invitation to the rest of the Big 4 CEO’s and, yes, you too, Grant Thornton, to make the unprecedented leap into the blogosphere. Think of the transparency these firms would have as a result. The need for the annual survey about how these firms are such great places to work would become unnecessary because there would be constant real-time updates based on every decision made.
The best part is that, if GC happens to say something that they find offensive, unfair, blown out of proportion, or just plain obnoxious, then they’ll have the opportunity to talk shit respond directly. Then we can have feuds in the blogosphere that will be significantly more direct than any confrontation that has ever occurred between two people in a Big 4 firm.
Let’s help these guys out as I’m sure this will be a difficult task for them. Leave your suggestions of what your favorite CEO’s blog would be called or what kind of questions you’d like to ask them in the comments