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Brenden’s Booklist

April 27th, 2011 Comments off

Students don’t often have time to read a lot during the semester for obvious reasons.  As a result, I have had a number of people ask for me to make a list of the books I mention in class and that I find helpful/interesting so that they can reference the list at a later date (since course website access is blocked after the semester).  Here are some more books that I have found to be good reads of late (someone asked me how I read so much and I have to say that buying a Kindle has made me want to read so much more than when I bought regular books).  These are presented in no particular order other than as I remember them.

  1. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis.  This is perhaps the best book I’ve read in the last year on the economic meltdown.  It is great both in terms of readability and level of detail/understanding.  The author did a great job researching this book and presents it in a way that is easy to understand.  At focus here is how the incentives on Wall Street encouraged risk-taking behavior that ultimately collapsed when the housing market didn’t keep rising (many assumptions and models were based on housing prices never declining and some were based on prices never even leveling off for any period of time).
  2. Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki. I first heard about this book (and its author) on a Minnesota Public Radio program. Kawasaki proved to be as strong at authoring as he was on the radio and this was a truly enjoyable and interesting read.  If you are tasked with finding/keeping/serving customers or members you will get a lot out of this book.  In particular, I really enjoyed the sections devoted to using online social media tools such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  The use of these tools to actually engage customers rather than just to serve as an electronic brochure is something that will separate great companies from good ones in the near future and the use of these tools (and new ones that aren’t even around yet) is sure to grow.
  3. No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos is another great read.  I didn’t like it as much as The Big Short because Markopolos comes off as a bit egotistical (even moreso in person — I saw him speack at the MNCPA MBAC conference last June).  Markopolos is the guy that busted Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme.  Actually, he tried for years to get the SEC to investigate Madoff with little success and only once Madoff admitted to his crimes did Markopolos gain notoriety.  Prior to that he lived a life of fear for some time (he felt his life and the lives of his family members were in danger, in fact).  I have friends that thought this book was way bettter than The Big Short so it may just appeal to a different sort of person.  It was still worth reading to me, but just didn’t flow like The Big Short did.
  4. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Dan Pink.  This was an eye-opening book to someone that works in a field that is decidedly left-brain-based.  Pink’s point is that the left-brain functions so common to a field like accounting can often be replaced by technology/computers and a lot of what is left can be easily outsourced to developing nations. Pink has a new book out on motivation and he did a great TED Talk on it as well.
  5. Thank God It’s Monday: How to Create a Workplace You and Your Customers Love by Roxanne Emmerich.  This book is by a local woman and I first became aware of it last fall when it was featured on KARE-11 News.  She later wrote a short article for the MNCPA Footnote newsletter.  Building a workplace that employees love will automatically translate into a workplace that customers love.  The Balanced Scorecard tells us that and we can all identifiy places we have done business where we dreaded shopping and those where we loved shopping, simply because we could tell whether or not the employees were happy.  Emmerich does a great job of explaining how to set up a culture that accomplishes the goal of a happy workplace and a great place to do business.
  6. All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Joe Nocera.  I’m reading this one right now.  I still think The Big Short is a more engaging story (better written) but the details in this book are well researched and it is interesting in its own right.  I did find it to be more interesting in the last half of the book so if you find it discouraging early on, you should find that things pick up after that.  If you have to choose to read one book about the financial crisis, though, my money is on The Big Short.
  7. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.  We watched Sinek’s TED Talk on this same topic in class and the book is just as engaging while covering the same ground in more depth.  I have shared this book and video with others in my company and they have all provided great feedback and thanked me for doing so.  In hindsight, the ideas seem simple but they are obviously difficult to execute given how few companies have had success linking with their customers on the “why” of their products/services.
  8. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam.  Like A Whole New Mind, mentioned above, this book takes the approach that we need to appeal to the right-brain when making decisions and in marketing our ideas.  You’ve all heard the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and even those that think they can’t draw (like most accountants) can learn to use quick sketches to communicate and to make faster/better decisions.  Roam is a keynote speaker at the MNCPA Management & Business Advisors Conference in June. He has asked that audience members be provided whiteboards and markers to gain practice with the techniques he champions in his book (and a follow-up book) as he speaks.  It should be interesting. Note, that this book was TERRIBLE on the Kindle because the drawings were too small or jumbled up.  Get the paper edition if you buy this one.
  9. Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon by Julie MacIntosh. Is there any symbol of American marketing might bigger than Budweiser?  How is it that this company based in the heartland came to be swallowed up by InBev, a Belgian/Brazillan brewer? I loved this book and found it to be very engaging. Even with the outcome known, I found myself shaking my head at the missteps taken by the St. Louis-based brewer as globalization hit the industry.  The characters of the Busch family are exposed in great detail — they acted like Anheuser-Busch was a family company even though they had long ago become just minority shareholders incapable of stopping a takeover no matter how hard they tried.  In a story that is likely to be repeated in other industries the business world is changing and executives need to be aware of what happens outside company walls if they want to maintain power as other markets become as strong or even stronger than those dominated by American firms.
  10. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.  A LinkedIn contact recommended this book.  It was a great read and may well change how you shop for food and what you choose to consume.  I know that I am more conscious of what I put into my body after reading this.
  11. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. I didn’t realize how impacted the science of food had been by politics until I read this book.  Lots of things that were known to German scientists some 70+ years ago were discounted after World War II because of political reasons and an unwillingness to trust anything German rather than for outright scientific reasons.  Taubes offers specific advice about what to eat (protein and complex carbohydrates) and what not to each (sugar, refinef flours, carbohydrates) if the goal is to lose fat and reduce weight.  Much of this advice contradicts what Americans have been told for 50+ years, even while as a nation we get fatter and fatter. There are scientific footnotes in this text, but Taubes wrote this more for laypeople becuase an earlier book was criticized for reading like a scientific journal.
  12. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl details his life as a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II.  In that environment, life takes on a very basic form and it is this experience that sets the stage for the prism through with Frankl sees life as a psychotherapist after the war.  We get a glimpse into human behavior that likely only exists in scenarios such as those of the concentration camps and I learned a lot about life and was forced to realize that all my complaints are ridiculously minor in comparison. I stumbled on this book because I was involved in a conversation on LinkedIn about “the best book I’ve ever read.”  I didn’t even contribute to the topic because I find it difficult to elevate any one book to “the best” one ever, but someone posted this gem and I’m quite glad I read it.
  13. Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. Somehow I got a free copy of this book on my Kindle last September before it was even released.  It’s like Amazon knew I’d find it interesting and that I’d share my experience with lots of people. It highlights this same phenomenon of information sharing and decentralized structures that the authors predict will be the wave of the future.  They argue that since customers are more empowered (consider the information consumers have now about nearly any product as compared to 20 years ago) that companies need to be as well.  For example, Best Buy is featured extensively in the book for their Twelpforce concept that has turned customer service into a proactive task and customer difficulty into an opportunity instead of a curse.  I loved reading this book but I’m guessing the challenge will be to get buy-in from the people that need to make the biggest changes: those entrenched in the IT department.  In my experience, IT policies can be terribly restrictive and I’m not sure how to get the ideas presented in Empowered into the hands of the people that need to change direction since, in a way, doing so is a threat to their existence.

Accounting & Auditing Student Conference

August 12th, 2010 Comments off

How many times have you heard that it isn’t what you know it’s who you know?  Networking in all of its forms probably leads to more professional doors opening than anything else.  Professional conferences are great ways to meet people and to learn some new skills and I want to alert you to an upcoming conference that is well-suited for Accounting Majors.  If you are interested in networking with potential employers and/or are considering a career in the accounting field, you should strongly consider attending the upcoming 13th Annual Accounting & Auditing Student Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

This one day conference will be held on Thursday , September 16th.  According to the conference website, there will be representatives from over 50 accounting employers in attendance.  Additionally there is a keynote speaker and opportunities to learn important skills in breakout sessions.  Metropolitan State University has had strong participation in the past and I’ve heard good things from formers students.  The registration fee is $15 in advance or $20 at the door.  Your fee covers lunch so everything else is basically free.

For more information visit the link below:

Job Hunting Ideas for Metropolitan State Accounting Students

July 4th, 2010 2 comments

The following was originally written as an email response to one student asking about internships.  In the interest of helping other students that have similar questions about how to approach job hunting (for internships or permanent positions) I am posting it here.  Like all posts on here, I welcome comments from everyone regarding the things I have written and/or with additional resources that I have missed.  Good luck!

Getting an internship is a great idea but has grown increasingly difficult in the past couple years.  Many companies have severely cut back due to the rough economy and may not be offering internships as they have in the past.  Also, labor laws have been interpreted differently of late to make companies leery of offering unpaid (or underpaid) opportunities so those have largely disappeared.

On my blog I have posted some resources that may be helpful:

http://acct320.com/tag/internships/

I think by far the best way to get an internship (and, in fact, any job) is to network with other professionals.  A lot of these positions are not advertised and only “through the grapevine” will you hear about them and meeting regularly with other professionals could be the only way to find out about openings.

You might check into the upcoming Accounting and Auditing Student Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center (see http://www.studentconf.org/) and consider joining accounting organizations such as the Metro State Accounting Club (see http://accountingclub.metrostate.edu/) to get the ball rolling.

Other resources for networking include local chapters of the Institute of Management Accountants or the Minnesota Society of CPAs.  Both of these organizations have local meetings and that is where the value is when it comes to job hunting.  More information about student memberships can be found at: http://acct320.com/category/accounting-profession/organizations/.

Within the Metropolitan State University community, the best resource is the Career Services office.  They have resources online (at http://www.metrostate.edu/msweb/pathway/academic_success/counselcareer/career_services/) and host frequent events with the goal of connecting employers with prospective employees (like you!).

Last, but not least, a lot of networking happens online these days.  For professional purposes, LinkedIn (at http://linkedin.com) is  a winner.  Every young professional (and most older professionals) should have accounts on LinkedIn and update them frequently.  Because of my involvement on LinkedIn I have built a large base of accounting/business professionals that could help me out if something happened to my current job.  I’ve even been offered the chance to do things like edit textbooks and author articles for the professional magazines and blogs.  These are things that just “came up” because I’m active  on LinkedIn.  I like to think of LinkedIn as a Facebook for business contacts.

To get started, feel free to connect with me on there (LinkedIn only allows you to connect with people you know by using their email address) and build your network from there.  I would imagine there are student groups specific to every topic of interest that you can join and those can expose you to lots of openings and news information that will make you smarter about how things happen in the profession.

If you are in to the social networking thing, Twitter can also be a great tool.  The nice thing about Twitter is that you can follow anyone whether you know them or not and eventually relationships are established if/when people follow you back.  The definitely requires effort, but it can be well worth it if you have a few minutes each day to keep tabs on things.  I use a program called TweetDeck that allows me to see my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn updates all in one program.

Good luck in your job hunting endeavors!  Things are beginning to thaw out there but the same skills that have helped people to the top in the past are the same ones that are important now: mostly it comes down to who you know and being in the right place at the right time.  You can increase the chance of this happening by putting yourself into opportunity filled situations both online and offline.

2010 MNCPA Management & Business Advisers Conference Resources

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

This page is a collection of resources from the MNCPA Management & Business Advisers Conference held June 14 & 15, 2010 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

I compiled this list originally at posterous starting with a list of books recommended at the sessions I attended.  I have since expanded it to include books and websites from all sessions based on information I got from others on Twitter as well as from the conference materials.

This is as much a selfish endeavor as it puts all the information for books and website I want to check out in one place.  Hopefully some other folks find it useful too!

Books

Authored by or about presenters:

  1. No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos
  2. Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis by Bill George
  3. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George, David Gergen, and Peter Sims
  4. Pricing for Profitability: Activity-Based Pricing for Competitive Advantage by John L. Daly
  5. Mark Whitacre Against All Odds: How “The Informant” and his Family Turned Defeat into Triumph by Stevin Hoover
  6. Common Frauds and Internal Controls for Revenue, Purchasing and Cash Receipts by Glenn Helms
  7. Internal Control and IT: Reliable Reporting and Fraud Prevention by Glenn Helms
  8. Internal Control Essentials for Financial Managers, Accountants and Auditors by Glenn Helms
  9. Purchasing, Inventory, and Cash Disbursements: Common Frauds and Internal Controls by Glenn Helms
  10. Revenue and Cash Receipts: Common Frauds and Internal Controls by Glenn Helms

Recommended by presenters:

  1. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
  2. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
  3. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  4. Wiley IFRS: Practical Implementation Guide and Workbook by Abbas A. Mirza, Magnus Orrell, and Graham Holt
  5. Interpretation and Application of International Financial Reporting Standards 2010, Book and CD-ROM Set by Barry J. Epstein and Eva K. Jermakowicz
  6. Activity-Based Costing: Making It Work for Small and Mid-Sized Companies by Douglas T. Hicks
  7. I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It: How Accounting Information Undermines Profitability by Douglas Hicks
  8. The Informant: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald
  9. Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland, the Supermarket to the World by James B. Lieber
  10. Leadership from the Inside Out. Becoming a Leader for Life by Kevin Cashman
  11. Good to Great. Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
  12. How the Mighty Fall: and Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins
  13. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Restoring the Character Ethic by Stephen R. Covey
  14. Principled Centered Leadership by Stephen R. Covey
  15. The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces That Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age by Larry Downes
  16. And then the Roof Caved In: How Wall Street’s Greed and Stupidity Brought Capitalism to its Knees by David Faber
  17. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
  18. Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
  19. Reading Between the Lies. How to Detect Fraud and Avoid Becoming a Victim of Wall Street’s Next Scandal by Jordan E. Goodman
  20. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
  21. Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America by Arianna Huffington
  22. Ethics 101: What every Leader Needs to Know by John C. Maxwell
  23. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  24. Improving Corporate Boards: The Boardroom Insider Guidebook by Ralph D. Ward
  25. Accounting Irregularities and Financial Fraud (Third Edition) by Michael R. Young and Jack H. Nusbaum
  26. The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead by David Callahan

Websites

By or about presenters:

  1. Minnesota Society of CPAs
  2. Bill George
  3. Small Business Marketing Mavericks
  4. K2 Enterprises
  5. Mark Whitacre
  6. Gallagher Benefits
  7. James J. Hill Reference Libarary: Ethics

Recommended by presenters:

Ethics and Fraud

  1. Institute of Internal Auditors
  2. Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
  3. Cooking the Books. The Cost to the Economy
  4. The Enron Failure and the State of Corporate Disclosure
  5. Atlas Shrugged
  6. Business Ethics.The Magazine of Corporate Social Responsibility Report
  7. Ethics Matters…dedicated to promoting the thoughtful discussion of difficult moral issues. University of San Diego.
  8. Ethics Resource Center. Advancing High Ethical Standards and Practices
  9. The Future of Corporate Governance
  10. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. Written 350 B.C.E. Translated by W.D. Ross, 2007.
  11. Corporate Ethics for Financial Managers: Navigating with Case Studies and Practical Solutions by Robert W. Walter
  12. The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are doing Wrong to Get Ahead
  13. The Case of “Enronitis”? Opaque Self-Dealing and the Global Financial Effect. Policy Brief #118. 2003. Wei, Shang-Jin and Milkiewicz, Heather. Brookings Institution. .

Technology

  1. Microsoft Office Web Apps. Scaled down versions of Micrsoft Office applications (Excel, Word, OneNote, PowerPoint) that runs on the web and allows for easy collaboration with others
  2. Microsoft SkyDrive. Cloud-based storage space for documents, photos, etc.
  3. Black Viper. This will tell you which services you can disable in Windows to make it run faster without sacrificing performance.
  4. Google Places. Make sure your business listing is correct on this site. 
  5. Micosoft Partner Program. Some practitioners that do consulting may be eligible for benefits.

Accounting Standards, Financial Reporting, and Taxation

  1. Private Company Financial Reporting Committee Roadmap
  2. FASB Codification
  3. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
  4. PCAOB Online – Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
  5. Sarbanes-Oxley Act/PCAOB Implementation Central. (AICPA Center for Audit Quality)
  6. IRS Small Employer Tax Credit

Healthcare

  1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  2. Health Reform
  3. Red Flags Rule
  4. Putting Americans in Control of Their Healthcare

Twitter – hashtag #MBAC10

Presenters on Twitter:

  1. Bill George
  2. Jason Baker
  3. Caroline Melberg
  4. Tommy Stephens
  5. Mark Whitacre
  6. Chad Weinstein

Conference Tweeters:

  1. MNCPA
  2. Betsy Adrian
  3. Heidi Janssen
  4. Brenden Schaaf
  5. Kathleen Schneibel
  6. Sarah Sederstrom
  7. Linda Wedul
  8. Keri Wiskow

2010 Management & Business Advisers Conference

April 26th, 2010 Comments off

I realize that the very nature of this blog is that its primary audience is the students I have during the current semester.  So at the risk of repeating myself to the few of you that have stuck around from a year ago, I am once again posting about the MNCPA Management & Business Advisers Conference.

My post from last year still sums up the benefits of this great forum quite nicely, but this year I’m on the conference task force so I’m even more motivated to convince you to attend!  Thankfully, the schedule of sessions and speakers this year is probably the strongest it has ever been so my job is easy.

The MBAC kicks off this year with Harry Markopolos, the Bernie Madoff whistleblower, in a session that is sure to be remembered for some time. Markopolos will be signing copies of his book, No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller, after his session.

Former Medtronic CEO, Bill George, discusses his new book 7 lessons for Leading in Crisis to begin the 2nd day.  And reminiscent of Frank Abagnale (of Catch Me If You Can fame) from a few years ago, Mark Whitacre discusses ethics as framed by his conviction of fraud while blowing the whistle on price fixing at Archer Daniels Midland Company to end the conference.

Sprinkled between this giant bookends of nationally known figures is quality management and financial CPE that is hard to find elsewhere.  Conference favorite Tommy Maddox will be presenting several technology sessions, Toby Madden of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis will be back this year to discuss the current state of the economy, and many other fine speakers will speak on other great topics from cash flows to human resources to personal development.

Plus, if you are interested an accounting career you will rarely find a more diverse and connected group of CPAs in industry as you will find at this gathering.  I’ve seen people set up job interviews during lunch with people they have just met at their table and I’ve made and renewed connections with people in many industries while attending MBAC in years past.

So what does all this cost?  Hundreds of dollars?  Yes, it is $400-$500 for “regular” attendees. But student members of the MNCPA get to attend this great conference for FREE!  Yes, really!  And student membership still costs only $26/year and comes with many other benefits that just as great.  So if you are on the path to become a CPA you owe it to yourself to take advantage of this great opportunity to attend this great conference for next to nothing.

Did I mention lunch is included both days?!

Accounting & Auditing Student Conference

September 10th, 2009 Comments off

If you are interested in networking with potential employers and/or are considering a career in the accounting field, you may want to attend the upcoming Accounting & Auditing Student Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  This one day conference will be held on Tuesday, September 29th.  According to the conference website, there will be representatives from over 50 accounting employers in attendance.

For more information visit the link below:

MNCPA Management & Business Advisers Conference

June 5th, 2009 Comments off

I mentioned in class this week the upcoming Management & Business Advisers Conference presented by the Minnesota Society of CPAs.  Held each year in May or June, this is one conference that I always try to attend.  Committing two days to anything is asking a lot, but I always leave this event feeling like I learned a lot of new things about all aspects of business and management.  Like our class, this conference is not the “typical” CPA conference filled with rules, regulations, audit, and tax topics.  There are, for example, technology, management, and human resources sessions you may choose to attend that tend to be less focused on financial accounting details.

If you have the time, please consider attending this event for the learning and networking opportunities.  MNCPA Student Members (currently $26/year) gain free admission which is a considerable discount compared to the price others are paying.  If you are not currently a Student Member of the MNCPA I would encourage you to phone them to line up your membership along with the conference registration since the time between now and the conference is so short.  And even if you can’t attend the conference, consider becoming a Student Member anyway for the other great benefits and to dip your toe into the waters of the accounting profession.