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CPAs Share Secrets to Success

Hint: It’s not all ticking and footing. What’s your success secret? Join the survey; see the results.

September 6, 2007
by Rick Telberg/On Finance

“Passion” is not a word that pops up in a lot of business studies. But ask accountants and finance managers for the secret formula to a successful CPA career and “passion” is mentioned many times and in different ways.

“There are so many different career paths one can take; finding the career path that you are passionate about is key and it takes time,” said James Hoffman, an assistant controller in Englewood, Colo.

Joanne Newfield of Cherry Hill, N.J., a comptroller who also runs her own public practice and teaches accounting, advises new accountants: “Don’t give up. Find your passion in accounting and specialize in that area."

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Sole practitioners and managing partners of local CPA firms are particularly outspoken about the need for passion. One small firm managing partner said that “lack of passion” is the biggest disabler in CPA careers, while the biggest career enabler is “passion for your career, your firm and your clients.”

Another small firm managing partner advises new accountants to “develop a passion for your work, meet people and develop a network of friends and peers.” Yet another managing partner at a local firm adds that the biggest career success factor is “passion for the job being done.” Or, as another managing partner glibly put it: “Passion first and then pension.”

Robert Holman, a sole practitioner in Birmingham, Ala., advises, “Determine your strengths and passions and work to become the best at these.” Holman, who has some 30 years of experience, also cites integrity and a dedication to lifelong learning as among the key factors to career success.

Virtually all of the practitioners who mention passion as a career attribute also name “integrity” and “a dedication to lifelong learning.” It would seem that for professional accountants, passion is more than just workplace commitment — it is a dedication to higher standards and continuing improvement.

Peter Frank, a senior staffer with a nonprofit organization in Dumfries, Va., also implied that this dedication was a key factor when he told us that “CPAs are more than just accountants,” and that the profession has a responsibility to be “respected and held important to business.”

A CPA who is a senior staffer with a vendor that serves the accounting profession advises young CPAs to volunteer their services to organizations in which they have a deep interest, such as a local theater group. “Then you will be combining two passions into one,” he says.

A senior staffer in corporate finance, who has about 10 years of accounting experience, offers this advice to those with little or no experience: “Pay your dues in terms of the needed experience. Do the fundamentals right, get to know yourself and what makes you tick and then match your strengths and passions to your chosen career.”

YOUR TURN: What’s the CPA secret of success? Join the survey; get the results.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC: All Rights Reserved: Used by Permission.

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About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.

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