The New Normal: TXCPA-SA Member Ada Cartright, CPA

The New Normal: TXCPA-SA Member Ada Cartright, CPA

Ada in her office before “Stay Home, Work Safe”

Your TXCPA-SA Chapter is reaching out to your colleagues – CPAs, CPA candidates, student members and affiliates – to learn how you all are coping with the new normal brought on by COVID-19.

TXCPA-SA member Ada M. Cartright, CPA/PFS, Tax Manager, Exencial Wealth Advisors, offered the following information about her new normal.

Are you currently working from home, in your office solo or in the normal pre-COVID-19 arrangement?  I am working at the office most days.  However, just like during pre-COVID-19, I do occasionally work from home when it is necessary for me to be at my house during the day. When I work from home, my two sons who still live at home will check on me throughout the day.  My dog, Addie, wants to be right next to me in her dog bed.  If it is a nice day, I am able to sit on the back porch and work, while the dogs run around the yard.

How many people do you work with normally? In the spring, our San Antonio office typically has 16 staff members at the office, including three interns.  We have two additional staff members who are set up to work remotely year-round.  Plus, we have locations in Oklahoma City, OK; Frisco, TX; and Old Lyme, CT.

What was a typical day like before “Stay Home, Work Safe”? Prior to the “Stay Home, Work Safe” my mornings were fairly typical, but my workdays never were.  I generally woke up around 5 am.  After a quick goodbye kiss from my husband I would take time out for my morning reading, yoga and coffee before getting ready for the workday.  Since traffic gets bad after 7:15 and adds to my commute, I would give my youngest son a goodbye hug before he got ready for school and I would be out the door by 7:15 on most days.

Some days at the office, I had multiple client calls and unexpected or scheduled client meetings.  I generally took quick lunch breaks, sometimes taking a quick walk or doing some desk yoga, except on Wednesdays when we had lunch brought in so we could all take a break and have time for a quick visit.  Other days I might have no calls or client meetings, but lots of internal questions regarding the tax work or procedures.  Since not all of our team is in the San Antonio office, we had team meetings M/W/F through Zoom.  Then, of course, I did spend some time every day reviewing or signing tax returns and keeping up with the tracking of tax and related projects. 

Prior to busy season I was generally home by 6 pm and most evenings we would have dinner as a family; I would have time for a quick ride on our Peloton bike. My husband, Mike, and I also went to a Rampage hockey game a least once a week since we had season tickets.  Once we got deeper into busy season, I would get home after dinner but would still have some time with my family.  This schedule allowed for me to work fewer hours on Saturday so I could have more time with my family on the weekends.

What is your typical day like now? My mornings at home are still basically the same; however, since there isn’t much traffic, I can get up later and leave later and still be at the office at a reasonable time.  It is just me and one of our tax seniors at the office. We are no longer having lunch brought in, so I take quick lunch breaks and get back to work. 

The two of us have had to balance keeping up with our own responsibilities while scanning and routing all incoming mail and any other work that has to be done on-site.  I have even been assembling all returns that I sign and either mail returns to our clients or send the returns through secure e-mail.  Since mail gets routed to various staff members, we have to scan all of the mail so that it can be routed to the correct staff member. Fortunately, we have a great team who has been patient in teaching us how to scan the different types of mail we get so that it gets routed to the correct staff member who then lets us know next steps for the mail since much of it is time sensitive. 

I get more e-mails and phone calls from clients, but no in-person client meetings.  We do still have our M/W/F team meetings which have helped us stay connected.   I worked a little later during the week and worked more Saturdays then normal through 4/15. 

Fortunately, unlike many parents who have the added pressure of helping their children keep up with their schoolwork in this new virtual environment, I did not have that added to my plate.  I haven’t had to be at home to make sure my youngest son, Tony, who is a senior in high school, attended his virtual classes and did his schoolwork.  He has been responsible for keeping up with his schoolwork since middle school.  He continued to do well and adjust to the virtual classroom. 

Ada’s work-from-home buddy, Addie

I did work at home a few days recently to keep the dogs away from him when he took his AP tests from home.  He has also been keeping up with the virtual meetings for new students at Texas A&M, where he plans to attend in the fall.  Now that we are past 4/15, I am getting home in time for dinner with my family.  With the reduced traffic I have actually been getting home earlier; so, I have more time in the evening. 

Can you share a small or big success story or silver lining that you didn’t expect? Professionally:  Our Operations and IT teams were very quick to get our system set up to support having 80% of employees working from home, signing in remotely, even before “Stay Home, Work Safe” was the official government guidance.  We have still been able to meet the needs of our clients while knowing most of the staff was working safely at home. 

We started a COVID-19 task force team to keep up with local policies at our different locations.  We work to communicate regularly with the staff on any updates and the staff passes along to us new information so that we can keep the firm policies up to date.  The Executive team also had a Zoom meeting for all locations to update us on new policies & procedures during this time period and other information pertinent to the firm and all the employees.  Based on the feedback I received from several San Antonio staff, their transparency did wonders for the employee morale.

Personally: Since I have been home more than usual, I have been able to work more on the scrapbooks I have been trying to get done for my children and have enjoyed a lot of time in our backyard with our dogs.  We have also been working on some home maintenance projects.

Has there been a small or big not-so-successful happening? Professionally:  While our interns did great working remotely, I missed the interaction with them and seeing them grow as future CPAs. 

Personally:  Although Tony has not complained other than sometimes being bored stuck at home and missing seeing his girlfriend, it has been difficult to see him miss so many of the activities that seniors generally get the second semester for their senior year.  They missed their prom – he and his girlfriend had a virtual date.  They will likely only get a virtual graduation.  We won’t get to enjoy the new student conference (NSC) at A&M in June. It is now virtual.  He won’t get to enjoy “fish camp”.  I am an Aggie and even though it happened a few decades ago, I still have fond memories of NSC and fish camp. 

Any words of wisdom for your fellow accounting types?  Our profession can be very stressful.  It is likely a little more stressful now than in prior years.  Whether your clients are external or internal, our clients are looking to us for support for our technical knowledge, and in some cases some emotional support.  While it is an honor to have this kind of trust, we still need to be sure to also take time out to take care of ourselves.  Whatever it is that helps you unplug and de-stress, whether a good book, a walk in nature, a hobby, exercise, watching TV, etc., make sure you do something you enjoy.

What do you miss the most? It is hard to limit it.  I miss having the team at the office.  The quick conversations in the hall.  I miss all the Senior year activities that Tony should be enjoying.  I miss going to church on Sunday mornings – virtual church has been helpful, but it is missing the contact with friends at church.  I miss seeing my parents on a regular basis.  I miss the weekly breakfast that Tony and I used to have with his Oma & Opa.  I miss my Friday breakfast with one of my children – a tradition we had just started right before “Stay Home, Work Safe.” I miss seeing my friends.

What are you most grateful for?  All of the employees at Exencial and working at a firm where the Executives truly care about the employees.  A little more time at home.  Seeing my grown children, through Zoom at first, then, at our house since restrictions have changed a little. Observing my children stepping up and helping those that are less fortunate than themselves.  This time has affected people in so many different ways.  It was good to reflect and realize just how fortunate my family is.  It has been great to read and hear about the kindness of others during this time when some tend to only focus on the bad.

Best wishes to all of the graduating seniors out there! Good luck in all of your future endeavors!