In my eight months as chair of the AICPA Board of Directors, I’ve done a lot of travel and gained perspective on the size of our country and our planet. But beyond that, I’ve learned how business is becoming much more interconnected and how CPAs fit into a broader business ecosystem made up of other professions, clients and stakeholders. A recent trip to the other side of the world showed me just how connected our profession really is and made me optimistic about its prospects for the future.
After traveling to the World Congress of Accountants in November and countless domestic trips since, I found myself back aboard an airplane in February for a whirlwind journey to Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, for meetings with CPA Australia and the Chartered Accountants Australia/New Zealand, respectively.
I am excited to write to you as the new chair of the AICPA Board of Directors. I hope to meet many of you at the numerous conferences, state society meetings and firm visits that I have lined up between now and next October. The Chair’s Letter also is a great forum to discuss common experiences and important developments. Throughout the year, I will share my thoughts on key trends and emerging professional issues. I hope you’ll share your comments with me and our fellow CPAs so we can have a robust dialogue.
Let me begin by telling you a little about myself. I grew up in the tiny town of West Liberty, Kentucky, home to about 2,000 people and two stoplights. I was raised on small-town values that remain with me today. These values – hard work, integrity, community and commitment – first attracted me to the accounting profession, and now they will shape my stewardship as AICPA Chair.
I recently read an article on disruptive innovation that made me consider how much the accounting profession has changed over the years. The article talked about how well some very traditional lines of business are performing, including Swiss watches, independent bookstores and pricey fountain pens, even in our volatile times. These products have enjoyed prolonged success because the business people behind them have emphasized the products’ unique and enduring value, something that the market recognizes even in the midst of continuous change. Swiss watches are seen as quality status products, independent bookstores have positioned themselves as personalized social destinations and fountain pens provide a classic writing experience with a smoother and more professional look than inexpensive and more readily available ballpoint pens.
Strong planning skills are a must for anyone who wants to be at the top of their field. CPAs have these skills in spades. Our fingerprints can be found on the successful business plans of companies throughout the country—from the mom and pop store down the street, to the Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees, and everything in between. Helping organizations chart their long-term future makes us indispensable threads in the fabric of the U.S. economy.
Why, then, do so many of us not engage in planning for the long-term future of our own firms?
It’s hard to believe I’m roughly one quarter of the way into my term as Chairman of the AICPA Board of Directors. In that role, I travel around the country extensively, meeting many members as I attend conferences, participate in meetings and give presentations, often at state CPA societies. I’m always excited to talk about the issues and opportunities facing our profession. One area CPAs have been particularly eager to discuss is the concept of project management. And that was very interesting to me because I have long been a firm believer that strong project management skills are essential to getting your job done, growing your career and becoming an effective leader.
I am honored to write to you in my first blog as the new AICPA Chairman of the Board of Directors. I truly look forward to being able to engage with you through these bimonthly posts. We have an exciting year ahead of us, a year which will focus on the quality of our work and the members of our profession.
As I begin my term as chairman, I have found myself reflecting upon my early days as a staff accountant. From the time I graduated college and began pursuing my career as a CPA, I have been surrounded by inspirational leaders who helped shape me into the man I am today. My firm, Postlethwaite & Netterville, is named after two such extraordinary role models, the late Mr. Alexander Postlethwaite (whom I never addressed by first name) and Jake Netterville, a former AICPA chairman. These great men taught me that quality service and passion are two key ingredients needed to achieve success.
When I became chairman
of the AICPA Board of Directors a year ago, my first blog post addressed several key issues for the
profession. But mainly I talked about the accounting profession as a path to
the American Dream. That’s my life experience – humble beginnings and following
my role-model neighbor who was the first CPA I ever knew. Having represented
the United States accounting profession at a Brazilian conference in August, I
now fully understand that the American Dream is a universal desire and our
profession is a way to achieve it.
I take great pride in being a CPA, and I know you do too. Earning the credential is something that gives us tremendous confidence and opportunities in our professional lives. The self-assurance comes from having passed the rigorous CPA exam and maintaining lifelong learning. The endless possibilities stem from our experience, expertise and skills that are highly regarded and necessary in any organization.
Of course, I am able to stay current and knowledgeable about both professional and technical issues through my membership in the AICPA. As fellow members, you know the Institute gives us a professional edge by providing 24/7 access to trusted information and reliable tools. In an increasingly complicated and competitive business world, it’s good to know that I can turn to the AICPA to tap into the information I need when and where I need it.
In addition to technical information, I rely on many other member benefits that make my work more efficient or more profitable. They also may save my firm, my family or me money and some members find the discounts more than pay for membership. Below are some of the member benefits I’ve used:
I was a kid from a
blue-collar immigrant background, growing up in a neighborhood where most adults
cobbled together a living from two or three jobs. When I turned 12, our
community got its first CPA resident. That’s when I learned what a CPA was, and
that it could lead to a better life. Thanks to the CPA profession, I grew up to
be able to live the great American Dream.
I am honored and
excited to write to you as the new
AICPA Chairman of the Board of Directors. I believe the CPA
profession is full of even more promise today than it was when I first started
my career. For those with determination, adaptability and persistence, the
profession offers extraordinary possibilities. I’ve learned the key to
achieving that success: embracing change and seeing the opportunities in it.
It’s amazing to see what can happen within a single year. That’s one of my main observations as I complete my extraordinary time as your chairman.
I was honored to serve as chairman during the AICPA’s 125th anniversary. The Institute’s founders wanted to make a difference in the lives of CPAs and the people and organizations with whom they worked. They clearly succeeded, and I am confident we will continue to create value for our clients, employers and the public as the 21st Century progresses. As this year draws to a close, I see an increasingly vibrant profession preparing for the immense challenges facing us. Most of all, I see a profession that, throughout its history, has served with integrity and unleashed opportunities for success.
In these days of continuous information, it’s essential to give people and organizations precisely the details they need to make important decisions. What never fails to cut through the clutter is information that is relevant, understandable and useful (not to mention correct). As CPAs, we often are a conduit for complex technical information, providing analysis and guidance in the process. We currently are working on two critical initiatives that bring this hallmark of our profession to life.
This year, the profession is proudly celebrating a major milestone: the AICPA’s 125-yearanniversary. We are one of the few professional organizations to reach this landmark birthday. I believe we got here because the profession’s core values—integrity, objectivity and competence—have made CPAs the most trusted financial professionals and will continue to do so. Those values have remained constant since 1887, and they will serve us well in the 21st Century.
Reaching 125 years of age deserves recognition, so we kicked off our celebration of that achievement with a special Council meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Since the Institute plays an important role in educating and influencing policymakers, the gathering began with more than 400 representatives of the AICPA and governing Council visiting their legislators on Capitol Hill to reinforce our important thought leadership role. We talked with congressional leaders about two public interest initiatives launched in honor of the occasion.
I want to make you aware of a great marketplace-driven opportunity for the CPA profession. Similar to what is being done in the tax and integrated reporting areas, the AICPA is initiating a comprehensive campaign to support CPAs as the premier choice for reporting on a service organization’s controls and to mark our guidance as the gold standard for such services.
Many of you likely are aware that Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70, Service Organizations, has been transformed to meet the needs of the evolving service organization marketplace. SAS 70’s guidance for service auditors reporting on controls at a service organization relevant to internal control over financial reporting of the service organization’s customers was moved to Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagement No. 16, Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization. Reporting on controls related to subject matter other than internal control over financial reporting (such as the security, availability or processing integrity of a system, or the confidentiality or privacy of the information processed by that system) became a new attestation engagement.
What’s your dream, your long-term professional goal, your plan for the future of your career? I ask because whatever your answer, I’m pretty sure the AICPA has resources that can help you meet that goal. I’ll tell you about my own experience.
After spending many years at a large national accounting firm, I joined with two other partners nine years ago to follow my dream and launch my own firm. Today, we have three offices and 100 people. How were we able to grow so quickly into the kind of firm we dreamed of being? I have to give some of the credit to the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section. PCPS serves in a combination of roles, providing tools, publications and resources created especially for small and medium-sized firms. It also acts as an advocate on behalf of our interests, speaking out on issues that affect us and our clients.
Welcome to my first blog post as the new AICPA Chairman of the Board of Directors. I am honored to serve you and our wonderful profession during the next year and hope to meet many of you as I travel around the country.
It’s a great privilege to take on the role of chairman in the year the AICPA celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2012. A source of pride for all of us, this milestone signifies both the historic and contemporary importance and relevance of our profession, and its staying power as a career.