5 Essential Business Skills Needed in Accounting

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It’s true that management accountants need the know-how to balance a budget, to complete a month-end report, and many other financial skills of managing a business. But other skills are equally important for success in our careers.

Mastering these 5 business skills will help you grow professionally and advance your career as a management accountant.

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  1. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Open communication and collaborating with your team are keys to success. Writing skills are necessary for clear and coherent reports. A very wise business leader once told me that he knew he didn’t really understand something until he could explain it succinctly, in writing, to someone else. Working on presentations and collaborating on special projects with employees outside of your department will help you cultivate this skill set.

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  1. Organization

Managing your workload isn’t easy when piles of papers have accumulated on your desk for the past three months. Organized employees have the most streamlined processes because they know where to find what they’re looking for, whether it be paper or digital. Organize your digital filing system in a clear and consistent manner; make sure your files are properly backed up, and important schedules and documents are available to your colleagues in your absence.

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  1. Leadership

Leadership skills are important for management accountants at every level of an organization. Taking charge of your work and your team will demonstrate your promotability. A leader emerges when the group is presented with a challenge, and one person demonstrates the commitment and competence to make sure the team delivers.

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  1. Time Management

Deadlines are an important part of our jobs as management accountants. We have regulatory filing deadlines and ever-increasing pressure for a rapid monthly close. Managing your time well reduces the stress of the deadline and allows you to prioritize your work. Streamlining the recurring work and completing it earlier in the month gives you more time to focus on new projects and innovations.

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  1. Use of Technology

In the age of digital offices and video conferencing, we need to be one step ahead of the cyberfraudsters. This means you’re continuously scanning the landscape for improved processes and accounting software and leading (or co-leading with the IT department) its implementation.

Accountants as Business Partners

Professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential are in the perfect position to be leaders in their organization. They have the balance of accounting and business skills needed to become trusted business partners. You can find learning resources, including webinars, online courses, and educational articles, at IMA’s website: www.imanet.org/learning-center/learning-center-overview.

Written by Doreen Remmen

 


PLEASE NOTE: In the spirit of collaboration, the Moments that Matter blog will be migrating to the Strategic Finance website later in August under a new name: “IMA Moments.” We are very excited for this collaboration. I would like to thank all of our loyal readers for following our blog for the past three years, and I’m looking forward to your continued readership.

 


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Career Advice: The Moment That Mattered for Us

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IMA’s top thought leaders are sharing the best career advice they’ve ever received, which helped shape them into the professionals they are today.

 

JeffACE20160619-_MTMspotJeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s president and CEO. Undoubtedly, he has received much career advice throughout the years, but what stuck with him the most pertained to becoming a business partner:

“To add value in your position, learn the business. This gives you the context to learn, grow, and influence. Simple as that! ‘The business’ includes your industry, how value flows, your customers, how decisions are made in your company, and what are the levers to being an influential business partner.”

 

Dennis Whitney, CMA, is IMA’s senior vice president of certifications, exams, and content integration. The advice he received early in his career helped him balance his workload:

“When I was in my late 20s, a supervisor/mentor told me to work hard, but have fun, and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. This advice helped me be both more productive and happier as I work toward focusing only on what matters most.”

 

Debbie Warner, CPLP, is IMA’s vice president of education and career services and was inspired by career advice about continuing education:

“Make learning a lifelong adventure. Not only is it fun to continually expand your horizon, but the knowledge you gain is something you will ‘own’ throughout your life and helps to determine your uniqueness.”

 

Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE, is IMA’s director of technical accounting activities. The best career advice she received was in the area of advocacy:

“Take control of your career, and become your strongest advocate. Carve out and identify your area of expertise, and develop a career path accordingly. That advice is why I think I was considered for my original position at IMA 10 years ago, as director of professional advocacy. As I continue to be an advocate for my career, I am also a strong advocate for IMA and love opportunities that allow me to talk about IMA’s membership benefits, including the CMA® [Certified Management Accountant] designation.”

 

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, is IMA’s vice president of research and professor-in-residence. He was inspired at a young age to strive to reach his goals:

“One of my high school teachers wrote in my yearbook something to the effect that in order to succeed, you need both ‘smarts’ and perseverance; one of these alone was not sufficient.”

 

Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO.

“The best career advice I received was the advice I gave myself: ‘Get certified!’”

 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Did it help you grow personally and professionally? How else did it change you? Leave your comments below!

 

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Accountants as Salespeople: 5 Tips for Acing the Interview

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As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I interview candidates for many positions in our organization, including our open accounting/finance positions. Over the years, I’ve realized that the most successful candidates for any job approach the interview the way a strong salesperson handles an important opportunity.

Like a salesperson landing the deal of a lifetime, you will have to “pitch” the technical skills on your résumé—your credentials, expertise with software, and ability to produce results—during an interview for an accounting position. Here are some practical tips that can give you a competitive edge.

 

1. Be polite to the receptionist.

He or she is the first of many “gatekeepers” you’ll meet. You’ll probably need to show the receptionist or security personnel your ID—so don’t leave your wallet in the car! Making a good impression on the receptionist won’t guarantee you a position with the firm, but if the receptionist doesn’t like you, others will hear about it, and your chances will be diminished.

 

2. Be on time for the interview.

Happy business woman showing clock

Effective salespeople are never late to an important meeting. In fact, you should be a half hour early, and be gracious. The HR representative will insist that you fill out an application before anyone talks to you. Most companies use a form that asks for information not on your résumé, including salary history and reasons for leaving your previous positions.

Sometimes applicants with strong résumés balk at the application form—they want to go straight to the meeting with the executive team. This raises red flags; the last thing a firm wants is to hire a prima donna at any level.

 

3. Be accurate, thorough, and neat with the application form.

The form is a window into how well-organized you are and how neatly and accurately you’ll handle the reporting responsibilities of the Finance team. A recruiter once told me that whenever he was interviewing for controller positions he would walk the candidate to his or her car and take a peak inside. If the car were full of piles of junk, he wouldn’t present the candidate. Every salesperson knows that neatness counts. This is particularly true if you’re trying to land a job in accounting.

 

4. Prepare for the interview.

interviewGreat salespeople invest in preparation for their meetings. The most important question I ask applicants is, “What would you like to know about our organization?” This is an invitation to engage in a dialogue and to demonstrate the work the candidate has done to prepare for the interview.

The people with the best questions are those who have researched the history of IMA, the CMA program, our global membership network, and our products and services. A thoughtful compliment about our website goes a long way. People who have clearly spent time preparing for the interview, looking at the website, and thinking about questions they’d like to ask have the curiosity and drive we want on our team.

 

5. Ease awkward situations to establish rapport.

The best salespeople are as good at listening as they are at speaking. Once you’ve made it to the interview, you may realize that the hiring manager lacks interviewing skills. Don’t be judgmental; have compassion. He or she may be new to the role or may experience so little turnover on the team that interviewing opportunities are rare.

Also, many hiring managers find the interviewing process very stressful. If there are awkward pauses or if the interviewer runs out of questions for you, here is another salesperson’s tip: people love to talk about themselves. Ask questions about the interviewer’s own career path. Try to find out what motivates him or her and what challenges are trying to be solved. The goal is to establish rapport. Then you can turn back the conversation to the ways you can solve the interviewer’s challenges.

 

Sealing the Deal

Hiring managers are inundated with applications every time they post a job opening. If you are fortunate enough to make it through the initial screening process to get an interview, these 5 tips will increase your chances of landing the job. Only after incorporating these tips can you effectively “pitch” your product and close the deal by showing how your unique skills and abilities are the perfect fit.

 

Written by Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

 

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My Road to Accounting

As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I oversee the strategic planning process; the information technology, finance, facilities, and human resources departments; and other operational aspects of IMA. My responsibilities mirror “the expanding role of the CFO,” a role that IMA and others have written much about. Like  many CFOs, I have a strong background in accounting, but each of us has a unique journey. I haven’t always followed the traditional accounting path.

From English to Accounting

When I entered college, English literature was my passion, but I wasn’t really sure what direction my career would take. My husband and I moved several times in the early years of our marriage in support of his career as a racehorse trainer. We relied on professional tax and accounting services to run the business. When we discovered that our tax advisor had made a serious error, I decided to enter the MBA program at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, to learn enough accounting and tax so that we would never be at the mercy of others to do that work for us. I knew I needed to understand the world of finance for self-preservation, and I discovered that the study of business was a new passion.

I landed a job as a staff accountant with Ernst and Whinney (now Ernst and Young) in Alberta, Canada, and convinced my husband to move his stable there. But, after two years in Alberta, it became clear that his talents belonged in the larger U.S. market. So we relocated to New Jersey. Our family had grown—we have three children—and, as much as I loved public accounting, I had to abandon that track to establish an acceptable work-life balance. I was very fortunate to land great jobs with progressively more responsibility.

A decade later, with a well-rounded accounting education, public accounting experience, and several years of controllership, I found myself searching for a new position when the company I worked for was sold. It was clear that I needed professional certification to obtain a desirable CFO role in an increasingly competitive job market. That’s when I found IMA® and its CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification.

Building My Brand

The CMA helped me pull together all the threads of my career—experience at a number of companies and education at several different universities—in order to present a credential that I could easily explain to potential employers.

Whenever I needed resources, I turned to IMA. Whether it was literature on best practices to streamline the finance department, implementing ethics training programs, or improving profitability by customer, IMA always offered valuable tools for me to build my personal brand and prove my expertise in the field. I was also published in Strategic Finance, IMA’s flagship publication, which helped prove my expertise.

Finding the career path that’s right for you isn’t always easy; sometimes you have to hold a variety of jobs, move around the country, or have a family to find what you’re truly passionate about. IMA helped me on my career journey, and it can help you, too.

By Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

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