IN THE ATRIUM WITH JEFF BJORKMAN

When Jeff Bjorkman isn’t reading the unabridged version of Les Misérables, camping outdoors, or trying to recreate cuisine he’s sampled abroad, he is knee-deep in accounting projects with the Marriott School’s MAcc program. His experiences as a student may leave you wishing you too were an accountant.

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Taking Initiative

One of the first projects Bjorkman jumped on was the SOA Nonprofit Initiative, led by accounting professor Jeff Wilks, which seeks out nonprofits in need of accounting help and teams them up with students.

“In fall 2013 we found two nonprofits, Kids on the Move and International Language Programs, and approached them with our idea,” Bjorkman says. “Their directors actually had a couple of areas where they could use assistance, so we made a couple of spreadsheets here and some recommendations there.”

The first run of the program turned out to be a success. Since nonprofits are often strapped for cash, the work of Bjorkman and others provided affordable assistance to them. It also allowed students to practice valuable skills.

“Being a part of programs like this from the ground up has been one of my favorite things about the BYU experience,” Bjorkman says. “There’s been a lot of trust from the faculty members and a lot of good people involved.”

With a grasp on the Nonprofit Initiative at home, Bjorkman moved onto a similar project that immersed him in the financial books of an African business. Bjorkman and four accounting students connected with a for-profit company in Ghana: African Heavy Machinery. The company rents out excavators and other mining equipment but needed additional capital to expand their business. Getting a loan in Ghana, however, is no easy task. Interest rates can be higher than twenty percent and, on top of that, the company was using out-of-date accounting software.

“Our hope was to go in and help angle their accounting systems and controls toward financial statements they could take to American investors to get more capital, grow their business, and hire more employees,” Bjorkman says. “Just getting all of their information from one place to another was a big process.”

The BYU team trained employees on QuickBooks software and taught them how to create spreadsheets and generate reports that would appeal to investors. With the guidance of accounting professor Monte Swain, they were able to help the company.

“I think in the end the owner, Stephen Abu, will have better information at his fingertips,” Bjorkman says. “He now has a much better chance of securing the capital he needs to grow his business.”

A Future with the FASB

All of Bjorkman’s hard work at home and abroad has paid off because he will soon be working for the Financial Accounting Standards Board. The FASB determines the accounting rules regarding the preparation of financial reports.

For each hiring date, the FASB allows only a handful of schools to nominate students for the seven available spots. Bjorkman was qualified enough to be the one student nominated by BYU and one of seven selected to start working for the board in January 2015.

“I’m very excited,” Bjorkman says. “It’s a great opportunity, and I get to move to the East.”

Bjorkman will be working as a post graduate technical assistant where he’ll tackle drafting memos for board members and facilitating roundtable discussions. When asked what is most attractive to him about this new position, Bjorkman explained that it gives him the ability to make a meaningful impact.

“Accounting is based in reality, and all around us there are real economic transactions taking place,” he says. “I think accounting does a very valuable service for investors—and really for the country—because the better information investors get, the more efficiently capital is allocated, bringing new products and services to consumers.”