Software & supplies
THE CLOCK TICKS
As no one tires of pointing out, the Baby Boomers are on the very brink of retiring. Few mention that the next step after retirement is death, but either way, these massive demographic movements mean that there's never been a better time to be a financial and estate planner -- and there are more tools available to help you than ever. Thomson Tax & Accounting, for instance, has just upgraded its zCalc Fiduciary Practice System for tax and estate planning with an Advanced Estate Tax Calculator that lets users input dependent information and expenses; factor in multi-state asset locations, resident and non-resident status; and more.
It also adds new report-generating capabilities to zCalc's already-impressive roster. So get cracking -- because we won't always have the Baby Boomers to practice on!
www.fasttax.thomson.com or (800) 331-2533
UPPING THE AVERAGE
It's no secret that the vast majority of information on the Web is worth the paper it's printed on, so it's nice to hear that there's a place like Rogomo.com, a new site that allows experts like you to go online and provide reliable, accurate advice -- for a price. You can set up a profile page and start answering questions, while the site's time and billing platform keeps track of your price, whether you're answering by phone, the Internet, instant messaging or however else you like. It's a nice chance to expand your market, earn a little extra cash -- and vastly improve the Internet's overall accuracy.
BUT WILL THEY PAY?
Sure, payroll giant ADP's new ADP Outsourced Sales Tax Service completely automates the sales tax process. And yes, as an end-to-end solution for the entire sales tax function, it will calculate sales and use taxes, complete the forms, and transfer the funds to state and local governments. And yes, that will ensure the user company a defensible audit trail and up-to-date compliance with the latest tax rules. But we still have to pay the taxes, don't we?
We thought so.
EYE IN THE SKY
Your clients who need to keep track of mobile employees, but can't convince them to get the chips imbedded, might consider Xora's GPS TimeTrack for Workers. The Web-based system uses GPS-enabled mobile phones to keep track of workers and their activities, and offers wireless timecard functions. The company also offers GPS-based tracking systems for vehicles and assets, so that now a company can easily keep track of whatever it owns -- and, er, employs.
OFFICE DEPOT RUN
Last issue, we mentioned that Staples had given some thought to what accountants need during tax season -- and literally seconds after we went to press, Office Depot informed us that they had compiled a list of tools and supplies to help keep your office organized, including all sorts of handy portable drives, folders and binders, and luggage. Interestingly, both companies made mention of the shredders they have on offer, which makes us wonder how much time they think accountants spend shredding.
LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP
While scholars may debate whether Jane Austen is actually the author of the recently discovered 19th century manuscript Accounts and Accountability, few would debate the aptitude of its opening lines: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an accountant in possession of a good client list, must be in want of a staff."
The unsigned manuscript tells the story of a chartered accountant in Regency England who, despite offering well-appointed chambers, half a day off on Saturdays, and a goose at Christmas, loses a series of clerks. Eventually he realizes that in order to get others to follow, he himself must lead, and soon finds his chambers fully staffed and his business thriving.
Twenty-first century accountants, fortunately, don't have to undergo a novel's worth of tribulations to learn that lesson (in fact, the astute can learn it from the previous paragraph). More important, there is a wide variety of recent non-fiction available to help them implement it.
At the broadest level, there's The Leaders We Need and What Makes Us Follow (Harvard Business School Press; $26.95), which studies the psychology of leadership from both the leader's and the followers' perspective. Its main lesson is that successful leadership depends not just on the leader's stellar qualities, but also on their ability to fit the context of their times. Old-fashioned paternalism, the author maintains, is out; today's knowledge-based culture of rapid change and interactivity requires collaborative, adaptable leaders, not autocrats.
The Leaders We Need addresses leaders in general -- in government, business and society at large; for a more focused primer, consider When Professionals Have to Lead (HBSP; $35), which examines the subject specifically in the context of professional service firms. Once again, the old model of autocratic command has broken down in the face of greater complexity, and firm leaders must respond with a more nuanced, integrated and integrative style of leadership. Drawing examples from a wide range of professional firms, the book shows how to create an inclusive culture that will both get the most from your staff, and help them get the most from you.
In case you've begun to worry that leadership may be too complicated and slippery a subject for you to master, the authors of Cracking the Code to Leadership (PAR Group; $17.95) have boiled decades of studying leadership and training leaders down to a set of concrete, practical tips and exercises to make you more competent and capable as a leader, on the premise that all leaders use a set of clear, definable skills. Along the same lines, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motivational Leadership (Alpha; $15.95), offers strategies and tactics for day-to-day, minute-to-minute leadership (including, we hope, a warning not to let your subordinates catch you reading it).
The antithesis of these skills-based books is The Opposable Mind (HBSP; $26.95), which argues that the key to great leadership is "integrative thinking," or the ability to think beyond and around the obvious to create better solutions, opportunities and innovations than anyone thought possible. The book examines a number of brilliant business leaders to show this kind of thinking in action, and demonstrates how you can apply it yourself.
Though it's often forgotten, leadership isn't just the province of the most exalted -- even the lowest manager must be a leader, too. Becoming an Extraordinary Manager (Amacom Books; $17.95) offers valuable lessons to anyone who's in charge of others, with an emphasis on the importance of being interested in, rather than interesting to, your people. The skills it teaches in interviewing, hiring, reviewing, delegating and inspiring all go to show the degree to which leadership is, in large part, all about follower-maintenance.
Finally, modern-day leaders can return to the past for leadership lessons -- in this case not to Jane Austen, but to a near-contemporary of hers. George Washington and the Art of Business (Oxford University Press; $21.95) examines the life of the first president to show how the old-fashioned virtues that saw him triumph in war and statesmanship -- decisiveness, perseverance, organization, the ability to inspire, and so on -- still have great relevance today, and can help make your firm the kind that people want to join and stay with.
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