The Next Generation Accountant: Strategists of the Future
Presented by Paul McDonald
Executive Director, RHI Management Resources
March 15, 2001
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The full transcript of this workshop appears below. Here are the major topics that were discussed:
1. Becoming an Adviser
a. Increased strategic planning and decision-making have become a priority for CFOs.
b. Accountants will become advisers as they work with a number of people and departments throughout an organization.
c. Accountants will advise in a number of different areas, including information technology, international accounting and e-commerce.
a. Consultants have become more relied on by businesses because of their expertise and their cost-effectiveness.
b. Consulting is attractive for people at all points of the career spectrum.
c. Consulting offers many benefits.
i. Variety and challenge of work, flexible schedule, compensation and the ability to make decisions more autonomously
ii. Consultants are exposed to multiple business methods and approaches.
d. Consultants are in demand in specialty areas, particularly e-commerce.
3. Next Generation Accountant
a. Next generation Accountants will work with people throughout the organization, and will become organizational leaders.
b. Accountants must have technology, people and customer service skills.
c. They must think big picture.
March 29, 2001 Session Sponsored by RHI Management Resources 
Workshop Moderator: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining us today! I am happy to be able to introduce Paul McDonald as today's presenter.
Paul is the executive director of RHI Management Resources, a division of Robert Half International Inc. (RHI). RHI Management Resources specializes in the placement of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project basis. Paul has had a distinguished career with Robert Half International. He joined the company in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, Massachusetts, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse in New York.
During his tenure with RHI, Mr. McDonald has served as area manager over a six-office territory in upstate New York and Ontario, Canada. In 1992, he moved to New Jersey to expand RHI's efforts, where he opened three additional offices and acquired a technical computer consulting business that was later merged into RHI Consulting.
In 1995, Paul was appointed to the position of regional manager of Southern California and in 1997 was promoted to western district director. He was promoted to his current position of executive director in 2000.
Welcome Paul, and thanks for joining us today!
Paul McDonald: Hello. Thanks to everyone for participating today. I am pleased to join you.
Our company recently completed extensive research into the future of the accounting and finance professions, as well as trends impacting the field of consulting. Our research included CFO surveys, talking with dozens of experts in accounting and finance, as well as collaboration with leading professional associations.
I'd like to open it up to any questions you may have.
Workshop Moderator: The Big Five are busy divesting themselves of their consultancy operations - do you see this having a trickle down effect on mid sized and smaller firms?
Paul McDonald: Yes. We find that trickle down from the Big Five will create opportunity for mid-sized and smaller firms.
One of the results of our research you may find interesting is that 75% of CFOs surveyed said that consulting is an attractive career option.
Charlene Budd: What do you recommend that current accounting professional do to develop themselves for the new valued-added environment.
Paul McDonald: Advanced certification, developing technology expertise, the ability to offer strategic business advice and soft skills training -- don't underestimate the importance of these skills. In fact, 85% of CFOs recently polled believe that a professional certification, such as a CPA or CMA helps in career advancement.
Charlene Budd: Does it matter what type of certification? Would it make sense to add non-accounting certifications to the resume?
Paul McDonald: The primary importance is certification as it relates to accounting. From there, you may wish to consider other certifications such as IT certification, CISA, MCSE or other certifications that support value-added services. Continuing professional education can augment your general accounting knowledge with current developments in the field and will make you more valuable to your current employer.
As you have noticed, next to accounting I have stressed the importance of technology certifications. In fact, in another recent survey, 44% of CFOs surveyed cited technology knowledge as most critical to an accounting professional's career success.
Let's discuss the future of consulting. Hot specialties for consulting will include supply chain management, resource planning, ERP and financial systems integration, e-business and data mining.
Catherine England: I'm looking to make the leap from a corporate accounting position to consulting, so that I might spend more time with my family. Any advice where to begin?
Paul McDonald: Be careful prior to making that leap into the consulting world. Ask yourself if you are flexible enough to be able to deal with the uncertainty of the workflow in the consulting world. In essence, when you're in corporate accounting, you are guaranteed that you'll have regular income as long as you're permanently employed. In consulting, you are not certain of that workflow.
Catherine England: Is there anything I can do to ensure a steady flow of work, but still have the ability to choose my projects and the kinds of hours that I'll work?
Paul McDonald: It helps if you are working with a consulting firm that can help get you assignments. They will do the marketing for you.
Catherine England: Aside from workflow, is there anything else I need to know before becoming a consultant? How do I know if I'm qualified? I've had my current job for some time and haven't even started a resume.
Paul McDonald: If you do make the leap into consulting, there are many benefits. For one, there is variety and challenge. Consultants are exposed to diverse business environments and cutting-edge technologies. Consultants also benefit from continuous learning. They have exposure to a broad cross-section of companies and projects. Typically consultants have baseline experience that would include 5 or more years of diverse work experience.
Catherine England: Does it matter if I only have a few years of experience in Public Accounting?
Paul McDonald: Having a CPA or experience in several different areas of accounting and finance is a plus. Is that the total experience you have?
Catherine England: No. I started out in public accounting. After a three-year stint I took a job with my current employer. I'm now a controller and I've been here for 11 years.
Paul McDonald: You are a prime candidate for consulting. Your experience in public accounting is augmented by your 11 years in a controller position.
Catherine England: If I do go into consulting, how do I know how much to charge my clients?
Paul McDonald: Research is extremely important when you go into consulting. Research through your networking contacts. What you charge a client will depend on the scope and duration of the project. Additionally, consulting firms can help you determine what would be a reasonable hourly rate.
Does anyone else have a question?
Melody Wagler: What other types of consulting services are usually offered besides technology?
Paul McDonald: Tax, mergers and acquisitions, internal audit, assistance to start-up companies or companies going through the IPO process. There are also opportunities with business expanding on an international basis or companies going through business process reengineering. Consultants are also often called upon to assist in teaching and mentoring internal employees.
Paul McDonald: Many people associate technical and accounting skills with consulting. However, consulting professionals must possess a variety of soft skills. These include decision-making, problem solving, adaptability, solid organizational skills, and strategic thinking. Consultants are also highly independent with an entrepreneurial mindset and thrive on challenge.
Michael Weiss: How do you develop these kinds of skills? I've never been able to take a class on adaptability.
Paul McDonald: There are opportunities to develop your soft skills in all of your business interactions. For example, when working on a project team, you have the opportunity to interact with both management and staff. I would also recommend a project management class, which will teach you how to be adaptable and to handle unexpected situations.
If there are no further questions, I'd like to thank you for participating in today's workshop.
Workshop Moderator: Paul - thank you so much for joining us today! And thank you to everyone else who was able to participate as well!
Paul McDonald: If you'd like to learn more about opportunities in consulting, please visit our web site at www.rhimr.com .
Paul McDonald is executive director of RHI Management Resources, a division of Robert Half International Inc. (RHI). RHI Management Resources specializes in the placement of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project basis.
Mr. McDonald has had a distinguished career with Robert Half International. He joined the company in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, Massachusetts, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse in New York. During his tenure with RHI, Mr. McDonald has served as area manager over a six-office territory in upstate New York and Ontario, Canada. In 1992, he moved to New Jersey to expand RHI’s efforts, where he opened three additional offices and acquired a technical computer consulting business that was later merged into RHI Consulting. In 1995, Mr. McDonald was appointed to the position of regional manager of Southern California and in 1997 was promoted to western district director. He was promoted to his current position of executive director in 2000.
Mr. McDonald earned his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Saint Bonaventure University in the state of New York. He has spoken to numerous organizations including Financial Executives International, Institute of Management Accountants and the American Association of Hispanic CPAs on career management topics, staffing issues and consulting trends.