Stay Technically Current in a Constantly Changing Profession 

by Jerome Weikel, CPA 

After acting as managing partner of WJPR from 1995 to 2012, I began my retirement process and sold my interest in the firm. I still work as a consultant and in my new role, I oversee the audit and attest part of WJPR’s practice and serve a small base of tax clients. Our firm is a fairly traditional practice. We offer tax and accounting services, with a specialized niche in retirement plan administration services. With the changes and standards that are constantly being implemented, trying to stay on top of everything can be difficult—especially as a small firm. We are always on the lookout for resources that can help us stay abreast of what’s going on in the profession.

Our firm has been a member of CPA Connect, a small firm division of CPAmerica, for many years. It was while attending their annual conference one year that I first became acquainted with Dr. Tom Ratcliffe, CPA, CGMA and Plain English Accounting (PEA).  Dr. Tom did a presentation and I was so impressed with how he spoke and was able to break down complicated standards into concise and understandable language. I viewed PEA as an opportunity to stay current in the profession with someone who was extremely knowledgeable. In 2013, PEA became a part of the AICPA and changed its name to the Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA).  Since joining the AICPA, I would say that the service has become even better. With added resources and staff, the CPEA is able to present information on a broader scale than Dr. Tom was able to do on his own.

Practical and Proactive

I would say that the primary benefit of CPEA membership are the monthly reports and alerts. These reports take very long and complex standards and break them down into concise summaries that are easy to understand. That plain English guidance is so valuable. It saves me hours of time that could be spent reading and trying to interpret standards on my own. This guidance also helps reinforce that I am doing my work correctly and that we are maintaining the quality of the services we provide. For example, the CPEA recently issued a series on peer reviews and the common issues and mistakes being encountered. Those reports have been extremely valuable in helping us identify and avoid issues in our own practice.

The resources available through the CPEA also help me be proactive in planning and preparing for engagements. Often in reading the reports or attending the quarterly webcasts, they will discuss topics that I know will apply to clients in the next tax season. If I see a topic that I know will affect a specific client, I print that report or make a note in their engagement file so I can use this information when we begin doing their work.  It’s always beneficial to know what’s on the horizon so that you can be better prepared for an engagement. Being able to identify those instances in advance ensures that I will be more knowledgeable when speaking to the client and will save me the time of making that discovery while in the field.

No Small Firm is an Island

As a small firm, you occasionally feel like you are isolated in a world of your own. We only have three partners, so it can be easy for tunnel vision to occur. We have local resources that we will turn to for certain issues, and we make the effort to attend relevant conferences and events, but our CPEA membership provides a consistent source of guidance and support. It helps us stay connected to the profession. One of my favorite aspects of the quarterly webcasts are the polling questions. I really enjoy getting the results in real time and being able to see how our firm compares to the rest of the audience. The CPEA will sometimes address topics that aren’t extremely relevant to my practice (such as not-for-profits), but I still take advantage of those reports or webcasts just to see what is happening in that area and what other firms are doing.

The guidance provided by the CPEA has been an incredible asset to our firm. The information covers a broad range of topics and is as timely as possible. They are releasing new information on a monthly and quarterly basis, which ensures they are addressing the changes as they happen. This is much different than other technical guidance, which is generally only updated on an annual basis. The CPEA provides an opportunity for our firm to stay current in a constantly changing profession in an efficient and effective way at a reasonable cost.

WJPR is a small firm with based in Tulsa, OK. Jerome Weikel, CPA is a former Managing Partner and current consultant.


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