February 2008 - Posts
Bill Kennedy wrote an amusing post posing the question, are there any good accounting games out there for Xbox?
Being a partisan PC gamer of sorts, my answer is, "are there any good games out for Xbox?"
Seriously, you'll have to pry my mouse and keyboard out of my cold dead hands.
If you're trying to interest your kids in business, the AAA "Tycoon" titles are, however, where it's at, as are titles like Simcity. Anything where you manage some sort of economy is the current pinnacle of 'awesome'.
You could make an intelligent case for the original Railroad Tycoon and Simcity pushing me down the road towards my CA.
Railroad Tycoon, and it's two strong sequels RRT2 and RRT3, have you in the role of a tycoon trying to make a fortune with railroads - had you guessing there, didn't I?
Originl RRT, being a vintage 1990 game, was relatively basic, but the strong gameplay was there. You needed to make more money than you spent, had to decide on financing options - issue new shares of stock, or sell bonds? - and expand, all while competing against railroads controlled by the computer.
Your goal: dominate the map and by out some or all of the competition.
Having started in the 1830's, anti-trust laws were pretty weak. You could do all sorts of naughty things that get you Enron'ed these days. Learning in school about how anti-trust and Canadian anti-combine laws work makes a to more sense when you were able to play around with the stock market in a simulator.
And that's where RRT2 and RRT3 shined - they let you buy and sell stock on margin. Short selling, marging calls. It was both scary and awesome.
And it delivered home the lesson that our third year finance prof was imparting: you ultimately can't create value by manipulating the stock market. Need cash to pay for those stocks? Sure, issue somes bonds, but you're going to have the pay interest on your borrowings or you'll risk bankruptcy when the economy crashes - as it does every few years, with at least some kind of recession.
It's one thing to discuss the risks of being "highly leveraged", and something else entirely to watch as your poorly planned expansion isn't generating the revenues you thought it would and your pile of cash is steadily dwindling into the negative.
Did I forget to mention how insanely fun and addictive the RRT games were - and really truly still are? You bought locomotives and sent trains around the country delivering passengers and freight. Trains! Steam, diesel, electric. Oh what fun.
Above: A TGV in Zurich
I lost many nights of sleep to them, and if you ever think this stuff doesn't interest you, it's a good way to rekindle your interest in the business world.
Fans of governance - the municipal kind - will find similar challenges with the Simcity series. Read the Wikipedia articles on it if this is all new to you, but just thinking about that game makes me want to find the CD to start playing it again. Balancing your infrastructure spend with the growth of your city? While also laying out your own utopia - or distopia? What's not to like!
There was a console version of Simcity, and I'm sure some of the more 'basic' Tycoon type games have come out on console systems, but if you really want to get your kids 1. interested in computers, and 2. experiencing a simulated version of economic enterprise, look into those titles. For younger kids, the Rollercoaster Tycoon series is still pretty challenging - but equally fun and addictive. I remember getting some 8 year olds hooked on it.
Will they turn out to be CAs? Or theme park tycoons?
Perhaps. And all thanks to me, no doubt, and some CD's packed with awesome. Awesome trains. And surprisingly sophisticated financial simulators.
P.S., I would've loved to have left a comment directly at accountingweb for Bill, but after shovelling snow I am too tired - and mostly lazy - to fill out a form with SEVENTEEN required fields to leave a comment.
Krupo.ca and Steeplemedia.com only ask for an e-mail address and a new username. That's it. We don't care if you lie about your timezone, we'll just pick an arbitrary one for you unless you want to pick something else. Blogger lets you type in whatever you want. Glad that Bill's main blog is much more open - yay easy posting!
You no doubt already heard about the big KPMG overtime lawsuit.
But if you haven't, and you used to work for KPMG in Canada in the past few years, then you do now! That's because you recently received a letter disclosing what your share of the settlement is going to be.
If you were an administrative staff person supposed to work 40 hours a week, no more, no less, the letter will indicate some dollar figure, your share of the almost $10 million settlement.
Intriguingly, you'll get that letter even if you weren't an administrative person - that is, a young CA student or similar 'overtime exempt' professional employee.
And what will the letter will tell you?
It will say that your share of the settlement is zero dollars.
Thanks for your service, this doesn't apply to you, have a nice day.
I wavered between thinking "well, that makes sense", and "that's completely insane, why would you rub salt in the wounds of someone who presumably left because they were tired of working for you?"
The latter thought dominated my thinking, of course.
I can think of harsher ways to slap someone in the face, but "pointing out the obvious", when "the obvious" means "I'm giving you nothing", ranks up there with sucker punching a fellow passenger on the subway.
Shortly after hearing the above news - through my surprisingly wide grape-vine - I did in fact have to pull a drunken brawler out of a subway car. This guy actually attacked someone on a subway car. Who does that?
Well, this guy, clearly. While the rather large crowd of rush hour commuters pondered what to do about the uncouth man, he decided to pull a runner after (gently) shoving me in the chest.
I gave chase.
He cried "don't touch me."
You just beat up a guy on the subway train and you're telling me not to touch you? Get real.
I wavered between tackling the man or just taking a cell phone photo of him. Yeah, I didn't have my big camera with me tonight. I left all my gear at work for once.
The cell phone is hardly a high speed piece of equipment, though I do love the quality of its pictures, when the lens isn't covered with dust!
Anyway, tackling the guy was also low on my list of Good Ideas considering how messy a second brawl on a staircase could get. Wouldn't that be a great headline?
CA student tackles man down 40 stairs, breaking neck, bones. Subway service delayed.
I'd hate to be responsible for a major subway delay.
Seriously. How embarrassing. Positively gauche.
So instead I followed him instead - right up the stairs. This being my station, I knew which way he was headed - right for the 'official' exit. Though technically you have four different ways of leaving, not counting the infinite possibilities associated with jumping fences.
This strange man's path took him right up to the station fare collector's booth. Good place to report someone, which I did. The fare collector pointed out that there was a police car conveniently parked in the station's north driveway.
So I informed the cops of the situation, while the man decided to run for his freedom out of the station across the streetcar tracks at the southern entrance.
The cops took off in pursuit.
I went home.
It's been another fun day.
At least the streetcar tracks weren't blocked by anyone tonight.
There's no one surefire way to pass your accounting exams, but on an exam like the UFE, you simply must avoid falling into certain traps.
Francine recently wrote a very interesting post about the layoffs occuring at PWC's consulting/advisory group, and attributes much of the blame to partners. What's even more interesting than the 30 or so comments in response to the post - a minor record for those posts - was the list of bullet points at the end of the post, which serve as a handy "Do not Do" list for UFE and similar exam writers. Here's the list, with my commentary inserted to make the lessons a little more obvious.
- Secretive about goals, objectives and results.
must state your major assumptions, what you plan to achieve, and how you're going to do it. Some would call this an outline. An 'outline' sounds lame, though. A strong Framework or Foundation is a bit more accurate. No matter what you call it, identify it and when you're done, make sure you've accomplished what you set out to do.
- Don’t answer emails if the question is unpleasant, avoid conflict, encourage get-along, go-along attitude.
You would think this might not apply - it's just a matter of "ignoring tricky people", no?
You will be presented with scenarios where you don't know the right answer. Ignoring the problem is just as bad, or even worse, than guessing the right answer. Guessing isn't much better though: you must think. You're being examined on whether or not you should gain the august credential of a Chartered Accountant. If you can't deal with an unfamiliar situation, what good are you?
better in a situation where they can judge past actions, not advocate
or take a position on the future. (That's an audit mentality not a
This ties in nicely with the last point. Always come up with a solution!
First year audit staff are intimidated into saying, "this is what you should do", because they are, after all, apprentices in the professional trade of accounting. But first year staff will turn into second and third year audit staff and seniors, and eventually managers. They need to come up with a conclusion and, of course, support it with some strong logic. The UFE is but one of the first of many places where this will be true.
You need to think on your feet. If you ever joined a debating club that would've been one of the smarter decisions you could've made, but it's of course not the only way to learn how to think. If you want to impress people, show them that you can listen to their problem, and offer a novel solution. And if it's not a completely new idea, at least present your thoughts in an intelligent way.
- Expect a servile attitude from managers and staff.
Funny, if I worked in a company where the "sheep" were rewarded, I would quit sooner rather than later. There are few things more satisfying than knowing that not only are you "allowed" to explain why someone's proposed approach is wrong, but you'll actually be commended and respected by the person you criticze for doing this. I know I'm not living in a tiny happy bubble of free thinking because the same thing has occured to a very smart friend of mine in another department.
My friend, working in 'real' financial audit rather than my IT audit area - where the jaded cynic would expect a more submissive mindset, tells me of situations where the people who get the most respect are those who point out why this or that approach is right or wrong, standing up for what's more correct. Rather than anger their superiors, they get more love for challenging the team to do better.
I'm kind of drifting off the "exam tips" track into general career observations, but we can drag this back to the UFE easily: remember that you may have to challenge the opinion presented by a manager or partner in an exam case. Don't be scared of doing that. Take it as an opportunity to explain why your approach is actually correct. Or, admit where they're right, and state that they're right.
The second sentence there pretty much sums it up. Again, as mentioned above, think, come up with something intelligent, and then share the fruits of your intellectual labours with your paying clients. Easy.
that servile attitude to carry forward to clients. However, clients
lose respect when you don't take a position, take a stand, make
- Don't know how to ask for the work, compete, or measure their effectiveness in delivering value to clients.
You can interpret this as a tip on many levels. A partner's operations on the sales side are outside the relatively
tighter 'scope' of an exam like the UFE, but identifying how you're
delivering value is a universal requirement to be awesome.
On a pure UFE level, here's a practical hint: practice coming up with effective "quants".
If you're going to measure and calculate something, ask yourself, "is this going to help?" If you're being asked by a couple as to how they should expand their petting zoo, consider the relevant details - do they have enough money, space and time to expand, will the expansion be profitable?
Figure out which metrics you have that you can work with, and identify which assumptions you're relying on, and how big, fat and dangerous those assumptions may be. Going off on a crazy tangent about your favourite breed of cyber-cat or why alpacas are overrated because of their use as inside jokes in Simcity games won't help. Figuring out an expected cash flow, on the other hand, often will.
know how to leverage business development professionals to manage the
sales process while the partners manage the sales content.
On exams they won't necessarily give you a team to manage, but you'll be expected to be clever enough to share basic advice like, praise good work, offer constructive criticism for failures.
A lot of the stuff you get tested on in the UFE you can't learn in any book, but rather through a combination of real world experience, common sense, and raw intelligence.
Wander over to Growth in Value if you'd like to read some of my comments about the new TFSA - tax-free savings accounts - which Canadians get to play with starting next January.
I have something much more urgent to share with you.
A story from my childhood.
As a young boy, I found that some of my snooty friends in elementary school called Garfield juvenile and not as funny as the Far Side and other more 'sophisticated' cartoons. And, as much as I hated to admit it, they were right. The older you get, the less amusing the orange fat cat got.
This all changed when Penny Arcade shared "Garfield without Garfield".
"Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb. "
Check it gems like "There's something wrong with my pants" now, thank me later.
Above - not Garfield.
This one is more poetic and melancholy than anything ever done in the originals.
It's amazing what a small tweak like "deleting the cat" can accomplish.
Check it out before the lawyers jump all over it.
Some thoughts on flex-time popped up after seeing a this clip on Videosift with a bunch of American politicians walking out after a grandstanding speech making some spurious claims of support for disgraced Bush administration officials.
What amused me about the video was thinking, well, actually, I can do that too. Not so much defend disgraced officials, but make my own hours.
Of course, I leave for home either because I'm done work for the day or because I can finish it at home if I need to, and it does eventually gets done - on time. That's the nice thing about working "flexibly", from management's point of view - I get stuff done well and on time.
The upside to me is that if we have 30 cm of snow on the way, I can just go home, or stay home for the whole day, spending some time shoveling the snow, and the rest with my laptop getting work done.
I've seen things done the wrong way - at least the way I've read Cordie present her situation at PWC: I would argue that unless you have a pressing need to be on site, it's better to work remotely than to spend 2.5 hours driving to the client site. Of course, that's not always possible - but if the weather's that bad, it's likely that the client you were going to meet with might not be able to come in either. And if they can, you might just be able to talk to them on the phone rather than kill so much time on the road. And if you have to coordinate something with your team, and you're sick or otherwise unable to come into the office, make use of our wondrous tech options. A group chat can get as much work done as a formal sit-down meeting, and you don't have to worry about wasting people's time because they can work on other things while waiting for your review notes to show up.
And from a keeping CAs from having an even worse workaholic reputation point of view, when you do tell people that you took time off when you got sick, stop there rather than pointing out that you ended up spending half your food poisoning day off working nevertheless. As much as I discourage people form working when they're sick, I can nevertheles sympathize with Cordie's need to get her job done on time. Who taught us to be so responsible and hardworking? How evil!
Above: taxis at Charles de Gaulle early on a Saturday morning in January.
How to tell you’ve been on the road too much
I walked up to my house tonight and got ready to open the door.
I quickly rustled through my pocket and pulled out my wallet, opened it, and paused.
Wait a minute, how exactly am I going to open my front door with a bank card?
Oh yes, perhaps I should look in my other pocket for my house keys.
Ironically I wasn’t even staying for my entire recent trip in a hotel which used magnetic swipe access cards. Most of the hotels I stayed in used old-fashioned metal keys.
This momentary collapse in thinking led me to think of a few other signs you’ve travelling for work a little too much. And a few other random travel experiences to keep the list interesting.
- The ability to actually visit your friends in person is surprising. I got to visit friends who were living abroad, but being reconnected with your old friends is always positive. Travelling with a co-worker definitely generates some “we’re FBI Special Agents visiting your small town” moments, though.
- You find yourself craving a cheese course with every meal. It’s a good thing I brought some back with me.
- With the approach of the weekend, you wonder which city to visit. Oh right, I’m home, which means that the next closest city is no longer a quick hop away by EasyJet.
- A dead hard drive is no longer the end of the world. My laptop computer was suffering from some bad sector messages, which are Geek Nature’s way of telling you the hard drive is going to Die a Horrible Death. Thank goodness it survived the length of my trip. Taking down all my notes by hand wouldn’t have been much fun, considering I would eventually have to type it all up anyway.
- Your wardrobe is no longer separated into two small piles - the laundry pile, and the “this has to last me to the end of the week” pile. Travelling for work is so very different in this department especially. Contrast packing 7-10 days worth of apparel for two weeks versus 3-6 days for two months.
- What do you mean the wine isn’t cheaper than the water? Seriously, who, upon returning, doesn't miss inexpensive, high-quality wine.
- Your shampoo and fridge contents are no longer travel-sized. It was interesting to see that the hotel mini fridge Diet Coke bottle was twice the size of regular Coke, but the same price.
- Where are all the rondos? Traffic circles are so much fun.
- Google stops appearing in German or UK versions. This was both weird and interesting - you see what country-specific searches look like. Sure, you can try this from the comfort of your own home, but how often do you hit www.google.de?
- The car’s lack of a clutch feels puzzling. Yes, I was looking forward to driving my stick-shift rental, and even feel like I pretty much mastered it. Awesome.
I clearly still love travelling for work, but just as travelling can be a pleasant change of pace, so is coming with home.
I’ll share one bit of advice if you’re ever sent out of town for an extended period of time and you’re going to have to show receipts for all your expenses - pack a mini-stapler and a medium-sized spiral notebook - the kind favoured by reporters.
Take all your receipts and staple them to said notebook daily. Then hand in said notebook with your expense report - I just saved you 5 hours of digging through your purse or wallet. And if you're really new to this, visit the Government of Canada's travel tip page. What you can only learn from experience, though, is that hard cheeses seem to be okay to bring back with you. The website that's supposed to tell you this doesn't make it obvious at all.
So for all these tips I must say, you’re welcome.
Wow, the federal government is doing a budget "consultation" (which is "not a poll", they say). Interesting.
Thanks to Nancy Z for the link.
It's a 1-7 scale. I assume 1 means top priority.
Interestingly the government insists on knowing your income level when you complete the survey. No, "I prefer not to say" option. I guess they think we can trust them - or else we'll lie and make up a fake answer?
Toronto is besieged by waves of idiots.
People are driving their cars into the city and parking them on the snowy streets, blissfully unaware that their car is up to a METRE away from the curb, and therefore jutting out into the path of passing streetcars.
Every single trip I took this week was delayed as TTC operators carefully edged their streetcars past parked cars.
And tonight their luck ran out on Roncesvalles: 504 streetcar service was disrupted for an hour due to, as you can see above, the careless Jaguar driver's horrible parking job.
Sometimes a car is carelessly parked by someone running inside a store to retrieve their wallet or other lost item. Fine. It happens to everyone - emergencies happen.
This was not one of those situations. The car's owner disappeared, and was nowhere to be found. The delay stretched on interminably - three streetcars ended up getting backed up. Most people living nearby disembarked and walked home. Others had longer trips home and couldn't afford the luxury of a cab ride on a cold February night, so they waited.
The streetcar operators would have loved to have simply rammed the car. In fact, one operator told me that on Ossington Avenue, short-turned streetcars were confronted with a similar problem last year - the entire street was full of cars whose side mirrors were jutting out into the path of mass transit's finest vehicles. A towing operation would take an interminably long time.
And so the police gave the operators the order.
"But that would rip off all the side mirrors."
And it did.
The police have the authority to use force in our polite, civil Canadian society - and they ordered those streetcars to rip off the offending cars' side mirrors.
As you can see from these photos, though, ramming the Jaguar would be counterproductive, as it would not just rip off the side mirror, it would wreck half the car, as the body of the automobile itself was in the path of the streetcar.
Unfortunately tow trucks are unable to remove a vehicle until the police arrived.
And a police car was called, the dispatcher told me, about 20 minutes into the incident. 40 minutes had passed by the time I was on my cell, making inquiries as to what the heck was taking so long. I ended my call when a police car showed up.
Unfortunately patrol car 1205 zipped past the scene without so much as slowing down. This isn't "12" division, so it wasn't his problem.
To say that I was disappointed with the Toronto Police Service tonight would be an understatement.
And so the wait continued. I called one of my friends to come watch the spectacle. The neighbourhood's local 'superman' character even showed up. The streetcar operators continued to control traffic which was restricted to one lane for both northbound and southbound traffic.
The situation grew so dire that the TTC even started a shuttle bus service. The lack of northbound streetcars implied that the rest of the 504 line was being diverted at Queen Street to avoid compounding the problem.
Unfortunately the single shuttle bus was filled to "crush" capacity at the subway station. A few streetcar passengers squeezed on during the bus' first soutbound run; the rest had to return to the warmth of the streetcar to await the bus' return trip.
As much as people wished to have the situation resolved, the desire to see a tow truck show up and nail the driver with $200 of tow fees and fines grew stronger by the minute.
Which was why there was an aura of disbelief when the car's owner suddenly appeared.
My state of shock was total. I felt like I had suddenly learned what it feels like to come face to face with a manifestation of the antichrist. How would you react when confronted with the presence of an unknown entity suddenly manifested in front of you?
In my case, it was a case of gentle and diplomatic guidance, followed by a bout of righteous fury.
The Desperate Housewife, as I shall refer to the Jag driver, came off the sidewalk in a naive & bewildered state. It would be fair to say that I was even willing to take pity on her, to shelter her from the community's collective desire to flip her car upside down and set it on fire.
And so I told the Desperate Housewife that it would be best if she were to quickly get in her car and drive it away. Enough damage had been done. She was lucky that she had saved herself hundreds of dollars in penalties, not to mention an unpleasant trip to the impound lot to retrieve her car. Had this been rush hour rather than a late hour, there would've been a very real possibility of more hotheads on the street willing to 'redecorate' her car in addition to forcibly relocating it.
I didn't mention any of those "alternate scenarios". My point was simple. Move your car. With haste. We're waiting.
As is often the case when someone's confronted with their stupidity, it couldn't be that simple.
The Desperate Housewife started to sputter about how she thought her parking spot was 'legal'. It wasn't a "no parking" zone. This was, of course, a textbook case of someone thinking "horizontally" rather than "vertically". The ironic parallels to failures in the business world should be obvious.
Yes, parallel to horizontal sidewalk, your parking spot is perfectly legal. Vertical to the curb, though, you are blocking the streetcar tracks.
The bold text is a hint of what was to come.
This was not the time to carry on a polite parliamentary style debate in the tradition of Hart House or Oxford. If I were back in the halls of one of those august institutions I might listen to the other person's well-reasoned thoughts, and then wait for my turn to list my elegant rebuttal.
But I was not in the mood to indulge in a Desperate Housewife's psychodrama.
Honestly - if you see three streetcars lined up behind your car, what bizarre sense of self-importance is going to compel you to explain yourself.
You screwed up, you're wrong, and you're lucky you showed up when you did. Now get out.
This logic was not immediately clear to the Desperate Housewife, and if we Torontonians have a fault, it's that we're polite to the point of lacking a certain bluntness which I've come to admire in others, particularly the French, both in Montreal and in Paris.
Well let no one say that I'm not able to match the temper of a hot-blooded francophone.
"We don't care about your rationale for blocking the street. We've waited long enough.
"JUST GET IN YOUR CAR AND LEAVE.
When taught the background behind the story of Jesus tossing the money changers out of the Temple, the concept of Righteous Anger is raised. This link does a great job of summarizing it.
I must say, that's exactly what I felt when those words came out. Technically speaking, an exorcism is the act of casting out a demon. My last words felt appropriate.
"Go, and DON'T COME BACK!"
Seriously, we don't need people driving down to our streets and causing chaos, upheaval and suffering. Next time, take a cab if you're going to fail at driving - and more importantly - parking.
Public transit is suffering enough in Toronto without fits of disaster making matters worse.
At some point in time Dennis' site led me to stumble upon tastytax.com, which is run by a tax lawyer out to provide some useful advice.
The page I linked to is cool in itself because it shares a thirteen-point list of suggestions on how to manage your small business' records if your business is really small (so you can't afford a full-on part-time bookkeeper), and organizing your records isn't your strong suit.
The advice is both straightforward and clever. Like remembering to open a separate business account to keep your personal and business funds from getting mixed up in case the tax man comes around and audits you.
Four of the thirteen points are actually just steps to point out how simple it is to keep track of how much money you earned in sales. I found the writing to be simultaneously clever, interesting, and hilarious:
- Get those carbon pad receipt books from Staples or wherever.
- Write “2008″ on the outside of them.
- Try if you can to put the dates on the receipts when you sell
stuff. At least put a date on the first transaction of 2008 and the
- At the end of the year, Lynda’s staff will “run a tape” (YES I
KNOW!!!! ADDING MACHINES WITH A PAPER TAPE!!! WTF!!! OMG OMG
OMG!!!1ELEVEN!). That will give us gross sales for the year and a base
on which to remit sales tax collected.
I'm a sucker for the OMG!!!1!!ELEVEN gag which has been featured on Videosift before. Annoyingly, I can't find a direct link to the gag, but I welcome you to search Videosift for it.
The site's now in my Google Reader feed, I'll be following to see what else I find there. Even the about page is great and is inspiring me to re-write mine, when I find the time.
This site is clear, breezy, open, and humorous. I will pay a $5.00
penalty by Paypal to the first person to point out a four-syllable word
on the website. Hmmm. That will be hard. Alternative minimum tax.
“Alternative” is four syllables.” Gotta rethink this. Hold on a sec.
That would be a fun game. Even more fun than getting paid for sitting for interviews.
About today's photo: sure, I could come up with some esoteric rationale for linking a discussion of a blog about taxes with a shot of flying pigeons in Paris. But it's more fun if I make you come up with the rationale instead. It's better than thinking 'Tax, accounting, tax, accounting'. I want you to think, "what are these pigeons doing here?" Have fun.
Funny, without an audience giving you feedback, you write about what strikes your fancy and will hopefully appeal to people. With people telling you what's on their mind, though, you can apply a laser-like focus on what interests them instead.
This assumes you have something intelligent or useful to share about their interests.
And so thanks JC, for revealing that at least one person out there finds the things Neil and I write about somewhat useful.
JC's question, posted on Neil's blog, was regarding the 'slow season'. Someone new to the profession will think, quite logically, if you have a 'busy season', then perhaps you may have little or nothing to do during the slow season.
At the risk of making some broad, sweeping generalizations, I'll tackle this question by drawing upon many years of busy seasons, both from my personal experience and those of others who have shared their stories with me over time.
Before jumping into a few myths or scenarios, I'll say this one caveat: everything you read here will depend on your individual situation. You could work in the exact same city and department as a friend, but if she works at a firm experiencing a slow-down due to lost business, and your company is experiencing a 'mini-boom', possibly because your firm
stole 'won' business from your friend's firm, then your experiences will differ completely.
The myth and truth of 'slow' season
If you're lucky, you'll work in an office where you work part of the year for 45 hours a week, and a roughly equal part of the year for 35 hours a week. As far as I can tell, the scenario of an "equal" split between 35 and 45 weeks is rare to the point of being non-existent in Accounting Firms. In reality, even if you find such an office, the "35 hour" section of the year may be at most one or two months of the year, 40 is the norm, and 45-50 or more hours will probably occupy a larger chunk of the year than the precious 35's.
Sitting on the bench
It's more likely that you will experience sporadic fits where you're not assigned to any client whatsoever. This grows progressively rarer with the more experience you get in a firm - 'seniors' and managers are usually always busy finishing up their last client, working on the current client, and preparing for their next one. Whatever downtime they find is usually eaten up by any of the three aforementioned activities.
But if you just started working for a firm, you only have one client in your lap - if any. It does happen, unfortunately for the eager keeners among you, that you'll start work only to find that through no fault of anyone in the firm, there's nothing for you "to do". Of course, some firms are careless and simply assume they will have
something for you, but never get around to finding something. If your firm is careless, you have my sympathy. You can't just assume the worst, though, as sometimes it's not your firm's fault, but rather an unfortunate series of events, often triggered by something unfortunate happening at a client site, pushing back work that was scheduled well in advance.
Hopefully you'll have some sort of training to keep you busy, or even better, someone else who needs the help of 'the new guy'.
If you find yourself sitting on the bench a lot after having been at the firm for months, that's generally a Bad Sign. While being able to surf websites and chit-chat with friends is all well and good, do try and keep reminding people you're willing and able to do work, should any arise.
"Keeping busy when things are slow" is a topic unto itself worthy of further exploration. Which I might do, when I'm ironically, less busy. Don't hold your breath.
Multiple busy seasons???
Yes, they're possible. And, believe it or not, you can experience both 'bench' time and multiple busy seasons in the same year, though doing more than 2 busy seasons in one year that means you'll definitely be subject to shorter versions of both.
Examples of the types of busy seasons a young CA can experience:
- Financial audit the 'traditional January-March' Northern hemisphere season - it happens about 6 months later in Australia - yes, exchange programs let you experience both in one year),
- IT audit (usually 3 to 6 months in advance of #1, a season which I know and love),
- Personal Income Tax (surprisingly fun, actually - typing depends on your jursdiction),
- Corporate Income Tax (timing as above, possibly less fun)
- Pension Funds (ditto)
- Non-standard crazy deadlines (client-specific, you find out your office has to do 100 hours of work in a 40-hour work week, and there's only 1.5 people free to do it, as fun as it is unnerving)
This list is not exhaustive, and I haven't personally experienced more than about half of the types of busy seasons listed above - fun - but it's enough to provide a decent example.
Not having a life
Clearly if you're working 12 hours a day, that only leaves you 8 hours of time to party if you want to get 4 hours of sleep a night. Adjust equation accordingly depending your preference for sleep versus partying. Partying includes eating and all the other fun stuff you do outside work, of course.
In all seriousness, though, I've only had a few instances throughout my relatively short career where 12 hour days occurred with any frequency. Other people I know at various firms have been less fortunate, but on the whole, young CAs don't work anywhere near as many hours as people working in investment banks. Sure, we don't get 50-100% bonuses either, but I can't complain about the hours. Occasional spasms of long hours are counterbalanced by various perks. And the load isn't so bad that I don't have time to write here when I'm not seeing and photographing my friends from outside work or playing some games.
JC and anyone else about to start working in a firm big or small: you're as always welcome to leave comments with other questions about life in the CA firms. Because if you don't ask, I'll just have to resort to writing with a Commie's eye about the poor state of transit in Toronto and trying to make sense of accounting rules and audit work.
It's always a good time to talk about the slow season because someone, somewhere, is enjoying it. And all that might be standing between you and your next slow season is a mad push to finish up work on your client ahead of schedule so you can relax after a job well done.
Turns out a subway train derailed last night. Oh.
Fortunately no one was injured.
I really wish Toronto would radically expand its subway system to something that begins to match the glorious Parisian Metro.
Sure, the train pictured above has an ironically burned-out headlamp, but at least it stayed on the tracks. And there's 14 "standard" metro tracks, a few tram lines, and several "RER" commuter train lines criss-crossing the city.
Toronto's painfully slowly expanding its system, but the real targets for development are stymied for various idiotic political reasons.
Our last major expansion, the Sheppard line, is nice and all, but we got it at the cost of the axing of the Eglinton subway line, where density and traffic is huge, as anyone who has ever tried to travel between Dufferin and Yonge on that road can attest.
Of course, I don't think anywhere near as many rich developers stood to profit from construction of brand new condos on Eglinton as there seemingly are on Sheppard. Is it any coincidence that our former travesty of a mayor North York Mel Lastman was in charge when the poorer Eglinton (York) neighbourhood's line was canned and the Sheppard (North York) neighbourhood's line went ahead?
I've discussed my disgust with various operators on the TTC line who confirm the truth of my observations. Eglinton has more than enough pre-existing bus traffic to be replaced with a high speed subway.
Sheppard? It never did to begin with.
The funny thing is that politicians also continue to dither over a rail line to Pearson International Airport while the Eglinton line could've made short work of the challenge - Eglinton, after all, goes directly to the airport!
The fact that our western-most subway stop, Kipling, has maintained its terminal status since its construction 28 years ago. Drive along Bloor Street past Kipling and you'll see a huge series of apartment buildings stretching into Mississauga. You could have an excellent and heavily used series of stations out there. But nothing.
If I were mayor of Mississauga, my first priority would be to extend the subway line to relieve the insane gridlock known as the roads of that suburb. I'm really puzzled and perturbed by Hazel's 30 years of inaction. Yes, the same lady has been in charge for 30 years. Does she want to keep the urban 'riff-raff' out of here bedroom-community-in-denial with a moat of automobile arteries? Seems like it. Which is a shame, given how overloaded the GO trains are due to the lack of any other viable connections to downtown.
3097 pieces of spam - it's a lot, and I think it's a new record. I'm on the road and don't have much spare time to discuss it though, so I'll just leave this statistic up and move on.