Gizmo Toys, Inc. was established in 2001 by husband and wife team Adam and Jessica Ramirez. The company initially designed a small range of products that were manufactured in the United States and sold in local toy stores in their hometown of Joliet, IL, and nearby Chicago. Since these toys proved to be very popular in the local market, Adam and Jessica decided to expand the range of products.
By 2006, within five years of starting Gizmo, the founders were encouraged to see increasing requests for Gizmo’s products ordered by many large toy retailers across Europe. By this stage, the company had grown considerably, and had annual sales of nearly $3 million. In 2008, to keep up with demand, Gizmo started outsourcing all of its manufacturing to a range of Chinese plants in order to reduce its cost base and to enable the company to price its products more competitively.
Look deeper. Think harder. Earn cheddar.
From those first, fateful words, "Hey, want to be on my team?" to triumphant victory at the finals, it's a long and potentially bumpy road. Here you'll find four categories, lots of links and (with any luck) answers to all your questions along the way.
Team Building Materials
Tips and tactics for forming your rock star team.
Obviously, you want to find a team to join. Great. Start by asking your professors, TAs or graduate students if they know any other students who are interested. And don’t forget to ask if they’re interested in being your team’s advisor while you’re at it. If they don’t know anyone, no worries—sometimes it’s just easier to start your own team, anyway.
So, where are you supposed to find two or three brilliantly unique, yet somewhat like-minded individuals? Try your classes. All of them. Then take it to the web. Social networks are better for more than just socializing. Be creative, be relentless and network, network, network.
Remember, your team requires only two accounting majors and team members don’t have to come from the same school, so that should open up even more possibilities. Besides, once you’ve decided to participate, your team is at least 25% there.
And since you’re already here, you can also check out the teams tab to find an existing team to join
Pre-hoarded information to ponder.
Hunting for stats to support your recommendations for Gizmo Toys, Inc.? Want to find out what it’s like to work as a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)? Searching for a better grasp of the ins and outs of management accounting? Or maybe you’re just looking to bone up on what it takes to make sound business decisions. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s plenty of reading material to keep you busy—and hopefully on track.
Definitions, Concepts, and Reference Tools
- Certified Public Accountant
- Why Add a Fifth Part to Your CPA Exam?
- What is management accounting?
- Chartered Global Management Accountant
- CGMA Competency Framework
- CGMA Resource Videos
- Financial Management topics - Journal of Accountancy
- Managing the Bigger Picture - Article
- CPA Profile: Sarah Brack, CPA, CGMA
- CPA Profile: Dan Bachrach, CPA, CGMA
- Essential Tools for Management Accountants
- Managing Innovation
- From Insight to Impact
- Managing Responsible Business
General Case Writing and Presentation Information
Points from past champs
From forming teams to presenting at the finals, you can learn a lot from the people who’ve already walked the walk. When the top teams talked the talk afterward, they shared a handful of wisdom nuggets that are sure to assist you in your rise to political glory. So take a tip—or eight—from the folks who know best.
Manage your time (wisely).
Coordinating your schedule to make time for one more thing on your to-do list? Hard. Coordinating three or four peoples’ schedules to accomplish one big thing? Nearly impossible. Unless you have a game plan, assign tasks, give yourselves deadlines—and stick to them.
“Going into every round you think, ‘Okay, I’m going to have enough time. It’s going to be fine,’ and it always takes more time than you originally planned for. So be prepared for anything.” -Jennifer Rauschuber: University of Texas at Dallas, Eco Consulting, 2010 (champ)
Not all teammates are created equal.
When assembling your team, consider this—a *written* proposal might benefit from an English major’s expertise. And, with the video component in the semi-finals, it might be helpful to consider inviting a video production major to the team. But beyond a variety of majors, you’ll also want to find members who are equally invested and passionate to help push your teams’ platforms.
“If there was a better idea—to give up your right to be right—and [to say], ‘Okay, you know what? That sounds better.’ And sometimes a whole lot of tweaking…going back and saying, “You know what? It might be uncomfortable, but maybe this tweak will actually make the whole thing better.”’ -Jinson Jose: University of Texas at Dallas, Eco Consulting, 2010 (champ)
Seek (everywhere) and ye shall find.
Even in the age of information, the right tidbit is not always right at your fingertips. Sometimes you have to dig. The same goes for help. Use your connections—all the way to Kevin Bacon if you have to. Just ask. Even if it’s just to ask *who* to ask or where to look for whatever it is you need.
“We had to get support from and help from a lot of people. [One of my teammate's] parents run a printing company, and they did a lot of help with marketing the team for the voting round and for our final presentation. And we couldn't have done what we did without the N.C. State accounting faculty.” -Alan Perry: N.C. State, Wolfpack in the Black, 2011 (champ)
Your advisor can be worth their weight in gold.
It’s true. You don’t *have* to have an advisor. But all the champs did. It helps to have them in your corner, critiquing your work and bringing up angles your team might have missed. Plus, they’ve got connections around campus that could help you along the way. And they’re probably willing to do more than you might think.
“Our advisor works very closely with the dean and other professors on campus. And if we ever needed anything at all—in the School of Management, even in our student union—he was right there. He was very willing.” -Diane Henry: University of Texas at Dallas, Eco Consulting, 2010 (champ)
Never underestimate the value of fresh eyes.
Of course, your advisor comes into play here. But they’re not the only one you’ll want to tap into. Having multiple people proof your submissions can be the difference between your team coming off as super-sharp contenders or lackluster lazes.
“After looking at something for six, seven hours at a time…you don’t catch the errors that other people will, seeing it for the first time.” -Mari Monaco: Ohio Dominican University, The Green Assets, 2010 (finalist)
Remember it's about more than just the numbers.
Sure this an accounting competition, but it will take more than just putting together a great financial plan. In order to make it to the top, your proposal needs to be articulate, concise and of course have all your commas in the right places. And if you prove awesome enough to advance, you'll have to work on your video handiwork and perfect your presentation skills.
"Outside [the] technical accounting skills that we were able to sharpen by being a part of this competition, we also got to develop our soft skills...you know, practice interviewing skills, networking, just public speaking." -April Crawford: University of Texas at Dallas, Working Capitol, 2012 (champ)
Be shameless when it comes time for public voting.
If your round 1 submission is solid enough to move you along to the semi-finals your team will not only have to star in a video, you’ll also have to sell it to the public in the voting round. And to be effective you’ve got to get the voters behind you. So use whatever means you have and don’t be afraid to beg.
“We went to different places on campus, just talked to students about it. We sent it out to all of our Greek houses. And then finally, after…the voting period was there, we had random students in the College of Business coming up to us and being like, "Oh, I voted for your video.’" -Matt Allbee: Iowa State University, Internal Control Freaks, 2011 (finalist)
There’s a reason they say “practice makes perfect.”
Filming? Presenting? Both rely heavily on practice and preparation. Take the time to practice. In front of a mirror. To your dog, your mom, your class. The more comfortable you are with the crowd and the content the better you’ll do. Besides, this is another one of those skill sets you’ll need in the real world anyway.
“The whole accounting staff and faculty at N.C. State really helped us, especially with the mock presentations, and giving us a worst-case scenario questioning round for the judges. They would ask us really tough questions, probably questions that we weren't even going to have to worry about. But we just needed to be prepared for anything.” -Alan Perry: N.C. State, Wolfpack in the Black, 2011 (champ)
Be sure to read through all the official rules, but here's a quick outline to get you started...
- The 2015 AICPA Accounting Competition is a case competition open to currently-enrolled, fulltime undergraduate students at two-year and four-year colleges, community colleges, and universities in the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and/or the U.S. Virgin Islands (collectively, the “Eligible Jurisdictions”).
- You cannot participate in the Competition if you are not a permanent legal resident of an Eligible Jurisdiction.
- You need to be a Student Affiliate member of the AICPA (it’s free to signup) and at least 18 years of age (and if the age of majority in your state or territory is older than 18, you must submit a completed Parental Release Form with your first round proposal in order to be eligible to participate.)
- Students must participate in teams of three or four students: two students on each team must be currently- enrolled, fulltime accounting students, and the other one or two may be currently-enrolled, fulltime undergraduates from any discipline.
- All teams will have a Team Captain. The Captain will be responsible for turning in all submissions and all direct communications with the AICPA during the competition. The Team Captain must be a declared accounting major.
- Students may choose to have an Advisor. This Advisor can help guide you or give you feedback on your responses, but they may not provide any of the final deliverable work. Advisors can be a full or part-time in an undergraduate teaching capacity with a community college or four-year college or university within an Eligible Jurisdiction, be enrolled as a fulltime graduate degree student at a university within an Eligible Jurisdiction, or be a licensed CPA practitioner that has a current and active membership with the AICPA within an Eligible Jurisdiction.
- The competition comprises three rounds. The first round will involve a short written executive summary (1,000 words or less) that more broadly helps us understand your team’s take on the situation.
- In the second round, or semi-finals, the top 15 teams will be selected to participate. Qualifying teams will be asked to create a video presentation (5-6 minutes) and supporting documentation (1-3 pages).
- Three of the top 15 teams will be selected to present again in front of an executive judging panel in North Carolina. This will be an in-person presentation, and all finalist team members and their advisors will receive travel and hotel accommodations to the finals event. Each finalist team presentation will be 10 minutes in duration (and you may elect to use additional media for the specific audience), with an additional Q&A period.
- Call for entries: Aug. 12 - Sept. 28
- Judging: Sept. 28 - Oct. 9
- Working on videos: Oct. 9 – Nov. 2
- Judging: Nov. 2 - 13
- Public voting: Nov. 4 - 11
- Finalist announced: Nov. 13
- Finals: Nov. 13 - Dec. 18
- Champions announced: Dec. 21
Call for Entries: Aug. 12 – Sept. 28
Now you and your team create, in an executive summary of 1,000 words or less (double-spaced, please), a recommendation for Gizmo Toys, Inc. (for all the details, check out the full case document once you've registered).
Remember, if you’re over 18 but you live in a state or territory where you haven’t yet reached the age of majority, you must turn in additional paperwork. Make sure you have your parent or legal guardian sign and have notarized the Parent/Guardian Consent Form and submit it electronically with your first round submission (no later than 2:59 p.m ET on September 28, 2015). The AICPA must also receive the original hard copy of this notarized form before 4:30 p.m. ET on October 1, 2015. If you don’t do this, your team will be disqualified.
Round One Judging: Sept. 28 – Oct. 9
Time for the judges to determine who gets into the semi-finals.
Submissions: Oct. 9 – Nov. 2
Here’s where it gets really interesting. We’ve announced the top 15 teams. (Did you make it? Either way, you’ve got a great story—and addition to the résumé.) The captain of each team now gets a video camera (to keep), which the team will use to develop a more detailed submission for the company. (Five to six minutes, to be precise, and accompanied by supporting document of one to three pages.)
Judging: Nov. 2 – 13
You can’t argue with a scorecard. As the judges grade the semi-finalists’ submissions, they’re also taking the public’s advice on the videos into account in their final days of deliberation. Drum roll please…
Public Voting: Nov. 4 – 11
While our accounting experts consider the merits of all 15 teams’ submissions, so do the site visitors. That’s right—the general public (including your friends and neighbors) can watch the videos to vote on their favorite—and influence the judges’ decision.
Finalists Announced: Nov. 13
Now it’s down to three. Finalists, pack your bags. You’re leaving on a jet plane. Semi-finalists, you still get bragging rights—top 15 status is nothing to sneeze at.
Presentations and Judging: Dec. 18
The room is silent. If your team is here in North Carolina, you’re about to present the most convincing 10 minutes you can muster. Then the judges will thoughtfully consider everything your team said, poring over every last detail of your submission. As a finalist, you've already earned $10,000 for you and your teammate to split. But will your team get the top award for your school? No matter what, you got an unforgettable trip.
Champions Announced: Dec. 21
Behold, our 2015 AICPA Accounting Competition victors. Now, not only will they be able to boast about building one of the smartest solutions in a field of qualified contenders, but they also learned how to put together a professional executive summary and impress folks who know good thinking when they see it. Maybe it’s just us, but we think that may come in handy down the road. Join us in congratulating our finalists, and mark your calendars for fall of 2016.
Questions along the way? Email ThisWayToCPA@aicpa.org.
Questions that are asked frequently, or should be.
Who can compete in this competition? The 2015 AICPA Accounting Competition is open to currently-enrolled fulltime undergraduate students at two-year and four-year colleges, community colleges, and universities in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and/or the U.S. Virgin Islands. You must also be a legal permanent in one of these countries/territories, at least eighteen (18) years old and a current AICPA Student Affiliate Member as of date of entry to be eligible to enter. If the age of majority in your state or territory is older than 18, you must submit a completed Parental Release Form with your first round proposal in order to be eligible to participate.
How do we sign up? Simple: just go to the Team Dashboard page and start building your team.
Do I have to be an AICPA Student Affiliate Member to participate? Yes. Student membership is required to participate in the competition. But the truth is, membership is free to all currently-enrolled students at two-year and four-year colleges, community colleges, and universities. Not to mention you’ll also get a ton of perks like access to AICPA scholarships and discounts on conferences, events and other resources.
Can multiple teams from the same school submit? Yes.
What are the awards? Each of the three finalist teams will score $10,000 for themselves, and compete for cash for their college. The campus awards are $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second and $2,000 for third.
Who is eligible for the trip package? The top three teams (all finalist team members and their accompanying advisor) are eligible for the trip package to the final presentation location. See the Official Rules Section 5 for trip package information.
I want to participate but need help rounding out a team. Can you help? Yes. In the Team Dashboard page you can browse the existing teams to see if there’s one you’d like to join, or start your own and invite other students to participate. As the founder of the team, you’ll automatically be the Team Captain, but you can elect to make another member Captain later if you choose. Remember, your Team Captain must be an accounting-related major and is responsible for submitting all of the team’s work.
One of our teammates will no longer be able to participate. May we make a substitution? You can alter your team members until you have submitted your proposal. Once you complete your submission, your team is locked, so make sure you have at least three and no more than four members. Also, if you want your advisor to be eligible for the trip package if you make it to the finals, he or she needs to be on your official roster before submitting your proposal.
Why three or four team members? The simple answer is that the AICPA wants to help develop the next generation of CPAs and we want you to work with others to do it. The more detailed answer is that we hope you’ll learn important concepts during the competition, including analysis of difficult and novel issues, communicating your thoughts clearly and compellingly, and – you guessed it – teamwork. Whether you're in a team of three members or four, you'll be putting your brains together to submit a proposal that showcases your combined talent. In the real world your fate is entwined with that of your team, and the better you are at collaborating with them, the better. This competition is no different.
Can I serve on two different teams? No. Besides, don’t you ever sleep?
If I leave a team, can I join another team that needs a member? You can bounce from team to team as much as you like prior to submitting your first round proposal. Once that is done, you’re locked in for the duration of the competition, so be nice to your teammates.
How come the team captain gets to keep the video camera, and not me? Well, they’ve got considerably more work to deal with than the rest of the team, including increased communications, coordination of members and submissions, and representing/introducing the team at the finals. We offer them the camera as a token of gratitude. But they can still decide to give it to you if they want.
Is there a required format for the video presentation? No. You have some creative license here, but all team members must appear in it at least once and you must use the AICPA-provided video device to create the video footage for your video submission.
Will my team’s written submission be judged on its style? While there is no official scoring mechanism for the style of the document, do bear in mind that a well-crafted, professional document for the competition only works in your favor – just as it would in a business environment.
One of my team members is a graphic design major; may we submit the written portion in a different format? So, want to expand beyond the boundaries of Microsoft Word, do you? That’s fine; just have your gorgeously designed case in a format that can be submitted in PDF form.
Who can act as our advisor? Advisors must either (a) be employed in an undergraduate teaching capacity with a community college or four-year university within an Eligible Jurisdiction (b) be enrolled as a full-time graduate degree student at a university within an Eligible Jurisdiction, or (c) be a licensed CPA practitioner that has a current and active membership with the AICPA within an Eligible Jurisdiction.
You advisor must register and be included on your team roster by the close of the first round, just like your team members.
Can our advisor serve on more than one team? Yes. While you can only be on one team, your advisor can help out as many teams as his heart desires.
What is your definition of a graduate student? For the purposes of this competition, graduate degree students are defined as students who are currently enrolled at a college or university taking coursework consisting of 50% or more graduate-level classes, which will result in the receipt of a graduate level degree upon their graduation from that college or university.
Does my CPA advisor have to be a member of the AICPA? Maybe. Advisors who aren't faculty or graduate students must have an active CPA license and be a current member of the AICPA.
Do we have to have an advisor? Not at all. It’s up to your team, and in particular the team captain, whether to solicit the advice of a faculty member, graduate student, or regular AICPA member, but we do recommend it. Just like in class, this advisor can help guide you and give feedback on your responses, but they can’t provide any of the final deliverable work (of course).
What does a good executive summary (like what’s being asked in Round 1) look like? Good question. An executive summary is used to help decision makers (or judges) understand your perspective before going into the second round. So your response is basically a summary of findings, including:
- Overview – Executive summaries are often looking for a high-level explanation and analysis that could be read by both business people and an average Joe. Keep your language simple, and be clear about your ideas and major points.
- Recommendations – This includes both new ideas from your team and responses to direct questions from decision makers.
- Justification – Like any good investigator, use the facts to get to the bottom of things. Present evidence or clues, then use reasoning to connect the dots for the judges.
- Brevity – As a general rule, executive summaries should be pretty short and sweet. Remember there is a 1,000-word maximum on your Round 1 submission.
How many teams will be admitted into the Semi-finals? 15 teams.
How many teams will be admitted into the Finals? 3 teams.
How will our response be judged? All entries will be judged on a scorecard metric. Each round will be judged on several factors. If you like, you can read all of the Judging Criteria in the Official Rules Section 4.
Will my school affiliation give me an advantage during the judging process? No. Judges will come from various parts of the AICPA and business world, so nobody’s out there looking to heap awards on their alma mater. What they are looking to do is score each team’s submission based upon the quality of the response.
One of my relatives is a member of AICPA—will I still be able to compete? Yes. The AICPA is a professional association with more than 400,000 members, so you can see that if we limited entries on the basis of family membership, we’d be excluding a lot of students. So unless your relative is on the judging panel, you’re good. We’d like to keep the opportunity to compete as open as possible.
Still have questions? Email us at ThisWayToCPA@aicpa.org.
There's more in it for you than an all-expense paid trip
Being an advisor is great for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that you get to inspire students to solve problems and gain real-world experience—and possibly end up going to North Carolina and helping your students snag some cash for your school. So if you're considering guiding a team (or five!) to greatness, check out this list of reasons to go forth and do it.
Also, if you're a professor, TA or grad student, we encourage you to incorporate the competition into your curriculum. This could mean offering participation as extra credit, making round 1 an in-class or lab assignment, or even just adding the experience to your syllabus. Hey, it's been done, and it worked.
Advisor status plays to your strengths. Take a look at the to-do items—Opening eyes, offering sage advice…you could do all this in your sleep, right?
- Offer your services as a sounding board, an expert weigh-er-in-er, The Voice of Experience and even just an impartial audience. You don't do their thinking for them, of course, but you can sure help them strengthen their case.
- Time commitment is entirely up to you. Occasional check-ins to hands-on involvement with the team—however you think you and your students will work best.
- Bring recognition (and funds) to your school when your students (inevitably) emerge as champs.
- Use your knowledge to help students think through the potential outcomes of their ideas. New iterations, bold assertions, key considerations: Here's where you're invaluable.
- You can use your on-campus connections to link students with other educators who could prove useful. Think entrepreneurship, marketing or journalism gurus... even creative folk, who know a thing or two about creating visual presentations.
- Consider recognizing competition milestones in class—Oct.9 is when semi-finalists are announced, public voting starts Nov. 4, and we find out who's finals-bound on Nov. 13. Even if you don't observe the occasions, your students might.
- Hook your teams up to some online file-sharing software like DropBox, iCloud, or Google Docs, as an easy way to help them (and you) keep track of versions and revisions. Group texting via apps like GroupMe can prove invaluable as well.
They scored $10,000 for themselves. Went to North Carolina to compete for even more money for their schools. Pitched their proposed plans to a panel of professionals. And now, after the judges conferred, a single team is bringing home $5,000 for their college and ultimate victory in the competition. Congrats to our 2015 champs for successfully sharing their CGMA smarts!