A blog for and by a community of professionals
By Bridget A. Sanders
I attribute much of my career’s success to the value of a professional network. When I moved to Sacramento 10 years ago from the East Coast I was fortunate enough to obtain a position at a regional accounting firm as a forensic accountant. I was expected to build my own book of business and was encouraged to make contacts in the business community in pursuit of this goal. I took this guidance to heart, and set out to meet people by participating in professional organizations and attending various events in our community. I’m pleased to report that Sacramento has a very prosperous and welcoming business community that was kind enough to accept me into their clan!
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Our chapter board recently participated in a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis for CalCPA. This was done in response to various challenges our chapter has been facing recently. Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in attendance at meetings and events, and less overall participation in the organization. This was also a good opportunity to confirm that our chapter goals are aligned with the mission and priorities of the organization as a whole.
The objective of the analysis is not to dwell on the weaknesses and threats identified, but rather to develop ideas through leveraging existing strengths and capitalizing on potential opportunities. Our strengths include a track record of success as well as excellent programming and events offered by our chapter committees. Opportunities consist of engaging the next generation of CPAs and the use of social media. In addition to a decline in attendance at meetings and events, weaknesses include a lack of alignment between perceived and expected value of membership and ineffective communication. We’re threatened by competition from other professional organizations and the weakening community of CPA professionals.
The results of the analysis were not unexpected, and it’s our understanding many of these are consistent among the chapters. Themes surfaced in our analysis, such as:
I recently spoke at a Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Society Technical Meeting at Chico State. I spoke to the same group earlier this year about careers in accounting and included a brief discussion on forensic accounting. The specialty practice area piqued the students’ interest and they invited me back this fall to learn more. As an added bonus, Stu Robken, a fellow board member and past chapter president, accompanied me to the meeting and shared with the students that he was a retired, forensic CPA specializing in family law, as well as a charter member of BAP and a past president of the accounting society at Chico State.
I have always been fascinated by what I consider the CSI of accounting, even when I didn’t really understand what it entailed. After 10 years of experience in audit and corporate finance, I found myself in the right place at the right time and obtained a position as a forensic accountant at a regional accounting firm in Sacramento. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful boss and mentor who taught me the ropes. I was both invigorated and challenged by this field, and it required the use of all the skills in my arsenal—and then some.
I fell in love with accounting as a junior in high school. My high school in Pennsylvania offered classes primarily for vocational purposes, as many students would likely not pursue a college degree after graduation. I enjoyed math, so I thought accounting might be something worthwhile. As soon as I heard the words “debit” and “credit,” I was in love. I want to thank my high school accounting teacher, who is still teaching after 40-plus years, for starting me on an exciting career path filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, and one that would ultimately land me in the arms of my supervisor who became my husband on an audit engagement almost 20 years ago!
I continue to be amazed by what our profession has to offer. There are so many opportunities and specialties available to CPAs today! I have worked as an auditor for what (at the time) was a Big Six accounting firm, as a financial analyst summarizing international production costs for the television animation division of Walt Disney, and as a financial reporting manager consolidating the results of 40-plus countries reporting in more than 20 currencies. I’m most proud of my experience as a forensic accountant, and specifically when I hung my own shingle a few years ago. I recently gave up my practice to join a client as their CFO, where I’m able to work a reduced schedule to spend time with my pre-teen daughter. And I’m likely not done yet! This is what I most appreciate about the profession: There are always new and exciting opportunities to pursue.
Succession planning is just as important for CalCPA as it is for businesses. Succession planning needs to take place at all levels: top, middle and bottom. In other words, we need to groom experienced and qualified professionals for statewide leadership positions, young and emerging professionals for local leadership positions, and student members to become contributing members of their local chapter.
The grassroots effort begins with our student members. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s CalCPA leadership. We have three, four-year colleges with accounting programs in our region: CSU Sacramento, CSU Chico and UC Davis. To help us connect with these students, CalCPA enlists campus ambassadors to help promote the mission and goals of CalCPA, while providing feedback about how CalCPA can help advance the students towards careers in accounting. We also have many community colleges in our region. Our student outreach includes speaking in classrooms and at student organization meetings, as well as participation in Meet the Firms events.
One of our main objectives as a chapter is to build up our scholarship fund to help deserving students tackle the cost of their accounting education. We award scholarships to both community and four-year college students. I’m excited to report our chapter has awarded more than $200,000 to future CPAs over the past three years!
We raise funds for our scholarship program by hosting various events during the year. One such event is our annual golf tournament, which we’ve hosted for more than half a century! CPAs and their clients can take a break from the office for a day on the course while supporting a great cause. Foursomes play in a scramble, or best ball, format and we award prizes for both the best and worst scores for 18 holes. I’m reluctant to admit that my foursome has been a recipient of the Worst Score prize: A sleeve of tennis balls and a gift certificate for golf lessons.
Membership in professional organizations is undergoing a shift. Gone are the days when professionals almost automatically joined their statewide association—because it was something you ‘just did.” Today’s generation of professionals approach this differently. They evaluate the options and determine which memberships are worthy of their time, money and effort.
I am pleased to report that membership in CalCPA continues to offer something for everyone!
Happy June, chapter members!
One of the benefits of CalCPA membership is access to a local network of CPAs and the opportunity to attend committee meetings in our region. Our chapter remains one of the most successful in the state, primarily as a result of how active our committees are and how diligent our chairs are in organizing such outstanding meetings! Our committees generally organize meetings with topics and speakers focused on a particular technical area; however, we recently added a new committee focused entirely on developing leadership skills. In response to feedback that members want to stay local and network with CPAs in their community, we also have committees that are geographical-based and rotate technical topics and speakers.
Greetings, chapter members! I’m excited to follow Alex Brown as chapter president for the 2017-18 term. First and foremost, I want to thank Alex for his outstanding leadership and generous service to our chapter over the past few years. I also thank each of you for your membership and continued support of our chapter.
CalCPA has played a significant role in my personal and professional development over the past eight years. While I became a California CPA long ago, I worked for a few years on the East Coast, then moved back to California in 2008. I joined a local accounting firm and, being new to the area, wanted to become connected with others in the Sacramento business community. The firm leaders suggested I become involved with our local chapter. I took their advice, and have been an active member of our chapter ever since. I’ve been a director on the board since 2009 and am now on the officer path. While working as a consultant practicing in forensic accounting, I found great benefit in chairing our Forensic Services Committee. I also recently served as co-chair of a new group, the Growth Opportunities in Leadership Development (GOLD) Committee, whose goal is to provide quality continuing education in the area of leadership.
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June 13: Real Estate Conference
Aug. 20: 55th Annual Golf Tournament at Granite Bay Golf Club