I like to ramble

by Craig Birgenheier, Big Sky Brewing Company
Member MSCPA Financial Review & Technical Standards (FRATS) Committee

Craig Birgenheier

Craig Birgenheier

I’m not a blogger.  I don’t blog and I don’t follow anyone either.  But I like to ramble.  Ramblers were really fun listening to growing up. They were mostly old bulls who warned us about girls, snakes and stuff.  They’re wise and snarly and keep you up late drinking by telling massively preposterous tales, ridiculously made up and embellished with 3D for maximum effect.  Of course they felt fine in the morning but not us, younger but not tough yet.

I actually don’t feel all that well this morning. Not fully an old bull. Sleep was mostly absent.   My mind was super busy going over several some things for nothing. The dog didn’t do well either.  We both heard the deer eating the flowers out in back. She’s a poor watchdog in the night. Her ears were up to the task but nothing else. I punished her occasionally with well-timed pats when I thought she was drifting back to sleep. 

Wasn’t her mistake that the deer were capitalizing on, just mine. Left the gate open and the roses are bloomless now. Yesterday was not a great day for my mistakes. I’m mostly the one who finds them and don’t usually tell anyone else. I sent out our June financials for an internal review before I forward them to the entire board. Neal, our company’s President, came in to my office a while later and sat down on the couch. It’s neither a nice looking nor particularly comfortable couch so he’s obviously up to something.

He suspiciously says that the June results are great and what a great year with great sales and great gross profit and he’s really, really acting like a smug jerk.  He eventually mentions he found a mistake in the financials.  Naturally I’m nervous but maintain a casual, “whatever” sort of demeanor. I’ve already concluded the odds of a major botching are low or we’d be on our way to the DQ for ice cream and I’d be driving and buying.

Ninja warriorTurns out the mistake’s an old one, all the way back old–eanings rather than earnings.  An easy to repeat spelling mistake with little repercussion or embarrassment.  I don’t doubt for a minute it would have been found sooner had the review been performed not by Neal but by astute, highly trained ninja assassin reviewers like ones on the MSCPA FRATS Committee.  Probably the committee of all MSCPA committees.  For no cost but nevertheless deserving superior pay, submitted financials will be reviewed this September by choice, hand-selected public and private practitioners who like to review ’cause we think it’s fun and we learn new trends and techniques…. during the day, not the night, without drinking and with minimal embellishment.

But I’m a rambler, not a blogger….

Learn more about how to submit your financials for review by the super ninja reviewers on MSCPA’s FRATS Committee.

Presidentially Speaking–What does MSCPA do for YOU?

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

You ask–What does your MSCPA Organization do for you? 

Good Question! One the MSCPA Board of Directors asked itself recently.

When our Board of Directors met in May for our Annual Board Planning meeting,  we reviewed the Society’s Strategic Plan, because we want to be able to answer that very question when you ask.  We talked about how important continuity is to you as a member and how much each of us relies on the Society for the services provided.  In that process we reviewed and affirmed our Mission, Vision and Values.  We also reviewed and prioritized our Goals and Strategies.  We want to ensure the organization has a written plan that is well organized and documented as we transition board members each year and when the time for staff transition arises.  Here’s the plan, as we see it.

Inspire, empower and impact members
to achieve professional excellence.

MSCPA’s vision is to be the most valued
professional resource for our members


  • We value our profession
  • We value ethical behavior
  • We value active members
  • We value visionary leaders
  • We value our professional staff
  • We value effective communication

Goals and Strategies for 2014 to 2017+

The board established five goals and within these goals everything we do is strategically aligned. As we review existing programs and look at new opportunities to enhance membership value, we will use these goals as our road map.


MEMBERSHIP—Your Professional Home
Facilitating member success from entry through retirement for all members, including business, industry, nonprofit, government, public practice and educators.

  • Engagement of Members
  • New focus of membership committee

Maintain a dynamic organization and ensure we exist throughout the next 100 years

  • Align committees with Board goals
  • Business continuity and succession plan
  • Ensure financial viability
  • Leadership Development among staff and leadership
  • Legacy Foundation/Community Foundation
  • Governing documents

Delivering education and resources

  • Professional Development Opportunities
  • Collaborate and provide regional opportunities—create opportunities for our members to share discussions with professional from adjacent states
  • The Future of Learning Task Force—enhance our current professional development program to better address the needs of our members.
  • Study the feasibility of benchmarking and data sharing to enhance professional excellence

Advance and protect the profession and the people we serve while improving member awareness of the Society’s advocacy role.

  • Lobbying—maintain a strong representation of the interests of the profession
  • Political Action Committee (PAC)—maintain and grow a respected PAC through member awareness and participation
  • State Issues—monitor all the legislation that affects the profession at the state level legislation and recruit bill sponsors
  • Federal Issues—monitor all the issues that affect the profession at the federal level

Connectivity and communications through chapters, community service and public relations

  • Chapter relations—working together
  • College relations—advance relationships with Montana schools
  • Student relations—create and communicate value
  • Public Relations—Respond to public and media—positioned as a resource to improve awareness
  • Social Media—Maximize use of social media to connect and promote
  • Pitch Project—show members how to use their membership to get the greatest value
  • Member visits by MSCPA Board—grassroots effort to listen to member concerns

 If you have questions about the Strategic Plan or the value membership in MSCPA can provide you please contact our staff at 800.272.0307.

Celebrating 25 Years

by Jane Egan, Executive Director

Eleven years ago, my husband and I built a house. The kitchen is a place where kids and grandkids could gather and make meals and connect. The yard is huge with a deck and patio where we all hang out and have fun. The house has been everything we dreamed it could be and more. It brings our family and friends together and we have made lots of great memories. We will continue to.

ImageThe Society is like my house – intentionally built for the purpose of bringing people together. The just completed 101th annual meeting in Helena is a perfect result of that purpose. We spent two days with some of our best friends in the profession where I renewed my admiration for my members. I wish everyone had the opportunity to meet all of you and to know you in the way I do. You are amazing people dedicated to your profession, your clients, your communities, your families, your coworkers and the Society. You are also a ton of fun. Thank you for all you do!

The annual meeting is also the time I renew my admiration for the fabulous ladies I work with in the Society office. They never cease to amaze me with their dedication, Imagecreativity and willingness to give whatever it takes to complete our mission. Thank you Margaret, Jean, Carol and Shannon!

One more thank you: to all my current and past board members, past presidents and to all those who signed my card for taking part in recognizing my 25th anniversary with the Society. It has been an amazing ride and I can’t imagine I could ever find a better bunch of folks to work for. You have all made my life richer and taught me so much. It means so much to me that you think I do a good job for you.

And, for those of you who couldn’t make it to Helena, we missed you! I can’t wait to see you all at our 102nd annual meeting in Kalispell next June.



Covenants, Clauses and Contracts – Oh, My!

MSCPA 101st Annual Meeting to offer special panel about Non-Compete Agreements
Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.

This year’s hot topic panel about non-compete agreements (NCA) promises to be anything but boring! In developing the structure of this panel, our focus is to keep the panel relevant to CPAs in public practice and industry alike AND to avoid a dry PRO/CON format. We are digging deeper and reaching farther, so you won’t want to miss it! Our three esteemed panelists will offer insights to the strengths, challenges, best practices and emerging alternatives for managing risks associated with proprietary information and relationships in today’s competitive business world. Joining the panel will be:

  • Tom Singer, lead attorney of Axilon Law Group, PLLC, of Billings;
  • Amy Christensen, partner of Hughes, Kellner, Sullivan & Alke, PLLP, law firm of Helena; and
  • Jeff Welch, entrepreneur and CEO of MercuryCSC, one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 5000 rising star companies in 2012 and Outside Magazine’s Top 100 Places to Work of 2013, ranked Number 3.

These panelists offer extensive real world experience and will be sharing tips and ideas to help you successfully plan and navigate this field of employment law. I’m excited to serve as moderator and look forward to seeing you in Helena, June 19 at 3:30 p.m. Register for 101st Annual Meeting

Marca Gibson, CPA

Marca Gibson, CPA

7 Steps to Make Registration Easy-Peasy

by Margaret Herriges, MSCPA Communications DirectorImage

I joke with the Board that for years I have been dreading planning the 101st Annual Meeting.  I mean, how do you follow up the gala celebration at the 100th Anniversary?! But as I worked with this year’s planners I got more and more excited for the 101st Annual Meeting. We have such great things planned for you . . . and it starts with a new registration process.

We recently had new registration software built that resides on our website and communicates with our database. It’s a huge technological step for us and one we are pretty excited about because it should make registration for our conferences and annual meetings easier than ever!

Step 1
When you register I encourage you to be logged in. That way most of your information will auto-fill making your experience so much faster and convenient. If you’ve never logged in before simply use your email address and your membership number (usually the same as your license number)

Step 2
When you first land on the 101st Annual Meeting page hit the register button (upper right corner) even if you are just looking for more information.  You can find the prices for all the different types of registration on the right side of the page. We have registration options for:

  • full convention (members & nonmbrs)
  • ethics only (live or webcast)
  • students
  • guests (full registration, combination of events or just individual events)

Please note that these prices are good through June 6th. After that prices go up $50.

If you scroll down the page you will see a blue box with a small check box that says “Register Yourself”. If you are already logged in, that box will automatically be checked. Proceed by choosing your registration type–if you are bringing a guest that part of the registration is coming. Just select YOUR registration type.


Step 4
Next, more check boxes will appear based on the registration type you selected. Do you have special dietary needs? Will you be hanging out in the CPA Lounge Wednesday evening? Make your menu selection for the Distinguished Service Awards luncheon, and so on. You will need to make these selections for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.


This year for the first time ever (!) we are offering the Opening Keynote “The Good Ones: 10 Crucial Qualities of High Character Employee” by Dr. Bruce Weinstein as a webcast.
That means if you can’t go to the entire convention you can sign up to take this class as a LIVE webinar  or attend just this session and fulfill your ethics requirements.


We only have one set of current sessions and that’s on Thursday afternoon. Be sure to select the “Covenant Not to Compete” panel OR Dr. Bruce Weinstein’s second session.  Don’t pick both!


Step 5
After you’ve made all your selections you can register someone else:  your guest or someone else from your office. The cool factor on this part of the registration is it will show other members linked to your office and if they’ve already registered, making it easier for the person doing all the registering (especially firm administrators). Once a selection is made you’ll be asked what the additional person is registering for and the appropriate check boxes will pop up for you to complete.


Step 6
Something new we added to our registrations as so last year was the Emergency Contact Information. This is a risk management strategy that we’ve adopted as a best practice.


Step 7
The last step before payment will be to decide if you want your annual meeting handouts as electronic documents (emailed to you prior to the event) or as a printed copy (in your packet at the event).

If you need to make a change to your registration or add a guest after you have registered, please contact MSCPA directly at mscpa@mscpa.org or call 800.272.0307. In fact we invite you to contact us if you have any questions at all. We are here for you and we’d be delighted to help any way we can.

I can’t wait for the 101st Annual Meeting. Watch for future posts about the exciting speakers we are bringing in just for you as well as the fun we’ve got planned. I have a feeling this could turn out to be my favorite annual meeting experience. I hope I get to share it with you!

P.S.  Be sure to make your hotel reservations by May 30th to get our discounted rate.



Representing Montana at the AICPA

By Jane Egan, Executive Director

Jane Egan

Jane Egan
Executive Director

Every year our members are represented at three AICPA Council meetings:

  • Regional Council in March
  • Spring Council in May, and
  • Fall Council in October.

You are represented by your Elected Council Member (Ron Yates), your Designated Council Member (President Paul Nisbet) and by me, as your executive director.

Ron, Paul and I attended the one-day Regional Council meeting in Los Angeles on March 21st.  Regional Council is a much smaller group of attendees–AICPA leadership, western states’ Council members and state society executive directors–so it allows for great discussions and a deeper dive into the issues.

So what are the current issues?

The AICPA Chair, Bill Balhoff, opened the meeting with thoughts about the importance of quality in the CPA profession and he outlined how the AICPA’s initiatives will promote and enhance quality.

AICPA President, Barry Melancon is well-known for his outstanding professional issues update.  Many of you saw this first-hand at the 100th Anniversary meeting last June. At Regional Council Barry focused on areas that directly impact our profession’s ability to grow, compete and succeed, highlighting:

  • the CPA brand,
  • federal advocacy,
  • financial reporting,
  • market place issues,
  • practicing monitoring of the future,
  • the audit environment and
  • the future of learning.

A town-hall styled meeting on the Raising of the Profession’s Quality Factor was led by Bill Balhoff and AICPA VP of Public Practice and Global Alliances, Sue Coffey. The discussion centered on changes to peer review and practice monitoring. We discussed the current trends and expected challenges facing the profession from a regulatory perspective and long- and short-term quality enhancement plans.

We attended a session focused on the Future of Learning: Forging New Learning Requirements for the Profession. We participated in discussion groups and were given this request:

Given the Future of Learning key themes and related implications outlined today, the task force believes that the profession’s continued vitality requires evolving the way we engage, develop, deliver, and measure learning and development of CPAs. We are seeking Council members’ input on the following:

    1. What are the opportunities and challenges of evolving to a competency-based output CPE model?
    2.  How could the AICPA evolve its current CPE requirements for membership to include different types of learning?
      Consider the 70/20/10 model
      70% = Experiential (eg, on the job); 20% = Informal (eg, mentoring); 10% = Formal (eg, group study)
    3.  What other input would you provide the Board as it considers a broader interpretation of AICPA’s CPE requirements?

We’ll continue to explore these issues at Spring Council in May. Stay tuned for more updates from Council Meetings. Until then, please contact me (jane@mscpa.org) if you have questions and/or want more in-depth information on any of these items.

Watch for your calendar

The 2014 Professional Development calendars have been sent to all our members in public practice as April 1st (no foolin’). Our BING members received their calendars in February.  This year’s calendar features 60 classes, five conferences and the beautiful photographs by member, Linsay Carlson (AZ Helena) and society staff Jean Rieden.


Gopher at Glacier by Jean Rieden

In addition to live classes, 2,462 webcasts are available for you in 2014. You can find them on our website and if there is something specific you are looking for talk to Jean.

With all these choices we challenge you to take at least one class that excites you; one class that is more than CPE; something that really interests you.  As you look through the course offerings we hope you’ll see opportunity as well as education, and know that it was all selected with your professional development needs in mind.

If you don’t see your calendar in the mail within the next few days give us a shout (800.272.0307) and we’ll be sure to send one your way. As always, all MSCPA classes can be seen online at mscpa.org.


Sunset at Bernice by Linsay Carlson

3 Ways to Find More Value in Your Membership

by Margaret Herriges, Communications Director

Question: How do you find organizations who need audits and conversely, how do you get an RFP for an audit into the hands of the right professionals?Image

Answer: You use MSCPA’s RFP Center! It’s relatively new, but it’s a spectacular idea if we do say so ourselves!

The idea behind it is to create more value for our members—both for those who do audits and those who need them. How does it do that? Let us count the ways . . .

  1. FIND YOUR NEXT AUDIT JOB—If you provide audits, check out the RFP Center (under Member Resources) on a regular basis. Whenever we post RFPs here we shout it out on our Social Media feeds and in eConnect. Only members can see this section of the website so you will need to log-in.
  2. IF YOU NEED AN AUDIT—Contact Margaret Herriges if you want to post your audit RFP to the Center. It’s free and we’ll make sure lots of people see it. We understand how hard it can be to get an audit RFP in the hands of the right people.
  3. TELL YOUR CLIENTS ABOUT IT—If you have clients who need an audit (and you can’t perform it for them) tell them about the Audit RFP Center and have them contact Margaret. Any organization can POST an RFP on this site for FREE—nonprofits, for profits, governments–we accept them all.  We do encourage them to post it as early as possible giving our members some lead time to prepare an excellent submission.

The Audit RFP Center was created to help you. We hope you will use it and encourage others to use it as well. MSCPA’s Vision is to be the most valued professional resource for our members. We hope the RFP Center goes a long way towards achieving this.

How to Connect if You Are the Only CPA in Your Office

Are you the only CPA in your office? We hear that a lot from our BING (business, industry, NFP, gov’t) members. And sometimes do you wish you had someone to run an idea past, or ask an accounting question? You need that someone who understands what you are talking about, Imagesomeone who can think out loud with you.

These are the types of conversations we hear each year at the Industry Conference, this exchange of ideas. We walk through the crowds at break time and sit with you at lunches and we hear issues being discussed, great conversations blooming and solutions being debated.

MSCPA President Paul Nisbet is a BING member himself and he says,

“The biggest benefit of the [Industry] conference is the connections and friendships that are created.  I often leverage these connections by reaching out to the Industry CPAS that I have met at the conference throughout the year. The ability to collaborate on issues and topics and learn from the experiences of these experts is invaluable.”

So while we promise you outstanding speakers about cutting edge topics each year, the Industry Conference itself is about more than the CPE. It’s about the connections you make.

We hear people say, “You know we had that same problem and this is how we handled it . . .” and “How are these new standards affecting you?” and best of all, “Thank you! I’m so glad I got to talk to you about this issue.” The Industry Conference is a safe ground for participants to ask questions of instructors, staff and most importantly each other.

If you come to this year’s Industry Conference you’ll get 16 hours of professional development but you just might get a whole lot more. This year’s conference is March 19 & 20 at the Great Northern in Helena. Contact Jean if you have any questions: 800.272.0307 or jean@mscpa.org

Finding Value (and Referrals) With Find-A-CPA

by Margaret Herriges, MSCPA Communications Director

Did you know MSCPA helps the public find CPAs? Our Find-A-CPA feature on our website is all about helping potential clients, and even other CPAs, find a person with the right expertise. And as a member of MSCPA you can post your profile for free.

Helena member Marca Gibson has had some success through Find-A-CPA, “I love Find-A-CPA as a member benefit. It provides an easy-to-use resource for potential clients, as well as for use by colleagues. I refer to it when I’ve met someone new at a local chapter meeting or CPE event, or if I don’t provide specific services that a prospective client needs.”

So what makes a good CPA profile?

  1. ADD YOUR PICTURE! Think of it like Ebay or Craigslist; would you buy anything from either of those sites that didn’t have a picture? So add a nice, professional, friendly picture to your Find-A-CPA profile. Great example: Marca Gibson (Helena)
  2. AREAS OF EXPERTISE. Pick four or five areas in which you are an industry expert. One of the best parts of Find-A-CPA is that people can search by area of expertise. Great example: Baiba Eastlick (Missoula)
  3. TELL YOUR STORY. This isn’t the place for your resume. You are trying to make people like you enough to contact you.  Make it interesting and friendly. Would you hire yourself after reading your Find-A-CPA profile? Great example: Kim Foard (Billings)
  4. HAVE SOME NARRATIVE. This ties in strongly with #2 and #3 in this list but the point is don’t JUST list your areas of expertise—make them your story!  You are a business expert! This is a really good place to tell people. Great example: Dave Gilmer (Missoula)

While it’s easy to see the value of Find-A-CPA for public practice members, it’s actually a very good resource for our BING (business, industry, NFP and gov’t) members, too.  For example, if you are a CFO for a manufacturer in Billings and you run up against an issue about inventory that you don’t know how to solve, you could go to Find-A-CPA and run a search for a peer with an expertise in this area. This member only feature has value for all.

Does the public really use Find-A-CPA?  It received almost 850 views last year and that number doubled from 2012. And what’s really critical is how long people are staying on this webpage. On average they stay over a minute, reading profiles to find the accounting professional they need. In web-speak, a minute is a pretty long time. So far in 2014 those numbers have nearly doubled again and visitors are spending over two minutes on the page. From this we can pretty safely say that yep, folks are using Find-A-CPA which makes it more imperative than ever for you to be listed with a GOOD profile.

It’s important to note that MSCPA members are not automatically added to Find-A-CPA. This is a profile that YOU must build. It is an important member benefit but it takes initiative from you to make it shine. It’s also critical to know that if you already have a profile you can edit it at any time. Simply log-in and click the Members Tab. From there you click on Find-A-CPA from your Member Dashboard. And as with all MSCPA benefits and services, we are here to help you. If you have questions regarding Find-A-CPA please don’t hesitate to contact me, 800.272.0307 or Margaret@mscpa.org.