Lead Auditor - Lemler Group, LLC
4 A.M. Wake up, shower, grab smoothie and my lunch, and head to work. I am most productive in the morning, so I love getting to work when I am the only one in the building. In the early morning, it’s quiet and I can focus intently on client work.
5 A.M. Arrive at office, settle in, briefly check email and confirm priorities for the day.
5:30 A.M. Start on my top priority. We are assisting a new client with putting together their first compiled financial statements. I read the financial statements and notes for potential issues and trace the footnotes to their corresponding workpapers. I complete the draft financial statements for client review and approval.
6:50 A.M. The sun is rising and starting to shine through my office window. I make a cup of coffee and sit back to watch it rise behind the few clouds in the sky. This gives me a few minutes to relax and put life into perspective. It’s a start of a new day. Who can I add value to today?
7 A.M. Each week, I have one-on-one meetings with each member of our team. Today, the first up is our remote-working tax specialist. This time is designed to discuss accomplishments of the week, set goals for next week and discuss challenges and potential obstacles to achieving them. My responsibility as the leader is to remove as many obstacles as I can to help the team be successful and grow.
7:30 A.M. My second priority today is working on an affordable housing client’s financial statements. I’m almost done except for documenting investments in other entities, revenue and subsequent events. After reviewing our work and the procedures performed, I determine we need to revisit the client to discuss this with the CFO and owner. I send an email to them, explaining the meeting expectations and possible dates.
9 A.M. Every day, our team gathers in the conference room for a daily check-in. At the end of each day, every team member chooses their top three priorities based on their tasks and the team’s schedule for the coming weeks and records it on a color-coded Excel document. Then, each morning, we cast that document to the TV and each team member checks in with the priorities they did (or didn’t) accomplish the day before and what they have committed to completing today. We have found these check-ins to be really helpful in connecting the whole team across our firm’s multiple responsibilities (accounting, marketing, administration, etc.).
9:15 A.M. Next round of one-on-one meetings with three other team members.
10 A.M. Sit down with the team to answer questions about one of the management company’s operations and changes in their processes. The team provides insight on issues related to the disbursement approval process. I ask questions to make sure I clearly understand the issue and then ask for possible solutions. We determine a team member should contact the CFO to discuss our concerns and clarify the approval process. From this meeting and others like it, I am learning to ask more questions and listen attentively.
"We do book studies year-round, even in busy season, because it's pivotal to encouraging personal growth of our team."
I have some time to return a client voicemail. They are a not-for-profit organization that recently received a new $400k grant, and they are concerned about how this will affect their annual audit. With this increase in funding, the organization would now be subject to Government Auditing Standards and Uniformed Guidance, which will require reporting changes and additional testing on their next audit.
Lunch with my wife Suzanne, who works alongside me in the firm, to discuss updates of firm and clients. Today’s focus is an update on our annual Live2Lead event. This year, we’ve had a huge increase in the number of RSVPs. We are almost at the number of total registrations from last year and we still have two months before the event. What a blessing to be able to provide value for so many clients, colleagues and strangers! We also talk about CPA Day of Service (see more about the event on page 46)—we currently have about 25 volunteers registered for our fourth year of serving at Pack Away Hunger.
Answer several emails concerning the new US Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (RD) Chapter 4 handbook rules (changing audit requirement thresholds from number of units to total federal funds expended). Two management companies had questions about implementation dates, associated audit fees and increased compliance requirements.
Review a team member’s completed draft financial statements. These financials are for a client who was struggling to implement the Accounting Standard Update 2016-14, which has changed not-for-profit (NFP) reporting standards. After reviewing the draft, I discussed the statement of activities with the team member, because the functional expenses were missing. We researched if the client’s presentation meets the new NFP standards. After some discussion, review of professional literature and a quick call to a colleague at another CPA firm (thank you, Paul!), we determined that including a statement of functional expenses would be cleaner and more consistent with professional standards. The team member will make the changes and send the client’s draft financial statements by the end of the day.
Weekly team growth meeting. We start off by looking at the firm-wide schedule for the next six weeks to set everyone up for success. Then we switch gears and each team member, including myself, shares their wins for the week, an example how we’ve both failed and demonstrated the firm’s virtues and values and one thing we’re grateful for—whether personal or professional. Sometimes it’s something another team member did for them, sometimes it’s related to their home life and sometimes it’s an appreciation for something simple. I love hearing what each team member values because it reminds me how amazing they are and how blessed I am to have each one of them on our team.
After talking about our week, we transition into discussing a book we’ve been reading. Right now, we’re finishing up “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. In the past we’ve read books by Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni and one of my favorite mentors, John Maxwell. We typically read a chapter each week and discuss what we learned from it. We do book studies year-round, even in busy season, because it’s pivotal to encouraging personal growth of our team. It also gives everyone a break from the numbers, as they participate in a conversation that hopefully lifts their gaze out of the weeds of daily tasks.
I need to return a call from a client. One of our management company clients called about refinancing three properties into HUD loans due to a recent decrease in interest rates. Time is tight because they want to complete these three reviews within 30 days. I called them back and we discussed the overall approach, agreed to send a request list on Monday and set a tentative timeline. I’m confident our team can complete the work within or before their deadline. Needless to say, this will adjust our conversation at the 3 p.m. weekly check-in—and be a surprise for the team.
Weekly success planning meeting. The team sits down and looks at clients for the upcoming week so we can decide specific assignments and share information about those clients and things to watch for during the audit. As we learned in 7 Habits, “Begin with the end in mind.” With this meeting, everyone sees their role and expectations for the whole week ahead. After a little discussion, I tell the team about the three new reviews we just picked up. Though it shuffles our priorities for the next few weeks and adds pressure to an already busy month of work, the team is eager to take on this challenge. Once again, I am grateful for each one of them!
"Each team member, including myself, shares their wins for the week, an example how we've both failed and demonstrated the firm's virtues and values and one thing we're grateful for—whether personal or professional."
Pack up and leave for home. I love the convenience of a five-mile commute. It makes getting home after a long day so easy.
Take a moment to settle in and love on our dog, Hailey. Put things away, including my phone. No more messages for the night.
Time to work out. This is my time to just be. I don’t worry about my endless list of tasks to accomplish. I get lost in the physical activity and focus on the energy of working out.
Take a post-work out shower and put on comfy clothes.
Have dinner with Suzanne. As we eat, we talk and catch up. Although we work together, we don’t actually see each other very often throughout the day. This is our time to talk about anything and everything.
Reflection time. I like to journal about each day. I reflect on what went well and what needs improvement. I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t take time to reflect, I won’t learn from my experiences. John Maxwell said it best: “Experience does not make people better, evaluated experiences make people better.”
After a long day and a long week, it’s time to relax with a glass of bourbon and quality time with Suzanne. We sit outside, listen to music and enjoy the evening. Cheers!
Bedtime. With a 4 a.m. wake-up call, it’s never too early for bed. Suzanne and I take this time as one last opportunity for reflection. We ask each other two questions: “What did you love about today?” and “What are you grateful for?” With thoughts like these as the last ones of the day, we can fall asleep with an attitude of gratitude.
David Lemler, CPA, CGMA
Lemler Group, LLC
I started Lemler Group, LLC in May 2008. We specialize in audits of affordable housing properties and not-for-profit organizations. My passion is taking the stress out of the audit process for clients and making it enjoyable for everyone involved.
Auditor at a local 10-person accounting firm for five years; Controller in private industry for one year; Auditor at a local mid-size firm for five years
Served on Leadership Cabinet for nine years; Served on Peer Review committee for 10 years; Served as vice chair of the Peer Review committee for three years and chair for two years; Received 2019 INCPAS CPA Center of Excellence® Award
WHEN I’M NOT AT WORK
My wife, Suzanne, of 20 years works alongside me in the firm. She’s been involved since day one of opening our business.
Hailey, our 11-year-old shepherd mix
Sailing, walks in the park, bourbon, reading books and attending conferences on leadership and personal development with Suzanne
OTHER MEMBERSHIPS/COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT:
We host an annual free leadership conference in the fall called the Live2Lead broadcast. It’s a 4–5-hour event with five world-class speakers (including John Maxwell) who present on leadership, personal growth and teamwork topics. While many events similar to this one require attendees to buy tickets, we offer our Live2Lead for free because we’re passionate about leadership development and providing value to others, both within our team and in our community. It’s a free event for anyone in the community who is interested. Plus, CPAs can earn three hours of CPE for attending.
In addition, for the past four years, we’ve held a CPA Day of Service event at Pack Away Hunger. We invite other CPA firms and accounting students to join us each year so we can maximize our impact for good and help students network and learn about the opportunities they could have as a CPA.
ADVICE ADVICE FOR STUDENTS CONSIDERING THE PROFESSION/BECOMING A CPA
It’s hard to pinpoint what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re a college student. Network with tenured professionals (and not just those you are comfortable with) to get an idea of what they do. When I went through the recruiting process, I primarily gravitated towards CPAs who were closest to me in age (and ultimately, people I had the most in common with). However, my most impactful career conversations came from a mentor who was in public accounting for 10 years and had switched professions. He offered a different perspective, which was insightful.
ADVICE FOR YOUNG PROS WANTING TO ADVANCE IN THE PROFESSION
In the accounting world, we often ask each other, “What did you do last year?” and use this as the baseline for what we’re doing in the current year. As a manager, I highly value instances when colleagues think outside of the box or challenge what we’ve always done in the past. Whether it’s thinking of a more efficient approach (creating a bot to automate a process!) or increasing quality of the work product, show initiative by not always accepting the “same as last year” approach.