Help Wanted

This blog was originally published on the AICPA’s subsidiary, CPA.com,website. Maribel is a member of the Advisory Board for CPA.com and the AICPA Digital CPA Conference. As an advisory board member, Maribel helps empower CPAs and businesses for the digital age.


It’s no secret that staffing a CPA firm with truly qualified candidates has been a challenge for quite some time.   As I describe our recruiting troubles to others, they inevitably comment, “It should be no problem with the unemployment rates we have been experiencing.”  Not so.  The common concerns within our industry circles have always been the same: candidates need to possess accounting skills as well as common sense, organizational skills, attention to details, ability to close the loop, and a commitment to quality service.   Quite a package!  And for digital CPA firms, it is getting more complicated.

The digital CPA firm requires an additional skill set to the standard package.  Our next recruitment ad will say to candidates, “We want you if you have the following:”

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“My financial statements are always late!”

This is the number one complaint we hear from clients who reach out to us for services.  About a year ago we started working with a new client.  He reached out to us for our CFO services to help him understand whether his organization’s accounting work was too much for the one-person accounting department he had set up.  What we discovered was exactly what we find in most organizations for whom we do this type of assessment.  Borrowing the format from David Letterman’s “Late Show,” I have listed below the top 5 reasons we see for financial statements delivered late:

  1. Paving the cow paths.  The processes being used on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis get the work done, but are not the most efficient.  This is very typical with organizations that, at one point, had multiple staff members in their accounting department and consolidated those responsibilities to fewer employees or even one full-time person.  This is most common when the remaining person is also new to the organization.  For lack of understanding or fear of making a mistake, they continue following the same processes since they don’t have the time to question, think, and implement a more time-efficient way to perform the same task.

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Keeping the Focus on the Mission

This blog was originally published on the Standards for Excellence Institute® website, for which Maribel is a peer reviewer. As a peer reviewer, she evaluates an organization’s application for compliance with the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.


You start with the mission – Point A.  This is your intent. You want to achieve the objectives – Point B, which is stated in your mission.  This is your goal.  You then create your annual report, which is a way of showcasing your accomplishments.  The fundamental message of this report is demonstrate how well you’ve connected the dots.  So why did your annual report miss point B?

Many organizations report on accomplishments that do not address their stated mission, or there is no clear and logical connection between their intent and their achievements.  Some organizations measure activities instead of results. I suspect that many find themselves confronted with having to report their accomplishments, and at the time, come up with the best available data that somehow measures what they’ve done.  This is a last-minute exercise at displaying such a vital aspect of your organization. I view this as a lack of proper planning at the time you set your mission and improper mapping of those essential points that align your intent with your accomplishments.

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Becoming a Digital CPA Firm – Challenges to Clients

This blog was originally published on the AICPA’s subsidiary, CPA.com website. Maribel is a member of the Advisory Board for CPA.com and the AICPA Digital CPA Conference. As an advisory board member, Maribel helps empower CPAs and businesses for the digital age.


 Becoming a digital CPA firm is an immediate benefit to clients; that’s a no-brainer.  Clients’ systems become more secure and efficient with fewer touch points.  Clients will have real-time access to their data and remote access to data from most digital devices.  In addition, they get to see their financials in a dashboard format that is easy to understand.  You would think that there would be few if any challenges, right?

Clients enjoy predictability from their service providers.  Predictability is a crucial ingredient to the trust equation.  Attempting to change the processes and the way they must now think about the information brings instability, even if the client understands the benefits.  A usual question is, “Why change a system that is working well at this time?”  Timing can be an issue since we usually try to make these changes to coincide with the client’s fiscal year end, but it may not be the most convenient time for the client if they have an important event or vacation planned.

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Happy auditors= good audit

We just finished the financial statement audit of one of our clients. The auditor, with whom we’ve worked for many years, came to see me after he finished filed work to discuss how the audit went and what to expect.  I was surprised by how much he had to say about the credit card and bill payment system we had implemented last year for this client.

The client being audited is a not-for-profit organization that operates in a virtual environment.  They have staff in practically every state and we operate their entire Finance Department.  Last year, we implemented Bill.com for their bills and Expensify for their credit card bills.  There are 13 credit cards, since each program director has one.  In addition, employees can request reimbursement of expenses through Expensify.

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Becoming a Digital CPA Firm – Challenges to Staff

This blog was originally published on the AICPA’s subsidiary, CPA.com website. Maribel is a member of the Advisory Board for CPA.com and the AICPA Digital CPA Conference. As an advisory board member, Maribel helps empower CPAs and businesses for the digital age.


Attending the CPA.com and AICPA’s first Digital CPA Conference at the end of 2012 was a huge “Aha!” moment for me.   For years I knew that technology was advancing rapidly and that the processes we were using to service our clients could be replaced with much more efficient workflows.  During our internal team meetings we discussed increasing the efficiency of our processing of transactions to allow us to focus on being our clients’ advisors.  The Digital CPA Conference provided the context and platforms I thought existed but did not know how to bring together.  We jumped in the digital bandwagon and started the process of becoming a digital CPA firm.  This was over 18 months ago and even though we’ve come a long way, we have encountered several expected and unexpected challenges along the way.

Our first mistake was not being clear and specific about how these changes would affect each staff member. 

Making the decision was never a challenge since I hold the highest level of decision-making in the firm.  However, I needed to quickly get the buy-in from other leaders in the firm – I need a champion to echo my excitement and sense of urgency.  We were off to a good start after attending a two-day workshop that gave us sufficient compelling reasons to move in this direction.  It was on the way back from this workshop that we discussed how this new blueprint for servicing our clients would affect staff members and company culture.  We recognized this was going to be one of our immediate expected challenges.  The unexpected challenge was the blank expressions we faced during our quarterly firm meeting after showing a very detailed power point presentation of the changes we had in mind for the firm.

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5 Steps to Approving a Bank Reconciliation

Reviewing the monthly bank reconciliations is part of a complete set of internal controls for your organization’s financial process and will be an item your auditors will look for.  However, for those of you new to this task or for those who simply want a quick break-down of the process, read on… I will try to simplify it for you in 5 easy steps.

STEP 1

A bank reconciliation report is fundamentally a comparison of your bank account balance according to the bank versus the bank account balance according to your accounting records.  You must therefore request the following three documents to do a proper review:

  1. Bank statement (from the bank) for the corresponding month.
  2. Reconciliation Report for the corresponding month (this is generated from the accounting software).
  3. Balance Sheet or Trial Balance for the corresponding month (also generated from the accounting software). Continue reading “5 Steps to Approving a Bank Reconciliation” »