Imposter Syndrome & Emotionally Responsible Accounting with Ingrid Edstrom
Ingrid Edstrom is a remarkable human, who has taken a non-traditional route to serve a part of the CPA market that is often left untouched. Phil and Ingrid's conversation ranges from why it's important to know your clients well, to how you can more easily step into your unique niche without fear of inadequacy paralyzing you.
Hello, and thank you for tuning in to another episode of CPA Review and More. We are pleased to bring you the #1 podcast for CPAs and CPA candidates. If you'd like to learn more about how Yaeger CPA Review can help you, find us on our website at https://www.yaegercpareview.com. Now, here's your host, Phil Yaeger.
Hello everyone, this is Phil Yaeger, and welcome to my podcast CPA Review and More. We're not talking about CPA review today. Sorry to break your hearts, but today we have “more”. We have a guest. She has some very interesting information in her Linked-In page, and she's going to explain to us what that means.
And by the way, I just want to mention one thing to you, and I will mention this again at the end. I have always supported a charity called WhyHunger, and we know that with this COVID a lot of people are going hungry because they don't have any income coming in. So WhyHunger provides food for them in various countries. So I'm going to give you the phone number, and if you would, please send WhyHunger a donation. It could be $1, $5, $10, and I work with WhyHunger.
By the way, the people who got me involved in it—and I really appreciate it—was [first] Hoda Kotb. I know Hoda and she was very nice; she got me involved them. Also, cousin Bruce Emaro and...those are the only two people I can think of right now. So anyway, thank you, and I'll give you that phone number afterwards.
Alright. Ingrid! Ingrid Edstrom. Is that right?
Good. We're on a positive thing here. Ingrid, you are the “Priestess of Profits” at Polymath LLC, business strategy adventures. Right?
That is right.
What exactly is a “Priestess of Profits”?
Priestess of Profits is my title.
That's your title?
Yeah, it's just a lot...
Do you have a degree in divinity? Is that what you have? You have a doctor of divinity or what?
[Laughs]. Not exactly. I enjoy preaching the gospel of healthy business with my clients and also at accounting conferences, and it's a very important distinction: it's priestess, not princess, of profits.
I'm sorry, I didn't say princess, did I? Did I say princess? No, no, I said priestess. It's my New York accent, that's what you're hearing. So, how did you get the name “Priestess of Profits”.
Priestess of Profits, it came about because I enjoy preaching the gospel of healthy small business, and it's really a focus on working in service to a higher purpose, and I believe that if more people were making good money doing what they love to do, that lo-and-behold, we'd be surrounded by happier, healthier people, and that's the world that I want to live in. So by focusing on insuring that people are able to make a good living following their dreams, that makes our world a better place. And so I work in service to small business owners trying to make the world a better place.
So the first five years out of school, I was not living my dream. Do you have people coming to you for that?—that say, Ingrid, make me live my dream. Is that what you do?
To a very big extent, yes, that's exactly what I do.
Well, if accounting was not my dream, how are you going to make me? How can you do that?
Well Phil, what do you love?
What do I love? Actually I love—I wanted to be on the entertainment. That's why I give a lot to these charities—Charitybuzz, this type of thing—and I get to meet these celebrities. And I don't meet them because I want to tell everyone that I meet celebrities. I meet them because I know who they are and I want to see what they're really like, you know. And somehow they like me, which I don't understand why anybody would like me, and I keep in touch with them. I usually go once a year to New York City. We go down to 30 Rock at NBC, and we go to the Today show, and we get to go on the plaza.
So, I would have liked to have done something in television or radio—more radio than anything—because I did have a cable radio show when I lived in Denver, Colorado. It was called Financially Speaking. So, I don't know, is that where I did something, and I followed my dream? Is that what you would say?
Well, if it's making you happy and you're life is fulfilling to you, then yeah, that's definitely a good, important thing...[audio failure]...portion of your vision and passion and purpose in this life, and congratulations, that sounds like it's a really...[audio failure].
Oh, well thank you. Is this COVID virus making it a lot harder for people to follow their dream of happiness?—even though they might be making good money?
You know, it really depends on the individual and the business and the industry that they're in. The industry that I serve—I have a specialty in business strategy and financial workflow design for tours & activities companies. And that is an industry that has been very much disrupted by COVID—the travel industry as a whole. Particularly, the companies that I work with are primarily US-based companies that operate internationally either doing safaris or food and wine tours, and international travel is currently not happening. So it's a very very disrupted industry, and quite a few of my clients have had to pivot and figure out ways to shift things. Some of them have even just taken a big step back from their business and are focusing on other things while they wait to see how the COVID pandemic pans out. And there are big, important conversations happening right now, and it's interesting because crisis if fertile ground for change, and COVID has presented a unique opportunity for all of us to really look more deeply and evaluate what's truly important to us. If you look back at February-March of 2020, we were all just kind of doing the day-to-day, going to our jobs, thinking that was how it had to be, and suddenly, the end of March and April hit, and those patterns were disrupted. And people who had just been doing their 9-5 jobs on a daily basis and thought that if they didn't go to work that day, the world might end.
And suddenly, they couldn't go to work, and the world didn't end. And it really has us reevaluating and thinking about: what do we have to be doing?. What are we just doing out of habit? And what kinds of choices can we be making. It's challenging our limiting beliefs, making us question: what if what I've been telling myself isn't true. And that opens up a whole new world of possibilities that we didn't even consider prior to COVID. So as awful as having a worldwide pandemic is, being able to see the opportunity in every challenge, rather than just the challenges and the opportunities, is a great chance for us to look at what we've been doing and the choices we've been making.
You're absolutely right. As a result of this COVID—and I said there's a good thing that came out of it—I started doing virtual-CPA review. You're a speaker, and I'm sure you enjoy speaking to people face-to-face. Am I correct?
Yup. I am speaking at Scaling New Heights next month.
Now what is that?
Scaling New Heights is the annual conference that the Woodard Organization puts on, and in my opinion, it is the best conference in the accounting industry.
What that the one in Vegas last year?
No, Scaling New Heights was in Salt Lake City last year. It was in Atlanta the year before that, Orlando before that, and the Bahamas before that.
So where is it this year?
It's going to be in Orlando this year, and it's a really really fantastic conference.
Now you're speaking, and you'll be speaking on what?—on business strategies? Is that what you're going to do?
I'm actually doing a few different—so this is an accounting conference—and we're talking to accounting professionals and Pro advisors—QuickBooks Pro advisors—and so it's not to a small business audience. It's exclusively and accounting professional audience, and usually it about 1,500 people at this conference. And the topics that I will be speaking on—I'll be leading a couple of facilitated discussions on disruption and looking at the world today, and how disruption impacts the way that we do business, and then another one on advisory services: how we can more effectively offer advisory services to our clients. But the one that I'm really focusing on is how to help (with a consultative capacity) our clients through their chronic poverty-mindset; really focusing on the challenging conversations that accounting professionals need to be having with their clients to ensure that those clients are making it through success. So really putting a bit more focus on, not just the numbers review, but the emotional impact that those numbers have on an individual's life and the psychological impact that that creates, recognizing that a lot of our clients, when they're talking with us in our advisory meetings with them, and we're going through the reports with them, money is a triggering topic for a lot of people.
Of course, yeah.
And they end up spending a lot of the time in those conversations in fight-or-flight, trapped in their limbic brain, and not even recognizing why it is they have trouble focusing and making decisions when they're in meetings with their accounting professionals. So educating the accounting professionals on psychologically why that is, and how they can assist their clients through those challenging interactions to better assist them to be able to make educated decisions and to be able to be more comfortable with us in those conversations so that we can help them more effectively—that that is how we'll be able to get them to real success and assist them more effectively and make sure that, by them being successful, we get to be successful; when they make money, we make money. So we get to all thrive together.
Who else is going to be speaking at that conference that we might know?
Oh gosh, well Joe Woodard is the leader of the Woodard Organization, so he will definitely be speaking.
I would have to look at the website to see who for sure confirmed through this year. I know Matthew Fulton is speaking. Um, I would be surprised if Jeanie Whitehouse was not there. Yeah, they've got a great speaker line-up. Every single year they have a wonderful speaker line-up.
And what date is this now? And then the next question is, who can go to this? Do you have to be a member of the association? Who can attend?
Anyone can attend. I mean, you're not going to get a whole lot out of it if you're not an accounting professional, but anyone can attend.
Well no, I meant you have to be an accountant. You don't want to come there if you're in the—uh, I'm trying to think of an area that would be ridiculous...
I mean, a small business owner could sign up to attend, but you know, a lot of it would probably be over their heads, probably.
So this is companies with how many people?
Can be a one person show all the way up to major accounting firms. It's a very wide variety.
Ok, and where is it in Orlando?
It's going to be at the Marriott. So with COVID in mind...
I know exactly where that is, yeah.
the Woodard Organization is—so they have gotten a space that could fit 10,000 conference attendees for a conference that's probably going to have about 1,000 people in attendance. So there's plenty of distance for social distancing and ensuring that everybody's needs are being met, so that we are COVID-safe, even in a face-to-face conference. So there's going to be some great things going on. It is a four-day long conference, it goes from Sunday to Wednesday, and it is November 8-11.
November 8-11, and it's at the Marriott. I think that's on International Drive, is that right? But anyway, so Marriott, it's a big hotel in Orlando, and it's November 8th to what? I'm just writing this down.
8th through the 11th. So Sunday through Wednesday, and if people are looking for information on how to sign up, they can go to ScalingNewHeights.com. You can also find information on it at Woodard.com.
Now how long do you speak for normally, like 3 hours, 6 hours, how long?
All three of the presentations that I'm giving are 100 minutes, so each of them are worth 2 CE credits.
So, actually, that's a good time of year, because a lot of CPAs have to get their continuing education. Do you have rates for rooms for people that are staying there?
Yeah, if they're looking to stay at the Marriott, there's a hotel link that is provided to the conference, so there is a group-rate for the rooms.
So, besides Universal Studios being there, if you're a Marriott rewards holder, you will get Marriott rewards for staying at the rooms, if you pay for them. So you know, there's another thing.
Anyway, getting back to what you do. You're an accounting nerd. Did you give yourself that title?
I am an accounting nerd, yes. So, one important distinction, Phil, because you've mentioned the CPA exam a couple of times in this call: I am an accounting nerd; I am a self-educated management accounting professional. I am not a CPA.
Ok. I understand. There are plenty of people that I interview on here that are not CPAs. Tell me, why are you a nerd. I don't know why you're a nerd. I've seen that movie Revenge of the Nerds. You don't look like them. Why are you a nerd?
I'm a nerd because I have a passion for accounting topics, and even though I'm not a CPA and I'm not required to get CPE credit myself to maintain a certification, I am a bit of a CPE junkie. I really enjoy pursuing continuing education in the accounting realms. I enjoy reading books, and if I had to recommend one book for the listeners of this podcast, I think right now, it would be The Future of the Professions by Daniel Susskind. And really looking into how—not just accounting—but a variety of professions are changing and evaluating whether or not, moving forward, we're going to need ongoing certifications where we create a situation
Yeah, I've heard about that.
Essentially, the rabbits are guarding the lettuce.
That is scaring the accounting profession. I think that's scaring a lot of professions—taking away the CPA—for exactly the reasons you're talking about. Do you think that's going to happen?—that they're going to start taking away these certifications?
You know, I think that professional certifications that are managed within the profession creates a situation where we are self-governing and it's actually not in the best interests of those that we serve. Our reputations really ought to be able to speak for themselves. I know a lot of CPAs who unfortunately are not very effective at their work, and the credential itself is not doing a good service for a lot of people in industry and those that we serve. I think that there are...
...better ways of going about it.
Why is the CPA not doing any good to a lot of people? Why do you say that?
I am not a tax accountant. I don't have a tax background, yet nonetheless, with the clients that I serve I am able to tell when there is gross negligence on a tax return. And seeing a tax return where it's very very clear that there was absolutely no review to ensure that the return was prepared with accurate financials is appalling to me. And the number of CPAs who don't bother to look at a balance sheet before preparing a schedule C return is really kind of scary. And it's unfortunately commonplace. And I feel like our business owners need better.
I have to agree with you. I mean, just because people take the CPA exam and pass it, doesn't mean they know anything. It's just an academic exam. But the AICPA says, “we're not just going to give you the license, unless you have one or two years experience working under a CPA or with a CPA firm. So they feel that's condoning. If you have a person who's a CPA, they should know that. And I'm not sure, I don't know if the American Association of CPAs are really opening their eyes about the problem you're describing. But isn't that true in a lot of professions.
It is pretty widespread. In the state of Texas, you need a license to be able to wash someone's hair. It's absolutely ridiculous. Occupational licensure is not an effective way of ensuring that people are doing a good job. And I really think that it's a way of the past that needs to go by the wayside. Reputation should be a much bigger part of that and licensure has nothing to do with effective reputation.
You're right. And it's a revenue producer. That's what it does, because the CPA gives the revenue to the state boards—the revenue to the AICPA for being members. Yeah, it's a revenue producer, but I think if you ask a lot of people—obviously there's always going to be bad apples, you know—a lot of people would figure, “Hey, this person's a CPA. It's better than someone who does not have a CPA designation.”
Yeah, by the way, if they take away the CPA certification, how do you know that one accountant is better than another accountant, or vice versa.
Ask for references. Review their work. Talk to them. Really find out if they know what they're doing, because at this point, simply have the letters CPA after someone's name is not a testimony to the quality of their work.
But how many people can review the work that that person has done and really have the expertise to tell whether the work is correct, is not negligent in any way—I mean, they don't have the expertise. Now you, you have the expertise. You know what a balance sheet should look like. You can pick out things from a tax return that are very basic where maybe the stupid CPA is taking—I'll give you an example. I did a tax return. This guy came in with a seat from another CPA, and there used to be an energy credit, and it used to be plastered all over the refrigerator he had. So, he thought that he'd buy the refrigerator and write it all off because it was energy efficient. And I asked, “Where did you come up with that?” He said, “The CPA before you told me that”. My words to him were, “That guy's an idiot”. But you see, most people don't know that. And the other problem is—I'll tell you what really—I look at the tax profession—they should not let, like, H&R Block—all these companies—because these people preparing returns are usually people from their schools that they run. So what protects the public against the H&R Block people? The person who comes in to do their tax return: they don't know what's taxable, what's deductible; so they depend on these people. And they go to H&R Block because it's supposedly cheaper, of course, but how do you regulate this so that the consumer does not get shafted. What would you do to make sure that people who are doing tax returns know what they're doing? Do you have any solution to that?
The solution is not in regulation. It's in education. Regulating the people preparing returns, when, at this point, because of H&R Block and Liberty Tax, pretty much anybody can get paid to prepare a tax return under somebody else's umbrella, and there is not enough oversight there. It's a really big problem. The solution is in educating consumers about what to look for so that business owners and people who are looking to have their personal taxes prepared by someone else are aware of what they're missing, and why those services are not giving them a complete and effective job.
What should a person ask for? And, you know, you go into a CPA who says he does income taxes. What would you recommend someone do in order to protect themselves against someone that doesn't know what they're doing.
Yup, that's one of the big tricky things that the biggest focus is have real conversations and develop a relationship with your tax preparer. And a lot of tax preparers aren't willing to invest that kind of time into the relationships they have with their customers. They're playing a numbers game. They want to churn out as many returns as possible and try to make more money in less time, and it ends up not being an effective relationship for the tax preparer or the person who's having their taxes prepared. Whereas, that's one of the changes we see going on in the accounting profession right now is that more and more people are looking to receive education from their accounting professionals. They want more of a relationship. They want advice. They want to know—not just to get their taxes prepared—but they want to know, throughout the year, what they can be doing to save money on taxes, what choices can they be making, and they are looking for proactive advice on some of those topics that in order to be able to offer that proactive advice, the tax preparer or accounting professional would need to know a little bit of something about the person that they're serving. They need to actually have a relationship with them and know enough about their life to understand what changes are going on in their lives that might have a tax or financial impact that they could advise on.
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