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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Take the Guesswork Out of Creating a Development Plan

In my role at IMA©, I oversee the creation of management accounting educational products that help our members expand their professional knowledge and skills. These products include webinars, online self-development courses, and live events such as IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo and Leadership Academy workshops.

Before selecting educational products, it’s important to first take stock of your professional development needs for your current situation as well as your career aspirations, and then put together a plan. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are some ideas.

Take Stock in Your Professional Knowledge and Skills

Young businesswoman thinking and cloud of mind with quiestionsThe first step in creating a professional development plan is to assess your management accounting skills and knowledge. There are various ways to do this. You can ask your colleagues or manager for their perspective, consider feedback received during your performance reviews, talk with a mentor or coach, or do a self-assessment. After obtaining feedback and results, you can then determine which areas for growth you want to focus on when building your development plan.

Plan Your Development

Once you’ve benchmarked your skills and prioritized areas for improvement, you can start building a development plan that is customized to your particular needs. This involves considering the extent of what you need to learn, how much time you have to devote to expanding your skills, and what types of education you find most attractive. Remember to consider various options for development, including self-study online courses and webinars, relevant books and publications by thought leaders, blended learning solutions involving classes and online courseware, live events such as conferences or specific training sessions, networking with others, and on-the-job activities.

After researching the various learning opportunities, select those which you feel best meet your needs and record them on your development plan. Also, determine the date you want to start each of your selections as well as a completion date.

Commit to Your Plan

A critical next step is to “work” your development plan by starting and completing the activities you’ve identified to close your skill gaps. As you progress with your activities, it will also be important to update your development plan with actual results. This will keep you motivated to continue on your professional development path. Then, at certain intervals (such as quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly), you should take stock regarding the broader progress made against areas for improvement to ensure you are successfully closing your skills gap. If diligent about your efforts, you will be proud to see your progress.

Continue Your Professional Development Progress

careerdriverIMA’s CareerDriver ™ career planning tool is designed to help members assess their management accounting competencies and create personalized development plans. Whether you are looking to transition into a new role, strengthen your skills, or discover new professional possibilities, Career Driver has the right personalized approach for you.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a lifelong adventure as well as critical to professional success in your current and future positions. The personal assessment and development plan process is a continuous discipline in which you will reap many benefits. Enjoy this important professional journey!

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

 

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Confronting the Skills Gap – IMA
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The Importance of Integrity in a Certification Program

At IMA, we’re dedicated to quality and providing the most prestigious management accounting certification in the world: the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). For more than 40 years, we have been building a professional certification program that is a true reflection of the management accounting profession. And over the years, the standard for earning the CMA has remained high.

I attribute this continuous high standard and respected reputation to the integrity of the CMA exam. An exam has integrity if it’s both valid and reliable, which in turn leads to consistent outcomes. When professionals pass an exam—and earn a certification—that has integrity, they have more confidence in their day-to-day work, and employers identify them as experts in the field.

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THE CMA’S INTEGRITY…

To earn the CMA, professionals need to pass the challenging two-part exam, fulfill an educational requirement, and meet an experience requirement. In addition, CMAs commit to the ethical standards in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice and an annual continuing education requirement.

To ensure the CMA validates competence in the in-demand skills needed by management accountants, we regularly update the questions and the content specification outline to reflect the most current knowledge and skill requirements.

These high standards advance the management accounting profession and the careers of those working in the field. A certification with high standards of integrity and trust is a signal to employers that you’ve taken and passed a rigorous exam and sets you apart from your peers.

 

…INCREASES YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

comp_advantThroughout the years, we’ve ensured an unwavering attention to integrity by using robust processes to ensure the questions on the CMA exam are psychometrically reliable, ensuring strong internal controls at testing centers, and committing to continuous improvement.

In addition, we haven’t grandfathered anyone into the CMA program, meaning that every professional holding the CMA has taken an exam, and no one has earned our designation by simply writing a check.

Adding those three letters to the end of your name shows employers that you have taken a rigorous, relevant, and trusted exam and have the skills necessary to drive business performance. Employers see you as a trusted business partner.

 

…IMPROVES YOUR CAREER

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Investing in your career really pays off. Not only do CMAs earn an average of 61% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers, but they also enjoy faster advancement opportunities and employer recognition.

When you start searching for a credential with integrity, make sure you choose the right one for you and your career. Earning a certification with integrity gives you the confidence you need to take your career to the next level. And since the CMA is a global certification, you can take it with you wherever you go.

Nearly 50,000 of your peers in more than 100 countries have earned their CMA. We’re confident that those who have passed the exam have demonstrated competence in the management accounting and financial management skills necessary to perform at a consistently high level.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA

 

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“The CMA: Rigorous, Relevant, and Trusted”Strategic Finance

“IMA’s 2015 Global Salary Survey” – IMA

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

Related Articles
How To Choose A New Career Path – Forbes
The Changing Role of the CFO – ACCA and IMA

International Accounting Day: Celebrating Our Young Professionals

Happy International Accounting Day! I’d like to celebrate by shining a light on the future of our profession: young professionals. This year’s winners of IMA’s Young Professional of the Year Award were chosen for their outstanding and creative approaches to problem solving within the accounting and finance profession. These forward-looking individuals are the driving force behind the evolution of our profession.

adrien dubourgAdrien Dubourg, CMA, CPA, is a manager for the EPM Finance Transformation Practice at The Hackett Group. He has served as a board member of IMA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter for 3+ years, including leading its Young Professionals and Academic Relations Committee. He’s also the treasurer of a nonprofit and sometimes gives lectures for CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) candidates at the University of Dallas. Adrien loves to spend time with his two sons and wife. He says that being passionate about what you do will drive you to career success.

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Ashley_2014Ashley Gibson, CMA, CPA, is a manager at Deloitte Advisory and a member of IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices Committee. She is currently a student in the Professional MBA Program at Texas A&M University. For her, being an accountant is more than doing taxes and being a bean counter: “I try to be a superhero to the clients I serve, but sometimes I feel like a spy because I’m an outsider, who no one knows by the water cooler, coming in to save the day.”

Blog Quotes 11.10.15-02

brian neale- headshotBrian Neale, CMA, CPA, is currently on sponsored educational leave of absence as he pursues an MBA at the Fuqua (Duke) School of Business. He’ll return to his role as finance manager at General Mills after graduation. Brian thinks of accounting as “the language of business” and works to document the company’s financials, create and manage its control environment, and provide management with useful financial information to guide strategic decisions. Outside of work and his studies, Brian loves to paint, draw, and write and record music.

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tasheeTasheé Singleton is the director of public housing operations for the Housing Authority of Columbus, Ga. She is the chair-elect of IMA’s Gulf South Council and a member of IMA’s Global Board of Directors. Besides work and IMA, Tasheé’s four children keep her active with their sports and academic activities. In addition, she’s partnering with two women to help children with hands-on learning. Her advice to others entering the field? “Be yourself, don’t be easily offended, ask plenty of questions, and seek a mentor.”

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On November 10, 1494, Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published the first book that discussed double entry bookkeeping – a stepping stone for modern-day accounting. Today we can reflect on the 521-year history of our profession and look to its bright future with these inspiring, passionate, and driven young professionals leading the way. Here’s to another 521 years of accounting!

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

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Personal Branding: Be an Advocate for Yourself

While your everyday job may offer various opportunities to be an advocate for your industry, company, or products and services, how often do you advocate for yourself and work on improving your personal brand? A personal brand is how you portray yourself both online and in person. As with a company brand, your personal brand should be consistent across all channels and should represent who you are.

iStock_000014300896_Small1. Decide what you stand for.
First, determine who you are, what your values are, and how you want to represent yourself. Choose three to five values that guide your moral compass, and design a strategy from there. Personally, I would use “trustworthy,” “committed,” and “respectful” to describe myself.

In my role as staff liaison to IMA’s technical advisory committees, these three values are essential. I conduct myself in a way that committee members have faith in how I communicate and respect their position on technical issues that impact the management accounting profession.

2. Share relevant content often.
Always be careful of what you post on a public social media profile. Delete inappropriate pictures or content on your profile that might discredit you, or make your profile private. Instead, post blogs or articles you wrote or share relevant research in your field. This will show your enthusiasm for knowledge sharing and career development. Creating a posting plan will help you stay organized and ensure you maintain a healthy stream of content.

It’s also important to share content with your coworkers who may have similar interests. This knowledge sharing at work can boost your reputation and can prove your integrity as an expert in your field. In turn, your coworkers might advocate for you as well.

3. Network and get involved with groups that interest you.
Connect with companies and causes you’re interested in to show what you’re passionate about outside of work. Not only will this boost your brand, but connecting with these companies online will give you real-time news updates and research in your news feed. You’ll also stay informed with industry networking events and meetings.

For example, I follow IMA® and Fairleigh Dickinson University, my alma mater, on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to stay connected with my company and what’s going on with other alumni at the University. I use the discussion forums as networking opportunities and as a way to search for in-person events the alumni association holds.

Your Personal Brand at Work
Becoming a self-advocate means you stick to your values. Since mobile apps are so readily available, your digital persona is at your fingertips 24/7. It’s very easy to share information these days. You can use it to your advantage, but don’t lose sight of your values and what you stand for. Being a professional online is just as important as acting professionally in person. As we become more and more tech savvy, don’t forget about the value of in-person connections. These interactions can leave impressions stronger than any digital footprint.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles:
The Value Of Personal Branding For Small Business – Forbes
5 Steps to Fix Your Personal Brand When Insults Stick – Entrepreneur

3 Things To Never Procrastinate On

Career development is a lifelong commitment of professional and personal growth. We know that staying current and improving our skills in the competitive environment is important for having a long and fulfilling career, yet many of us still procrastinate on this important area. Take some time to reflect on your career and consider three career development areas:

1. Getting Certified
As someone who earned his CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification while working full time, I advise anyone interested in pursuing a certification to start now. The sooner you earn a professional certification the better. Studying for exams while working full-time is a challenge, but with disciplined time management, it can be done. The upside potential is certainly worth it. Having a prestigious certification signals to employers your competency and expertise in your field, so why wait? Procrastinating on something as important as earning a credential can be detrimental to your career.

Students can start their certification jourstudent teacherney while still in school, too. Strategic Finance published an article in August that explains how students can complete the CMA and CPA exams within six months of graduating college.

2. Continuing Education
No matter what field you work in, you need continuing education to stay current on the job. If you hold a certification, like the CMA, you’re required to earn continuing professional education (CPE) credit each year, and you should always be thinking of ways to earn those credits. For example, make a schedule of courses or events you plan to attend throughout the year. This breakdown can show you how many credits you should earn, say, per month in order to reach your goal. IMA members have access to an online transcript that can help them keep track of their CPE. I encourage everyone to use this.

There are many ways you can earn CPE credit. IMA offers a wide variety of courses and webinars in our online store that are worth NASBA-approved CPE. For example, the IMA Ethics Series: Blinded by Pressure is our latest interactive course, which also fulfills the annual ethics CPE requirement for CMAs.

3. Planning For the Future
No matter where you are in your career, planning is essential for a bright future. Young professionals can outline a development plan for their skills and careers – where they want to be in five, 10, and 15 years. Mid-career professionals can develop a plan to get to the next level, whether it is to earn a certification or higher-education degree. And individuals looking to retire have an important job to do for succession planning.

To aid in this journey, IMA just launched a new career development tool called PrintCareerDriver. The simple three-step process allows you to evaluate your skills, build an actionable development plan based on your “Areas for Development,” and explore new career paths. This is a valuable tool for anyone looking to take control of their career and take the guesswork out of career planning.

“A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French writer during the early 20th Century, had the right idea. You can’t be successful in your career if you don’t plan for success. Planning CPE courses or exam study time throughout the year can help you set (and achieve) small goals. Waiting until the last minute to earn CPE credit or enroll in the CMA program can be stressful. So don’t wait until the last minute to start your career journey and get to where you want to be.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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