Accounting & Auditing | Ethics & Professional Issues | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

#AuditorProud: Leaders’ advice for next-gen CPAs

#AuditorProud was in evidence at the MACPA’s recent “Celebrate the Profession” event, featuring the swearing-in of new Maryland CPAs.

In remarks during and following the event, leaders in the profession shared why they are proud to be CPAs, and encouraged the next generation of CPAs to retain and build on their sense of pride by maintaining confidence, always doing the right thing (no matter how hard), and to network and share with each other, to be a community of support.

Have confidence
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor’s earliest involvement in the profession was triggered by an e-mail from the MACPA seeking to organize what became the New / Young Professionals Network, or NYPN. Ellison-Taylor, global accounting strategy director for the Financial and Professional Services Industries for Oracle America, quickly became deeply involved in the MACPA, rising to chair of the association. In addition, she became involved in the AICPA, serving on the executive committee of the board and on the CPA Horizons 2025 project. This year, she was installed as AICPA vice chair.

Next year, Ellison-Taylor will become the first AICPA chair from Maryland and the first African-American woman to lead the AICPA in its 127-year history. MACPA CEO Tom Hood says of Ellison-Taylor, “What’s most significant about Kimberly (is) she’s an amazing, inspiring, caring leader.”

Welcoming the next generation of CPAs is something Ellison-Taylor relishes. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here,” Ellison-Taylor told the record-breaking gathering at the MACPA’s Newly Licensed CPA Swearing-In event in November.

“In a rapidly changing and complex world, we need you more than ever,” she said. “As CPAs, you like challenges. You are hard-working, persistent, focused and committed.” Evidencing their commitment to passing the CPA exam and balancing that with work and family responsibilities, she joked with the new CPAs, “If I had a dollar for every time you said, ‘I have to study, I can’t go,’ I’d be rich!” She also acknowledged the support given to the new CPAs by their friends and families.

Reflecting on her own path to the profession, Ellison-Taylor told the group her interest in becoming a CPA was formed when she attended a career fair in the third grade. “I fixated on becoming a CPA, the pursuit of excellence, an unwavering commitment,” she said. Known as an inspiring role model in her work across the state for the MACPA and across the country for the AICPA, Ellison-Taylor continued, ”Who would have known, growing up in the city of Baltimore on Gilmore Street, I would be standing on this stage.”

“I am proof: If I can do it, you can do it,” she said. “You really can start here and go anywhere (alluding to the AICPA’s “Start Here Go Places” student recruitment program). One day you will be our CFOs, our deans, our managing directors. Our profession is an amazing one. There are so many different areas and volunteer aspects.”

Ellison-Taylor’s advice to new CPAs? “Network with colleagues. That’s what helped me reach this point, to lead an organization of over 400,000 members.”

Lending her support to the next generation of CPAs, Ellison-Taylor said, “I have every confidence that whatever your dreams and ambitions are, you will achieve them, and I look forward to working with you.”

She encouraged them to be proud of their hard-earned CPA licenses and keep that feeling with them, instilling confidence in themselves and their dreams throughout their careers.

Do the right thing
Art Flach, chairman of the Maryland State Board of Public Accountancy and former chairman of the MACPA’s Board of Directors, has interacted a great deal with new CPAs in his various roles, which have also included serving as partner in charge of Grant Thornton’s Baltimore office and as an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore.

But it is in his current role as chair of the Maryland State Board of Public Accountancy that Flach shares a message with new CPAs, so they and the profession can retain their sense of being #AuditorProud.

Key parts of his message, presented in its entirety below, include that CPAs should be proud of their accomplishments, be cognizant of their role in serving the public interest, and to always “do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.”

“Congratulations on your achievement. You are members of a very select group of professionals. You have undertaken rigorous study and passed a very comprehensive examination to get where you are today.

“The message I want to impart to you is, in this profession, you will be challenged every single day; challenged intellectually as well as ethically.

"I want to challenge you to rise to the occasion when times are difficult, and never deviate from your ethical and moral standards. I want you to take pride in your accomplishments.

“Accounting is the language of business, and our new CPAs are the linguists of business. You translate the results of operations into a language that few truly understand, and the public relies on you; you work in the public trust. 

"I also want to stress to you that without CPAs, there is no commerce. Banks won’t lend money, suppliers won’t extend credit, investors won’t invest, and companies won’t be able to sell on payment terms or obtain funds to fund operations without financial statements they can rely on.

“Without you, there are no financial markets. Public companies wouldn’t be able to sell stock on an exchange without audited financial statements, and private companies wouldn’t be able to secure investor capital or debt financing without financial statements.

“Without CPAs, there is no investor confidence, no public funding of state and local projects, and owners won’t be able to determine what return on investment is possible, or will be, for additional investments.

“Everything revolves around CPAs adhering around our guiding principles, to make sure we continue to hold the public trust at the forefront of the profession.

“With great knowledge, comes great responsibility.

“I want to say to you, unequivocally, always do the right thing.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, people know the right course of action, but the right answer is often the most difficult answer. It is often the most courageous answer as well, but we have to meet it head on, make sure we are courageous in our actions, and understand that we need to act in the public interest, to retain the public trust, at all times.

“Take pride in what you have accomplished. Relish it, share it. Be proud to be a CPA!”

If you want to go far, go together
If anyone is #AuditorProud, it is Tom Hood. Speaking to the newly licensed CPAs, he said, “The CPA profession is one of the best groups on the planet.” Why? “Because of all the things we represent.” Hood stressed the importance of the public interest in his remarks to the new CPAs, including the fact that being a CPA is more than a just a “credential,” but a license to practice in the public interest.  

Stressing the importance of being part of a community, Hood shared his list of the “Top 5 things a CPA should do in the first year.”

  1. Become a MACPA member.
  2. Attend a town hall meeting.
  3. Come to CPA Day in Annapolis, on Jan. 21.
  4. Attend the MACPA’s Leadership Academy.
  5. Get connected through NYPN, the MACPA’s local chapters, and through the MACPA’s social networks.

Generally, Hood observed, the CPA firms provide a great deal of technical training in accounting, audit and tax, and provide a wealth of opportunities to hone those technical skills, but don’t teach soft skills like communication, networking and leadership, which are key to a professional’s success. This is where the NYPN in particular, and the MACPA and the Business Learning Institute more generally, offer training and opportunities to practice soft skills, “picking up where your firms (and the CPA exam) leave off.”

The importance of sharing and supporting others’ success was a key message imparted by Hood to the next generation of CPAs. Quoting an African proverb, he said, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” And with that, he added, “We look forward to seeing you in the profession.”