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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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

De-MYTH-defying the Accounting Profession

Over the years, the accounting profession has accumulated a number of misconceptions, and it’s important for students choosing their career path to decipher the facts from the myths. Let me help you de-myth-defy the profession to clarify the role of the accountant and help advance the profession.

1. All accountants do taxes.
This is one of most common misconceptions about accountants. Although most people attracted to accounting like the numbers aspect of it, there are so many other paths you can take with an accounting or finance degree – becoming a tax preparer is only one of them.

Because many college curricula focus on public accounting – hence the misconception – it’s sometimes difficult to decide your path while you’re still in school. Once you’re in the field, however, the hands-on experience will help you decide what specialty is right for you.

S11_LENA_0432. Accounting is a male-dominated profession.
Contrary to popular belief, the field is actually dominated by women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women accounted for 61% of accountants and auditors in 2014. And women are earning the majority of bachelor’s degrees (52%) and master’s degrees (54%) in accounting.

3. Accountants don’t make important financial decisions.
Management accountants are increasingly becoming strategic business partners for their companies. Not only can we interpret the financials of the company, but we’re also able to advise top management on opportunities to grow the company, impacting the overall direction of the company and helping to maximize profits. Our skills in performance measurement, analysis, and risk management help organizations prosper in a sustainable way. We have gone from “bean counters” to “bean growers.”

4. You can’t make good money as an accountant.
IMA’s Global Salary Survey reveals that accountants’ average annual salary is $100,000 in the U.S. (the map in the survey report (Figure 1 below) shows the average salary and compensation rates from all over the world). Top management like CFOs and controllers are some of the highest-paid employees in a company – and they are accountants!

Also, holding certifications can increase your annual salary and compensation. This year, professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential reported earning an average of 63% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers. Certifications help increase your salary because they demonstrate your mastery of the critical skills needed on the job today.

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For the Future
Accountants are in high demand, and the benefits are considerable. When starting your career in accounting, consider the various opportunities open to you. One last myth to note about accounting is that it’s boring. It is anything but – believe or not, a career in management accounting can actually be exciting! Our work with budgets and strategy help a business drive value and make the work of nonprofit organizations possible. The accountants of tomorrow have an enormous opportunity for growth and career enrichment. How will you impact your future?

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

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Management Accounting Facts & Myths – Competency Crisis
“IMA Campus Advocate Discusses Benefits of Student Chapters” – IMA Online News

How CFOs Can Achieve a Vision of Success

In today’s rapidly changing economy, senior leadership teams and CFOs are taking on greater roles in terms of strategy and sustainable growth. We were once considered mere “bean counters,” but now we are becoming “bean sprouters.” And with this added responsibility, we’re expected to get constant “vision checks” to keep an eye on the future.

As a prominent global accounting association, IMA has an obligation to improve the CFO team’s “line of sight” to help preserve and create organizational value. I fell upon an idea by Nancy Axelrod in her book The Governing Board: Key Responsibilities for Association Boards and Board Members, in which she lays out four sights that you should keep in mind to ensure a vision of success. The four sights she described – foresight, insight, hindsight, and oversight – will lead you to a successful vision.lines of sightThe two stages most pertinent to management accountants and financial professionals are insight and foresight, as they are the most forward-looking. With these in mind, CFOs are able to act as trusted business advisors and leaders to help create sustainable growth.

Foresight

pull_quoteThe foresight stage is where the CFO plays a leading role in anticipating the future, building a curious and adaptable mindset, and helping organizations envision a great future that serves both mission and societal purposes. This could take the form of financial planning and analysis, mergers and acquisition analysis, or risk management during highly competitive times in a turbulent economy.

Insight

The insight stage is truly where business partnering begins and business analytics takes over the process, turning information into intelligence and good companies into great ones. This could take the form of predictive analytics, business intelligence, or data mining. Organizational leaders count on their CFO teams to envision the future (foresight) based on a sound analysis of today’s reality (insight).

Make sure to always keep your vision clear and to get it checked by the team regularly. Doing so will give you a clear view of success!

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Reinventing the Wheel for CFOs

Business is continually changing and so are the job duties of a company’s top financial exec: the CFO.

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Globalization, the explosion of information, and newer technologies make the CFO’s role an exciting career goal for aspiring professionals. Long gone are the days when CFOs were seen as “number crunchers.” Today’s CFOs are being asked to serve as “chiefs” of leadership and strategy. As diverse as the CFO’s role has become, so too are the career paths for getting there.

As IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) vice president of research, I closely examine the accounting and finance profession, predict trends, and offer insight to the future of business. One of our latest initiatives, with our strategic partner ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), is “Future Pathways to Finance Leadership,” a study of 750 CFOs.

Changing Gears

blog_quote2Through our research, we’ve learned that tomorrow’s financial leaders will need broader business skills and diverse work experiences to adapt to the evolving needs of business. A new mix of technical and soft skills will be in demand. This goes well beyond the nuts and bolts of financial accounting. In fact, 40% of CFOs surveyed had taken a role outside the finance function in their careers.

The most popular stepping-stone to the CFO role was from financial controller. Obviously, you can’t get away from the need for baseline finance skills, but there are so many more capabilities future CFOs will need to bring to the table, too.

What the Aspiring CFO Can Do

Career up-and-comers can get an advantage by gaining a broad set of skills and work experiences early on. The Future Pathways report offers advice from current CFOs to help others prepare for the path ahead.

blog_graphicFuture Horizon

Imagine what business will look like in 10 or 15 years. I believe we’re in for an interesting ride with the ever-changing business environment. What do you think the future holds for CFOs, and how will you prepare?

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA

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Beyond Finance: The Future of CFOs
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