Blog Archive

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A growing start-up inside RSM

Meet Tom Dimino, a founding partner of RSM’s technical accounting consulting (TAC) practice, and learn more about our growing TAC practice. 

What does the TAC practice do?
Our technical accounting consulting (TAC) practice specializes in guiding our clients through complex accounting and financial reporting matters. It’s a blend of audit and consulting expertise, with many diverse areas of focus. We act as client advocates by creating solutions for their problems, all of which require very unique technical knowledge and consulting expertise. See all our TAC services here.

Depending on the size and scope of a project, our engagements can be anywhere from 2-3 months or up to 12-16 months. Many of our engagements involve collaboration across other practice areas at RSM, including audit, tax, transaction advisory services, valuation and management consulting.

What types of clients do you work with?

Our clients are typically middle to upper-middle market. Since all industries are affected by the new revenue standards, our clients range across technology, business services, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, consumer products and more industries.

Geography-wise, we are a national practice with clients all over the U.S., in addition to our growing international presence. While our team is national, our major TAC hubs include Boston, New York City, Chicago, Houston, Detroit and offices in Northern and Southern California.

What makes the TAC practice unique?

Conceptually, the TAC practice is similar to a start-up. We offer the unique opportunity of an entrepreneurial environment under the umbrella of a multi-billion dollar company. We formalized the practice in January 2017 and, moving forward, we are poised for incredibly exciting growth to come. We are projecting to double in size for each of our fiscal year ends in April 2019 and 2020.

Because we’re a growing, agile team, each member of our TAC practice has the ability to carve out a niche where they can apply their expertise in an area they love and where they excel. Moreover, we will help them carve out that niche to ensure that they are put to their best and highest use.

What do you look for in potential talent for the TAC practice?

Technically speaking, we target professionals with diverse knowledge in complex accounting matters with a focus on the new standard implementations. But since these standards are still new, very few professionals have direct experience. And, implementing these standards is very different than auditing them. For that reason, business skills and overall culture fit are even more important. We target professionals who have the ability to act as consultants – individuals who are agile and have the confidence to articulate a solution to a client or work with their team to find/create one.

At our core, the TAC team is one of collaboration and one of support for people who you are working with and for. So when someone joins us, we give them fantastic formal training to learn our methodologies and expertise around these new standard implementations. But in order to truly fit, we look for people who are willing to work on a team and support each other through mentorship and training given our commitment to our talent experience.

When you think about the future of the TAC practice, what are you the most excited for?

Without question, I can’t wait to see the successes to come for this hard-working group. With our growth trajectory, we will have the ability to see each and every one progress and move into leadership roles. We are already seeing our talent progress and take advantage of our accelerated leadership opportunities, and this is only the beginning.

Interested in career opportunities within RSM’s TAC practice? View our current openings here on RSM’s careers page!

Friday, May 25, 2018

RSM Pursue Your Passion: Ringing in good times across the country

RSM’s Megan Reishus was one of nine employees to win the firm’s Pursue Your Passion program this year. As a result, Megan was awarded nine days of paid time off, along with $10,000 to pursue a personal goal. Megan’s goal? Continue to pursue her passion for playing handbells by purchasing equipment for her ensemble and going on a cross-country musical performance tour. Read Megan’s story:
Megan with the rest of the quartet about to leave Colorado
 Springs for their most extensive tour to date! 

What exactly goes into a cross-country musical performance tour? Planning, certainly, and no shortage of hard work. Willing hosts and eager audiences. Practice. Instruments, time... and passion. Passion for the music and the goal of sharing it with as many people as possible. And then once we’re on the road, what does a tour really entail? Set the stage, play a concert, meet audiences, pack everything back up, eat, sleep, wake up and drive to the next location, do it all again. Love every minute of it.

I play handbells. Like you might see playing during the offering at your church… except that the only similarity is probably the instrument itself. Handbells are traditionally a “church instrument,” but the quartet that I’m part of, Forté, is an elite ensemble with a national following and a reputation for excellence, intensity and innovation. Our motto and constant challenge to ourselves and our audiences is to “Rethink Possible,” in terms of the instrument’s potential. We play all genres of music, with concerts featuring techno, Celtic, pop, country, new age, original, classical, classic rock, Christmas, and Christian music – just to name just some of our selections’ genres. We are a Christian group, with our primary goal being to glorify God through the gifts and talents He’s given us, and we believe we can do that with any type of music when it’s presented well. So that’s what we strive to do.

It’s likely (but not actually verified with real data) that we hold the record for using the largest amount of equipment per ringer of any handbell ensemble. Our primary set is five octaves (61 bells) and we use three to four additional three-octave (37 bell) sets for each concert, for when we need duplicate bells of the same pitch for staging purposes. Each of these three-octave sets costs $10,600 (one of these sets was what my Pursue Your Passion prize funded), while the five-octave set costs $24,350. Beyond that, we use three sets of hand chimes (one five-octave set and two three-octave sets), mallets, percussion, and various racks and stands for our equipment. For four performers, that’s quite a lot. Now imagine packing the trailer every night after a concert!
The quartet taking a quick break at the gas station
before driving to their next stop on tour. 

This March, we presented our most extensive tour to date. We had a local “send-off” concert in Colorado Springs before heading east. We shared music with audiences in Manhattan, KS; St. Louis, MO; Lakeside Park, KY (right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati OH); Beckley, WV; Williamsburg, VA; Raleigh, NC; Lilburn (Atlanta), GA; Macon, GA; Nashville TN; Conway, AR; Norman, OK; and Dodge City, KS, before returning home to Colorado. We drove 4,000+ miles and performed 13 concerts in 14 days, it was exhausting – and it was wonderful. We can’t wait to do it again! Until we can, we continue to perform locally, including the “welcome home” portion of our tour that we put on in April.

The thing about this passion and the pursuit thereof is that it’s never “complete.” The nine PTO days RSM generously provided me through the firm’s Pursue Your Passion program covered most of my cross-country journey, but that only makes up a chapter of our collective story. The impact that the Pursue Your Passion contest has had and will continue to have on me and my group is profound – the bells that I was able to purchase will come with us as we continue to travel across the country and perform for new audiences. It means that when we’re coordinating the equipment needed for our next tour, we don’t need to borrow as many bells from local churches. The fact that I work for a firm that supports its employees’ passions in such a huge and tangible way is incredible. I want to sincerely thank the Pursue Your Passion selection committee for choosing me as a recipient this year.

If you’re interested in more information and/or want to follow Forté as we continue our pursuit of this shared passion – and maybe even catch a concert if/when we’re in your area – please check out our website. Our upcoming projects have us heading to Albuquerque, NM (June 2018); Lincoln, NE and Northfield, MN (March 2019); and many stops along the way from Colorado to Connecticut and back (June/July 2019). We hope you’ll join us!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

RSM Pursue Your Passion: Have a Seat!

RSM’s Matt Dollard was one of nine employees to win the firm’s Pursue Your Passion program this year. As a result, Matt was awarded nine days of paid time off, along with $10,000 to pursue a personal goal. Matt’s dream? Work under the direction of a master craftsman to create a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture by hand. Read Matt’s story: 

Matt Dollard
I feel fortunate to work at a place with a program that encourages employees to pursue their passions outside of their everyday careers. My passion (or “healthy obsession”) is building hand-crafted furniture. The majority of my work to date could be considered cabinet-making – mainly a lot of right angles, which is relatively “easy” once you practice at it. I was ready to take on a new challenge and, with the support of RSM, decided to learn chair-building. Specifically, I wanted to construct a chair that had no right angles, with lines skewing and curving all over the place. With this challenge in mind and the firm’s support, I chose to take woodworking classes from one of the best chair makers in the country.
My near complete Continuous Arm Windsor

In March, I spent one week in North Carolina studying with Elia Bizzarri. I encourage you to look at Elia’s work; it’s of the highest quality and done by hand. There were three other students studying with me - all of them retired. Being the youngest participant and far from retirement, I felt lucky to be there. Were it not for RSM’s Pursue your Passion program, I too would have waited until I retired!

Elia Bizzarri demonstrating how to split
logs with steel wedges and a sledge
hammer to harvestchair spindles. 

The project was to construct a continuous arm Windsor chair. This chair design is several hundred years old and very much in use today, however, its contemporary examples are mass produced in different forms. There is a growing revival of hand tool craftsmen who have begun writing about and documenting their methods and taking on students. I’ve been inspired by these craftsmen and have coveted what they do.

We began with a red oak log, and a wide plank of pine for the seat, and transformed them into a finished chair.

Elia demonstrating how to use a
shaving horse and a draw knife
to rough out the chair spindles
We split the logs with steel wedges and sledge hammers into rough sections for chair spindles. We shaped them with hand tools on a shaving horse, basically a foot-operated vise that holds the work while you sit in it.

We then made the chair back by splitting it from a white oak log, as white oak bends nicely and is perfect for the chair back. We shaped it with similar methods as the spindles. Then we put the chair back in a steam box for over an hour at 220 degrees, bent it over a form, clamped it down, and placed it in a kiln to dry for a few days. 

The chair seat is made from Northern White Pine, a softer wood good for carving and shaping by hand. If you look, most wood chair seats you find today are a series of wood pieces laminated (glued) together. Original American Windsor chairs more often used a single section of pine for the seat. This requires a wide section of knot-free pine, which isn’t easy to find. Lucky for us, Elia has a connection that supplies him.
Bending a steamed chair bow (or
back) over a form to make the
distinctive continuous arm
chair back

The seat took several days and multiple steps to complete. After cutting the basic profile, we determined the leg and arm stump angles then bored holes by hand.  We then temporarily inserted the legs and used their resulting angles as a guide to take measurements to drill holes for the cross stretchers for the undercarriage. With that complete, we carved both the top, parts of the bottom and the sides of the seat to give it a curvy shape.  

We then began gluing and hammering wedges into the tops of the legs to firmly set the leg joints into the seat.

The next step was to drill holes in the seat deck for the spindles and begin orienting them in the chair by eye.  The spindles by nature weren’t totally straight. We followed the wood fibers, which makes the spindles strong but leads to some natural variability. The trick is to align them by turning them so they appear as straight as possible. This works surprisingly well. The eye naturally seeks symmetry and finds it even if the spindles are a little less than perfectly straight. The final steps involved sighting the angles, then drilling holes in the chair back, then inserting the spindles and arm stumps for a dry test fit. We aligned them, then gently tapped the chair back over the spindles, drove wedges into the tops and sawed them off.   
Carving the seat with an in shave

My completed chair, after shipping it home and spending about eight hours applying 8-9 coats of various finishes is pictured here.

I could not have taken a week off of work to study with a master chair builder and complete a project like this without the support of RSM. Getting time away and funding would have been a challenge with all the priorities in my life. I’m grateful for the opportunity and the time and resources that were provided to me by RSM’s Pursue your Passion program. I learned so much. Elia is a brilliant and humble instructor, and an entertaining storyteller while he teaches. 

Organizing the spindles in the most aesthetically pleasing way -
each spindle has natural variations due to following
the direction of wood fibers
Overall, the experience exceeded my expectations. I feel confident that I could adequately tackle this project on my own now. In fact, I enjoyed the project so much, and the firm has provided me with enough funding and time to circle back and take a second course where I’ll be constructing a comb-back Windsor rocking chair pictured here. Wish me luck!
Test fitting the bow on the spindles

To finish the chair I applied 4 coats of barn
red milk paint, two coats of black "wash coat,"
four coats of Tung oil and one coat of wax. The
next project I will tackle under Elia's
instruction in May 2018 - a back comb windsor
rocking chair.
Hand drilling the holes in the seat deck
to insert the spindles - using the bow
 as a reference point to determine
the proper angles

Monday, April 9, 2018

Beto’s passion: Helping nonprofits achieve their mission

Beto Arellano | Senior Audit Associate | San Francisco
We recently sat down with Beto Arellano, a Senior Associate in our San Francisco office, to talk about one of his favorite type of clients – nonprofit organizations.

Beto, a CPA and University of California, Davis grad with a master’s in accounting, primarily works with clients in financial services, with emphasis on private equity funds, venture capital funds and small business investment companies. However, Beto’s passion to help the community has also translated into a passion for helping nonprofit clients.

He said working with nonprofit clients has been quite rewarding and can be some of his most interesting work, such as when he did an audit for an interactive science museum. “Breaks consisted of playing pinball, walking through a fog bridge or playing snake with other museum goers. Not much can beat that in the audit world! It a very unique experience as not only do we get to interact with fun exhibits, but we get to work closely with management and understand how a museum operates. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that makes this such a special place for visitors and we got a front row seat on the whole production!”

It’s not just the unique and different clients Beto enjoys, but also seeing how his work helps the organization make a positive impact. “Another client I have the opportunity to work with has a mission to support conservation issues, education and community foundations. As part of our audit procedures, we examine grants and get to see firsthand how these funds are being used to help with all sorts of social issues, from water conservation to providing medical assistance. It has been quite intriguing to learn how they have grown over the years and see how they continue to raise funds in order to continue making a global impact. Due to our relationship with these clients, working on nonprofits has been quite rewarding. We see how our work is supporting their mission and vision.”

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Trevor Wong reaches new heights with Ascend

Here at RSM, we place a heavy emphasis on year-round development to help our people build their skills and grow their careers. One way our people receive training is through our 11 employee network groups, part of our Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion program. Trevor Wong, an audit and transaction advisory services associate from our San Francisco office, recently had the opportunity to attend the Ascend conference in Houston, Texas, along with 50 other RSM colleagues and fellow InspirAsian employee network group members. Ascend is a non-profit organization that cultivates and trains Pan-Asian members and supporters as they navigate through related accounting and business fields.
We sat down with Trevor for a brief chat to discuss his experience at the conference and how it has helped him beyond his time there.

RSM: Prior to the conference, what were some of your expectations?

Trevor: I figured I would meet students and other professionals, and get to know what Ascend was truly about as my alma mater did not have a local chapter.

What sessions did you think were the most informative?

One of the sessions I found most empowering was a session hosted by Alfred Ko, an RSM risk advisory services director. It delved into how to ask for recognition and credit, which was a good way of understanding how one could approach that sensitive issue. Another was hosted by guest speakers Christine Ha and So-yeon Yi, and I got an understanding of what tribulations they went through in their careers, and how they used their experience to their benefit and always believed themselves. That was something as an Asian-American, I found to be helpful and informative.

Is there anything you learned or experienced at the conference that you have now incorporated into your everyday work life?

Networking for sure. Now I can talk to students and professionals, which translates into talking to your client professionally and being more outgoing. Now, I reach out to people in other lines of business in New York, Irvine, Los Angeles, Houston, etc. I’ve broken barriers and spoken with other people outside my group. I’m also now more adept at asking for feedback, to reach out and be proactive, and be more accepting of self-recognition.

What kind of fun things did you do at Ascend?

One night, we broke up into three groups and went to Indian, Korean BBQ, and Hot Pot for dinner, then met up for Karaoke after. We had a lot of fun!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Meet Jenna Wiessner: Two-time RSM Intern

Jenna Wiessner | Future Tax Associate | Baltimore
We sat down with Jenna Wiessner, a two-time intern in our Baltimore office, to learn more about her, including her experience at RSM and what makes her unique.

Tell us about yourself!
  • Hometown: Fallston, Maryland
  • College: Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland
  • Graduation: December 2017 
  • RSM Office: Baltimore
  • Favorite place in the world: the beach 
What are three things that no one at RSM knows about you?
  • I am a HUGE Dave Matthews Band fan. I have seen them in concert 10 times and have even traveled the world to see them perform!
  • I played rugby for Salisbury University for two years, and after too many concussions, I decided to enter into early retirement from my rugby career.
  • I was initially a finance major, and one of my accounting professors spent an entire year trying to persuade me to switch my major to accounting. I ultimately caved, which was the best decision that I ever made, but I have maintained a double major in both accounting and finance. 
You initially were an audit intern in the summer of 2016, and you then returned as a tax intern this past summer. How did you go about making that change and why?

Making the change was incredibly easy. After completing my audit internship in 2016, RSM gave me an offer to return for a second internship in audit in 2017. That said, when I later realized that I wanted to shift from audit to tax, I simply spoke with my campus recruiter to see if it was even a possibility. Within a week, I was re-extended an offer as a tax intern!

Deciding to make the change from audit to tax was a natural decision. After wrapping up my audit internship at RSM, I went back to Salisbury and took my first tax class. That same semester, I also completed an elective tax internship through Salisbury University. Through both my first tax class and the elective tax internship, I came to the realization that tax was a natural fit for me. My experience this past summer as a tax intern definitely reaffirmed my decision.

What did you enjoy the most about your audit internship? What did you enjoy the most about your tax internship?

My favorite aspect of my audit internship was the valuable experience that I gained while on site at the client and having direct interaction with the client. I had the opportunity to tour some really cool clients with state-of-the-art facilities and sit in on some interesting meetings.

My favorite aspect of my tax internship was the natural challenge I faced on a day-to-day basis. The tax work really required me to problem solve and be creative by leveraging a variety of resources, which I so enjoyed. Even a tax senior associate on my team was pleasantly surprised when she saw how quickly I was able to grasp some challenging concepts!

Although both internships were quite different, they each gave me really unique experiences, which helped to better understand what path I wanted to take following graduation.

What drew you back to RSM for a second internship?

At the end of last summer, I really felt that RSM was a good fit for me. Everyone in the office truly embraces the culture and the firm’s brand promise “The Power of Being Understood,” and that really resonated with me. On top of that, I felt that RSM would be a great long-term fit given the size of the firm, the middle market focus, and the long-term opportunities that I would be provided when starting full-time.

Tell us your favorite memory from the last two summers. What stands out in your mind?

I can’t exactly pick one specific memory, but in general, the people definitely standout. Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet so many great people all in different positions and lines of business. Returning this past summer, it was amazing to see so many familiar faces, while continuing to forge new relationships. It really is who you work with that matters the most.

What advice would you give to future RSM interns?

Have fun! To be the best version of yourself, you must be confident AND have fun. The whole point of an internship with RSM is to see if you are a good fit for RSM, and if RSM is a good fit for you, and the best way to do that is to be yourself, work hard, and enjoy yourself all at the same time.

Consumer Products: Audits for everyday items

Alison Cannon | Assurance Manager | Baltimore
We caught up with Alison Cannon audit manager in the Baltimore office, to learn more about what it’s like to work in RSM’s consumer products practice. Consumer products, including food and beverage, restaurants, retail, and fashion and home furnishings, is one of many industries in which RSM focuses.

RSM: What types of companies are considered consumer products clients?

Alison: Consumer products encompasses anything the end-user consumes. Think about things you buy everyday—food in grocery stores, clothes online, furniture in a store. All of the companies that sell those products to you are considered consumer products.

What challenges do you face working in the consumer products space?
The products consumers want and how they want to get those products is always changing. Think about how you shop today versus how we shopped 10 years ago. We want companies to be “omnichannel”—meaning we want different ways to buy things—online, in the store, on an app, etc. Companies really have to innovate to be able to keep up with today’s consumer. As auditors, we have to keep up with how companies are changing their business and making sure we know how to audit and account for any changes.

What’s the make-up of a typical client team?

This all depends on the size of the client. Our small to mid-sized companies will typically have 4-5 core team members consisting of 1-2 associates, 1 senior associate (the “in-charge”), 1 manager, and 1 partner. This team is usually on site for about 2-3 weeks. Larger clients could have more team members and will be on site for a longer period of time. Depending on the client, there could also be a RSM tax team or IT team that helps that audit team.

Can you describe a typical consumer product client engagement?

Typically the team will go to a client a few months before the client’s year-end. During this time, the team is focused on planning the audit. They will calculate materiality, determine what accounts need to be tested, identify any risks (including fraud risks) at the client, and may even start some testing. They will also obtain an understanding of all of the key processes at the business. For consumer products, this usually consists of cash, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory, fixed assets, sales, and payroll. After an understanding has been obtained from those in the accounting department, the associate or senior associate will sit down with all of the process owners (accounts payable clerk, assistant controller, controller, CFO, etc.) and will perform a “walkthrough” of the process. This is where we pick an example and have the client show us exactly how the transaction works from beginning to end. This is a great way for us to interact with the client and to make sure we really understand the business. It can also help us identify any other risks that may exist in the business, especially around internal controls.

Right around year-end the team usually performs inventory observations. Most consumer products clients have inventory on their balance sheet since this is what they sell to the end user. To make sure that inventory exists as stated, we will go out and count a sample of the inventory. Sometimes this is the most interesting part of the audit—imagine going to count clothes at your favorite clothing store, or counting frozen food in a huge freezer!

After year-end, the team will go back out to the client to begin testing. During this time we get schedules from the client, select samples, and have the client pull information for us. We spend a lot of time testing the samples, performing analytics, talking to the client, and obtaining additional documents to support what the client is saying.

What experience do you need to work on consumer product engagements?

Ensuring the team has experience in the consumer products industry is very important. Normally, that industry expertise come from the manager and partner on the client team. But new associates can jump right in to this type of audit with appropriate guidance from the manager and partner and begin to develop their own industry knowledge All of our employees, including new associates, take continuing professional education classes throughout the year, including industry-specific courses, so everyone gets the training they need to work on these audits.