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Day in the Life: Jennifer Briggs, CAE, MBA


Feb 1, 2018

NEW INCPAS PRESIDENT & CEO


BACKGROUND

Company Size: We are at a lean 18 people now! We have one open position to fill which we hope to do soon, and then we’ll see where we are. There is a lot of change happening, and we’ll continue to figure out the best use of staff time and where we need to grow. 

Most interesting thing about what you do:
That every single day is different. I have days in the office strategizing with staff, days out in members’ offices in other parts of Indiana, travel to conferences and AICPA events, speaking to groups of members at our own events, writing articles – every day is a little different and I love the variety. It makes scheduling a real priority for me (I always say that I just do what my calendar on my phone tells me), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

What do you think is most important to provide to staff if you are a manager/leader:
Reliability. People need to know you will be reliable in who you are as a person and in your work ethic. I don’t think a leader needs to have the right answer all the time, but they have to be relied upon to work hard, to listen, to hold people accountable and to be transparent. (See how I made it seem like a one-word answer and then made a multi-part answer? I am reliably an over-communicator most of the time!)

 

Jennifer Briggs & Family


DAILY JOURNAL

6 a.m. Wake up. Well, get up. I actually wake up around 4:30 or 5 a.m. when my husband wakes up and starts listening to the radio or podcasts on his phone. I check my email and double-check my calendar for the day. I get ready relatively quickly because I don’t let myself have coffee until I’m done. This is very motivating for me.


7 a.m. My youngest child, Julian, is in first grade and he’s up at 7 a.m. He starts the day by telling me about a dream he had or something that happened at school. It’s amazing how in the evening he won’t give me any details about his day, but once he’s had a chance to sleep on it he spills his guts.


7:30 a.m. I leave for the office. My husband Greg Buchanan is a pension actuary and works from home for Fidelity. We live just a couple of blocks from my son’s school and Greg gets Julian fed and dressed and off to school so I don’t have that morning rush so many people do; I know I’m very fortunate in this way. The only downside is that I don’t have as much control as I’d like on what breakfast consists of or how crazy my kid’s hair looks when he leaves the house. 


8 a.m. Arrive at the office (after a Starbucks stop). I am a morning person so I’m the type who says, “good morning!” and means it. We have a class, so I go over to the classroom side of our office and hang out until it starts at 8:30 a.m. It’s always fun to see members I’ve known a long time and to meet new people. I do worry sometimes people think my job consists of hanging out drinking coffee, but that’s a risk I take.


8:45 a.m. I travel more than one might think in this job – to conferences with other CPA Societies or the AICPA, and of course around Indiana. I start the day looking for a flight to a conference coming up with other state society CEOs. Those events are great ways to hear what other states are doing and to share ideas. I schedule a couple meetings with staff to talk about updates to the strategic plan. This is the time of year when we update our plan based on work done at the Board Retreat at the end of last year. 


9 a.m. It’s Tuesday so that means we have our quick, stand-up staff meeting in the breakroom for anyone who is in the office. It’s an opportunity to share what’s happening that week, remind everyone of an event coming up or to ask for help if someone needs it. This is a nice way to touch base and I almost always learn something in this weekly 30-minute gathering.


9:30 a.m. I go to a meeting with our health insurance program representative and discuss the new INCPAS program through the Indiana Employers Trust. The state of health insurance – well, it feels like it changes every day. Since we had to terminate our old plan we are happy to be able to offer the new plan for firms that have at least two people. 


10:30 a.m. Meet with Sherrill Rude, our VP- Advocacy, to talk about our legislative agenda. We aren’t driving any legislation this year, but we are monitoring a number of issues and Sherrill works closely with our lobbyist to be aware of any that impact CPA licensure, taxes or the general business climate in Indiana. 

I don’t think a leader needs to have the right answer all the time, but they have to be relied upon to work hard, to listen, to hold people accountable and to be transparent.

11:15 a.m. Quick stop to talk with Stacey Wilson and Courtney Kincaid in our office about new ideas to offer free CPE to members – stay tuned!


11:30 a.m. I have lunch with a member. I often meet with members to talk about them getting more involved in the Society, their career goals or just something they are passionate about that they want to share with INCPAS. Talking with members outside the office is the best way to find out what’s keeping them up at night and helps me think about ways the Society can help.


12:45 p.m. Get a Facetime call from our daughter at IU I won’t lie, when she calls I initially worry that she wants to change her major (again), but that’s unfounded at this point – midway through her Junior year she’s doing great. She usually just wants money. Happy to help. (Just don’t change your major!)


1:15 p.m. Back at the office I prepare a presentation for a member visit I have later this month. Typically, in winter I spend less time in firms but try to visit with members in Industry, particularly at organizations where we have a number of members. It is a constant struggle to provide value in all areas of practice – public accounting in small firms, large firms, government, industry, educators. We can’t be all things to all people, but, we sure do try where we can.


2:15 p.m. Look at the budget. Determining where we put our resources with our limited dues dollars is one of our most important jobs. We work on diversity and inclusion initiatives, competency-based license renewal and other big picture projects. We balance this with our day-to-day programs that members need like continuing education hours, our ethics program and member events. Our staff treats member dues like their own money and are very frugal with it … I’m not just saying this to get in your good graces, we genuinely do look at every dollar we spend each year and, with the board, determine the highest and best use of our resources. 


3:15 p.m. This is the time of day when I hit a bit of a wall. We all have our more (and less) productive periods in the day. I take this time to move to the conference table in my office for a change of scenery and skim a few e-newsletters, newspapers and magazines that I get related to accounting and what’s happening in business in Indiana and the world at large.


4 p.m. For whatever reason, this is when I get my second wind. I look through materials provided by our commercial realtor. The Society’s lease expires next year and after 23 years in this building we may be moving. Not the most fun endeavor, but at the same time – it is! With a move we are more easily able to adapt our workspace to the way we work today. 


4:30 p.m. Schedule more meetings and look at email. Work on an article for the American Society of Association Executives as a follow-up to a succession planning piece I wrote a couple of years ago. Since it was published, I’ve received numerous requests from across the country to know more about the process the Society went through and the work of Gary Bolinger and our board in planning ahead for Gary’s retirement. 


Jennifer Briggs at home5 p.m. Review a few recently updated job descriptions. In the transition from Gary to me as CEO, there are also some other staff changes being made to align what people are actually doing with their titles and job descriptions. This type of work is tedious, but it’s absolutely necessary try to get it right. People need to know their work is valued and that you know how they contribute. A review from time to time is also a good way to see where there are holes in accountability. I’m big on everything we do having “an owner.” It doesn’t mean they do it all themselves, but they are the go-to person and I like this reflected in job descriptions – along with “other duties as assigned,” because that’s just how it works. 


5:45 p.m. I try to be home by 6 p.m. when I can. Sometimes I have board dinners, a Scholars program event or outing with a legislative committee, but if I don’t have an event, like tonight, I head home.


5:50 p.m. Stop at the pet store to buy cat food for our cat, who managers to be a bit of a troublemaker.


6:15 p.m. I get home and wander around the house picking things up. It’s shocking how much more clutter there is since I left at 7:30 a.m. We talk about dinner. It’s a failure in planning that we don’t do a better job figuring out how to feed ourselves, but this is a nightly discussion. 


6:30 p.m. Screen time is over for Julian so while I snack on my pseudo-dinner, I ask him to get his backpack and show me what’s going on at school. Then I sit with him, and he reads me a book or two. Reading is such a joy to me that I really want it to be a joy for him as well. 


7:30 p.m. Grab my iPad and look at email. I go through the e-newsletters I didn’t look at in the day while I watch a little news. I also check in on Facebook and Instagram. I keep up with members, staff, colleagues in other states and long-time friends on social media. I know many people think it’s pointless but, if done in moderation, I find it adds value to my life and keeps me connected to people I care about.


8 p.m. Julian wants to play Monopoly. He ALWAYS wants to play monopoly. It’s a never-ending game. Santa brought him the Jr. edition for Christmas, but he still enjoys playing with the big money. (Maybe this is the one of our kids who will become a CPA?)


8:30 p.m. My husband group texts my step-son Patrick. Patrick is taking a break from college and living at his mother’s house. Patrick says hi - that’s about all we get out of him, but he also asks after our troublemaking cat. I spend a few minutes looking at the Zillow app on my phone. I love houses. I love real estate. I want to move. We probably won’t move, but that won’t stop me from looking. Every. Single. Day.


9 p.m. I go upstairs and make sure Julian has started his evening routine. He hasn’t. We rush through tooth-brushing, etc. and head to his room to read a book. 


9:30 p.m. I wake up after having dozed off in Julian’s room. Get up. Get myself ready for bed. 


10 p.m. Check my email again. Turn off lights around the house and pick up more stuff that somehow got out of place since I’ve been home. Set the alarm on my phone and attempt to read a novel for a whopping 10 minutes before I fall asleep. 

 



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