Jack McCullough, a Profile of Excellence

What makes a person a leader among leaders? We explore this in our series, Profiles of Excellence. We’re excited to premier this series by featuring Jack McCullough, author, keynote speaker, Forbes contributor, and a founder of two world-class organizations transforming the way CFOs network – thereby influencing how tax and other professionals will network – critical in our new all-digital environment.

Jack is continuously innovating and delivering high caliber products and services. Earlier career highlights include being a CFO and helping launch KPMG’s Global Technology Innovation Center in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2002, Jack cofounded MIT Sloan CFO Summit, a preeminent conference for CFOs. Four years later, Jack launched CFO Leadership Council (CFO LC) to provide nonpareil professional development and networking to financial executives. Last year, he parlayed insights collected from conversations with over 40 of the world’s foremost CFOs into Secrets of Rockstar CFOs.

With the economy spinning and conventional avenues for connecting upside-down, leaders are seeking solutions for guiding their company safely through the morass. CFO LC has been a beacon for singular networking and wisdom.

Why does this matter to a tax professional? What impacts a business often impacts its taxes. To competently advise our companies, we (tax professionals) must understand the financial and operational aspects of the business as these flow into the tax results. So, the concerns of a CFO will often be the concerns of tax executives. CFO LC has raised the bar on and set the trend for how networking and knowledge in finance, an overarching field, is delivered.

Take, for example, CFO LC’s Masterclass Keynote Series (MKS), five 90-minute courses held over a five-week period in May and June. When the pandemic closed the doors on in-person events, CFO LC masterfully pivoted from its in-person CFO Week to offering the virtual MKS, delivering in a scientific framework expertise on managing through catastrophic events from finance and research luminaries such as Elaine Paul, CFO of Amazon Studios, Christine Komola, former CFO of Staples, Steve Priest, CFO of JetBlue, Court Chilton, Senior Lecturer, Work and Organization Studies at MIT Sloan School of Management, and Renee Richardson Gosline, Senior Lecturer, Management Science Group at MIT Sloan School of Management.

More TED-like than standard webinars, MKS elevated subjects of surviving and thriving during an economic downturn by combining the science behind cultivating success with real life examples, conveying meaningful, actionable information to leaders. Addressing work styles, John Carrier, Senior Lecturer, System Dynamics Group at MIT Sloan School of Management and Managing Director of 532 Partners, opened the second episode by framing the discussion around behavior being a function of the people and system in which they find themselves, sharing keys to monitoring and measuring success, and from recent experiences of dignitaries in finance such as Amrita Ahuja, CFO of Square, and Elis Costa, CFO North America of Marsh & McLennan Companies to fill out the discussion. All the while, the audience of over 800 were participating in a live discussion through chat.

Professional organizations are more crucial when people are disconnected and unable to network through traditional methods. Leadership and volunteer positions in CFO LC are gateways to casually connect with executives, venture capitalists, and subject matter experts. This may explain why, even though financial executives are notoriously busy, more than 250 have scheduled time to volunteer on a committee or in programming at CFO LC.

In addition to leading and inventing, Jack finds time to speak, contribute to Forbes, and mentor.

Hear Jack’s insights on cultivating excellence in leadership and receive a free digital copy of his book at our upcoming five-week conference opening October 19, 2020.

Experience unrivaled networking and professional development at TaxForward (tax professionals) or Future Tax Leaders (tax students) by joining its leadership, volunteering, or becoming a member. Contact Info@TaxForward.org to learn more.

Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

The Wisdom of Greg Anton, Accounting Cultural Icon

Greg Anton, a CEO with a long list of accomplishments, has been influencing accounting culture for decades. While Greg may make success look easy, it was achieved through innovation, grit, and by embracing what he loves. We’ve captured some of the insights on building success he’ll share at TaxForward’s 2020 conference on October 25 through 27th here.

Before launching ACM LLP, a regional powerhouse CPA firm with 26 partners and four offices across two states, with two colleagues in 2002, Greg was a Partner at BDO. In 1999, he began six years of service on the Board of Directors for Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants (COCPA), one of those years as its Chair. His influence expanded to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), when he joined its Board of Directors, serving as its Chair, a liaison to Congress, and on several technical committees. In 2015, AICPA recognized Greg’s contributions by bestowing its highest honor, the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Service, on him.

How does Greg cultivate success? By doing things that are generally within all our capacities to do.

He Integrates What He Loves with His Work

Greg says he has had only two careers his whole life: camp counselor and accountant. As a camp counselor, Greg learned the value of integrating what one loves – then, being a camper – into one’s work. According to Greg, focusing on the things he enjoys and does well helps him set his compass and decide where to invest his time, freeing him to do more of what he loves. He attributes communicating what he’s passionate about to helping people identify opportunities to partner with or learn from him. Acknowledging what he doesn’t do well enables Greg to find people with complementary skills.

Unable to think of ways in which to integrate what you love with work? Bringing to mind Mary Poppins teaching Jane and Michael Banks to find the “element of fun” in a job (turning chores into a game in the movie named after the titular character), Greg recommends looking at other ways to integrate your passions and work, such as exercising during breaks.

He Differentiates Himself and His Company

Differentiation sets us apart from our peers and competitors, making it easier for our target audience to select us. Sharing and pursuing what he enjoys doing is a way Greg differentiates himself from his peers.

He has done the same with ACM. When launching ACM, Greg wasn’t creating something new; as he points out, the tools and laws are the same, it’s the people that are different. His goal was “building a better mouse trap” by delivering a superior experience and product than other firms. Today, ACM is renowned for quality.

He Sets the Tone

As a camp counselor, Greg had the advantage in size and strength over the younger campers in races to the swimming hole. Yet, he purposefully led the races from behind rather than in front. This gave Greg better line of sight to coach campers on how to improve and enabled campers to learn from their decisions and experiences. It was an opportunity for him to learn from the campers, as well. “My way isn’t the best way,” Greg says, “it is a way.”

To build a professional and highly competent team at ACM, Greg created an environment that fosters growth and opportunity, where others can lead and contribute. “People want to be around opportunities to succeed, grow, and advance,” he says. He’s eliminated common barriers to growth by cultivating a culture that rewards teaming with people having complementary skills and encourages its professionals to welcome questions and opportunities to collaborate.

He is Continuously Learning

When Greg entered college, he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur – but he didn’t know how to become one. He pursued accounting in part for the job security associated with the field. Now, he draws on what he learned as an accountant to be a successful entrepreneur.

He is Comfortable with Change

Having to innovate to overcome the hurdles of severe dyslexia, Greg learned early in life a person could have “major failures” but still be successful. A lifetime of seeking tools and techniques to succeed has put Greg in the forefront of adapting to the evolution undergoing the accounting field. For example, he uses dictation software, which can transcribe words three times faster than the average person, freeing up time.

Greg is excited about the technological changes occurring in his field. He believes artificial intelligence and virtual robots will assume unexciting work, enabling accountants to operate at a higher level and pursue more enjoyable consultative, observational, and value-added work.

Greg adds, doing what one enjoys will differentiate companies and individuals as technology displaces human capital.

He is Involved

Greg actively participates in what he calls the “enrichment cycle” – he is engaged in organizations within his field, which enriches his knowledge of the field, improving his ability to serve his company, employees, and clients, which creates opportunities for him, his team, and his company.

Lastly, He Tries

Greg says willingness to try and risk failure provides opportunities to succeed. Failing contributes to success by providing opportunities to learn and grow.

Learn more at this year’s conference, October 25 through 27. Register HERE.

Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

4th Annual Conference – Virtual – Cultivating Excellence

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  • October 19, 2020 - November 20, 2020
    12:00 pm - 5:40 pm

Get to Know: Joni Johnson-Powe, Taxnologi Solutions

by Jamie Overberg

Joni Johnson-Powe

Continuing our “Get to Know” feature, this month we would like to introduce you to Joni Johnson-Powe. Joni had a rather interesting introduction to the tax world. Starting as a Husker, she earned her B.S. in Accountancy from the University of Nebraska. Pursuing her interest in tax, Joni headed to University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, with an emphasis in tax. E&Y saw her potential and recruited her for their Accounting Methods and R&D group. Wanting to explore outside this area, Joni transferred to Silicon Valley with E&Y and started working in SALT and tax technology. After missing Colorado (and affordable living), she returned to Denver in 1999 working now for KPMG in the telecom industry. This is where Joni’s interest in tax technology really spiked.

Joni has been fortunate to have two influential mentors in her life: her father and a mentor at KPMG. Her relationship with her father, combined with his passion for tax—exemplified through a 30-year career with the IRS—solidified Joni’s pursuit of a tax career. Joni’s other significant mentor was Dan Burnett at KPMG, who taught her a great deal about the telecom industry and how tax technology was so beneficial for tax preparers. Joni is extremely thankful for the impact of these significant relationships.

Around the time Sarbanes-Oxley was changing the accounting and tax services industry, Joni’s father left the IRS and started his own firm. Regrettably, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after. Joni stepped in, helping his clients while on maternity leave. This became a launching pad to providing tax technology consulting services. Before fully committing to a career as a tax technology service provider, Joni spent some time at Grant Thorton and in SourceGas as a DOT.

Eventually, she created a successful business called Taxnologi Solutions, LLC. Joni and her team provide invaluable services, improving clients’ efficiency by implementing technology solutions. Taxnologi Solutions offer services in the sales and use and VAT tax automation arena, including integration and configuration of software packages such as Vertex and OneSource for retail, telecommunication, and manufacturing clients. Focused on how a tax department functions and its professionals’ needs, Joni’s firm is instrumental in setting design requirements and working with internal IT department to manage and implement conversion strategies.

Joni’s tax career is an inspiration to many young female tax professionals. She has developed her tax and client serving skills over the years while finding time to start a family, being blessed with four wonderful children along the way.

Joni’s first FTL event was a summer picnic, her interest piqued by cofounder Ashby Walters’ passion for the organization, the mentoring aspect of the group, and how tax professionals were able to come together in a casual venue. She found FTL events more intimate, allowing relationships to develop. Joni believes including students is a great aspect of FTL: She herself has an intern, and remembers her experience at the starting point of her career. Today, Joni revels in being able to interact with and mentor our younger tax professionals.

Get to Know: Joe Schmidt, Tax Director, Grant Thornton-Denver

by Jamie Overberg

FTL is starting a monthly feature of a person of interest in our community. In our first post, we feature Joe Schmidt, State & Local Tax Director at Grant Thornton, and Vice President for FTL’s Denver Chapter.

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Joe selected Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii for his undergraduate degree.  As evidence that life throws unexpected opportunities to you, Joe did not transfer as he had planned to another school as he fell in love with his roommate’s sister, Betty.  They married before they graduated and been happily together for more than 40 years.  Since then, Joe has collected many fascinating career tax experiences.

Joe started as a tax intern at Touche Ross.  He marvels about how far the tax industry has come.  For those of us who started our careers long ago, we can appreciate Joe’s early experience.  Joe started as a generalist attacking tax preparation by hand writing on actual printed IRS forms.  He received review comments that his input was sloppy.  He resolved the problem by using the blue pencil (you know the kind that does not show up on a copier) to create lines and commas to ensure his scribe was straight.  As many of us also did some audit with our tax time, he once had to verify an inventory for an art client.  He was scheduled for two days but spent two weeks on the project.  The audit manager communicated his frustration to Joe for his lack of efficiency.  However, he was spending his efforts on accuracy.  As a result, it was discovered employee theft had pillaged a third of the art inventory.  Although the audit manager thanked him later for his thoroughness, Joe decided he did not like audit work.

Joe wanted to work abroad taking the path of international tax.  He worked for Phillips Petroleum spending time in Norway.  His career also took him to Denver with Phillips Petroleum allowing him to obtain his MBA at University of Denver.  It was while working for BP Petroleum that a job assignment landed him in the world of state and local tax.  As his interest in this specialty grew, Joe then pursued his JD at Cleveland State University.  His next move was to Charlotte to specialize in SALT for KPMG briefly before moving over to Deloitte.   At KPMG and Deloitte, he focused in national restructuring transactions for companies from a wide variety of industries.  After a brief stint as an appeals officer for Alaska Department of Revenue, Joe and his wife landed back in Denver as a SALT Tax Director at Grant Thornton.  They are very happy to be back in Colorado enjoying trips to North Carolina to visit their daughter and two granddaughters.

Joe attended a FTL tax detox event and quickly grew attached to the group’s inclusive nature.  He truly enjoyed socializing with associates from industry and public.  Joe was further impressed with meeting students and mixed accounting professionals.  Joe believes senior professionals have a responsibility to foster earlier generations and views FTL as a great vehicle for this aim.  Joe looks forward to getting to know more of the tax professional community at all FTL events.