For most firms, having their accounting professionals gain the CPA designation is of paramount importance.
With four partners and 36 staff, Baton Rouge, La.-based Faulk & Winkler (www.fw-cpa.com), has an impressive 10 team members currently pursuing their CPA certification. And three others have recently passed the exam.
So, what is this firm doing to motivate its young talent and manage their movement toward passing the CPA Exam? We'll share a few ideas from this progressive practice that may help your firm's CPA hopefuls improve their chances for a passing grade.
According to Faulk & Winkler's managing partner, David Winkler, "When an individual passes the exam and becomes a licensed CPA, it represents a professional commitment and an investment in their development as a whole. To our clients, it is a symbol of competence, professionalism and, above all, trust."
For those in the accounting profession, successful completion of the CPA Exam generally represents the most important investment they can make in their professional development. Faulk & Winkler's leadership team believes that the willingness to make this investment of time, energy and money speaks highly of an individual's dedication to the profession and reflects a strong desire to succeed in their careers.
While Faulk & Winkler doesn't specifically commit to a pay increase or bonus when an individual passes the CPA Exam, raises and bonuses are based on an individual's overall performance, and the successful completion of the CPA Exam is seen as a key performance indicator.
One of the biggest obstacles for young people working to pass the exam is the individual's ability to dedicate the necessary time and energy. "New accounting staff members find themselves in the difficult position of managing the time and energy requirements of a new job, the powerful draw of family, friends and home life, and an exam preparation process that demands a level of focus and intensity that most do not encounter in their college courses or previous employment," Winkler shared.
MEET THE COACH!
To support their new professionals in overcoming obstacles they may face in the CPA Exam process, Faulk & Winkler implemented a CPA Exam coaching program designed to help their people along the path of studying for and passing the exam.
Athen Sweet, one of the firm's directors who passed the exam two years ago, meets regularly with everyone who is in the process of studying for or taking the exam.
During these meetings, Sweet explores several topics with each CPA potential, such as their study habits, study environment, progress toward the exam, the difficulties or challenges they are facing, how much time they're allocating to studying, and test scheduling, among other things. The CPA hopeful then has an opportunity to ask any questions they have and use their CPA Exam mentor as a sounding board for "normal" feelings of frustration, nervousness or lack of motivation that may arise.
These CPA Exam preparation meetings provide accountability and a constructive, outside perspective for everything related to the testing process. The firm's goal is for each person to successfully complete the exam and have the support of someone who has recently been through the process themselves. "No matter how supportive a spouse, co-worker or well-intended partner may be, sometimes hearing advice or motivation from someone who has 'been there' with the electronic exam makes all the difference," said Sweet.
For anyone who is struggling with the exam review, Sweet suggests changing up study habits in some way. This may mean altering the way they study, dedicating additional time each week to studying, or adding completely new review material.
PROVIDING A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
Faulk & Winkler further supports the learning process of its CPA Exam-takers by bringing in a professor from a local university to conduct a focus group on one particular section of the exam to add fresh perspective and new material.
Sweet noted, "Packaged review materials are fine, but a live, interactive course in our office during work hours is even better." Sweet believes that making the studying and learning part of the process as accessible as possible to those in your firm who are taking the exam will enhance their confidence - and their success rate, too.
If you have individuals who are questioning whether or not to take the exam, Sweet offered a simple encouragement: "The decision to take the exam is a personal one requiring a serious level of commitment. However, the personal satisfaction, professional growth and financial rewards, which will continue for the duration of your professional life, far outweigh the short-term challenges you'll experience in the process. I feel it was more than worth it for me, and I hope to pass that commitment on to other young professionals, too."
This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC (www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm. To have your firmâ€™s generational viewpoints or a generational success story considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail us at email@example.com.
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