November 2008 - Posts
I got one of my friends Water Rant for his birthday - it's a book based on the blog written by The Waiter; he recently wrote about his short field trip to buy coffee and ask questions at a Dunkin' Donuts shop, where he learns that monthly tipping has fallen from $500 to $350 for the two young men running the shop.
That's a 30% drop - though he adds that the employees report that people aren't spending less on food, just on the tip side of things.
Of course, you can't extrapolate a donut shop - a single data collection point - to cover an entire 300 million person nation, but it's an interesting insight nonetheless.
Conducting research at a fancier place: would it make the economic situation look better, or even worse?
I wonder if economists have given much thought to the "food service tipping index" as another measure of consumer confidence?
But, given the fixed prices and - let's assume this is true - similar spending rate on donut shop products themselves, is the fall in tipping indicative of real hardship, or are people just being cheap?
I suppose that's where you risk bleeding a little psychology into your strict statistical economic analysis.
The tipping purists will charge that if you can't afford to eat out, you shouldn't eat out in the first place.
Defenders of the "pay what you feel like" camp, on the other hand, will likely say, "hey, at least I'm spending something to support your business."
As much as the latter point makes sense - no business is worse than poor business - does it makes sense to allow a system that first punishes the employees before affecting the owners to persist?
Are you tipping more to make up for those tipping less? Click here to comment on the absurdity or wisdom of that idea.
One of my friends just pointed out this article in the Globe, which explains how the buyout of Bell Canada by one of Canada's largest Teachers' Pension funds is on the verge of falling through completely.
A teacher's pension plan buying one of Canada's largest corporations? Yes, our teachers have deep pockets saving for their retirements
Of course I'm going to illustrate this post an artsy edit of one of my photos of the BCE Place atrium.
I found it interesting to see this paragraph in the article:
The helpful little solvency clause, however, became the deal's Achilles
heel in recent weeks as financial market carnage sharply lowered
solvency thresholds, leaving the company vulnerable to KPMG's stunning
I suppose "decision" is one way of describing an auditor's conclusion - unlike the journalist, auditors themselves tend not to think of their conclusions as "decisions" though - that smacks of a subjective call similar to that made by judges of freestyle skiing and skating events in the Olympics rather than the product of judicious analysis, which I presume the KPMG team did, in reaching its conclusion.
As soon as I read something questionable I worry a little. Then my normal suspicions of journalists' bias spike up to the maximum level when I remember that the Globe and Mail is owned by CTVglobemedia Inc, who describe themselves as "Canada's premier multimedia company with ownership of CTV, Canada’s #1
television network, and The Globe and Mail, Canada’s #1 national
newspaper. CTV Inc. owns and operates 27 conventional stations across
the country, with interests in 32 specialty channels, including
Canada’s #1 specialty channel, TSN. CTVglobemedia also owns the CHUM
Radio Division, which operates 34 radio stations throughout Canada,
including CHUM FM, Canada’s # 1 FM station."
Now, go to sympatico.ca, an internet portal owned by, um, Bell.
If you read an article in Time about anything in the Time Warner empire, you'll usually see that they're careful to mention, "this entity is part of the media empire we also belong to", or something to that effect.
How come when I read the article about this on sympatico.ca they didn't even bother with that message?
Though ironically the video on their site is provided by the CBC, so I suppose I'll lay off on this whole "oooh, are the reporters really independent?" line of questioning for a moment.
Getting challenged by everyone: the life of an auditor
I won't be harsh on journalists: they're just trying to
present two sides of the story while working in Canada's cozy little reporters' community.
But as my economics professors and
others pointed out, the "two sides" method isn't always the best - sometimes
someone may simply be wrong. Take this quote used by the
sympatico.ca article print with a grain of salt:
"We are disappointed with KPMG's preliminary view of post-transaction
solvency, which is based on numerous assumptions and methodologies that
we are currently reviewing. The company disagrees that the addition of
the [leveraged buyout] debt would result in BCE not meeting the
technical solvency definition," said Siim Vanaselja, BCE's chief
I have problems with Slim's quote::
- He's trying to minimize the KPMG conclusion as a "preliminary view" - is it really just that? If so, I take this point back. Or is this their final view? Because if it is...
- Audit firms are by nature very conservative. If they are going to say something this incredibly huge and unexpected, you had better believe dozens of very smart and very experienced people will spend a copious amount of time challenging the smallest detail. The fact that this could - and did - wipe up over $10 billion in market value isn't taken lightly by anyone. And besides that, they know that people like Slim and Anthony in the next quote are going challenge the heck out of every assumption and calculation.
- I would simply be a bit more careful in using a quote like that - perhaps by asking KPMG to respond. Though being conservative auditors, they may likely say 'no comment, we have a job to do'. I'd like to know if the reporter tried though.
Knowing their report is going to be the main method of communicating to the public - how often do you see audit firms issue press releases outside their reports? - they have to be ready for anything, like Anthony's quote in the Globe article:
“I think this is one of the most controversial calls in auditing
history in Canada,” said Anthony Scilipoti, executive vice-president of
Veritas Investment Research Corp., an independent research firm with
expertise in accounting issues.
Indeed, the auditor's call was so unexpected that BCE's stock had been
climbing in recent days to a close at $38.35 a share in trading on the
Toronto Stock Exchange Tuesday as investors bet that the $42.75-a-share
bid would successfully close.
Stock prices fell into the $23 range after this news broke.
Canadian Ownership rules are wild
Canada has its own convoluted laws on national ownership
restrictions to help defend our national media which inadvertently encourage some of this incestuous
cross-ownership, but that doesn't really excuse things, does it?
The Globe article really came through in the later part of the article with a decent description of the asset tests which KPMG would have to conduct to reach its conclusions:
There are four tests that make up the solvency test. Two are the most
important. One is a cash flow test, a measure of a company's ability to
meet interest, debt and other obligations as they come due. The other
is called an asset test, which measures whether the company would be
able to fulfill its obligations if it were to sell all of its assets.
It's this latter test that BCE appears to have failed and sources
described it as the key point of dispute between KPMG and the company.
Now contrast auditors against the contrived relationship between the journalists and their own corporate bosses, about whom they're trying to report fairly. I'm sure they're doing their best, but this is where that concept of the "appearance of independence" is also crucial.
It's one of the reasons why even lowly audit staff are restricted from investing in a company if their firm has any sort of relationship with them that would impair independence.
You don't want to give people a reason to question your objectivity.
How complicated can things get?
Deal, or No Deal?
Not wanting to risk trouble, I avoided getting BCE stock - I didn't even check to see whether my audit firm does any work on BCE. I just said no to buying anything.
I figured I would save stress and time by not even thinking of trying my luck buying their stock, even when everyone said it looked undervalued compared to the final sale price. In some ways, having to check before buying keeps you from making mistakes though, so there is a bitter upside to these rules.
It's no time to gloat about being clever for missing out on this particular mess, though. There's some non-zero chance that BCE could recover and the deal could go through - though how likely is that given the current market crisis? More importantly, though, the teachers themselves point out that BCE pays a dividend - any company, if well run, can recover from falls and wind up a profitable investment if you wait long enough - and they don't make more big mistakes, of course.
It's interesting to note how the CBC points out that a failure
of this deal could end up being a Good Thing for the Teachers. Actually, in all fairness, so did the Globe:
The banks, which stood to swallow billions of dollars in losses had the
deal been consummated, given the sickly credit markets, will be off the
hook if KPMG doesn't offer its approval.
Sources said that even if Teachers wanted to restructure the deal, the
banks would use this as an excuse to extricate themselves from lending
Although the collapse of the largest ever private equity deal might
cost Teachers some bragging rights, it has saved the pension giant from
possibly overpaying for a company in a brutal market, where credit
remains dry. In fact, the fund has already won many concessions it was
lobbying for before it put BCE into play and jump-started an auction
for the company.
Look at that web of players.
It's ironic that the banks - which would have faced large losses in an already poor market - may end up "winning" if the deal falls through, which will be good for them after all the bad news they've had to endure recently.
I'm about to dive into a discussion of tax rules and the people who break them, but in case you find that boring there's a clip from Office Space at the end, so keep reading.
Evil HR Lady wrote in response to a question about family businesses which hire friends and family to work for them.
She's careful to acknowledge that there's only so much an HR person knows about tax and accounting rules.
So here's a quick response to the tax question:
Hiring your children is not illegal either. Nor would paying them more
than other employees be anything less than expected. Is it stupid?
Probably. (Although, I wonder if it would be illegal to pay them
extreme amounts of money in an attempt to transfer assets to them
without IRS problems. Hmmmm, too bad I'm not an accountant either.)
The answer is yes, it can be illegal indeed, especially in the scenario described above. Every country has its own tax rules. So while what I write about was taught in Canada, you're likely to find similar rules in the US and most other modern Western countries.
Not specializing in tax, I haven't had the stress-inducing crisis of finding someone in this position, but my tax training classes made it clear: the concept of giving your children or other relatives big sums of cash and trying to make it look like a "business expense" is something a federal government tax auditor will zero in on like a shark with lasers on its head.
The results will not be pretty.
Especially if you have a son mopping floors for three hours a month and
he's getting stock options and hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, you
run the very real risk of having some unfavourable tax rulings made
against your treatment of the compensation.
If your uncle or daughter is actually doing some serious management consulting work for your factory, then perhaps the $75,000 you're paying them yearly is justifiable, especially if you can easily point out that what any other consultant would charge you for those types of services.
Contrast with the no-good son who is supposed to help with the mopping but usually calls in drunk instead. In an audit, it's very likely you could get nailed for tax evasion or other charges.
Assuming you're being honest about your taxes and salaries, then you still need to protect yourself in case the tax authorities challenge you. And that means documenting what your family and friends are up to. Time sheets, TPS reports, actual work products - whatever evidence you can come up with to prove you're not trying to evade taxes you have should be maintained to prove you're being honest about your tax obligations. If you think you have a borderline scenario where you think you're right but will have trouble proving it, get a competent professional accountant or tax lawyer to give you actual direct advice - given the amount of money you could end up paying in back taxes, penalties and interest if you're wrong, it's well worth a small fee to make sure you're set-up ok.
On Michael Bolton's name: "Why should I change, he's the one who sucks"
Flying to Washington on three private jets to ask for billions of dollars?
I feel bad for the workers in the auto industry, but if I was working in that field, I would be planning an exit strategy around now, unless I was in a position to improve things.
Especially because the heads of the companies aren't exactly inspiring confidence right now. From the Dana Milbank article:
But the executives were not helping their own case. When Rep. Paul Kanjorski
(D-Pa.) tried to find out when GM would run out of cash, Wagoner hemmed
and hawed until the lawmaker protested that "I don't quite understand
what the hell you just told me." When Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
asked about GM's outlook for the quarter, Wagoner informed him that "we
don't provide financial guidance in earnings."
So it was hard to feel sorry for the executives when Rep. Peter
Roskam (R-Ill.), late in the hearing, reminded them again that "the
symbolism of the private jet is difficult," and mischievously asked the
witnesses whether, in another symbolic gesture, they would be willing
to work for $1 a year, as Nardelli has offered to do.
"I don't have a position on that today," demurred Wagoner (2007 total compensation: $15.7 million).
"I understand the intent, but I think where we are is okay," said Mulally ($21.7 million).
"I'm asking about you," Roskam pressed.
"I think I'm okay where I am," Mulally said.
All week as I heard stories about the bailout requests, I as myself, "what's in it for us, the taxpayers?" There were various disaster theories about how millions would suddenly find themselves unemployed.
While the wild theories definiltely sounded scary, I tried to reconcile them with reality.
People are sitll buying millions of cars.
Those cars will not all be produced by the Japanese, Koreans and Germans. Somebody will still be buying domestic cars, so those plants will continue to operate, albeit possibly under new ownership, no?
Just look at all the American cars in this photo. Well, I think one of them's American, anyway.
The first part of this video, the first minute or so, sounds sort of reasonable. The second guy, though, oh man, he sounds like droopy dog. What's up with that?
One of the rites of passage for CA students is filling out their professional experience declaration. Every province in Canada has its own twist, but in Ontario you fill out the CA Student Experience Certification Report.
One of the trickiest questions you'll be challenged with - aside from pulling the math from your timesheet reports for the 30 months you spent getting your 2500 hours - will be a simple bit of trivia.
What's my firm's ICAO #?
Sure, you could call them to ask. And if you're lazy you will. Or maybe you know someone in your company who recently figured it out the hard way.
But since you're already here, read on to learn the quick and easy way.
Use the "Find a CA Firm" feature to figure it out in a few seconds. There's just one trick and then it's very easy.
The trick is simply knowing about a very useful feature built in to most internet browsers: in both Firefox and IE, as well as many other internet browsers, you can see the name of the internet link by hovering your mouse over it before clicking. For example, hover your mouse here and you'll see http://www.krupo.ca on the bottom left corner of your window.
Now, let's assume your company's office is located in downtown Toronto. Click here to go to the downtown "Find a CA firm" link. Hover your mouse over any firm's name.
Instead of a neat little address, you'll find the following bit of cryptic code: BLOCKED SCRIPTopen_window('details.aspx?searchnumber=XXXXXX').
"XXXXXX" is your firm name. Include the entire field, including the zeroes at the front, if any, on your form.
There's one extra caveat: click on the link to figure out which office is yours - Deloitte, for example, has four offices in the downtown core. Click on the four links to figure out which code number belongs to your particular office - I understand that it's based on your office's address. If you're worked at multiple offices during your experience period I'm not sure what you should do, though: so call the ICAO and ask. My gut feeling is you'll have to submit multiple forms, but check with them first before drowning yourself in paper work. And if you do find out, leave me a comment letting me know for sure.
Once you've figured this out data, you can now complete your form, get your supervising partner to sign it - any one of them, if you have several. Then just submit your form to the ICAO to get have your application to move up from CA Student to full CA.
Your certificate will arrive in a couple of months or so. They'll usually e-mail you the news in advance.
Congratulations, and welcome to the club.
You know you're attached to certain things, if you respond with
enthusiasm to changes. I refer of course to the new gmail themes. If
you don't have themes available on your account - gmail will inform you
when they're loaded on your particular account, it takes some time to
activate worldwide - you'll know.
I heard about it earlier today from a friend on the other side of the continent, but didn't see them until now.
And it looks cool. I'm very much intrigued by how some themes change
based on which location you report being in. I changed to Tokyo from
home, and boom, it changed from night to day, literally, in the
Geeking out on gmail themes seems appropriate, because I today I also learned that I'm apparently the #2 geek in the city, based on the now-tabulated CISA exam results.
I am, of course, very curious to see how much geekier you have to be to score first place on that exam.
And did that guy - I presume, sorry, that it's a guy - finish in a span of time even shorter than my under-3-hour sitting for the 4-hour exam?
Perhaps I'll find out at the results party in two weeks.
Every once in a while I drift back to discussing the topic of accounting, usually because I've encountered something relevant to discuss - and because I think I can find a way to explain it to a normal person without making them lapse into a coma.
To someone not working a desk job which involves running audits or dealing with a company's finance department SOX is just another code-word, like "War on Terror" or "lolcats" - either you know what it is, or it's a just a vague term in need of explanation if you're to really understand it.
It's a set of rules for how financial reporting and risks are to be managed and documented, and introduced after the Enron debacle, the effect of SOX is to impose discipline and standardized processes for large companies to follow. The idea being that investors are better served if how a company reports the financial informatin used to prepare its financial statements if this is a consistent and reliable process, rather than some wild "let's figure out some math on the back of a napkin" approach.
I'm grossly oversimplifying, of course, but only to make it easier for a non-specialist to understand what this potentially big and messy thing is.
Knowing this much, you may start to understand why getting rid of SOX might not be the best of ideas. For more details, read this little article about the failure of logic associated with repealing SOX - something the recently defeated Republicans in the US are trumpeting.
Wait, you just lost a historic election, one of the reasons being your excessive zeal for deregulation, and you think advocating more deregulation is the answer?
Time magazine has an eloquent article hitting on these same points
- pointing out that the Republicans brought in "freedom" which went to
extreme ultra-freedom which ended up sort of oddly confining -
especially when you found yourself drowning in debt. The Democrats have
arrived, to promise "order", which used to be popular until the 60's,
when it turned into disorder. They write:
In America, political majorities live or die at the intersection of two
public yearnings: for freedom and for order. A century ago, in the
Progressive Era, modern American liberalism was born, in historian
Robert Wiebe's words, as a "search for order." America's giant
industrial monopolies, the progressives believed, were turning
capitalism into a jungle, a wild and lawless place where only the
strong and savage survived. By the time Roosevelt took office during
the Great Depression, the entire ecosystem appeared to be in a death
spiral, with Americans crying out for government to take control.
F.D.R. did — juicing the economy with unprecedented amounts of
government cash, creating new protections for the unemployed and the
elderly, and imposing rules for how industry was to behave.
Conservatives wailed that economic freedom was under assault, but most
ordinary Americans thanked God that Washington was securing their bank
deposits, helping labor unions boost their wages, giving them a pension
when they retired and pumping money into the economy to make sure it
never fell into depression again. They didn't feel unfree; they felt
secure. For three and a half decades, from the mid-1930s through the
'60s, government imposed order on the market. The jungle of American
capitalism became a well-tended garden, a safe and pleasant place for
ordinary folks to stroll. Americans responded by voting for
F.D.R.-style liberalism — which even most Republican politicians came
to accept — in election after election.
They go on to discuss the recent economic history of the US, noting that the pendulum started to swing back against all this free-marketeering in the mid-90's.
Starting in the 1990s, average Americans began deciding that the
conservative economic agenda was a bit like the liberal cultural agenda
of the 1960s: less liberating than frightening. When the Gingrich
Republicans tried to slash Medicare, the public turned on them en masse.
Several of the points in that issue of Time would make my economics professors gag and convulse, perhaps with good reason. But politics ignores the truths of economics when convenient. And the grand theories of economics are like battle plans anyway. They rarely survive first contact with reality.
In light of the recent failures in the world of high finance- and the general financial implosion heralding the 2008 American recession - would it really be advisable to make it easier for a company to try and fudge its numbers and make up something that feels right rather than reflects reality?
Ah, you stop me could rightly stop me at the mention of those implosions: "wait, but if SOX is so great, why didn't it stop the 'splosions?" Good question. The problem in this case was that SOX wasn't meant to cure everything - there are other rules and regulations to keep banks from carried away when lending money.
In Canada, for example, those rules are still in place, and the economy is still humming along soundly. Well, the banks aren't imploding, anyway.
And in the US?
8 years of Bush included repealing many other regulations -
including rules regarding how much money you were allowed to lend as a
bank. Freed from lower ratios, banks went to town on lending too much.
Not limited to a smaller pool of money, the new goal wasn't "is this a
safe investment for us," but "who else can we lend money to?" to maximize hyper profits?
As soon as a bank stops being anal-retentive about its lending rules, you're setting yourself up for disaster.
And here we are.
How exactly would getting rid of SOX help? It wouldn't. It would simply be yet another repealed regulation, in turn making it easier for things to go wrong.
As if things weren't bad enough already.
The legislation can of course be improved to be more about substance over form and all those other bold prescriptions for fixing how financial statements are presented, but improving the rules themselves is another entirely.
Want to repeal SOX anyway? Leave a comment telling me why.
Sam Roberts played the Music Hall on the Danforth last night -
they're in town all week playing 4 Toronto shows, with fellow Montreal
rockers the Stills opening for them.
Sam Roberts and Metric are the two Canadian groups where I can recognize pretty much their entire repertoires, by virtue of owning all their albums and listening to them relatively obsessively. I've even managed to meet and interview Sam Roberts and the rest of the band in person in my student journalism days. These guys are awesome.
If you haven't heard of Sam Roberts, I'll forgive you if you don't live in Canada. Here's an America-centric review of a 2-year-old Chicago show. It'll give you some decent background.
I think I did a little more damage to my voice moments earlier by trying to sing along again to Detroit '67's music video. How can you NOT resist its enthusiastically joyous chorus? Watching the video you find some incredible dissonance in the dark subject matter Detroit '67 recalls, considering the happy, jangle-pop sound of the song itself, but that's just a sign of a really well made music video.
The Friday November 14 show was incredible as usual - accentuated by the fact that I got to know a couple of extremely wonderful people this summer. Thanks to them, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in front row centre of the Music Hall's mezzanine level. It's an awesome vantage point to see any performance, really. We owe them a huge debt of thanks!
In addition to seeing the show from up there, you could also spy the setlists from the lighting and mixing board consoles. Sam's show was packed with awesome - I don't see anyone else posting the set list for the show, so here goes:
- Detroit ‘67
- The Gate
- Love at the End of the World
- The Resistance
- Words and Fire
- Oh Maria
- With a Bullet
- Bridge to Nowhere
- Fixed to Ruin (one of my favourite lines: “She can dance like she got no bones”)
- Hard Road
- Up Sister
- Lions of the Kalahari
- Brother Down
- Them Kids
A three song encore followed:
- Don't Walk Away Eileen
- Uprising Down Under
These guys are both awesome performers, and pure musicians. Clever uses of dynamics, pauses as well as just the general rhythm and melodies. They deserve plenty of praise for elevating rock to something more than just another strain of popular music.
The especially long pregnant rest in the Resistance, where the entire song came to a full stop - with the crowd cheering wildly - only to have Sam pick up again a capella, then have the rest of the band crash right back into the delicious scrum. The album version's short little break is more like coasting through an intersection compared to the "let's use the audience's roar to give maximum John Cage-ish effect". A rollercoaster of awesome would be an apt description for their showmanship.
I'll eventually figure out where I stored my archive of old photos, including the series from when I met the group while they were still small enough to be playing the Frosh Week circuit.
Until then, here's one more video - the "Love at the End of the World" album's first single - Them Kids. A very fun parody of the Sims for starters and a delight of a song too.
Starting off the show, the Stills invited everyone to rush forward towards the stage from their seats - which the early crowd did dutifully. It was a great atmosphere. Here's the Stills' setlist, in case you're interested in comparing what you hear on Saturday night to the Friday night show.
- Eastern Europe
- In the Beginning
- Lola Stars and Stripes
- Snow in California
- Snakecharming the Masses
- Hands on Fire
- Still in Love Song
- Don’t Talk Down
- Being Here
Most of the songs' lyrics are listed here.
As yet another sold out show, the venue was packed, and if you weren't having a good time, then you must've been deaf. The November 11 show. which also got rave reviews. Of course the other shows had to be awesome - my croaking voice from cheering and singing along is evidence enough.
Last night also brought new meaning to the term "all ages show" when we spied from above a woman with a baby in her arms at the show.
Coolest. Mom. Ever.
The Sam Roberts tour will continue through Canada and then take on the world in January. Good luck to them. Next time I'm in Europe I want to hear Sam rocking out on radios, not white-trash recycler Chad.
A few people have written to me looking for help either getting a job with the Big Four, or with SOA/UFE exam preparation tips.
I'm unable to offer any one-on-one services to help people with these exams as I'm fully booked helping colleagues at work and writing here. I will address specific requests that I'm able to write about here, but if you're a repeat writer I can't offer a complete set of diagnostics and advice via e-mail or phone calls. Among many reasons, there's the fact that if I'm going to respond with advice, I'd like to share the tips here, because that's the whole point of writing here in the first place is to help as many people as possible.
I am, however, not one to turn away someone looking for help, so here are a few tips to keep in mind so if you didn't pass the SOA this year or are unlucky on the UFE on any year you can do better next time:
- Figure out what went wrong. This is the single most important piece of advice, complemented only by its cousin, #2:
- Once you know what went wrong, work on a plan to fix it. If you didn't study enough hours - talk to a successful writer and compare your old study schedule to yours. If you didn't write enough or if you spent too much time and burned out, that's something relatively easy to fix. All my other advice is a variation on the first two points, really. And so we continue.
- Get all the detailed exam results you can get - some argue the standard PAR is worth the fee to receive the full UFE-debriefing report pointing out which areas were you strong and weak points. If you only missed out on small areas, make sure you go back to #1 and identify why. If your problem was pervasive - you did poorly everywhere, again, ask yourself why.
- If you spent enough time but had other issues which affected you writing - a poor study-group, personal issues, interference from work when you should've been thinking only about writing - do everything you need to do to eliminate those factors from bothering you on your next attempt. Yes, this is basically #1 being rephrased: it's that important, it bears repeating. Do a proper diagnosis.
- If you don't write, or more importantly, type very fast, fix that now. You want to be able to type out your thoughts as fast you can think.
- Thinking fast is crucial. And I don't mean to say you're not smart: but can you think fast in English or French? Whichever Official Language you're using to write the exam, if you're not a native speaker, don't let this turn into a handicap. Several of the letters I've received are from people who didn't grow up in Canada. Immerse yourself in reading in Canadian. The exam requires that you know your technical skills and have the ability to communicate your findings. But if you're running out of time because it's taking too much time to read the case and write your response, you have to fix that. Practicing reading and writing quickly and well is therefore crucial.
- Read your old exams, particularly your practice cases. Identify the mistakes you made. Determine whether you're still making them. It's smart to build a list of all the mistakes and solutions to review so you can avoid falling into common traps.
- Get more advice. Trusted advice. That's because there are many other
possible factors that could have caused you to do poorly. Discuss your
experience with people you know and trust. This is the most important
skill a CA possesses, so it's kind of neat how the UFE process forces
you to develop it. If you think you know everything and don't need to
ask others for advice, you're setting yourself up for trouble. You may
be thinking, "gee, this is a clever idea and I'm sure everyone will
appreciate the wise and witty response I've written." And maybe you'll
be right. But it's much smarter to get a second opinion from someone
who's both bold and honest and ready to point out the potential flaws
in your course of action.
As much as some people prefer to watch drama - witness the smear tactics in election campaigns - it's much smarter to use the 'no drama' approach to exam.
That's my way of telling you to take advantage of the fact that virtually everyone you'll come across is willing to help you, in some way.
As long as you're willing listen.
Ignore people's advice at your own peril. You'll keep making embarrassing mistakes which will harm you professionally and can ultimately leave you in a place you don't want to be in - the negative spotlight.
The casino sign does not share the right approach. First off, it's not about winning. Though some have correctly likened the UFE process to a game, but that's another story.
Feel free to leave comments if you have other questions.
On the unusually long drive home from my client tonight - curse you Friday night volume - the silver lining to sitting forever in the car was the fact that I got to hear my favourite band's new single - Metric's new single "Help Me I'm Alive". Bless you Lezzy McGuire for doing the awesome-fantastic.
The moment I see this in stores I'm buying the album - I will blindly assume the rest of the album will be this awesome.
I also have to get tickets for their show next month.
Above: certainly not me. Someone had to take the picture
The first single is transcendent. I had some more insightful analysis of the elegant ending, Emily Haines' strong vocals and the return to earlier 'classic' Metric instrumentation but I somehow lost that paragraph. Oops.
No matter. I know I'm a horribly biased reviewer. I mean Metric's last album cover is on the wall behind me. They would have to endorse Palin as a wisened stateswoman and declare themselves Nickelback fans for me to find fault with them.
The only thing left to do now is to surf the track.
No matter how bad things are, something invariably comes along to put things in perspective.
And I say that while knowing things actually aren't bad at all. This past morning was another good day - it seemed like everything was going well. And in general, it was.
With a CD playing Arcade Fire, my car purring along nicely to return me to the audit site, everything seemed okay. Except for one strange fact.
The opposite lanes of the highway were absolutely empty.
Oh, the highway is closed.
But in the morning rush hour?
Must be some kind of serious crash.
I had no idea how grave it was until I switched on the radio and learned I was zooming towards a nasty accident.
Driving instructors love to harp on you that there's no such thing as an "accident", that collisions are avoidable and preventable.
But they don't envision a truck falling off an overpass and crushing you to death. Surviving something this bizarre is simply a matter of luck or fate.
At first - though it was hard to believe - radio reports made it sound like everyone survived, albeit some with serious injuries. Later in the day news updates reported that a man died from his injuries. Still, I considered it a small miracle that there wasn't more harm than that. His daughter was in the car with him. Though she survived, I can only imagine how horrific her experience must have been. And I can only pray that she'll get the support and love she needs after a tragedy like this.
The highway remained closed in the direction of home later into the day, so I had to take detours to find a way home. It took twice as long as it normally would, but who was I to complain? I got to go home, and everyone I know is whole and healthy.
Working as an auditor in North America - as opposed to the 'Wild West' crazy parts of the world is astonishingly safe - considering how rare incidents like this really are compared to the chaos of other places, which can make it easy to become fixated on trivialities. Enormous shocks like this serve, if anything, as a wakeup call to stay focused on the big picture of what you want from life.
I'd rather have someone just say it then have this much suffering deliver the lesson though.
This is a continuation of the examination of WSJ's article "The 'Trophy Kids' Go to Work" started previously - see part one here.
You know you're dealing with a train-wreck of an article when it spouts phrases such as, "they needn't worry about their next paycheck because they have their parents to cushion them."
Sure, some people are lucky and for them that's true. But for many others it's not: if they aren't gainfully employed, they're out on the street. Not pretty.
Or they may be at home, but they're still expected to help their parents - and it's not just a matter of "pulling your weight around", it's a matter of keeping the family simply fed!
Does the reporter really think everyone's parents look like Uncle Moneybags?
I don't have a lot of Uncle Moneybags-style stock photos. Sorry. Though he has the mustache, and a pipe too.
It's kind of sickening really to think that someone can be this ignorant and has a team of editors working on their writing, polishing it
to this level of empty generalizations.
This feeling of nausea, naturally, leads me to find out who exactly wrote the drivel in front of me - ah, Ron Alsop, respected columnist and writer for the WSJ - this is apparently an extract from his book. No doubt his clever editors twisted the text they ran to be as inflammatory as possible.
Sneaky devils, that much I'll credit them.
My suspicions were confirmed by reading this interview where Alsop balances his tart criticism with some balanced points in favour of young employees.
So he has a book to sell - that's understandable, you need a make a living somehow.
But his shock tactics grow stale; I certainly wouldn't waste money on the book to hear anecdotes about
They want to be treated like colleagues rather than subordinates and
expect ready access to senior executives, even the CEO, to share their
brilliant ideas. Recruiters at such companies as investment-banking
firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Amazon.com describe "student
stalkers" who brashly fire off emails to everyone from the CEO on down,
trying to get an inside track to a job.
If you work with a tight organization where firing off e-mails to the CEO makes sense, good for you, 150 employees certainly is a good size for a company. If you work in a huge enterprise, this might be silly.
Which leads to one question.
Did you include "student stalkers" in your article on a dare? Or was it because you lost a drinking contest? Or just a simple bet?
Regardless, the "ironic twists" are also unattractive:
In the final analysis, the generational tension is a bit ironic. After
all, the grumbling baby-boomer managers are the same indulgent parents
who produced the millennial generation. Ms. Barry of Merrill Lynch sees
the irony. She is teaching her teenage daughter to value her own
opinions and to challenge things. Now she sees many of those
challenging millennials at her company and wonders how she and other
managers can expect the kids they raised to suddenly behave differently
You start by throwing the accusatory bile that this generation is lazy and completely clueless about basic business protocols and work ethics. This was debunked in detail previously.
And now you're patting the kids on the back saying, "oh, we raised you to be little hell raisers, well done."
The upside for those of you despairing for any sign of people reading about something truly awesome is that at least I finally found a better Uncle Moneybags to share - this one from Paris.
It's not really about the the moneybags. It's all about the mustache.
Fortunately I don't find myself working with idiots - but I did find them discussed in the august columns of the Wall Street Journal. Oddly enough the managers weren't being blamed.
And to be honest, today our subject is more about idiot journalists, but they certainly air the views of people that I wouldn't want in charge of my company's HR practice. The WSJ article reads like something you would expect in the Dilbert universe - thanks to BD for pointing it out.
It does a Pravda-worthy job of slamming young employees as a group. Yes, some people are stupid and aren't ready for the workforce.
But trying to make it sound like everyone is like this is a complete abdication of personal responsibility - which the WSJ ironically trashes the young workers for not having - since it means you failed to find the good employees that you want to hire.
Want a good example? Look at the last "CEO" hiring job done by the US public.
Please please please don't screw things up on November 4.
Few things symbolize "epic failure" better than a two-four of beer in a baby carriage
Returning to the business failure world:
Gail McDaniel, a corporate consultant and career coach for college
students, spoke to managers at a health-care company who were
frustrated by some of their millennial employees. It seems that one
young man missed an important deadline, and when his manager asked him
to explain, he said, "Oh, you forgot to remind me."
Here's some free management consulting advice: stop hiring people who can best be described may best be described as "utter failures as human beings."
Some managers have seen millennials break down in tears after a
negative performance review and even quit their jobs. "They like the
constant positive reinforcement, but don't always take suggestions for
improvement well," says Steve Canale, recruiting manager at General
Oh wait, they're going to quit anyway - I don't really see what the problem is, then. Aside from the waste of resources from hiring and then replacing people.
That's a problem, but the real blame lies with your hiring methodology. For some reason you decided to hire foppish prats who you should instead be leaving behind to get a job with your competitors instead, where they can destroy them from the inside for you.
The earnestness and naivety on display in this article is really a marvel to behold - in case you're wondering, yes, I'm going all out and fisking this article - there's plenty to mock.
Although millennials have high expectations about what their employers
should provide them, companies shouldn't expect much loyalty in return.
If a job doesn't prove fulfilling, millennials will forsake it in a
flash. Indeed, many employers say it's retention that worries them most.
Do I even have to write a comment in response to this? Go read the comments to one of Francine's layoff posts if you don't already know that loyalty is a two-way street, and it's in short supply all over the business world.
One of the worst things you ever do is to think that you're somehow going to be given a "job for life" that you should be grateful for. Your current employment and benefits - great.
What happens in the future? You need to think about what that future is supposed to be unless you want to coast down a river, right over the waterfall onto the sharp jagged rocks.
I'll have to kick in a part two to finish documenting the faults of logic in this article.
Junk mail inched back up to 897 from 801. I blame the approaching holidays and desperate attempts to scam money out of more people.
Not much content to share today - so watch this instead.