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July | August 2017 | Vol. 13 No. 4 A publication of the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs |

A leap of faith Jon C. Gaines, CPA, CGMA, MBA | 6 Vice president, business and finance services, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation

Plus: Are you ready to start your own accounting practice?

| 10

Tips for managing state sales and use tax audits | 24 Measuring performance with the Balanced Scorecard | 28

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Milwaukee • Madison • Waukesha • Oshkosh • Green Bay • Appleton

A publication of Wisconsin Institute of CPAs |

July/August 2017 Vol. 13 No. 4

6 Features


6 A leap of faith

24 TAX

Jon C. Gaines, CPA, CGMA, MBA provides financial backing for budding entrepreneurs in his role as vice president of business services and finance for the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.

Managing state sales and use tax audits Being prepared and knowing what to expect is your first line of defense if your company undergoes a tax audit.

By Cynthia M. Hodnett

By Jay M. Baehman, CPA, CMI

10 Forging a new path:


The do's and don'ts of self-employment Opening your own accounting practice can be both daunting and rewarding. Consider using these tips for going out on your own.

Gain insights on reputation, leadership and culture, social media attacks and data breaches, and the value of employees to corporate reputations.

Consider six action steps to approach compliance and ethics successfully.

The Balanced Scorecard helps companies enhance their current performance and identify methods to guarantee future success. By Michael J. Browne, CPA, MSA, CMA, CGMA, CFM, CPIM, ABV

34 Departments 2 Odds & Ends | news briefs 3 Outlook | chair’s letter Membership Matters | member benefits



15 In Touch | president & CEO’s message

By Karl Robe, APR

20 How to keep compliance and ethics on target

Using the Balanced Scorecard for bottom line results

By Andrew D. Faust, CPA

16 Is reputation more valuable than money?


Choosing the right banking partner You’ve got big plans for opening your own accounting practice. Now discover how to choose the right banking partner to secure capital for your business.

23 Kudos | members in the news

By Dan Hansen

By Lou Carlozo

On Balance

July | August 2017


Odds & Ends 2013 Apex Award for Publication Excellence 2017–2018 WICPA OFFICERS/BOARD MEMBERS Chair William L. Komisar, CPA, J.D. Chair-elect Michael D. Akers, CPA, CBM, CFE, CGMA, CIA, CMA, Ph.D. Past-chair Steven G. Handrick, CPA, CGMA Secretary-treasurer Katherine L. Hauser, CPA, CGMA Directors Jon C. Gaines, CPA, CGMA, MBA Ryan J. Hanson, CPA, CGMA Patrick G. Hoffert, CPA Debra L. Lenz, CPA, CGMA, CIA, CRMA Terri M. Lillesand, CPA Matthew A. Los, CPA Steven A. Pullara, CPA Matthew J. Schaefer, CPA, CGMA Angela C. Thomas, CPA AICPA Council Rick E. Dreher, CPA, CGMA Neil R. Keller, CPA, ABV, CVA President & CEO Dennis F. Tomorsky, CPA, J.D., CGMA Chief Financial & Operating Officer Tammy J. Hofstede

Chortek LLP joins RSM US Alliance Chortek LLP, a CPA and business advisory firm with headquarters in Waukesha and a second location in Appleton, joined the RSM US Alliance. Chortek LLP continues to be a locally owned, independent firm with access to the resources, best practices and expertise of one of the largest accounting, tax and consulting firms in the United States and the world.

Wipfli LLP receives business award Wipfli LLP was recognized by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with its inaugural Weyenberg Prize for Business Excellence. The award recognizes a company that demonstrates business excellence through its leadership transformation, strategy and execution.

Five ways to stay competitive in the accounting profession Want to stay relevant in the accounting profession? According to the Roger CPA Review Blog, the top five ways to stand out to accounting firm recruiters and score a position in today’s challenging accounting job market are: be a leader and show initiative; work well on a team; develop soft skills; network; and become a CPA (

Article: Key competencies of a top staff accountant By participating in project management, accountants can become better advocates for good financial, data, and process management practices, according to the CGMA Magazine article, "How accounting can empower better project management" (

Vice President of Communications Amy E. Gaeth Editor Cynthia M. Hodnett Copy Editor Joan Bahr Design & Layout Brett Stallman Printing Delzer

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On Balance is published six times a year by the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants (WICPA). Change of address should be sent to: Membership, W233N2080 Ridgeview Pkwy, Suite 201, Waukesha WI 53188; Phone: 262-785-0445 or 800-772-6939 (WI/MN); Fax: 262-785-0838; email: Statements and opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the WICPA. Publication of an advertisement does not constitute an endorsement of the product or service by On Balance or the WICPA. Articles may be reproduced with permission. © Copyright 2017 On Balance.


On Balance

July | August 2017

2017 Summer Hours The WICPA will close at noon on Fridays, through Sept. 1.


Email your announcement to

OUTLOOK | CHAIR’S LETTER “Whether you are staff, management, or an owner, strive to be an entrepreneur in your role. And look to the WICPA as a resource as you explore opportunities, as well as an outlet for your entrepreneurial spirit.”

Be an entrepreneurial CPA


s we take a close look at entrepreneurship in this issue, it’s important to keep in mind that each of us, no matter what our role, can help ourselves, our organizations, and our profession by being entrepreneurial. You don’t have to start your own business or create a new revenue stream within your organization. This simply means looking for opportunity, asking the questions that lead to big ideas, and having the courage to act on them.

Entrepreneurship is being curious, resourceful and taking calculated risks. I have had the opportunity to operate within different size firms, as well as various types of businesses. Although there are some significant differences based on size, industry and geography, in reality there are many commonalties that can be shared. Starting with this issue of On Balance, learn and share among your colleagues and peers. Ask questions, tap into resources throughout our organization, and take on new challenges.

Entrepreneurship is showing passion for work that matters. As advisors, we are committed and have a vested interest in the success of the clients we serve. However, we can’t forget that we also serve ourselves, our organization and our profession. Often lost in our passion and commitment to helping our clients, we need to maintain our passion for developing ourselves, our organization and our profession. Let’s make it a point to support and build on one another’s momentum.

Entrepreneurship is daring to ask “why not” and “what if.” My travels have given me great appreciation for the freedom and ability for us to control our work environments. We should take advantage of these opportunities and challenge the norm in an effort to make our professional careers successful, and to help others in our communities who are not provided such advantages. Whether you are staff, management, or an owner, strive to be an entrepreneur in your role. And look to the WICPA as a resource as you explore opportunities, as well as an outlet for your entrepreneurial spirit. Each committee, interest group and work group at the WICPA draws from the entrepreneurship of its members and works to support others throughout the organization.

William L. Komisar, CPA, J.D. is a principal at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP in Milwaukee. Contact him On Balance July | August 2017 at 414-238-6800 or


Join us for these after-work social events to meet fellow accounting and business professionals, get to know colleagues and grow your network. tures a e f t h ng Nig i k r o ou to w y t r e o f N y t ch te, ea ortuni a p t p s o e n h hout t es as a g v r u e o s r h d ity an Held t v i t c a rent way. a diffe w e n a ize in social

Check out details for each event at

UPCOMING NETWORKING NIGHTS: July 25 ABV Social (sports bar), Wauwatosa

Oct. 12 Hunger Task Force, Milwaukee

Sept. 19 Appleton Beer Factory, Appleton

Oct. 17 Cambridge Winery, Cambridge

Sept. 26 Backstage at the Meyer, Green Bay

Oct. 24 Two Beagles Brewpub, Onalaska

Oct. 10 Milwaukee Public Market, Milwaukee 4

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July | August 2017

MEMBERSHIP MATTERS “Whether you’ve been a member for two years or 20, you’ll have as much to offer as you have to gain by attending a WICPA event or joining a committee to expand your professional network.”

Networking ROI with the WICPA


ow many times do you tell yourself that you need to meet more people? Successful people focus their efforts on strengthening their circle of influence. Your career requires you to network, and in today’s marketplace, you must be more proactive than ever.

to develop your networking skills. Some of the most rewarding opportunities to meet other members occur at social events that have time dedicated to networking in a fun and relaxing setting. Several networking events have been scheduled across the state. Check them out at

Members have said one of their primary reasons for joining the WICPA is to meet other CPAs and build a professional network. But how does one go about “building their network”? Networking takes time, planning and practice. Networking demands that you enhance your ability to communicate and improve your professional presence. Networking is a full-time job, and the more time you dedicate to it, the more you will learn.

Another opportunity to raise your credibility while also expanding your professional network is by volunteering with the WICPA. Consider serving on a WICPA committee in a topic area that appeals to you, such as state or federal tax, public policy, ethics, accounting careers, young professionals or one of seven conference planning committees. Contact me to learn more!

“It’s not always WHAT you know, but WHO you know.” If you want to be successful, you need relevant connections in your network. Networking provides an immediate source of connections, and opens the door to talk to highly influential people who you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to easily have a conversation with or contact. It’s also not just about who you are networking with directly — that person will have their own network you can also utilize. Having like-minded connections gives you the opportunity to get advice about issues related to business, career opportunities or even your personal life, and obtain that important work-life balance that you wouldn’t otherwise have acquired. Another benefit of networking is to give your personal brand more exposure. Attending WICPA events will help you “get known.” You can then build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and resourceful person by contributing useful information. You are also likely to get more leads and referrals.

Building a network requires action and participation. In other words, you need to become involved. The WICPA offers you numerous ways to do just that. Whether it’s attending an event or volunteering to be part of a group, you have more options for getting involved and building your network because of your WICPA membership. Networking should be fun, exciting and a rewarding approach to advancement. WICPA events offer the perfect opportunity

Whether you’ve been a member for two years or 20, you’ll have as much to offer as you have to gain by attending a WICPA event or joining a committee to expand your professional network.


25 AUG

Networking Night at ABV Social (sports bar)


Golf Outing at Royal St. Patrick’s Golf Links


CPAs in Industry Fall Conference at Country Springs




Networking Night at Appleton Beer Factory Golf Outing at Ironwood Golf Course Watch for The Bottom Line for all your CPE and networking events!

Tammy J. Hofstede is chief financial and operating officer at the WICPA. Contact her at 262-785-0445 ext. 4518 or

On Balance

July | August 2017


Photography by Mark Hines

A leap of faith


Jon C. Gaines, CPA, CGMA, MBA uses his accounting skills to assist new entrepreneurs in various sectors, including retail, manufacturing and hospitality.

On Balance

July | August 2017

Jon C. Gaines, CPA, CGMA, MBA helps provide financial backing for budding entrepreneurs By Cynthia M. Hodnett


on C. Gaines, CPA, CGMA, MBA believes succeeding at anything in life is a bit like skydiving. By Gaines’ calculations, it’s important to be fearless, ready for success, prepared for any potential setbacks and enjoy the moment.

A few years ago, Gaines decided to take up skydiving as a challenge to himself. Since then, he’s taken many lessons at an indoor skydiving facility. On his next birthday in August, he plans to skydive from an airplane. “The feeling after the first lesson was exhilarating,” he said. “I had a big smile that went from ear to ear. It was fun to try something new for the first time. In the back of your mind, there’s the ‘what-if.’ I didn’t think about what if something bad happens. Some friends and family thought it was a little bit crazy. But I thought, why not just do it?”

Along for the ride Gaines helps budding entrepreneurs jump into business ownership as vice president of business and finance services for the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). He lends his expertise in business planning, financing, and accessing resources. He also manages the agency’s information technology and human resources. “Small businesses are a large, growing important segment of our economy,” he said. “A major component of their long-term success lies in their ability to obtain expert financial advice. I enjoy the challenge of helping others start or grow their businesses. Every day, it’s a new challenge, a chance to make a difference. One day, it may be the finance side, like finding resources for capital. On another day, it may be an operational issue. There’s always something different, another issue we can assist them with.” WWBIC has offices in Milwaukee/West Allis, Madison, Kenosha and Racine. About 55 percent of the agency’s clients throughout the state are minorities with businesses in various niches, including manufacturing companies, restaurants and salons. Wendy Baumann, WWBIC president, calls Gaines “a highly-dedicated individual in the accounting profession.”

“I enjoy the challenge and variety of my position,” Gaines said. “Some days, I am working on financial issues, and other days, I am working on business operational issues. All in a days work!”

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“In the eight years since he joined us, he’s helped us double our operational size and our loan portfolio,” Baumann said. “Overall we’ve added new funding sources and new initiatives. We’ve done this under Jon’s leadership. Jon is extremely personable, from working with our board of directors to working with our key funders, and our key investors and management team. Jon is a class act. He’s one of my right hand people.” Gaines also uses his financial and business expertise by serving on various boards. He was elected to the WICPA Board of Directors in May 2017. A WICPA member since 2011, he has also served on the organization’s Accounting Careers Committee and Not For Profit & Health Care Conference Planning Committee. “I’ve met a lot of great professionals through my involvement with the WICPA,” he said. “There are so many great opportunities to network with other professionals at the conferences and by serving on the board. You learn about what others are doing, and it helps you grow in your career.” Gaines extends his outreach to the community as a member of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. He also volunteers with the Central City Cyberschool of Milwaukee, which serves children in and near the Westlawn housing project. He became involved with the school through a partnership with WWBIC and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

– Jon C. Gaines

A flying success A native of Indianapolis, Gaines was raised by a single mother who valued education and stressed the importance of helping others. “My mom inspired me to push and persevere no matter what

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Gaines earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., and a Master of Business Administration from the University of WisconsinMilwaukee. His accounting career includes a previous auditing position at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers and controller at the auto franchise J.D. Byrider. “I pursued an accounting degree, as I wanted to ‘get to know the business beyond the numbers,’” he said. “I have always liked to ask ‘why?’ and using the information I could add to my knowledge and help others.” Wayne C. Breitbarth, CPA, CGMA, CEO of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success in Milwaukee and WICPA member, describes Gaines as a hard worker and a good leader.

“I’ve met a lot of great professionals through my involvement with the WICPA.”

“It’s so critical that we use technology to make a positive impact on young people,” he said. “There’s the challenges of how do these kids use technology in school, like using a Chromebook to build presentations for their classes, or working on a document and saving it on a Google drive. These things are critical for us to say, ‘what can we do,’ or better yet, ‘what can I do to make sure that these kids stay prepared as they continue through school.’ I see my involvement on larger boards — providing finance governance expertise and bringing ideas and people together — as things that are very important for our communities to address that impact us all.”


in order to achieve your goals,” he said. “She’s been a rock, very steadfast, a lady of few words but a person of action. Less words, more action is something I learned from her.”

The two men met when they both worked at the Wisconsin J.D. Byrider franchisee the Russ Darrow Automotive Group. Breitbarth, a former CFO for the company, recalls how Gaines’ strong accounting and finance acumen made him a key asset for the company.

“What he was doing wasn’t cookie cutter,” Breitbarth said “It involved very complex accounting and building banking relationships. There was a lot of decisionmaking, details and strategic planning that he was doing. That’s one of the things that sticks out to me. He also had a great personality and was highly respected and admired by his team. Even though there was always a high level of complexity and changes going on, he was always able to rally his team together and show great leadership.” Working at WWBIC and serving on nonprofit boards allows Gaines to help others fulfill their goals and dreams. Currently, he’s pursing another goal: learning Spanish to better communicate with WWBIC’s Spanish-speaking clientele. “Sometimes, there are barriers that exists, and language is often one of them,” he said. “Our society is becoming more global. Businesses are becoming more global. What better way to connect those worlds than by learning a different language.”

WHY I BECAME A CPA “If I had not become an accountant/CFO, I would have gone into medicine. It is somewhat funny. I had actually flipped a coin back in the day, which helped in (deciding) which path I would take. I love the learning process and applying to different situations. I love helping people, and I love the challenge of providing solutions.”


JON C. GAINES, CPA, CGMA, MBA Vice president of business and finance services for the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation Married, three children

“A significant personal challenge revolved around the pursuit and finalization of my CPA license. At that time, I was working, starting a family and traveling. I had a great group of colleagues that worked together, provided uplift and support and kept our focus on classwork, challenged each other on a professional basis, and cheered each other on to finishing the exam.”

Cynthia M. Hodnett is editor of On Balance magazine. Contact her at 262-785-0445 ext. 4516 or

On Balance

July | August 2017


Forging a

new path:

The do’s and don’ts of self-employment

By Andrew D. Faust, CPA


On Balance


ast fall, at a career crossroads, I took the leap into self-employment. Along with my partner, Shelby Pecor, CPA, we established Simply Balanced Accounting, an accounting firm providing tax preparation and planning, consulting, bookkeeping and other services to a wide range of clients, but with an emphasis on small/closely-held businesses and the selfemployed. With our first season in the books, I’m honored to share some of what we’ve learned thus far, in hopes that others will find value in our experiences and inspiration of their own.

July | August 2017

Do honestly evaluate the market and yourself Even the best ideas can fail if opportunity doesn’t exist in the market, so you owe it to yourself to do your homework. This includes observing trends in your industry, evaluating potential competition, and considering barriers to entry that may exist. In our minds, the approaching retirement of the baby boomer generation coupled with the transition of many young CPAs to careers in industry presented a fantastic opportunity for an upstart firm like ours. On a personal level, take time to reflect on the factors that would make you a good candidate for self-employment. Are you a self-starter? Can you multi-task? How well do you handle uncertainty? In my case, I felt I had the qualities I needed to be successful, to go along with a partner whose strengths complement my own. Honest evaluation on both fronts provides a much-needed confidence boost as you start a new chapter.

Do prepare to weather an early storm The harsh reality is that when selfemployment begins, the steady paychecks stop. As part of my evaluation process, I took a long look at my finances to determine how long I could live comfortably with an inconsistent and less-than-ideal income stream. Going into self-employment with a reserve of anything less than six month’s income is a risky proposition. Added financial stress will only exacerbate the decision-making process, and may cause you to pull the plug on an idea (or the venture itself ) sooner than you’d like. Having your ducks in a row financially will free you up to make well-reasoned decisions and evaluate your progress patiently.




Don’t expect overnight success Self-employment is an uphill climb, and many find that the valleys far outnumber the peaks. It’s easy to get discouraged from a modest start, but instead of dwelling on the negative, shift your focus to achieving sustainable growth. A measured pace will allow you to fine-tune your processes and ensure that the quality of your products/services doesn’t slip as business picks up. While every entrepreneur dreams of an overnight success story, sudden and dramatic growth can be just as problematic as a slow start. If you’ve done your due diligence, trust your vision and cut yourself some slack.

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“Even the best ideas can fail if opportunity doesn’t exist in the market, so you owe it to yourself to do your homework.”

5 4 Do embrace guidance from those who’ve traveled a similar path Mentorship is incredibly valuable, particularly for new entrepreneurs. One of the best connections I’ve made to date was with the WICPA’s Sole/Small Practitioner’s Roundtable Group. In that group, I found a great mix of dedicated professionals eager to share their experience and knowledge with anyone willing to listen. The group has been a tremendous resource, helping us avoid a few pitfalls in the setup process, and has even led to a handful of referrals. CPAs, particularly those working in public practice, often think of themselves as operating in competition with other CPAs. In reality, there’s no shortage of demand for our services, and we all share a common goal of working to benefit our clients.


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Don’t be afraid to think outside the box It’s important to consider the factors that will help distinguish you in the eyes of your customers/clients. This is easy enough if you’ve created a “next big thing” type of product, but it’s a bit more challenging for service providers. In our case, the focus from the start has been on connecting with the clientele we enjoy working with: the next generation, our generation. We knew we wanted to embrace tech-savvy millennials with open arms, so we made it our mission to implement as many technological conveniences as were available and reliable. This meant getting comfortable with electronic tax organizers, e-signatures, cloud storage, and online software offerings. From a branding standpoint, we decided to adopt a more casual tone, trying to connect with a generation that might be more apt to rely on Google than consult a professional. While doing things a bit differently presents some amount of risk, the payoff is well worth it when you’re able to connect with clients on a deeper level.

Do look beyond your vision

Do find your happy

Many entrepreneurs go into self-employment with the vision, but not the support around them, to reach their full potential. Consider everything that goes on behind-the-scenes in the typical operation of a business, and remember that until you’re in a position to hire, those duties will fall on you. Marketing, purchasing, invoicing, and internal recordkeeping can demand an extraordinary amount of time and effort, and ignoring any one of them could prove to be perilous. In our early stages, we took a divide-and-conquer approach to many tasks and relied on a few close friends to contribute in areas where we didn’t have expertise, which eased the burden. In short, be prepared to wear many hats, because your vision will only take you so far.

If you’re considering taking the leap, focus on the elements of self-employment that will bring you happiness on a both a personal and professional level. For me, the biggest selling points were the autonomy and flexibility that self-employment offers — the ability to pack up my laptop on whim and work for a few hours in a nearby coffee shop, or to shift my hours around to enjoy a quick bike ride on a beautiful spring day. Enjoying some of the little perks along the way will keep you refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead!

6 7

Andrew D. Faust, CPA is a partner at Simply Balanced Accounting in Milwaukee. Contact him at 414-914-6797 or

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Thank you

to all who attended the

12th Annual Retirement Plan Investment Seminar Co-sponsored by Spectrum Investment Advisors


The WICPA - The event was held at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee, WI on June 14, 2017 -


Colors Simplify InvestingÂŽ


Investment advice offered through Spectrum Investment Advisors, a registered investment adviser. Registration with the SEC does not imply a certain level of skill or training. The WICPA is not affiliated with Spectrum Investment Advisors. 14

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IN TOUCH | PRESIDENT & CEO's MESSAGE “The professional skepticism that CPAs have successfully applied for more than a century to minimize risk can also be deployed very effectively in their role as intrapreneurs to question the status quo.”

Intrapreneurship: Innovation in existing organizations


hile the term entrepreneur has long been used to describe an individual who starts a new business, the term “intrapreneur” surfaced in the late 1970s to describe an individual who effectively leverages innovation in the context of an existing organization. Gifford Pinchot III and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot, first used the term intrapreneur in a 1978 paper, and then authored the 1985 book, “Intrapreneuring: Why You Don't Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur.” The concepts of innovation, creativity, risk management, courage, empowering employees, self-motivation, leadership, and resource allocation are often referenced in connection with intrapreneurship. Combining these concepts with CPAs’ analytical skills and the vast amounts of information increasingly available to improve business decisions creates tremendous opportunities for CPAs to help reinvent and significantly improve existing organizations. Encouraging and leading innovation and creativity require CPAs to reflect upon concepts often associated with CPAs, such as risk aversion, and to replace them with higher value concepts such as thoughtful and well-informed risk management. The significant and continuous technological developments that CPAs have been required to master in both public accounting and as financial leaders in other organizations during the past few decades have enhanced CPAs’ adaptability and skills in both technology and change management. Implementing technology developments that continue to increase efficiency and reduce risk has encouraged CPAs to embrace change and innovation to a much greater degree than a few decades ago. CPAs’ increased comfort level with the concept of change is positioning CPAs as highly qualified decision makers who are skilled at managing change, and at leading change. It is this next

evolutionary step that will elevate the authority and responsibility of CPAs from gathering and analyzing information for decisionmakers, to CPAs being granted the responsibility for making and implementing transformative decisions. CPAs who wish to increase their value and accelerate their success and the success of their organizations should continuously monitor all activities of their organizations, as well as the environment in which their organizations operate in order to identify opportunities to improve processes and business models. The professional skepticism that CPAs have successfully applied for more than a century to minimize risk can also be deployed very effectively in their role as intrapreneurs to question the status quo.

Dennis F. Tomorsky, CPA, J.D., CGMA is president & CEO of the WICPA. Contact him at 262-785-0445 ext. 4519 OnorBalance July | August 2017


Is reputation more valuable than money?


By Karl Robe, APR

arren Buffett values reputation more than money. He’s often quoted as saying we can afford to lose money — even lots of money. However, we can’t afford to lose reputation — even a shred of reputation. Seems counter to all held sacred by CPAs.

posed by a 24-7 news cycle, as well as the proliferation and anonymity of social media.

If you visit Baker Tilly’s Governance, Risk and Compliance practice webpage, however, it becomes clear CPAs stand at the epicenter of managing risk. It reads: “Managing risk is becoming more complex across all sectors — from greater transparency and accountability to increased public scrutiny and technological sophistication.”

CPAs are in a pivotal position to be an early warning detector to prevent issues from reaching crisis level and impacting reputation. Prevention, preparation and active management are the least expensive means of maintaining reputations. This approach, however, runs counter to our runto-failure society.

Let’s break down Baker Tilly’s statement. “Transparency and accountability” signals a significant distrust toward institutions. “Public scrutiny and technological savvy” implies risk


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The greatest risk to most corporate and executive reputations, as well as agendas, is lack of preparation and attention to promoting and protecting how one is perceived by missioncritical audiences.

After all, everyone is busy doing what they do. A crisis of reputation seems like a lowprobability, high-impact event that can be set aside for more pressing issues. In fact, the

likelihood of a crisis grows greater the more connected we become. The more connected, the easier it is to impact people, profits, operations and reputation. And, once issues become crises, you can count on lost revenue, lost productivity and lost talent until trust is restored.

Leadership and culture One largely untapped reputation-building resource is employees. Research shows employees are the most credible sources of company information for outside stakeholders. This includes talent, which in Wisconsin, is the leading concern for most employers. Your reputation in a tight labor market will determine whether you get the best and the brightest or the dregs. At a recent business roundtable discussion, one Wisconsin manufacturing company shared how it's doing things differently. It has no trouble finding talent to fill positions. And the following approaches taken by its CEO, I would say, are reinventing how employees view this particular manufacturer and, as a result, manufacturing as a career option. The entire manufacturing sector would be wise to emulate what follows. The CEO is transparent in what drives company success and each employee’s role in it. He hires attitude and aptitude versus education. And he pays employees based on value to the enterprise, which has led to sustainable wage levels for employee and employer. Culture is built around communication each day on clear expectations. Finally, the culture allows for failure as a means of learning and empowering. How employees portray your company depends on culture. Culture depends on leadership. Leadership depends on trust.

“CPAs are in a pivotal position to be an early warning detector to prevent issues from reaching crisis level and impacting reputation. Prevention, preparation and active management are the least expensive means of maintaining reputations.” Reputation and trust are inextricably linked. Whatever your agenda, employees will play a significant role.

Data breaches Another leading threat to corporate reputations involves cybersecurity. Many executives, according to a Harvard Business Review study, understand the seriousness of cybersecurity. However, “most fail to make the connection between the immediacy of these risks and the processes in place to manage them.”

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Property and casualty policies are indicative of this statement. Policies offer significant investment to hire a public relations firm to respond to a cyberattack. Some policies offer $1 million to hire a public relations firm to repair reputation damage after the fact. Some of this money would be more strategically applied to helping companies prepare ahead of a cyberattack. Preparation helps mitigate the impact and length of a reputational crisis. Cyberattacks threaten reputation at an organizational level and leadership level with financial and career implications. For example, Yahoo took a $350 million loss in the Verizon acquisition deal, and now Yahoo is under SEC investigation and its leading lawyer resigned. All appear to be in response to why it took two years to report the data breach of more than 500 million account holders. Getting in front of a story is key to restoring trust in a case like Yahoo. Whether the story is being shared by employees at the water cooler, by social media assassins, or through data syphoned to the dark web, manage your reputation, or someone else will do it for you.

Countering social media attacks Data shows reputational risk is at an all-time high. One reason is social media provides a powerful means of sharing information, whether true or not. And it lives forever. Social media and online searches are where people get their information now, more than magazines and newspapers, which is why false information online must be addressed. All situations are different. However, we’ve had success helping clients counter online attacks by turning online complaints into opportunities to illustrate their brand and all it promises. You can visit, and click on “Countering Social Media


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July | August 2017

Attacks” to see the full case study and sample messaging used to counter this online attack of a retail client of ours. Never let a crisis go to waste. Think how it presents an opportunity to do things differently. Doing things differently and communicating to mission-critical stakeholders will help you come out the other side of a crisis. Done right, your brand can emerge stronger than ever.

Trust builds reputation Remember that misunderstanding is the foundation of fear. Fear is the foundation of rumor. Rumor is the direct result of high-interest matters where a vacuum of information exists. All of it works against you. Words matter. Message timing matters. Delivery matters. All shape narratives. Narratives shape perception. Perception determines reputation. Reputation impacts trust. Trust determines future. Reputation takes a lifetime to build and a nanosecond to destroy. Which, presumably, is why Warren Buffett is emphatic when he said, “Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.” Corporate boards and executives should be ruthless in protecting their reputations too.

Karl Robe, APR is principal at Karl James & Company, with offices in Chicago and Waukesha. He coaches and counsels clients on stakeholder communications strategies. Visit and follow him on LinkedIn. He discussed managing reputational risk at the WICPA 2017 CPAs in Industry Spring Conference.

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On Balance

July | August 2017

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ompliance and ethics management can be a bit like exercise: Intentions may be good and you can put a plan into place, but your results won’t be superb unless you continue to work at it with diligence.

Just as many a well-intentioned fitness effort falls short, so too do those companies that approach compliance and ethics issues in unfocused, inefficient ways. There isn’t much room for error, given the twin challenges of an increasingly complicated regulatory landscape and the heightened level of scrutiny from regulators. A recent report sheds light on just how much work companies still have to do to get in shape. PricewaterhouseCoopers’s sixth annual State of Compliance Study, which surveyed more than 800 global executives, shows that a number of factors hinder compliance and ethics efforts, ranging from inefficient top-down communication to uncertainty about who owns the responsibility for particular initiatives. Sometimes, it’s also a question of how ethics fits into foundational strategy. “After many years, maybe 20-plus of compliance and ethics programs, we’re still seeing that compliance officers aren’t truly integrated into the strategy activities of companies,” said Seth Cohen, director, risk management and compliance solutions at PwC and co-author of the report. Just 36 percent of compliance officers are so integrated, the study reveals, “and you’d think that number should be higher. There’s room to grow.”


On Balance

July | August 2017

As for how to approach compliance and ethics successfully, Cohen suggested these six action steps companies can take:

Keep communication clear, consistent, and constant. The report indicates that while 82 percent of senior leadership communicates with employees on ethics points, the dialogue often takes place through channels such as email. “If you go under the hood, only 46 percent go through business (unit) meetings, so much of the communication gets lost in the shuffle,” Cohen said. “It should be more integrated at all levels — and not just come from the senior leadership, but the ones who run the business operations every day and communicate every day with employees.”

Identify the risk owners and take their responsibilities company-wide. Do you know who in your company is responsible for overseeing certain risks? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The study shows that while two in three companies have a process in place to determine the owners, many may rely too heavily on legal and/or compliance and ethics functions for day-to-day risk management. “It’s surprising that there’s not more ownership in the business in general,” Cohen said. “It’s thinking that for a potential risk, compliance and legal would initially own it and then transfer it to the business, which we believe is the ideal structure.”

Make compliance and ethics part of company strategy.

Cohen said strategic involvement is essential for companies to focus their compliance and ethics and monitoring activities. One in five respondents reported that their organizations now have a stand-alone board-level compliance and/or ethics committee. “We think there’s some specialization taking place on the board level, and that might be a good thing,” Cohen said. “The compliance report may be the last 15 minutes in a four-hour meeting, but at least they’re getting more than five minutes, and we hope that trend continues.”

Form a “risk incubator.”

Risks to companies are changing at a speed as fast as the digital landscape. “But if a new risk emerges, with a risk incubator we can develop the necessary activities to mitigate the risk,” Cohen pointed out. “And after an amount of time, those strategies come out of the incubator, and you give them to the company.”

Put someone in charge.

If your company doesn’t have a chief ethics officer, now is a great time to consider naming one. “Fifty-six percent of companies do not have a chief ethics officer,” Cohen said. Even if appointing one is not in the cards, find another way to take compliance and ethics front and center. “We believe the organization should have a focus on ethics in some way: either with an officer, as a core value, or making sure that employees are taught about how to make decisions ethically.” Lou Carlozo is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Ill. This article first appeared in CGMA Magazine. For more articles, sign up for the weekly email update from CGMA Magazine at Copyright © 2011–2016 American Institute of CPAs. Copyright © 2011–2016 Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. All rights reserved.

A risk incubator is analogous to a business innovator: Think of an environment within the company where businesses can develop a comprehensive risk strategy before putting it into place. In doing so, they tap the brainpower of capable employees who follow regulation and compliance issues and are familiar with the landscape.

Go beyond standard enterprise risk management.

The study shows that 77 percent of companies have some kind of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) process, and quite a number of those that have one, about 88 percent, say it covers compliance and ethics risk. “But 54 percent overall are doing compliance and ethics risk assessments beyond ERM,” Cohen said. Those that don’t “are not getting the data and information they need to do their short- and long-term planning, because they do not have enough granularity.”

On Balance

July | August 2017


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Conversation | |


On Balance

July | August 2017

kudos Deloitte generously contributed $10,000 to the WICPA Educational Foundation to support accounting awareness initiatives.

Christine M. Fenske, CPA

Christine M. Fenske, CPA, a partner at Baker Tilly in Milwaukee, received the Women of Distinction Award from the Women & Girls Fund of Waukesha County.

Donna M. Kopp, CPA was promoted to chief financial officer at Terra Engineering & Construction Corp. in Madison, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Jeffrey Osvog

Edita Rimalovsky, CPA, CSEP

Want your

Jeffrey Osvog, a senior accountant at Johnson Block & Company, Inc. in Madison, received his certified public accounting license. Edita Rimalovsky, CPA, CSEP joined Schenck SC in Milwaukee.

Joel Stadler, CPA, CMA, MBA was rehired as a manager at Schenck SC in Appleton. Joel Stadler, CPA, CMA, MBA

Brandon Wagner, a senior accountant at Johnson Block & Company, Inc. in Madison, received his certified public accounting license.

Brandon Wagner

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On Balance

July | August 2017


{ Tax | Sales tax audits }


On Balance

July | August 2017

{ Tax | Sales tax audits }


ou have received written notice of an upcoming sales tax audit. How should you prepare and what steps should you take to help minimize the exposure? Start with reviewing the document request list from the auditor. Provide everything on the list but do not provide anything By additional beyond what was Jay M. Baehman, requested by the auditor. If you do, CPA, CMI you may be providing the auditor with information that could lead to additional questions. If a sample is conducted, think about providing the requested sample invoices as opposed to providing the auditor access to the entire universe and allowing the auditor to pull the sample invoices.

Credibility is key Always be honest with the auditor. Credibility is key when working with auditors. Do not alter any documentation that is provided to the auditor. Remember that the auditor is just a person doing his or her job. Treat him or her with respect and expect the same in return. Provide reasonable accommodations for the auditor to conduct the work. Once the auditor is finished with the field work, he or she will provide you with a list of questioned items and should give you plenty of time to review for changes. When items are questioned, it is a good idea to consult with plant personnel to help understand the use of the items at issue. Although the plant personnel may not know the tax consequence of the use of the specific item, they are generally the most knowledgeable about how the item in question was used within the facility. I recommend using an external consultant to assist with the audit. Many consultants are familiar with the local sales/use tax laws and can be of great assistance when dealing with issues that are not clearly taxable or exempt. Although the job of the auditor is to arrive at the correct tax liability, many auditors will

ignore any invoice on which tax has been paid as they are more concerned with tax due invoices than potential overpayments. I recommend that my clients conduct a refund review during the audit so the results of that refund review may be incorporated into the auditor’s findings. Most states will allow a taxpayer to review the same sample that the auditor reviewed. The auditor should allow these refunds to offset the taxable items before the sample is projected to the entire universe. External consultants that provide refund study services are familiar with the exemptions available in your industry and can help to maximize the potential refund claim. Also, take advantage of all potential research materials. This includes services such as Commerce Clearing House or Registered Investment Advisor. Many states also provide sales tax fact sheets, letter rulings, tax publications, and tax releases for free on their websites.

Reducing, eliminating the penalty imposition If the audit results in any unagreed issues, you can attempt to settle them during the audit. Many auditors have the authority to settle issues below a certain threshold. This could save time because instead of going back and forth on an issue for months, you could propose to settle on a percentage of the taxable measure.

On Balance

July | August 2017


{ Tax | Sales tax audits }

One specific settlement item to consider is the penalty imposition. Many states will impose a penalty on the underpaid tax liability in addition to assessing the tax and interest. Here are some potential arguments against penalty imposition: • Your understatement is immaterial in relation to the total tax paid prior to the audit. • This is a first-time audit and you will make the applicable changes to company policies and procedures going forward. • This is not a first-time audit, but the adjustments made in this audit are materially different than adjustments from the prior audit(s). You may be able to either reduce or eliminate the penalty based on the specific facts in your audit. Assuming you agree with the final audit results, you should attempt to close the audit as soon as possible to minimize the accrual of interest. Some states will allow you to cut a check to provide to the auditor at the conclusion of the audit to stop interest as of that day. However, make sure you are in full agreement before doing so as making the payment may waive your appeal rights. The audit should be completed within the statute of limitations, which is three to four years in most states. If this cannot be accomplished, extensions are available. An extension should be signed if the audit was delayed by both parties for valid reasons. If an audit is started without sufficient time to fully conduct the audit, this should be discussed upfront with the auditor, as maybe this is a valid reason for the earliest year to be excluded from the audit period.

“Once the audit is completed, conduct a training session for all involved in the use tax decisionmaking process so the errors found in the audit do not continue into future periods. In addition, review any periods subsequent to the audit and consider amending those returns to reflect the same adjustments made in the audit. If this is not done, you could be looking at potential penalties in a subsequent audit.”

Filing an appeal to the next level If you cannot reach agreement on the final audit results you may consider filing an appeal to the next level. Each state’s appeal process is unique. This may be either a formal appeal in a court setting or an informal administrative appeal. The informal administrative appeal process allows you to have someone independently, albeit from the taxing jurisdiction, look at the items at issue and possible settle on any gray areas. Most states would rather settle informally than have the appeal go to a formal setting in a court of record. Once the case reaches the formal court, any result could become public information, which is undesirable to the state in the case of a taxpayer win. Once the audit is completed, conduct a training session for all involved in the use tax decision-making process so the errors


On Balance

July | August 2017

found in the audit do not continue into future periods. In addition, review any periods subsequent to the audit and consider amending those returns to reflect the same adjustments made in the audit. If this is not done, you could be looking at potential penalties in a subsequent audit. Although a sales/use tax audit is never welcome, it can provide an opportunity for process improvement. Just hope that does not come at the cost of a large balance due. Jay M. Baehman, CPA, CMI is the state and local tax director at Grant Thornton LLP in Appleton. Contact him at 920-968-6782 ext. 86782 or

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On Balance



July | August 2017


{ Industry | Balanced Scorecard }



By Michael J. Browne, CPA, MSA, CMA, CGMA, CFM, CPIM, ABV


On Balance

he Balanced Scorecard (BSC) was developed 25 years ago with the objective of helping companies generate break-through results by implementing strategy more effectively. This methodology has been recognized by the Harvard Business Review as one of the most important management practices of the past 75 years. Additionally, numerous recent surveys place the Balanced Scorecard in the top 10 most effective management tools used today.

July | August 2017

Identifying the need Can you relate to this story? Your company conducts a strategic planning retreat each year at an offsite location. The discussions are fantastic, and numerous great ideas and plans are developed. Enthusiasm is very high following this key event. The output of these strategy sessions is documented in a three-ring binder in great detail. Back to the office you go, and the urgent crowds out the important. The typical executive spends less than one hour

{ Industry | Balanced Scorecard }

“The Balanced Scorecard

per month on executing strategy. The three-ring binder gathers dust rather than momentum and awaits your review prior to next year’s strategic planning retreat. Is this an example of your company? Many organizations struggle with this same issue. How do you effectively operationalize something as nebulous as strategy? There is a way: It’s called the Balanced Scorecard.

is a powerful management

What’s in it for me (WIIFM)

companies to implement

The Balanced Scorecard benefits are numerous. They include: • Translating ideas into actions. • Promoting team consensus on strategies and methods. • Clearly communicating the goals of the organization to all employees. • Aligning the organization’s resources to accomplish its key goals. • Measuring and managing outputs using a performance scorecard. • Establishing a shared vision of desired performance levels. • Generating breakthrough results.

methodology enabling strategy more effectively and generate breakthrough results. Implementing strategy with action plans and tools will generate positive improved performance and results.”

The “Balanced” approach The term “Balanced” in the Balanced Scorecard means this methodology takes a more holistic approach to management. The concept is to divide organizational goals into four main areas or perspectives. These four areas and key questions are:


The goals in each area are connected by cause and effect linkages. For example, starting from the bottom area and working upward:

Key Question


Goal and Outcome



To succeed financially, what is success for our stakeholders?


Learning & Growth

Attracting, developing and retaining a world class workforce will…



To achieve our vision, how do we create value for our customers?


Internal Business Processes

Optimize business processes delivering quality products on time to…


Internal Business Processes

To satisfy customers, what business processes must we excel at?



Creating customer value better than anyone else which will…


Learning & Growth

To achieve our goals, what people, information & culture is required?



Generate targeted sales revenues and profits.

On Balance

July | August 2017


{ Industry | Balanced Scorecard }

The secret sauce is the cause and effect relationships between the goals which generates a new improved level of performance. This is how the Balanced Scorecard generates breakthrough results for organizations.

Communicating the strategy story At the strategic planning sessions, the goals are carefully


On Balance

July | August 2017

crafted and consensus is achieved for implementation. A simple but elegant tool is used to visually present a picture of the strategy story. This tool is called the strategy map. It is invaluable in reviewing the central focus of the company’s goals for the coming period. A sample strategy map for a fictitious supermarket chain called Gillian’s follows.

{ Industry | Balanced Scorecard }

The four areas of financial, customer, internal business processes and learning and growth are shown on the left side of the strategy map. Each internal box indicates a current company goal. For example, in the financial area there are four goals of: 1. Grow Same Store Revenue 2. Healthy Sustained Profits 3. Reduce Operating Costs 4. Grow Total Revenue The cause and effect relationships are present here. If sales analysis is improved, then product mix and purchasing will be optimized which will produce low product prices and customer value thus generating increases in revenues and profits. The strategy map is also an excellent employee communication tool. Data suggest that only 5 percent of employees can clearly articulate their company’s strategies. The strategy map clearly defines the goals and helps to create

a shared vision for success. It also keeps everyone on the same page and all working together in unison.

The measurement methodology Results are not going to be achieved by merely wishing for improved performance. There must be a system of measuring performance and setting levels of expected output. The answer is a performance scorecard. For each goal, there are measures and targets established. A scorecard for the financial area and goals is shown below. For the goal of Healthy Sustained Profits shown below, there are two measures of 1. Gross Profit Margin and 2. Profit From Operations (EBIT). The Gross Profit Margin and Profit From Operations (EBIT) have performance targets established for each. The actual results are measured against performance targets using a stop-lighted approach. Green indicates the actual performance is achieving its goal, yellow indicates on the border of making of not making the target and red means improvement is required. The scorecard creates a management at a glance capability and serves as the control mechanism for the critical success factors of the business.

On Balance

July | August 2017


{ Industry | Balanced Scorecard }

The final piece of the puzzle Initiatives are projects intended to generate improved results. These initiatives are the levers of change propelling the company to new higher levels of performance. These projects will directly relate back to the strategic goals of the organization. Each project or initiative has start dates, end dates, budgets and owners who are responsible for implementation and performance. Listed below are examples of stop-lighted initiatives for Gillian’s.

Conclusion The Balanced Scorecard is a powerful management methodology enabling companies to implement strategy more effectively and generate breakthrough results. Implementing strategy with action plans and tools will generate positive improved performance and results.


On Balance

July | August 2017

Michael J. Browne CPA, MSA, CMA, CGMA, CFM, CPIM, ABV is professor of practice at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Contact him at 414-288-3729 or

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{ Financial planning | Business capital }


On Balance

July | August 2017

{ Financial Planning | Investing { Financial planning | Business capital}}

Choosing the right

banking partner


By Dan Hansen

he focus of this month’s On Balance magazine is entrepreneurship. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about how community bankers can support the entrepreneurial aspirations of a certified public accountant. Entrepreneurship is a process of leaving safe and defined work arrangements to strike out and own your own destiny. It comes with risks. Your community banker is well suited to help you manage and control risk and help you position yourself to grow your enterprise. Before you start or buy a business, your banking partner should provide that critical second set of eyes as you review your preparations and business plan. The importance of collaboration and prior preparation cannot be underestimated, nor can the value of relying on someone who is experienced in underwriting start up business plans, evaluating cash flow projections, working capital requirements and financing growth. Over time, bankers finance numerous business plans and so develop a sense for the reasonableness of assumptions and projections. Your banker should be your gut check on your plan and help test your assumptions before you invest.

A banker also helps you determine the appropriate mix of equity and debt to properly structure your practice’s balance sheet. Accounting is generally not capital intensive. The assets on your balance sheet are really the office space and equipment to support your staff and your client receivables. So, there’s often a choice to be made as to how to structure the debt and equity. Some choose to “bootstrap it” and use a combination of credit card, home equity and personal investment to build the practice equity. This approach brings lower debt requirements, but growth rates may be constrained. Others choose to leverage their growth and borrow, but the low ratio of capital assets often means there’s limited collateral to support the bank loan. With this in mind, bankers can provide advice on appropriate leverage, sound cash flow coverage and insights into using alternatives like SBA loans, Capital Access Program loans, or receivable-based lines of credit. Done right, these sound lending practices fuel your growth while balancing risk. A well-connected banker can also be a resource in evaluating your market niche. Bankers have knowledge of the firms in your market. They are a key consumer of financial reporting.

On Balance

July | August 2017


{ Financial planning | Business capital }

“Finding that right fit is just old fashioned networking, and there’s no taking the ‘working’ out of ‘networking.’ You’ll need to talk to trusted friends and ultimately interview several bankers to find someone with whom you’re personally comfortable and who offers these keys to a healthy future relationship.” Perhaps there’s personal experience with a firm you’re buying or a banking relationship with the key clients you seek. Beyond personal experience, there’s a tribal knowledge within the bank about the firms, personalities and clients in your market. This type of market intelligence can aid your planning and open doors as you grow your business.

Beyond that, your banker should have experience in funding professional service firms. The bank should welcome startups or acquisitions and have an affinity for lending to service companies. The banker should be a source of referrals and contacts to help you grow your firm and your firm should represent a material client to the bank.

A proper banking relationship doesn’t just stop with the loans, but also includes depository and reporting services as well. Establishing a useful electronic banking and reporting process with your bank saves time and manages your cash efficiently. Banks also provide other services like investment/ retirement plans, payroll processing, and trust services. The bank should make your life easier by providing a full complement of services tailored to your individual and corporate needs.

Finding that right fit is just old-fashioned networking, and there’s no taking the “working” out of “networking.” You’ll need to talk to trusted friends and ultimately interview several bankers to find someone with whom you’re personally comfortable and who offers these keys to a healthy future relationship.

The final critical components are relationship and fit. An engaged banker freely provides the capital structure you need, the advice, market intelligence and services you need.


On Balance

July | August 2017

Dan Hansen is vice president - commercial banking officer at Waukesha State Bank in Waukesha. Contact a Waukesha State Bank commercial banker at 262-549-8551 or email

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On Balance Magazine - July/August 2017  

On Balance Magazine - July/August 2017 (Vol. 13, No. 4) On Balance is a publication of the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs. Find out more about...

On Balance Magazine - July/August 2017  

On Balance Magazine - July/August 2017 (Vol. 13, No. 4) On Balance is a publication of the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs. Find out more about...