Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg

Key Tips for Career Success in 2010

Veteran CPAs reveal their competitive edge. What to expect for the New Year: Join the survey; see the results.

December 17, 2009
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

The formula for success in a career in accounting and finance begins with a laser-like focus on serving clients and other stakeholders above and beyond normal expectations, according to a roundup of opinion from over 200 professionals and practitioners.

To be sure, career success, as always, requires hard work, diligence, integrity, an ability to get along with people and lifelong learning. But some qualities may be more important than ever in the year of uncertainty and turbulence that many expect of 2010, according to CPA Trendlines research by Bay Street Group LLC for the AICPA.

Forecast 2010

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“By far the most important thing is individual service,” according to Gloria A. Arvanitis, CPA, at Genesis Partners in Bloomingdale, Ill. “I picked up three new clients through referrals this year due to the fact that they did not like how they were treated by their prior accountants.  They want to know they are being paid attention to, and that the best tax-planning decisions are being made for them before year-end.”

Peter Jannis, Clerk and Comptroller for Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla., has just one word of advice: “Focus.” Carlos L. Holt, CPA, CIA, CFE, an internal audit manager in government service in Nashville, Tenn., has two: “knowledge” and “experience.”

Of course, your career isn’t everything. Mike Gibson at Cole & Reed CPAs in Oklahoma City, Okla., recommends, above all, “maintaining a healthy lifestyle.” But then, he adds, you need a healthy lifestyle “so that you have both the physical and mental energy to manage the stresses of the profession and succeed when stress levels are at their highest.”

To Jay Jackler, CPA, at Goldstein Lewin & Co. CPAs in Boca Raton, Fla., that means “working hard for clients.” They’ll love it if you can, like Jackler, tell them you’ve “caught government mistakes within the IRS, state Department of Revenue, and the Social Security Administration.”

For sure, client service distinguishes both the successful firms and successful professionals, followed by hard work, ability, skills, knowledge and “people skills.” 

“I work hard for the clients,” agrees Samuel Elfe James, CPA, at his self-named firm in Blairsville, Ga.

"Serve your clients, employers, and your personal contacts well, and everything will work out well for you in the end,” says Andrew S. Pfau of Jericho, N.Y. “Give 100 percent effort and treat everyone the way you would treat your best client."

But you can’t stop at that. Scott T. Rediger, CPA, at Rediger & Co. in Lincoln, Neb., urges aspiring CPAs to “continue to learn, adapt to new laws and new technologies.” 

To Melissa M. Wetzel, CPA, a practitioner in Emmitsburg, Md., it’s all about “hard work and learning all the CPA requirements.”

John Kelly at Gurman & Company, PLLC, in Fairfax, Va., urges “Flexibility and keeping up with education. “

Melissa Hawes at Miles Financial Management, Inc., in Malvern, Pa., believes in “relationship-building and accountability.”

The bottom line, of course, is that you can’t ignore “good production and good clients,” advises Chet Ingalls, practicing in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 Accountancy is as much a business as a profession. So Jon Neal at The Neal Group LLC, in Milwaukee, Wis., sees career success in the “ability to be a businessman first, CPA second.”

But one piece of advice may be especially apt for a year like 2010. Donald C. Turnbow, a CPA in his own practice in Dallas, sums it up in one word: “Grit.”

I don’t know where that’s covered on the CPA exam. But it’s something every successful CPA already knows.

SOUND OFF: What to expect for the New Year: Join the survey; see the results.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, questions, ideas? E-mail Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.