A CPA is Who You Are, Not What You Do

October 9, 2018

MBWritten by 
Michael Beck, CPA,
ISCPA Board of Directors
Owner/President - Accounting & Financial Solutions PC

I don’t know about you but I have found it difficult during my career to answer the question “What do you do for a living?” I usually fall back on “I’m a CPA”. It’s not a bad answer as the credential does convey a certain image and prestige. However, I remember long ago one of those management “gurus” telling us “a CPA is who you are, not what you do.” Makes sense.

Earlier this year I came across a phrase that caught my attention and it hasn’t let go. I printed the phrase in bold letters and taped it on my computer screen as a constant reminder to me. It’s been there all summer as I have wrestled to come up

with a satisfactory response.

Recently I met with a couple interested in our financial/retirement planning services. As I was explaining our approach I used the phrase “we help our clients get from point A to point B.” It wasn’t an especially profound statement but one that hopefully conveyed what we do when serving our clients.

When I returned to my desk and saw that challenge stuck to my computer the bells went off. I began to ponder the statement until I developed an answer that I am satisfied with: “I love seeing my clients arrive at their desired destination.”

I had never really considered how we help our clients “arrive” in a multitude of ways, every day. We help our clients evaluate and analyze a single transaction such as the purchase or sale of a major asset. We help our clients arrive at a just amount of tax each year on a tax return in compliance with current code and regulations. We help our clients arrive by growing a healthy and prosperous business during all stages of the life cycle. We help our clients arrive at a retirement that is comfortable and as carefree as possible.

So much of our day to day focus is on the technical aspects of our profession and rightly so. However, I believe much of that is in vain if it doesn’t serve a higher purpose. I’ve worked as a CPA in public accounting since 1985 so more of my career is behind me versus in front of me. This nugget of a phrase that fell into my lap has forced me to rethink my business purpose and that’s a good thing. Regardless of where you are on your career track, I urge you not to wait to come up with an answer that is right for you.

Oh, I almost forgot. What is this “pearl of wisdom” that has challenged me to reconsider and sharpen my purpose at this stage of my career?

People don’t buy what you do … they buy why you do it!

Think about it. Really think about it!

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