Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Client Management Difficulties? Here are a Few Tips

Client Management Difficulties? Here are a Few Tips

In the following article, Lewis Daidone offers tips for talking to clients who are unfamiliar with accounting rules, concepts and terminology.

If you decide to enter the public accounting field, you’ll experience a diverse range of clients. Some will make your job easier; others… not so much. Here are a few things to keep in mind while working with clients with various degrees of accounting literacy and experience.

Use accessible language.

People tend to become brusque or annoyed with accountants because they find accounting concepts difficult to understand. If you can explain the issues in a matter of fact matter straight forward manner (examples are always helpful), you’ll be able to assuage a lot of client anxieties. Never talk down to your client.

Be systematic and specific.

You may find that some of your clients are panicked because they don’t fully understand the reasons for their financial difficulties. It’s your job to break down their problems into manageable components that they can understand. Once that is done, you can address each issue and point out what precisely is and isn’t working.

Listen carefully, and with compassion.

Some clients find it difficult to organize their thoughts. Be patient, and make sure the client is comfortable expressing their concerns and observations. Open and honest communication is necessary in order to effectively and efficiently service clients.

Keep clients informed.

Sometimes client expectations about goals and results and actual progress are two different things. It is very important to set expectations regarding timing and possible outcomes up front. Never make your client feel that they were blindsided or kept in the dark. If things change, inform the client immediately. Communication is key to maintaining good relationships and that, in turn, will result in happy clients.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to technology companies and financial services firms.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Should You Relocate? The Pros and Cons of Broadening Your Job Search

Should You Relocate? The Pros and Cons of Broadening Your Job Search

In the following post, Lewis Daidone addresses the Pros and Cons of job relocation.

If you’re a recent graduate just starting out in your accounting career, you’re probably open to working in almost any city that seems attractive. However, if you’re considering a mid-career transition, or if you have established roots in your community, the thought of starting again in a new town might seem a bit daunting. If you’re looking for new opportunities or just a change in scenery, here are a few factors that could influence your decision.

Pro: Exciting opportunities

Accountants who are willing to relocate have more options as it relates to career advancement; prospects who are willing to travel are more likely to find their dream job than those who remain in a city where demand for certain accounting specialties may be low.

Con: The stress of moving

The older and more established you are in a particular location, the more difficult it is to move. If you have a family, it might be a challenge to convince them to relocate (especially if you have adolescent children). Moving is very stressful and can put tremendous strain on even the healthiest of family relationships.

Pro: Personal and professional growth

Job relocation is a marvelous opportunity for personal enrichment. Adapting to a different city and expanding your area(s) of expertise will make you a more well-rounded, knowledgeable professional.

Con: It can be a costly gamble, both personally and financially

There is always the possibility that you’ll dislike the new company culture, and that your new position is a bad fit. Then what? You’ve uprooted your whole life for a job you like less than your old one. This is a significant risk, not to be taken lightly – particularly if you move your entire family.
Think carefully about the opportunities a job relocation presents. In my next post, I’ll discuss steps you can take that can not only help you make the best decision, but also ease the transition if you decide to take the job.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to technology companies and financial services firms.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Are You a Leader? Honing The Skills that You Need to Succeed in Accounting

Are You a Leader? Honing The Skills that You Need to Succeed in Accounting

Accountants aren’t generally thought of as natural leaders, but Lewis Daidone argues that strong leadership skills are essential to a successful accounting career.

What makes a great leader? Opinions differ—many believe charisma or charm is crucial to leadership; others think confidence and authenticity are the most important qualities. Whichever components ultimately form the building blocks of your particular leadership style, it is incredibly important to communicate, in words and actions, your ability to effectively lead, manage and take control whenever the situation demands it. Here are three ways you can convince your audience, interviewers, and team members that you have the skills to provide firm and valuable direction, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Look the Part

Whether it’s fair or not, humans are heavily influenced by perception. The way you carry yourself when you enter a room can convince an audience of your capabilities, even if you haven’t said a word. While having a clean and professional appearance is important, the way you walk, gesture, and make eye contact can positively or negatively influence those around you. If you aren’t confident in your ability to present yourself or command a room, it could be helpful to spend a session with a career coach.

Speak with Confidence

Have you heard yourself speak? If not, have a friend record you the next time you have a conversation so you can listen to the way you communicate. Is your voice tentative? Do you pepper your phrases with “like”, “ummm”, and “kind of”? These are little tics that diminish the authority of your message, and tell the listener that you aren’t entirely confident of the message that you are trying to convey.

Write with Style

When you communicate through email or text message, craft your words carefully. This is especially important for accountants when they have to communicate concepts that might be unfamiliar to clients or colleagues in different parts of the organization. Make sure your written communications are easily understood, concise, and to the point.

While leadership comes naturally to some people, with some practice and a little effort most people can improve their leadership skills and their opportunities for promotion and advancement.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.

Afraid of Failure? Don’t Be

Afraid of Failure? Don’t Be.

In the following article, Lewis Daidone discusses the value of making (and learning from) the occasional mistake.

When we’re new to a job, we very often live in fear that we’ll mess up something important. It’s natural. Even though no one could reasonably expect a novice to handle everything with total ease and 100 % accuracy, we still expect ourselves to perform to absolute perfection. Here are a few things to remember if you’re wracked with anxiety over the possibility of making a mistake.

No risk, no reward.

It’s a cliché, but it’s nonetheless true. If you don’t challenge yourself and put yourself in a position to succeed, your career will never develop and blossom. Remember: the most successful people didn’t achieve success because they never experienced failure; they just didn’t let failure get in their way. They owned their mistake, learned from it and then never made that same mistake again.

Fix, don’t fixate.

Dwelling on a mistake only makes you reluctant to try again. Try to reframe your approach to dealing with failures. Don’t let the embarrassment become the primary focus, shift your energy towards what actually went wrong, and address it directly. Also, don’t forget that you’ve undoubtedly learned something new during the process, which will benefit you in the long run.

Take the high road.

As soon as you realize that you made a mistake immediately bring it up to your supervisor. Timing is everything and waiting and hoping that your error may go undetected is not a viable, or ethical, solution. Then own it. Resist the urge to absolve yourself of responsibility or make excuses. It not only inhibits your ability to learn from the process, it can diminish you in the eyes of your team members and supervisors. If you own up to your mistake and eagerly move forward, it proves that you are the kind of person who can be trusted.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Working Remotely? Here’s How to Maximize Efficiency

Working Remotely? Here’s How to Maximize Efficiency

In the following article, Lewis Daidone offers tips for increasing focus when working from home. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.

On the face of it, working from a home office seems like a luxury. You don’t have that horrible commute, you don’t have to adhere to a dress code, and you have more flexibility with your schedule. However, sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. When your home is your office, you can never seem to entirely get away from your job, and it can be difficult to work through some distractions (when a pipe suddenly bursts, you don’t just call maintenance—it’s a problem you are forced to deal with). If you struggle with staying focused while working in your living space, here are a few tips that might help you get back on track.

Have a separate space specifically for work.

Depending upon the size of your home, this might not be entirely possible, but having a space entirely dedicated to work matters is tremendously helpful in minimizing distractions. When you’re working in your space, make sure you insulate yourself from home-related matters as best you can. No television, food, or social media allowed. If you get a personal phone call, remove yourself totally from the work space until it is finished, and only then, return.

Be strict with your schedule.

Cultivate the discipline to start work at a certain time every day, and finish at a certain time every day. It could also be helpful to dress for work—even though you’re only reporting to yourself. As nice as it is to be able to work in sweatpants, if you just spend the day lounging around, your initiative could dwindle—along with your productivity.

Don’t become too isolated.

Try to get out of your house during your break times. Go for a walk, or have lunch in a nearby park. Knowing that you have a break time will help you compartmentalize your work obligations from your personal life more effectively. Spending your entire day cooped up in your own home can upset your work/life balance dramatically.

Working from home effectively takes a surprising amount of discipline, but setting parameters for yourself will help you to effectively meet your professional obligations.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

New Grads: Dress For Success!

New Grads: Dress For Success!

In the following post, Lewis Daidone discusses how looking your absolute best not only helps boost your confidence, it inspires confidence in others. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.

Although dress codes have become more relaxed, there are still many firms that will require you to observe certain—possibly fairly rigid—dress codes. Even if you have to wear business professional attire, you can still comply and look unique and stylish, too. When you look polished, well-groomed, and professional, you create an unmistakable aura of success. Here are a few basic tips for looking like a million bucks in the workplace.

Tailor your suits.

Few young people bother to have their suits professionally tailored; you can tell by the boxy, bunching, ill-fitting suit jackets they wear. Both men and women can benefit from employing the services of a tailor – your clothing will look well-made, and you will look slimmer and more comfortable, too.

Keep it conservative, but add a little color

While business attire is meant to communicate proficiency and seriousness, you’re probably not going to be at your professional best if you feel like you’re dressed as an imposter. If you’re concerned about masking your individuality by wearing conservative clothing, you can always add hints of your personal style in the form of one or two colorful accessories, like argyle socks, a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf, or a bold tie-clip.

Try unique accessories.

Having a few elements of tasteful whimsy in your wardrobe actually serves a professional purpose. While strict business professional attire can be intimidating to some (particularly if you’re working with clients), having a few items that showcase your fun side can let people know that you’re open and relatable. Cufflinks; suspenders; a nice, heavy watch; a tie pin—are all acceptable business attire, while simultaneously being great additions for wardrobe personalization.

It might seem obvious, but if you’re going to shine in the workplace, it is extremely important to shine on the outside, too. You will not only look the part, you will feel it, too.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Nailing the CFO Interview: The Day of the Interview

Nailing the CFO Interview: The Day of the Interview

In the second installment Lewis Daidone offers advice for an effective and successful job interview. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and tech companies.

The interview process can be stressful; you want to demonstrate your exceptional capabilities while keeping the interviewer engaged. In some cases, too much enthusiasm can affect one’s ability to act naturally. If you’re nervous about being interviewed, these tips might help make it go smoothly.

Dress for success.

It seems obvious, but it is very important to choose your attire based on the office culture and expectations. While you may want to ask about the dress code prior to the interview, it never hurts to appear in a business suit - especially when interviewing with the CFO. Better to be too conservative than appear too casual.

Give yourself a 10-minute cushion.

Although you might be tempted to arrive as early as possible, if you arrive 20 minutes (or more) early, you could give the impression that you are either over zealous or unconcerned about the interviewer’s schedule. Whatever you do, do not arrive late. Arriving late is the most effective way of showing the interviewer that you cannot be relied upon to meet important obligations.

Start the interview the moment you walk into the building.

Don’t make the mistake of only treating the interviewer with respect. If you’re unpleasant or rude to the receptionist or anyone else for that matter, word will certainly get back to the CFO.

Be relaxed… but not too relaxed.

You want to be at ease during the interview, but don’t take familiarity too far. Keep your attitude warm, but professionally distant.

In the final installment of this CFO interview series, I’ll give you some tips on making the post-interview period work in your favor.

Monday, 19 September 2016

New Job? Here’s How to Make the Best Impression

New Job? Here’s How to Make the Best Impression

It isn’t unusual to have new job jitters during your probationary period. In the following article, Lewis Daidone discusses how you can show your best self to your new colleagues and supervisors. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and tech companies.

If you’ve just gotten your dream job at one of the Big Four accounting firms, you’re probably very anxious to make the best possible impression. However, in your eagerness to make yourself invaluable to the firm, your enthusiasm may be misconstrued as being too aggressive and you may end up alienating the people that you want to impress. If you are too introverted you may stay under their radar. Here are a few tips for truly showcasing your talent.

You might not know everything, but use everything you know.

As a new hire, you may be a small fish in a big pond, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth shut and your head down. There was a reason why you were hired, and you shouldn’t be too timid to contribute if your contribution is well-considered and based on solid experience. Don’t be afraid to take initiative or tackle a challenging task.

Keep your ego in check.

Even though you might have outshone your college peers or former colleagues with your accounting acumen, you’re in a whole new world now. Give yourself permission to adjust to the new culture, and seriously consider the advice and guidance that you receive. Make sure you know how things operate before you try to make changes.

Be accessible.

It’s true—quite a few people who are attracted to the accounting profession have introverted dispositions. Even though it might not be your instinct to reach out to new colleagues, it’s nonetheless a good idea to do so sooner rather than later. You certainly don’t have be everybody’s best friend, but you should introduce yourself to co-workers and colleagues and ask questions about the firm and the company culture.

Yes, starting a new job can be intimidating, but make it a point to become integrated into the company structure as soon as possible. If you’re a relaxed, confident, and reliable team member, you’ll not only be off to a great start, but a great career as well.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Do you Know How to Self-Market?

Do you Know How to Self-Market?

In the following post, Lewis Daidone discusses how accountants can improve their career prospects with effective marketing strategies. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.

In general, the qualities that make for a fantastic accountant don’t necessarily apply in the marketing sphere (except when determining marketing budgets). Accountants value the application of logic, while successful marketing is entirely dependent upon the ability to appeal to the often illogical habits of the consumer.

Because accountants don’t typically have the kind of fanciful disposition that can easily create appealing marketing campaigns, they aren’t very successful at marketing themselves to prospective employers and clients. If you have solid accounting credentials, it may seem like a tidy resume and social media page should be enough to broadcast your strengths to your potential targets. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough. Here are a few tips that might help you effectively demonstrate your value.

  • Don’t sell your job title—sell solutions. Your knowledge of GAAP isn’t as attractive to potential clients and employers as your history of successfully facing challenges and providing effective solutions. Describe exactly how your ideas and innovations have added organizational value and benefitted previous clients.
  • Make your passion for your career evident. Even if you became an accountant because you’re good with numbers and it’s a solid career track, those perfectly reasonable motives won’t sell your ability as much as your excitement about your job and your future will.  
  • Emphasize your stellar interpersonal skills. Accountants have an unfortunate reputation for being introverted numbers-crunchers who are happier sitting alone at a desk than giving a presentation in front of an audience. Networking and relationship-building are hugely important professional skills. If you have fantastic customer relationship skills and possess the ability to influence people, you will be an extremely valuable acquisition for any organization.
It seems counter-intuitive to try to make your accounting skills sexy, but if you want to compete, you’ll have to make yourself and your brand irresistible. 

Lewis Daidone, a certified public accountant, works as an investment management consultant with BlackRock.  Learn more about him by visiting this blog.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Accounting Mentor Programs Part 3: Recognizing a Well-Structured Mentorship Program

Accounting Mentor Programs Part 3: Recognizing a Well-Structured Mentorship Program

In the final post of the mentorship series, Lewis Daidone discusses the importance of finding a high-functioning mentorship program with clear objectives. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.

Although mentorship programs are definitely becoming more common in the financial and accounting sectors, not all programs are created equal. Here are a few indicators that you’ve found a well-constructed and effective mentoring program.
  • Goals are thoroughly defined. “Mentoring” can be a vague concept. When businesses treat mentoring programs like a cross between an introduction to the company culture and a probation period, they are failing to exploit their full organizational resources. Look for a program that has specific objectives. Does the company want to encourage cross-departmental familiarity? Does it want to give new hires the tools to pass the CPA exam? Does it want to optimize team-member performance?

  • Timetables are set and maintained. One of the most common reasons mentorship programs fail is because of a lack of commitment to any set schedule. (This is particularly true during tax season, where offices get hectic.) There should be consistent meetings between the mentor and mentee throughout the duration of the mentorship. Furthermore, there needs to be regular benchmarking of achievements, so that progress can be assessed and challenges addressed. If there is no adherence to any schedule, it is likely that the program is going, or has gone, stale.
  • The mentorship program is organization-wide. It might not be reasonable to expect every senior-level employee to mentor another employee, but everyone in the entire company has to be accessible to the mentorship program, and offer guidance when necessary.

  • The program has strong oversight. The management team should make its interest in the success of the program evident by involving itself in its operations.

Mentorship programs can be a boon to both companies and individual employees. As workplace expectations continue to develop and industry practices continue to innovate, mentorship programs will become indispensable in helping organizations meet diverse challenges.

Lewis Daidone, a certified public accountant, works as an investment management consultant with BlackRock.  Learn more about him by visiting this blog.

Monday, 11 July 2016

After the Interview—What Now? Here are 3 Follow-up Tips

In this post, Lewis Daidone discusses the importance of following up after a successful job interview. Lewis Daidone is a CPA and consultant to several financial firms and tech companies.

Congratulations! You’ve scored an interview at a highly impressive financial firm, and it went exceedingly well. So, should you just wait for the inevitable call inviting you to join the team?

Not necessarily.

Even if you’re confident that you nailed your accountant job interview, without the gift of telepathy, you can’t be certain that you will actually be their newest hire. Keep your great interview fresh in their mind by applying strategic post-interview follow-up techniques.

Send a brief email to all of your interviewers

No more than two days after your interview, you might want to send a thank you message to the interview team—individually. Make sure you don’t wait; the final decision could be made quickly, and you should make sure you communicate before it’s too late. Don’t make it too long, just a few sentences that could serve as an elevator pitch. Also—triple check for grammatical errors and misspellings!

Connect via Social Platforms

Social media conversations can be tricky if done via Facebook, but LinkedIn is a great professional channel. (Twitter could also be useful, depending upon the company culture.) However, you have to assess the willingness of the hiring manager to engage in a social media conversation. If he or she divulged any professional affiliations or school associations, you might leverage those for a social network connection.

Call the Hiring Manager

Don’t make the phone call immediately—if you still haven’t heard anything after a week, then go ahead and call the manager for an update.

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to take initiative. If done professionally, it will only impress your prospective employers. Even if you aren’t their first choice, your name may still pop up for another opening!

Lewis Daidone, a certified public accountant, works as an investment management consultant with BlackRock.  Learn more about him by visiting this blog.

Public Accounting Vs. Private Accounting

Lewis Daidone discusses the fundamental differences between public and private accountants. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and consultant to tech companies and financial firms.

What makes accounting careers so attractive? Although they are definitely appealing to those of us with a natural facility for analysis, calculation, and finance, it’s the diversity of professional applications that makes them so dynamic. While there are numerous branches of accounting with slightly different focuses, there are two major career tracks accounting students can choose: public accounting or private accounting.

Public Accounting

Those who work in a public accounting capacity will offer advisory, tax, analysis, auditing, and consulting services. They will typically work for public accounting firms—the largest being Ernst and Young, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG (known as the Big Four) —and will serve a broad array of clients from different industries. It is essential that public accountants not only have an accounting degree, but also be in possession of a Certified Public Accounting credential. Furthermore, it is extremely helpful for a public accountant to develop a strong and flexible understanding of a wide variety of industry practices and accounting transactions.

Private Accounting

While public accountants will have to be in possession of a CPA designation, private accountants may only need a bachelor’s degree—although those who hold CPAs will command higher salaries. The main difference between public and private accountants is the private accountant’s dedication to a single organization; rather than having to constantly adjust to different industries and practices, the private accountant must only focus on one. It is the job of the private accountant to process company transactions (billing and payable), as well as to develop expertise in their industry in order to help management with daily operations. This means liaising with the heads of different departments, so developing excellent team building skills is critical.

Which to Choose?

Public accounting can be quite exciting—the client base is constantly changing, and public accountancy often requires a great deal of travel. Private accountants, on the other hand, work from a single office, and are surrounded by the same team every day, which might be more comfortable for a homebody kind of personality. There might also be more room for work-life flexibility, depending upon the private accountant’s industry.

Your decision to become a public or private accountant may depend upon your desired career trajectory, your need for variety, and your personal disposition. Nevertheless, both public and private accounting careers can be thoroughly rewarding, challenging, and satisfying.

Lewis Daidone, a certified public accountant, works as an investment management consultant with BlackRock.  Learn more about him by visiting this blog.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

GPAs for CPAs: What are Optimal Grade Point Averages?

GPAs for CPAs: What are Optimal Grade Point Averages?

In today’s post, Lewis Daidone talks about whether or not grade point averages are truly important when applying for accounting positions. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant for tech companies and financial services firms.

The short answer is: 4.0 is the optimal grade point average. Sorry!

However, don’t think you can sail on the wave of an excellent GPA alone and expect to land the plum jobs. You have to supplement your excellent academic record with other value-adding achievements too.

Having a high GPA is definitely a plus—it establishes your dedication to your coursework and your in-depth understanding of diverse accounting fundamentals. Nevertheless, there is no magic number that will absolutely guarantee you a position at a prestigious company. There are innumerable other qualities that are extremely valuable to prospective employers. If you fear that your GPA isn’t that impressive, or that your grades alone might not be enough to distinguish you from other candidates, here are a few things you can do that will help you make an excellent impression.

Make your GPA stronger

Easier said than done, but if your GPA isn’t where it needs to be, make a special effort to raise it. Choose your course load strategically—make sure your class levels are appropriate, and that some of them satisfy an inherent interest so that performing well comes easily. Participate in class. Take advantage of any extra-credit opportunities your professor provides. Develop a relationship with your instructors.

Have both Scholarship and Fellowship

What are your greatest strengths as a job applicant? Naturally, you have to demonstrate your profound understanding of accountancy, but what else can you bring to the table? The student who has a near perfect or even perfect GPA but who struggles with building professional relationships might not add real value to certain firms. However, an applicant with a successful track record of taking on difficult roles and inspiring confidence in others could be quite attractive. Make sure you make an effort to demonstrate your people-skills and facility with networking. On your resume, Provide examples on your resume of situtations where you stepped up and tackled challenging interpersonal situations, or proved your strong leadership ability.

Develop a Diverse Skillset

Having the kind of attitude, intellectual curiosity, and enthusiasm that a CPA firm values are highly impressive attributes. Enrich your resume with meaningful work experience, extracurricular activities, and—eventually—a CPA credential, and you’ll be a fine prospect for any organization. 

Lewis Daidone is a consultant specializing in investment management.  Follow him on Twitter for more info.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Management Accounting and Supply Chain Management

Management Accounting and Supply Chain Management

In the modern business world, “supply chain management” is not just a buzz word; it is considered a key driver in the midst of foreign competition and offshore sourcing as well as global markets. Keeping a company’s supply chain performing well requires a high level of responsiveness, as does keeping the shelves in stores filled. Management accounting drives the necessary planning, monitoring and use of logistical information to maximize efficiencies throughout the supply chain.


Profit Driven Management Reporting

Supply chain management today involves increasing the speed of inventory and trimming costs. Accomplishing these tasks requires skills in management along with creativity. Companies compete based on how effectively they can move raw materials, parts and finished goods. Those that do it the best make the most profits. The reporting and analysis provided by the management accounting system provide the techniques and context to drive those profits. 

The accounting rules worked particularly well with companies in the past, which were more likely to be vertically integrated and focus mostly on making sales domestically. However, these principles do not necessarily work well with today’s business practices and operations.


The Challenges

There is no one size fits all management accounting solution for supply chains. Industries vary, business plans change, and strategies differ even within similar industries. It is important to use a system that works in the context of your business model, product mix and customers. The right management accounting system can be the difference between a mediocre company and a stellar performer..

Lewis Daidone works alongside boards of directors, venture capitalists, senior executives and partners toward improving infrastructure, growth projections, and fiscal results of financial services and technology companies. Follow him on Facebook to know more.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Tips for CPA Exam Prep

Prepping for the CPA Exam

Certified Public Accountant and consultant Lewis Daidone offers tips for preparing for the CPA exam

Passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination is no easy feat. About half of all people who take the CPA exam fail. In addition, it is estimated that there is only about a 20% chance of passing all four parts in one try, so proper exam preparation is crucial.

Clearly, anyone who intends to take the CPA exam has to take it extremely seriously. Not only is the exam rigorous (it's a 14 hour test), the cost for the four sections of the exam is approximately $1,000, including the application fee. In addition, I highly recommend taking a review course – and those fees range from $1,500 to $3,000. Trust me—you don't want to have to take this more than you have to!

Here are a few tips to consider regarding taking the CPA exam.

Choose your study courses carefully

Don't settle for basic review courses or those with the best advertising or those that appear affordable. Do the research. Look for hard data on student exam passing rates. Review the reviews – search for student posts on independent websites..

Study like it's your full-time job

Plan to put in 30+ hours per week of study (approximately 500 hours) for each section of the exam. In addition to dedicated study time, you can also take audio courses, and listen to them during your drive to work or on the elliptical. You will also want to simulate the exam itself – multiple times. Your review courses should offer computerized test simulations; there are also online resources you should research – some are free, These should be used only to augment the review course material, not replace it.

Take care of yourself!

If you're completely sleep deprived and run-down by the time your exam date rolls around, you're probably going to kiss all of that exhaustive prep work goodbye. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and practice your favorite stress-reduction techniques so that you will be in top physical and mental condition for your big day!

Failed the CPA Exam? Don't Panic!

Failed the CPA Exam? Don't Panic—Try Again!

Lewis Daidone discusses options for CPA candidates who've failed one or more parts of the CPA Exam. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and consultant to financial services firms and technology companies.

Taking the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination is a crucial step on the road to becoming a successful and respected accountant. However, it is a road paved with challenges. The examination is an exhaustive, 14 hour, four-part test that requires years of dedicated preparation. Approximately half of all applicants fail. Credit for any section passed is valid for 18 months from the date the exam was taken. Examination credit expires by section.

If you've failed one or more parts of the CPA Exam, don't despair! You can take the CPA Exam as many times as your schedule (and your sanity) allows.

Failing with a score of 70 – 74

If you failed one of your sections by only a few points, apply for a Notice to Schedule (NTS) to reschedule the failed section as early in the next window as practicable, and begin seriously reviewing the previous materials. You've demonstrated that you've got a strong grasp of critical concepts within that section, and you just need to pay a bit more attention to some of the nuances. You already have the exam fresh in your mind, so you're definitely in a great position to do well on the retake.

Failing with a score of 70 or lower

Those who've failed one of the exams with a score under 70 probably aren't comfortable enough with the material to retake the test successfully early in the next testing window. If you are secure in your grasp of the materials for the next part that you are studying for, continue on your current track, take that exam, and then return to the section you failed. Schedule your re-examination late enough in the following window to give yourself enough time to really nail down all of the materials.

Remember, you have 18 months to pass all four sections of the CPA exam, so use them wisely. Don't let your stumble intimidate or discourage you; stay the course and conquer that test!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Careers for Accounting Majors: They're a Lot More Diverse Than You Think Pt. 4


For some, the role of an auditor conjures up thoughts of boring, tedious and repetitive tasks that provide little job satisfaction or excitement. Why on earth would anyone want to become an auditor?

Quite a few reasons, actually!

Although an auditor may be considered a harbinger of doom in certain circumstances (think IRS), auditing jobs can be extremely fulfilling, particularly for those who enjoy problem-solving and logic puzzles. Auditors are similar to forensic accountants, except they don't typically work with law enforcement.


Auditors scrutinize every facet of an organization's financial processes and look for inefficient controls, financial leakage, lack of regulatory compliance, deficient management policies, tax discrepancies, and other situations that may result in errors and/or inconsistencies; in some cases they may even uncover fraud. An auditor will comb through financial data and records to ensure that controls are operated as designed and that proper protocols are followed in accordance with policies and procedures.

Internal Auditors: Internal auditors work within an organization. These professionals investigate and monitor existing practices and help to determine risk management protocols. An internal auditor must follow the auditing process in an independent and objective manner, in many cases internal auditing departments will have a reporting line directly to the Board of Directors to ensure their independence.

External Auditors: External auditors work for independent accounting firms and, therefore, are not employees of the firms that they audit— hence, they are completely independent. Independent Accounting Firms work for the entity that that engaged them to perform the audit, such as the Board of Directors, the parent company, or even the government. In the case of a public company (one that is listed on a public stock exchange), the Board hires an independent accounting firm to determine if the Financial Statements prepared by management present a fair and accurate picture of the company and comply with generally accepted accounting principles.

Whether you want to be an internal or external auditor depends upon the type of environment most appeals to you. Internal auditors are a part of an organization, and therefore integral to that company's culture. External auditors are independent of the organization they audit which may allow for more directness in their audit approach.


Auditors must have a Bachelor's degree, usually in accounting, business administration, or finance. Many organizations value auditors with a background in information technology or law, but having a solid grasp of your industry is essential. Many auditors, particularly external auditors, will study for and take the CPA exam in order to be credentialed as a Certified Public Accountant, which is essential for auditing public companies.


Nationally, the median salary for auditors is $53,000 per year; $61,000 if you have your CPA.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and technology companies..

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Careers for Accounting Majors: They're a Lot More Diverse than You Think Pt. 3

In the previous post, I discussed environmental accountants. In this segment, I'll be exploring the law and order-centric world of the forensic accountant.

Forensic Accountant

In addition to being one of the fastest-growing law enforcement professions, forensic accountancy is one of the more inherently interesting and satisfying branches of accounting. If you enjoy solving puzzles and a good mystery novel (and if you're also proficient with numbers), financial forensics might be the career for you.

Some of the most famous criminal cases in the United States have hinged upon the work of forensic accountancy. The Lindbergh baby kidnapping was solved by Treasury Department agent Frank Wilson; he recorded serial numbers from the ransom money and distributed those numbers in a booklet, ultimately leading to the discovery of the cash and the kidnapper. This same numbers-cruncher also helped to get Al Capone prosecuted and convicted for tax evasion.


Forensic accountants scrutinize financial, tax, and business records of individuals and organizations in order to uncover fraud or illegalities that may be pertinent to civil or criminal cases. Money laundering, tax evasion, and embezzlement all fall under the purview of the forensic accountant; occasionally, financially-motivated homicide prosecutions depend upon the work of the forensic accountant.


The level of education necessary for the forensic accountant will depend upon the agency (local, state, or federal). At minimum, the candidate will require a Bachelor's degree in accounting as well as the appropriate public accounting certification. The ideal prospect will also have had extensive coursework in criminal investigation.

Because giving expert court testimony is an essential part of a forensic accountant's duties, all forensic accountants must receive specialized training that will prepare them for court appearances, as well as techniques in financial investigation, and knowledge of state and federal laws. The ability to issue clear and effective written communications is also critical.


Salaries for forensic accountants average $65,940 per year.

In the next installment, I'll be discussing auditing.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services and technology companies.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Careers for Accounting Majors: They're a Lot More Diverse than You Think Pt. 2

It may come as a surprise that there are accounting jobs that suit nearly every personality type and area of interest. If you have a strong social and/or environmental consciousness, consider environmental accounting.

Environmental Accountants

The strong social and governmental focus on sustainable environmental practices has led to a plethora of local, state, and federal regulations. Additionally, public opinion demands that every business conduct its practice with an eye towards ecological responsibility. The environmental accountant must balance conserving company resources and eliminating waste with ensuring a positive environmental impact.


The environmental accountant integrates conservation practices and principles into standard reporting, that includes cost/benefit analyses. He/She monitors all activity along the supply chain, including administrative and operational requirements (office supply usage, electricity, etc.). Environmental accountants must also have a keen understanding of the regulations that govern the environment in which the company operates, in particular those monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal oversight agency for all public and private business entities.

Since consumer interest regarding environmentally friendly practices is now at an all-time high, it is important to demonstrate a company’s commitment to maintaining a green work environment. So everything from green packaging and sustainable manufacturing to paperless offices come under the purview of the environmental accountant to ensure the most efficient and cost effective means of maintaining an ecologically responsible workplace.


Environmental accountants must possess a Bachelor's degree; acquiring a Certified Professional Environmental Auditor's credential is essential for career growth and maximizing earning potential.


The mean salary varies depending upon location. In New York, the mean salary is $85,000—in Texas, it is $68,000. Texas, New York, and California employ the highest number of environmental accountants.

In my next post, I'll discuss forensic accounting.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and technology companies.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Careers for Accounting Majors: They're a Lot More Diverse than You Think Pt. 1

If you're looking for a fascinating career that is also in-demand, consider accounting.

According to the United States Department of Labor, accounting professionals—including budget analysts, forensic accountants, senior accountants, auditors, and controllers—are projected to be increasingly in demand well into the next decade. Accountants and auditors in particular may grow approximately 11 % faster than all other occupations on average. It is estimated that the increasing complexity of tax laws, the robust health of the economy, and enhanced regulations within the financial sector are all contributing factors to this accounting boom.

So, what's so diverse about different levels of accounting? If you've never considered a career in accounting, you might be somewhat confused as to what makes, for example, an auditor different from a controller. Don't they all deal with numbers?

They do, in a macro sense. However, there are a great many variations across industries and sectors. In this series of posts, I'll be discussing different accounting professions, what sort of personalities might find them appealing, and what kinds of specific projects the professionals can expect. First, I'll start with…

Budget Analyst

Also called a financial analyst, a budget analyst monitors and organizes the finances for his or her organization. This includes working across departments to determine budgetary needs, drafting proposals for funding, making financial projections, and drawing up budgets for any special projects. This can be either in the public or private sector, as well as in nearly any industry (health care, tech, arts and entertainment, travel, food and beverage, etc.) 

People who enjoy and excel at cross-functional collaboration would thrive as budget analysts.
In the public sector, budget analysts require a comprehensive understanding of legislative measures and regional demographics in order to effectively map out budgetary requirements and projections. People who are passionate about social issues and who would like to have a positive affect on the community are exceptionally suited to careers as public sector budget analysts. 

Salaries for local government budget analysts (with Master's degrees) begin at approximately $44,000. The average salary for federal government budget analysts is $71,220.

In the private sector, the possibilities are limitless. For example, a budget analyst working for a major network or film studio would not only perform organizational budget proposals, funding requests, and financial analysis, but also work closely with production teams for various projects. 

The average salary for budget analysts in the arts and entertainment industry is $92,370.

In my next post, I'll discuss environmental accountants!

Author Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant, and currently consulting with financial services and technology companies.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Keeping An Accurate Accounting Record

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It can be argued that accountancy can make or break a business. Governmental Agencies, mom and pop businesses and the most sophisticated financial organization realize the importance of keeping accurate accounting records. Not only to properly understand the economic state of their business, but also to help to make intelligent decisions regarding how to grow and where to deploy resources. Surprisingly, while this point of view is widely maintained, it lacks in its execution more than it should. Each Organization should design its own record-keeping system, but certain basics should always be factored into the design. Some examples regarding basic records that should be considered when designing an accounting record keeping system are listed below:

Accounting and tax records can consist of a lot of data and be very extensive. However, there are many business accounting software packages that can help consolidate all of that information. These applications require a basic knowledge of accounting and are well worth the cost of implementing based on the time, effort and resources that can be saved in the long run.

Contracts: Contracts are the building blocks to most corporate relationships. Businesses that provide services use contracts to identify the services to be provided, the means of delivery and the acceptable standards associated with the service, its delivery and the related costs. Similarly, enterprises that produce products draw up contracts establishing similar parameters for the products that they produce and sell. Employment contracts are also used extensively in business and govern the relationship between the employee and employer. In short, Contracts stipulate the terms of the business relationship, and identify the responsibilities of each party.

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While these represent just two aspects to consider when developing a robust recordkeeping system, they represent the building blocks for almost every type of business entity.

Lewis Daidone is a CPA known for his integrity and wide ranging experience working with Boards and other professionals helping entrepreneurial companies achieve success.. For more information, subscribe to this Facebook page.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Asset Management

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Asset management, broadly defined, refers to any system that monitors and maintains things of value to an entity or group. It may apply to both tangible assets such as buildings and to intangible assets such as human capital, intellectual property, and goodwill and financial assets. Asset management is a systematic process of deploying, operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets cost-effectively.

The term is most commonly used in the financial world to describe people and companies that manage investments on behalf of others. These include, for example, investment managers that manage the assets of a pension fund. The asset management industry has undergone major changes over the last 25 years. From the early 1990s until about 2008, assets under management (AUM) skyrocketed due to the high liquidity in the global financial markets and ever-increasing personal asset valuations (i.e., think housing bubble). This phase also witnessed the formation and increase in the prominence of hedge funds.

Recently, the asset management industry has undergone major changes. After the credit crisis, the sector has shrunk remarkably, as financial markets all over the world contracted, and liquidity, once abundant, became either highly restricted or non-existent. Hedge funds that were once pervasive have closed at ever expanding rates.

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Today, many of the largest asset managers have seen their AUM drop 30–40%, not only because of a decline in asset prices, but also because of clients who withdrew their money either out of necessity or due to concerns regarding the financial health of their asset managers. The crisis also brought regulatory failures to light, such as the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme.

Lewis Daidone is a certified public accountant currently working as a consultant for BlackRock, with a specialization in investment management. For more on his credentials, visit this LinkedIn profile.