Peter Hughes
Peter Hughes

Going That Extra Mile

Five tips show you what CFOs can achieve.

February 3, 2011
by Peter Hughes, CPA, CFF

Every job description has a minimum set of requirements to perform the job successfully, but no description ever defines the maximum; what it takes to go above and beyond a job's minimum requirements is up to the individual. Going the extra mile has helped me establish a fulfilling and enjoyable career in the accounting profession. While each individual's "extra mile" is different, here are five ways you can give more to your job or the profession to get the most out of both.

1. Listen to and (when appropriate) take the advice of others: After I finished my MBA at the University of California, Riverside, some of my professors encouraged me to sit for the CPA exam. They commented that I would make a really good CPA and be a major influence in any company I worked for. While I had never considered taking the CPA exam before, I followed their advice.  I am so glad I did because the CPA designation has helped me tremendously throughout my career.

2. Realize that the job you do is invaluable: Audits thrive on integrity and honesty and this is an invaluable process that can have less than desirable outcomes if not done correctly or only half-way. My job is to make sure that everyone is held accountable, that every audit and every conversation with a client is conducted in a helpful way so that the client may achieve his or her business goals more effectively.

3. Let your clients know you are part of the solution, not the problem: When I was the director of Internal Audit for Oregon University System I met a vice chancellor whose feeling about auditors was, "No good will come from you." I took that as a challenge. I focused on becoming a constructive problem solver and got everyone focused on the solution and galvanized to fix the problem. By the end of the audit I received a compliment from the chancellor -- he told me that no previous auditor had ever given him viable solutions to implement, but I had. I've always made sure to explain to my clients why I am doing something so they can understand my intent.

4. Make partners out of your colleagues: Everyone in management essentially becomes my ally or my staff. I take the time to let them know why I do the processes I do and let them see the value in it, so eventually they connect the dots and it's easier for both of us to get our jobs done when we partner together.

5. When you delegate tasks, take the time to train staff: I do not simply hand staff members a project and tell them to complete it. Instead, I train them on how I want the work done, which makes a world of difference. If you do not take the time to train, you are abdicating and leaving the outcome to chance. I know assignments will be done and delivered a certain way because I teach my staff members how to do them.

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Peter Hughes, CPA, CIA, CFE, MBA, CFF, CITP, CCEP, is director of Internal Audit at Orange County Board of Supervisors and is a 2010 recipient of AICPA’S Outstanding CPA of the Year award. He serves on the Board of Research and Education Advisory Committee for the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and is on the editorial board of advisors for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).