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If you were able to design a business course....

For your Business Degree (Business Management, MBA, Accounting, Finance, etc).  What would it be?

So in other words, what practical skills would you have wish you had in College/Grad School that would have served you well in industry.

Examples (and these just come to mind) are Excel with database support, Access with database support, SQL or VB (macro) education, project management, gap analysis, accounting system implementation.

There are many more - what do you think?

Answers

DANIEL POIRIER
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Pro Tech International
(Chief Financial Officer, Pro Tech International) |

Wayne,

Your examples are very good and probably could be expanded to other software as well. One thing I have not seen out of a lot of accounting graduates is the ability to understand what belongs in the various non cash balance sheet accounts and how the reconciliation process actually works. Accounting schools deal with bank reconciliations, but don't really seem to pay much attention to reconciling the rest of the balance sheet. I understand this is a real nuts and bolts issue that does not relate to the CPA exam, but it is a function that newly minted corporate staff accountants are typically assigned in their first job.

Many of these kids have never even been exposed to the concept of tracking down transactions and making a determination on its suitability for an account that it has been placed in, (typically by a clerk). I also find that many new graduates have difficulty properly explaining the concept of balance sheet reconciliations when it is presented to them as a question in an interview.

Dan

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

Having just returned to my desk after a mind numbing conversation with one of my staff accountants, I couldn't agree with Daniel more. We spend so much time in school learning technical skills and preparing for certification exams that no one teaches us how to analyze, research, understand, and communicate clearly.

My conversation this morning was surrounding a renewal that was not processed on time. As a result we had to make a rush payment today to get a service back up and running. I gave the staff accountant copies of the relevant data (invoices with subscription information) and asked her to calculate and record the correct amount of expense through June 30. I received a blank stare in response and then she asked me what the entry should be. She finished her accounting degree several years ago and told us when hired that she had done complex reconciliations monthly.

Just as medical students have to take courses in bedside manners, there should be a course for accounting and finance students that takes a real life approach to a first job. Why are invoices reviewed and approved before payment? How do you determine what goes to expense and what gets put in pre-paid? What should really be in that balance sheet account at the end of the month? Why do we look for missing invoices to accrue for them at month end? I can't believe I am typing these things, but I have been having these conversations with people who have their CPA licenses but no clue about real life accounting. If I was able to do this myself, I would just hire a clerk. (Sorry for the rant, but I am flabbergasted at what I am dealing with here.)

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Sara - How do you really feel about the situation? Just kidding. I can relate.

I was, unfortunately, like your staff accountant several years ago. I graduated as an undergrad in 2005, thought I knew it all. Something similar was asked of me. I had no idea how to prove out the A/R and A/P aging to the subledger. "Subledger? What's that? You mean there is a such thing?"

"A schedule? Sure I can schedule you lunch? What day do you prefer?"

One thing I was taught by giving a blank stare was to go find someone that should know, ask them for help, then do what was asked, go back to the boss/supervisor and continue to look like a genius. If no one knows how, then try to do something before doing nothing.

I am compiling a list to be posted that I would like to see taught, especially since I am less than 10 years out of school and now trying to obtain my CPA.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I'll take a step forward with an issue I am still wrestling with (not with how, but why we don't).

When I went to school (and this is geared toward accounting, but I can make cases for many other areas) we were shown via examples accounts where items were posted.

Always an account when you needed one, one might even say an infinite number of accounts. No way to easily determine where many of these accounts were categorized (asset, liability, etc) unless that was part of the title, but they were there.

Then one day I get a consulting job and I needed to create from scratch a Chart of Accounts. Easy you say, sure thirty years later, but I had to go through twenty textbooks to find the info I needed, and finally bastardized a COA that was provided by Dac Easy (a then popular low-end accounting program).

We don't teach the practical (like what's an invoice, what components need to be on it, how to really read the terms and conditions) or entrepreneurship, management, marketing, in a way that our new graduates understand why not everything fits into one whole (square, round, pentagon, parallelogram).

And contrary to Academia and the CPA exam, we perform the practical everyday; needing critical thinking and an understanding of the theoretical, but one can always lookup the GAP, FASB or SEC ruling.

Getting back to our list, let's add to our list writing a business letter; technology and how it impacts the company; as I said project management, but also planning, the art of; what is business continuity and why it is not a term synonymous with data recovery.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

This is a great topic! All excellent points.

Definitely need to have real life scenario's with real cause and effect. They don't teach you what can happen if you pay your payroll taxes one day late, or miss a deadline on a Net 60 10% discount of a $400k check.

I would like to see a course designed around team work and the value of being able to work with all areas of the business and how to truly be a support environment.

A class on fraud detection would be amazing! In almost all of my jobs I have stumbled upon things that just didn't add up and it can take hours to research things like that. Some examples are watching for constant voids from the same people or small amounts, constant cash shortages from same people, how to manage shrunken inventory.

Coaching classes should be a must in grad school. If I had coaching training back when I landed my first management roll - things would have been very different. They don't teach you in school how to manage people effectively using techniques to keep you in control, focused and how to re-direct conversations.

Katrina Geety, CPA
Title: President
Company: Geety, Blair & Araya, PA
(President, Geety, Blair & Araya, PA) |

Hello Everyone! I am new to the group. I am a CPA with 30 years experience. My education is through the University of Wisconsin, major in accounting and operations research. I know exactly what you are talking about, I believe. Accountants lack bookkeeping skills. They are two diverse sets of knowledge and skills. In my firm, many of my CPAs, EAs, etc. started out as bookkeepers, including myself. If your accountants have never performed bookkeeping tasks, they will not know how the underlying processes building up to the financial statements work and affect the account balances. Therefore they are not able to figure out what went wrong. Easy to fix...get them to be a Certified Public Bookkeeper or at least take the courses that are relevant to their area or work. There are two organizations that are great. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. I primarily work with the AIPB. There courses are self-study, inexpensive and extremely well written. My career plan and compensation for my junior staff working towards becoming a CPB is driven by their course completion. For my clients, I recommend the same for their accounting staff. Check out www.aipb.com and www.nacpb.com. I will post another comment about what I wished they had taught me.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Welcome, Katrina! I am sure you will find Proformative an excellent resource and networking tool. Thanks for your informative posts.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

That is a sad commentary on the quality of accountants that they haven't learned (from Accounting I and II) the art of bookkeeping.

I saw this when I taught Accounting Information Systems (AIS), which was one of the last courses undergraduates took, and they couldn't take a series of G/L entries and create a balance sheet and income statement (an exercise using Excel, using sorting, sub-totals, formatting, etc.).

Katrina Geety, CPA
Title: President
Company: Geety, Blair & Araya, PA
(President, Geety, Blair & Araya, PA) |

We were educated in marketing, negotiations, pursuation, but not in the sales process. We endured the required public speaking assignments. In my pursuation class, (build credibility, etc.) I followed the steps and convinced my colleagues to eat the frog legs I prepared. I didn't eat them, they did! :-) Business, in all capacities, is about selling. You could probably say that life is about selling. We desire to exchange one thing for another (financial, physical, emotional, etc.) Per Dave Ramsey, #EntreLeadership, there are four step to sales. Qualification, Rapport, Education/Information and the Close. And I am sure there are many flavors of this. The majority of business people I know "hate to sell". But we all sell every day. I am learning to be more comfortable with it. It is the close that is hard. When your prospect has to say "so can I buy it?, you know you need to do some work on the close process.

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

Wayne thank you for bringing up this discussion!

I think the question should rather be: should there be a course that can teach you all the practical skills you need to do your job?

My answer is that there probably shouldn't.

The training methodology in my company is 70/20/10 meaning 70% on the job training, 20% from reading relevant material and 10% from external courses. So we don't expect new graduates to come with all the skills needed and we are more than happy to teach them what they need to become successful.

However since you ask I think what's important here is that students are exposed to as many real life case studies as possible - using real data and real issues.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Anders,

It would be impossible to teach at the college level "all" the skills for any particular job, but what we don't teach in college speaks volumes about the separation between Academia who is "preparing our next generation of [workers/professionals/thinkers]" and those who are going to/[do] need people with skill sets that allow them to quickly acclimate to an environment and succeed.

I agree, a course that either uses case studies or how bout the creation of a company; which would live "reality" and real data would bring into focus many of the concepts that are currently missing.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

When I taught college I gave this little speech about how grading in my class worked:

I started in the middle, went down and the went up.

C - average worker, you get to keep your job
D - poor worker, the door is fully visible and all that is needed is a push and you're out
F - you're fired
B - you're a good worker, you get a raise or a promotion
A - excellent worker, you get a raise and a promotion
A+ - you get the raise, the promotion and the corner office (they never got this "bonus").

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