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Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg
 

Looking for Career Help? Start Local

State CPA societies gear up to handle members’ professional needs. What’s your best recession-busting idea? Sound off here and see what other CPAs are saying.

July 23, 2009
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

As if Matt Yuskewich wasn’t already busy enough running his own nine-person accounting firm, now he’s stepping up to become chairman of his state CPA society at a time when state associations across the country are scrambling to deal with the global financial crisis.

Yuskewich’s first days on the job as 2009-2010 head of the Ohio Society of CPAs provide an inside glimpse into the career of a leading professional, as well as the rapidly shifting career landscape for accountants and finance managers across the country.

Lately, he’s been focused on the state government ’s biennial budgeting process, working with legislators to close some gaping budget holes, while attempting to avoid some of  what Yuskewich calls the most “irresponsible” and “feel-good-only” budgetary legerdemain, like providing tax credits with one hand and raising fees with the other.

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But Yuskewich’s most enduring legacy may well be the work he’s doing within the Ohio society to build on the association’s member services and public outreach programs. In financial literacy, for example, he hopes to expand a program that now reaches 4,000 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms into high schools across the state. He’s working on the campus “ambassador” program, which matches accounting students with a mentor to help them plan life and career after college. And he’s working to reduce the organization’s costs and increase communications with members by moving to all-electronic publications.

Still, the most pressing needs that Yuskewich faces among CPAs in Ohio are not much different from CPA associations elsewhere: A crashing economy that is causing many members to claw for new work or new clients, to tighten spending on things like CPE or licensing fees and to look to the state society for help. As the nation’s fourth-largest CPA society with 24,000 members, Ohio’s experience is more or less emblematic of what’s happening across the country.

In fact, Yuskewich admits, CPAs, like most businesses and individuals in Ohio, “are feeling the brunt” of the economic downturn.  State unemployment is trending above 10 percent. And CPA firms that were just last year scrambling to hire new people are now laying off staffers and putting new recruits on one-year deferrals.

As a result, the Ohio society has launched a job board for per-diem work, matching out-of-work or under-employed CPAs with companies and firms with short-term labor needs.

Meanwhile, CPAs and finance managers are clamoring to help businesses and individuals ratchet down costs and deleverage debt.  “There’s a feeling out there,” Yuskewich said, “that things are bad and they’re getting worse.”

He says he has started to see signs of increased price competition among CPA firms hungry for work, with fee quotes as low as $65 per hour for governmental audits. “We have to be vigilant, as a profession, that you maintain standards regardless of price,” he said.

The Ohio society eked out a $5-to-$10 annual dues increase this year, as part of a policy of modest but regular increases. But members are shifting their CPE habits with the economy. So the society is moving to provide more low-cost CPE with on-demand podcasts and Webcasts. It’s all free to members. When they decide they need the credit, they then take a quiz and get the certificate of completion for $35 to $50. “So you can brush up on, say, doing title company reviews,” Yuskewich said. “But you don’t need to pay for it unless or until you need the credit.”

On the other hand, a few of the society’s conferences have been scoring record attendance. Yuskewich traces the gains to thrift-minded CPAs seeking some cost-savings by staying local instead of travelling out of state, and to the very human need to connect with like-minded souls.

“People are always going to like the camaraderie of getting together,” Yuskewich said. “People just need the opportunity to get with other people.”

And maybe that’s especially true in times like these.

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Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.