Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Winter Internship - What is it really like?

2016 Winter Intern Jenny Zhang shares her experience as a winter intern

As a winter intern, I really enjoyed the past two months that I have worked at Jones and Roth. I love everything about this internship: the culture of Jones & Roth, the training, the work environment, the accountability of my supervisors, and the collaboration with my peers.

I have learned a lot not only about affordable housing. the area that I mainly focused on during my internship, but I also improved my communication and collaboration skills while working with managers and co-workers. I have never been left on my own as a new intern. There was always someone here to help me (either staff accountants, managers or shareholders) when I had questions.

During the busy season, Jones & Roth as a firm really cares about their people. They have tried to ease our stress by holding various activities, such as trivia nights or sparkling Friday. During the work days, the Firm provided lunch or sweet treats throughout the season. And, there were always plenty of fresh fruits or other snacks for us in the breakroom.

There were so many great things that I liked about my internship with JR. I had such a good time here learning, working and improving. I am looking forward to starting as a full time Staff Accountant in July.

Jenny is a student at the University of Oregon.  She will be graduating June 2016 and starting as a Staff Accountant with Jones & Roth in July.  

Jones & Roth will be recruiting for 2017 winter internships in the fall of 2016.  Check your school career site or jrcpa.com for more information this summer.

Monday, March 14, 2016

How to Stay Positive During Busy Season

Busy season is an exciting time of year.  You and your team are working hard to serve the Firm's clients. There is a lot of energy in the air, you're learning a ton and getting things done.

The long hours, client deadlines and time away from home can create stress.  Stress can make it difficult to stay positive.  But, being positive can keep us going during busy season!

The article below has some great tips for maintaining positivity during busy season.  Keep these tips in mind as you get closer to deadlines to have a great experience and have energy for the next phase of the year.

  • Others Are Stressed Too - We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.  Instead of taking those actions personally, consider that they are under stress too and may be having a bad day.
  • Don't Take On Too Much - A shareholder asks if you have time to help with a project. You feel everyone is busy and if you don't take it on, there is no one else.  So, you take it on, then are frustrated because you have to work more to get it done.  Don't make assumptions about the workload and urgency of the project.  Ask questions and be realistic about what you can do.
  • Communicate - During busy season, many people avoid meetings, don't read emails and avoid extra conversations because they "don't have time" for it.  What ends up happening is that small issues turn into big issues because they weren't addressed quickly.  Firms can generally deal with any issue that comes up in advance as there is time to readjust. Talk to your supervisors and team members about your problems or concerns early.
  • Take Care of Yourself - Busy season tends to be cold and flu season.  Illness can go around the office.  If you're not taking care of yourself, it's likely you'll get sick.  Many people feel that they have to come to work sick because they will get so behind.  But, you coming to work sick adds to the problem.  Your co-workers get ill, your illness lasts longer than it should or gets worse and requires more time away.  Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy and have time with friends and family. If you do get sick, take time to heal and come back productive and ready to go.
  • It Will Get Done - I remember being so frustrated when a partner I worked with would tell me to just stay calm, it would all work out.  During the peak of busy season, this seemed crazy to me.  But, after 20+ years in the industry, I know that we will get through the difficult deadlines.  It might not go as planned, but we will adjust and get through it.  Instead of focusing on the deadline in the future, focus on what you get done today.  One day at a time will get you to the end.
Remember the positives of busy season;  you're learning more than ever, you're helping clients, you are working as a team and are a critical part of that team.  The skills you learn during this time of you will help you in the future.

Check out the article from Convergence Coaching for more details on these areas.

Maintaining Positivity during Busy Season

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In the midst of fall recruiting season, can you find your passion?

It's fall recruiting season.  Students across the country are applying and interviewing for internships and staff accountant positions.  During the interviews, we get questions about work hours, service areas and job expectations.  Those are all great questions, but I would love to talk more about passion!

As Happy Brain Science's article (see link below) states: 

"Passion for your work is about energy and meaning.  It’s getting energized by your work, and finding–or creating–the meaning in your work"

A career in public accounting could span decades. When you find the work that gives you energy and meaning, you enjoy coming to work, you are positive, engaged and inspire others.  

I've been lucky to work for a firm that encourages team members to find their passion.  I've been able to explore many different areas of public accounting from municipal auditing to tax services, to succession planning and more.  What I've come to learn about myself is that I love to learn.  I like to take on challenges and solve problems. For me, I've found I'm most passionate about is helping others find their passion - doing that as a coach or mentor for clients and our team members is a great fit for me.  

During this recruiting cycle, I encourage you to talk to professionals about their passions and to pay attention to what excites you.  Then, find a firm that allows you to build on that passion.

Happy Brain Science's article gives you some basic tips to set the stage to help you identify your passion and encourage happiness in your work.  Take a few minutes to read this article and apply the tips in your life. 

Happy recruiting!

Happy Brain Science - How to find more passion at work

Monday, September 28, 2015

Choices: Why consider a Local/Regional CPA firm?

Your accounting degree provides many career options after graduation.  It can be a little overwhelming to consider which path to take.  

I've been at Jones & Roth for over 20 years.  Here is my perspective on the advantages of working for a Local/Regional firm.

Public accounting is a challenging career with busy seasons.  There are times you'll be working a lot of hours.  Guess who will be there with you?  Your co-workers.  Work is so much easier when you like the people you work with.  I've been blessed to work with wonderful people over the years that were so supportive, collaborative and focused on working together to make a positive impact for our clients.  My mentors and co-workers have provided support, advice and fun.  Since we have individualized career plans, we aren't competitive with each other, but helpful and supportive.  The people have made such a positive impact on my life and career.  

At Jones & Roth, each team member creates their own customized career path that addresses their interests, passions and strengths with an intention of balancing their professional and personal goals.   Coming out of school, it's hard to say what you want your career to look like. We encourage team members to explore service and industry areas and identify the types of clients they enjoy working with. As a manager and shareholder, most of your time will be spent with those clients so find the industries that challenge and excite you.  

I've explored all types of technical and industry services including governmental auditing, closely held family groups, manufacturing, nonprofit, tax preparation and planning services, advisory services and now I'm working with firm wide operations.  I would have never been able to predict my career path.  I would not have experienced the variety if I didn't work in a local/regional firm.  Keep an open mind and see where your career will take you.

Local/Regional firms have incredible flexibility for team members.  Over the last 17+ years, I've worked a FlexLife schedule to allow me to be a homeroom parent, volunteer at my kids school, coach soccer teams, and care for my grandparents.  I've continued to advance and take advantages of opportunities within the firm with the support and mentoring of the partners. You will events that happen in your life that impact your priorities.  A flexible firm will help you navigate through those changes.

At a Local/Regional Firm you are part of running the firm.  At J&R, everyone has opportunities to provide input in to how things are run.  Have an idea to improve a process?  It's welcomed. Interested in leading a new industry niche?  Tell us about it.  Have ideas about employee morale?  Share your thoughts.  It's exciting to know our input can make a difference and we have the ability to help the firm continuously improve and change.  Use your entrepreneurial spirit as soon as you start.

Client Relationships
Jones & Roth does not work with publicly traded companies.  What does that mean?  That means we are working with closely held businesses and we get to work directly to the owners and key management t.  Our clients aren't just looking for compliance advice. They want a trusted advisor to help them build a successful business.  That means we need to understand their business.  Our job as advisors is to help the individual business owners achieve their own success.  We get to know our clients, their families, their dreams, what keeps them up at night and then help them get to where they want to go. How exciting is that?!

At Jones & Roth, we are encouraged to make an impact from day 1 - an impact on our clients, community and each other.  That looks different for each of us.  I choose to get involved in youth sports and Girl Scouts.  I had a passion for both and jumped in with both feet.  I was able to make an impact and represent my firm in a positive way.  Building strong relationships with clients gives us the opportunity to improve someone's life.  Being a supportive, engaged team member makes an impact on our team members now and in the future.

These are just a few of the reasons why choosing a Local/Regional firm was right for me.  I could share many more. 

I encourage you to consider this option.  Talk to these firms at recruiting events, ask the representatives what they love about their firm and see if this option is right for you.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Happens at a Shareholder Retreat?

Our Shareholder group had a retreat last week.  I often get questions about what happens at the retreat.

Let's start with the purpose of a retreat.  Each firm's retreat may serve different purposes.  Firm size, operating structure and history can impact the reasons for having a retreat.  Here are some of the common purposes for having a retreat:

  • Review and Accountability - A retreat is a great format to review the results of the last year.  How did the firm perform compared to expectations?  Why were there differences? Have departments and service areas performed as expected?  Why or why not? 
  • Clarify vision and strategic focus - It's important to revisit where the firm is going and how it's going to get there.  All shareholders needs to be working towards the same future.  The group needs to look at what has changed within the industry and markets that may impact the firm.  Is the strategic focus we developed a year ago still relevant? Should we continue to focus our time and resources in the same niche areas?  What are the key issues facing our firm?  How will we handle them?
  • Strategic Niche Planning - Once the group refines the strategic focus, it's important to drill down to create clear, measurable plans for each niche or service area.  What are the strategic goals of the dental niche and what actions will move the niche towards those goals?  What milestones and performance indicators should we watch to make sure the niche is on the right track?  
  • Key Firm Issues - Every firm has key issues that need to be address.  Some are common to many CPA firms, such as succession planning, staffing and team development.  Others may be more specific such as future mergers, hiring, technology, evaluating key team members, etc. Having a discussion and developing a plan to address the key issues is important.
  • Shareholder Relationships - Shareholders are the leaders of the firm. They must have a common vision and share consistent messages across the firm.  To do that there must be teamwork, effective communication and mutual respect.  Many shareholders don't work directly with other shareholders on a daily basis, so it's important to have team building activities and social time to keep the bonds strong.  The retreat offers an opportunity to reconnect and strengthen relationships.
So, what happens at the Shareholder retreat?  Lots of brainstorming, strategizing, questioning, problem solving, spirited discussions and hopefully some fun.  The Shareholder group comes back to the office with a clear direction, strong relationships and excitement about the future.  

Here are a few photos from the J&R Retreat last week.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Managing Stress During Busy Season

During busy season, most CPAs work 55-70 hours a week or more.  Although our firm tries to manage the work hours, it is still a peak time of year that can create stress.  

Stress can impact not only your productivity at work, but also your happiness at home. It's critical for CPAs to find ways to manage their stress during busy season.

Stress management is different for everyone but here are a few ideas that our team uses to destress throughout the day.  See the link below for an article with tips on how to re energize during your lunch break.

  • Move - Take short breaks through out the day to move.  Walk around the block or even to the water cooler.  Just that little change in position can help release the stress of being at your desk for too long.
  • Work Schedule - Most firms are pretty flexible with how you work your extra hours during busy season and most firms give you clear expectations of work hours.  Take time to think about when you are most productive at work and schedule your work hours during that time.  If you're a morning person and are working late into the evening, you are probably not being efficient or effective.  If you start feeling unproductive, take a break and come back when you are able to focus.  Don't forget to communicate your work schedule to your team members.  
  • Exercise - Find a way to keep exercise in your schedule.  You are working long hours and often people give up exercise first.  But, exercise is a proven stress buster and productivity improver.  Get up early, go for a quick run at lunch or do some body weight exercises when you get home.  It will improve your energy levels, clear your mind, help you be efficient at work and happier at home.
  • Socialize - Most firms offer food at some point during the week.  Instead of taking the food back to your office to continue working, take 5-10 minutes to eat and chat with your co-workers...about something other than work.  Give yourself a mental break.
  • Family and Friends - Schedule time with your family and friends.  Be diligent about protecting this time.  Plan an outing, a nice meal or a game night at home.  Find a way to spend quality time that keeps you engaged in a fun activity with the people you love.
  • Focus on the Impact - In the midst of long days and impending deadlines, it's easy to lose sight of what you are really doing.  You are providing a tremendous value to your clients by giving them peace of mind.  You are giving suggestions and advice that can help your clients be more successful, save money and build financial stability. Busy season is the best time of year to see your impact in action. You're making a difference!

What tools and tips do you have to manage your stress?

7 Relaxing Ways to Spend Your Lunch Break

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is this your first Busy Season?

January through April 15th in a CPA firm is a little crazy.  There are deadlines, long hours and stress. But it's also a fun and energizing time of year where the whole firm pitches in to help serve clients.  

It's a little scary and hard to prepare for your first busy season.  You've heard about the long hours and demands, but don't know how you'll respond.  You're excited for the opportunity to learn and help clients, but aren't sure what's going to happen.

Keep in mind that you will be a stronger, better accountant and person after you make it through your first busy season.  You'll build stronger relationships with your co-workers.  Your technical skills will grow tremendously and you'll be able to answer friend and family's questions about accounting. You'll learn to be very efficient with your time. You'll develop even stronger communication skills. You'll make an impact on your team and clients.  You'll even have some fun!

There are things you can do to prepare yourself for your first busy season (or second, or third...)

Take some time to talk to a coach or mentor about what to expect in your firm.  Talk with someone with more experience.  Ask them about the challenges and rewards of a busy season.  How did they handle the long hours and deadlines?  How did they balance a personal life?  What did they do to deal with the stress?  What did they love about busy season?  How did they make it fun?

Make sure you're clear on the expectations for your performance.  What are the expectations for work hours?  Will you need to work every Saturday?  How late do you need to be in the office?  Who will help with your questions?  Will my supervisors turn into crazy monsters?  What if I get sick?  

There are so many questions!  

The article below has great tips to help you prepare for a successful busy season.   Check them out.

Good luck!

Tips for Busy Season