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Liz Kramb Finalist for Brilliance Award

Elizabeth Krambs

We are proud to announce that Elizabeth Kramb, CPA has been selected as one of three finalists for the West Michigan Women Brilliance Award in the Emerging Leader category. Her nomination stood out of 175 nominations.

Liz is a Supervisor at Brickley DeLong in our Grand Rapids Office. She has been a leader in our firm’s “Next Generation” movement, and has been instrumental in leading our training initiatives and encouraging staff to set career goals… and stick to them.

In 2013, Brickley DeLong launched their “Next Gen” team. Liz has served as a founding member, and now serves as the head of the team. The “Next Gen” team is a group of up and coming Seniors and Supervisors. Their team goals are to:

  • Drive change from a bottom up approach
  • Hold quarterly goal setting meetings
  • Propose new ideas to the Firm’s Executive Committee

Liz also serves as a volunteer for Family Futures, a non-profit that’s mission is to create a community in which all children are able to reach their full potential. She also participates in the Association for Corporate Growth mentorship program.

Not only is she a champion at work, but she is also a champion at home to her husband and two children. She has met the challenges of balancing work and home life, and has continued to show that she is dedicated to growing her career and raising her family.

What is the Brilliance Awards?

The Brilliance Awards is a first-time awards ceremony aimed to honor the success of women in the West Michigan community. It is hosted by West Michigan Women.

The goal of the event is to shine light on dynamic talent, spirit and intellect of local women and celebrate the brilliant and meaningful impact they have on our careers and the communities we live in. By focusing on nominees who excel in their fields, are committed to creating positive change and demonstrate how they elevate other women leaders, the WMW Brilliance Awards will highlight those tackling the issues that face professional women in West Michigan and who are blazing trails for the rest of us.


Taking the CPA Exam – My Experience

Having taken the CPA exam four times now has taught me a few things; it’s also given me hindsight as to several things I would have done differently that I would like to share with any first time candidates.

Looking back on my approach to passing the four sections of the exam

1. I took too much time in preparing at the beginning.  Granted some sections are tougher than others, I still feel I took more time than was necessary to prep for FAR.  I let life get in the way, which allowed me to justify the excuses I made as to why I was not ready to schedule my exam.  You must be dedicated once you start, and you cannot slack no matter how tempting.

The time, effort, and money you put into the exam are too precious to waste. Two failed attempts later here I am moving on to AUD.

2. A two-month window works best, which is the suggestion of Gleim and other study guide providers.  In this timeframe, you are less prone to forget the information you covered at the beginning of your studies, and you will have just enough time to review before test day.  The more sections you can cover right out of school and into your career the better.  Everyone’s situation is different, but there is no doubt that once you start working and you have a family it will only get harder to focus on the exam.

You will only get busier as life happens.

3. Retake a failed section as soon as possible regardless of whether you started studying for another section.  I let nearly a year pass after I failed FAR before I tried again. I lost almost all relevant information and started from scratch again.  It would have been much smarter to retake it immediately after learning I had failed.  I know this because I got the dreaded 74 on AUD my first time through.  Instead of throwing in the towel and continuing with my next section, REG, I scheduled an appointment to retake AUD two weeks later.  Though I have not gotten my score back, I know that I was able to pass simply from having taken two versions of the same test so close together.

With that being said, the clock is ticking. I am in over-drive right now trying to make sense of REG and hoping to take BEC before tax season starts.

4. Tax season… another justification for pushing back the exam.  I strongly recommend not hiding behind tax season as a break from studying if you are a candidate and working for a CPA firm.  If your window of opportunity to pass the exam in eighteen months has not started, that is great. But, you can still take some time to pick up a book and do some reviewing.  If your timer has started, you have even more reason to stay on top of your studies.  Understandably, I would not recommend taking the exam in the heat of tax season; but, do not put it on the back burner.  Be ready to come back strong once it’s over.  It can only help you.

I know the exam is overwhelming, discouraging, a drag, and a “necessary evil”. This is why I cannot stress it enough not to drag it out.  It will save you a lot of time, money, and sanity to get it done and over with as quickly as possible.  Your social life will be non-existent during this time, but it will be well worth it afterward to have those valuable three letters after your name and a fancy piece of paper to hang up in your office.  Your career in public accounting will be solidified, people will want to hire you, and you’ll have something you can be truly proud of…something you worked hard for to achieve.

Time is a wasting – GO STUDY!

Author: Mike Glowacki, Staff Accountant

Generational Differences: Moving Forward

The topic of generational differences has been discussed a lot at our Firm in recent years. It is common knowledge that many Baby Boomers are exiting the workforce and more Millennials are entering. At Brickley DeLong, we have made it a point to not only understand the differences between the generations, but also to learn the similarities so we can “bridge the gap” to best serve our clients, Firm, and employees.

On October 12, I attended an Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) event on generational differences. The speaker, Lorraine Medici of ACC of Express Employment Professionals, highlighted that the key to working with employees of different generations is to understand the assumptions and interpretations you have regarding the different generations. Then, you must learn to set those aside.

Take a few moments to jot down what words pop into your head when you think of the following generation labels: Traditionalists (age 71+), Baby Boomers (52-70), Generation X (38-51), and Millennials (21-37).  Are some of the words negative?

Now try the same exercise, but only write down positive words.

Before approaching an employee or client, from a different generation with a task or project, try to focus on the positive characteristics you believe comes with their age, not the negative ones.

We all know generational differences exist, what matters is how we as individuals decide to understand and use them for the greater good.

Author: Elizabeth Kramb, Supervisor

Top Tips for Success at Career Fairs

For Brickley DeLong, fall marks our season of campus recruiting. Every year we partner with local colleges and attend their accounting recruiting nights, looking for full-time staff accountants and interns. This is a very fun and exciting time of year as we look forward to meeting so many qualified accounting prospects. As a student, these nights can be very stressful and you attempt to woo the different recruiters. I would like to offer a few tips for a student to stand out at these events.

Dress professionally

Public accounting is a professional field; therefore, a suit is ideal. Make sure your clothes are wrinkle-free. Males – consider adding a vest or a stand-out tie to your attire. You may be surprised on how this can help a recruiter remember you. Women – do not wear gaudy jewelry or too much makeup. Dress modest; but, try to stand out. Many wear black suits at accounting recruiting nights; consider wearing grey, tan or navy.

Develop your pitch

There is nothing more frustrating as a recruiter than when a prospect comes to talk to you and is unprepared. Come ready and practice beforehand. I cannot stress this enough. This illustrates confidence. State who you are, what you are looking for, and what makes you qualified. Remember, this is a critical time where you are truly “selling yourself” to a Firm.

Do your research

When I ask you, “Do you know anything about our Firm?” or “What appeals to you about our Firm?”, you should have an answer. Before attending the fair, find the companies that you are interested in, and Google them. Visit their website, social media pages, or find an article about the firm. Then, take notes. Use this information when talking to the recruiter. For example, “what interested me about your firm is your active involvement in the community, such as…” This proves your interest in our Firm. Remember, culture is extremely important. A person can get a glimpse of a company’s culture through visiting the company’s sites.

Say thank you

Sending a “thank you” to a recruiter shows you are appreciative that we recruiters attended, and that we took the time to learn about you and discuss opportunities. There is debate on whether one should send a handwritten thank you, or an e-mail. Personally, I would prefer an e-mail. Because recruiters meet so many people, they are likely to get together right after the fair and choose their top picks. By the time you send a letter, a decision could have already been made. Send e-mails that night. And, bring up something that the two of you discussed so that he or she remembers who you are.

These are just a few tips to help you excel at career fairs. For more information on recruiting at Brickley DeLong, please contact or visit our accounting career pages.

Author: Jennifer Kloosterhouse


Pathway to Partnership

Author: Jacob Barton, Staff Accountant

This spring, our staff, seniors, and supervisors had the opportunity to participate in a “Pathway to Partnership” information session. We had an outside facilitator help lead the meeting and two partners at the Firm sat in on a panel. This was an informative event that helped all levels of staff see the needed requirements to becoming a partner.

One of the great issues in public accounting is leadership development. It is anticipated that many young staff will advance quickly in their careers. This training was aimed at helping staff understand the expectations to advance in their careers and to get them excited to become a partner.

A few of my takeaways were:

  • Hours requirement
    One misconception was that there was a minimum requirement of hours to be worked in order to become a partner at Brickley DeLong. While hours worked may have a correlation to the knowledge of the job, this is not a requirement to become a partner. In fact, outside of tax season, many of the partners at our Firm do not work over 40 hours in a given week.
  • Compensation
    Another big takeaway from the pathway to partnership was the average compensation for partners in our market at a similar sized firm. Transparency was appreciated as it gave staff something to look forward to.
  • Benefits
    It was refreshing to hear from the partner’s perspective what they liked about becoming partner.  While the reasoning may have been different from person to person, it was refreshing to hear from the other side, what exactly they liked from their role.
  • Timeline
    Another topic that was touched on the pathway to partnership was the timeline to becoming a partner.   While there are expectations and minimum times required in certain staff roles before promotions, there was no limit on time to becoming a partner.

Overall, the pathway to partnership was a worthwhile experience. The pathway to partnership pointed out some misconceptions to become partner and gave staff a better idea of how they can advance in their careers.

Brickley DeLong Next Gen Conference

Author: Elizabeth Kramb

Following tax season, select Brickley DeLong employees had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for our second annual “Next Gen Conference”. The conference is held in conjunction with Mueller LLP, a fellow CPAmerica International firm. Our two firms have teamed together to create an annual conference to pave a path for future leaders through relationship building and continual leadership development.  The conference highlights each firm’s commitment to helping up-and-coming leaders grow independently and within the firms.

This year’s emphasis was on leadership and bridging the gap of generational difference. Some takeaway’s from this year’s conference:

  • “We have a great group of people who are really interested in pushing this conference to its limits”
  • “The Next Gen conference is a great opportunity to learn and develop my leadership skills so I can rise quickly within my firm”
  • “I really enjoyed attending the Next Gen conference this year.  It was an eye opening experience recognizing our subconscious thoughts about different generations and very helpful to learn how to conquer some of those pre conceived notions and really get work done”
  • “The Next Gen conference helped me identify how to better communicate with my peers in other generations than myself.  I learned that sometimes, I need to stop typing and pick up the phone, especially when working with Baby Boomers!”

The goal of this next gen initiative is to equip staff with the opportunity to advance in their careers, as well as promote a healthy firm culture. We are excited to see where this initiative will lead us!