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A Strong Professional Network is an Invaluable Resource

NetworkingMany people think of networking as either schmoozing or as a purely social activity. In reality, a strong professional network is an important resource for an up-and-coming CPA. A strong network is diverse and includes clients/customers, peers, senior professionals, business partners and vendors. A strong network helps to build us as professionals and provide better solutions to the organizations we serve.

Just imagine if everyone you had in your network were just like you. How would you find the variety of insights you need to deal with complex issues? We need more varied perspectives and knowledge to make better decisions.

I know from practical experience that a strong network is especially important to CPAs, but did you know it also reflects one of our core competencies? In the CPA Horizons 2025 project, under “Integration and Collaboration,” the AICPA describes a professional network: “CPAs are effective at building strategic alliances and working collaboratively to provide multidisciplinary solutions to complex problems.”

Building strategic alliances is one of the key outcomes of a strong, trustworthy professional network. It is through these strategic alliances that CPAs can work collaboratively with other professionals to address complex problems and bring true multidisciplinary solutions to the table.

A recent example of this is a project I am working on for one of my clients, a community foundation. The foundation has a large scholarship program involving more than 9,000 applicants, many selection committees and several hundred funding sources/donors. Currently, their systems are only half-automated. The organization’s objective is to be able to run its entire scholarship program through an electronic system. To support this goal, I am coordinating a team that consists of:

  • A technical manager focused on the technology.
  • An operations analyst focused on business process redesign.
  • A certified project manager who will keep track of the timeline, resources and issues.

Add to this my own role of helping to manage the risk of the project and ensure the overall quality of the end results. These other professionals all have different expertise, and it is my job as the CPA/CITP on the team to bring all of their skillsets together to ensure the success of the project for the client.

How did I find people to take these positions? Through my professional networks!

From a more personal perspective, a strong network is also important for our own professional development. We may have coaches within our organizations, but those people are usually focused on ensuring our professional roles meet a certain set of goals—and, actually, these coaches tend to be influenced by our work environment. By having a mentor who is external to our workplace, and maybe from another discipline, we can often get a new perspective on how we are progressing in our overall professional life—rather than just in our career with a given organization.

I see the value of this aspect of networking every time I attend an AICPA or state CPA society function. I’m able to share my experiences with colleagues from different geographical areas and different expertise areas, bounce ideas off of them and sometimes commiserate. But, the real value is that I’m able to get ideas of what worked or didn’t work in their organizations, for their clients or for someone else from their professional network. As I analyze my options, this helps me to either validate the decision I’m making or at least give me some additional information to consider.

Next time you’re attending a conference, seminar or happy hour, enjoy the company and camaraderie, but also look for opportunities to strengthen your professional network—and your effectiveness.

Donny Shimamoto, CPA/CITP, CGMA, Founder and Managing Director, IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC. Donny’s firm focuses on organizational development and advisory services for the middle market. He is a recognized national expert in IT management and international author/speaker on business intelligence initiatives. 

Networking image via Shutterstock

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