The Last Word: Virginia Harn

A closer look at some of the intriguing, inspiring and imaginative folks who are the heart of the AICPA.
BY CHERYL ROSEN

VIRGINIA HARN, CPA
Tax principal
LarsonAllen
Minneapolis, Minn.

I MAJORED IN MUSIC IN COLLEGE, but I went to work in a social services agency and eventually moved into quality assurance. The agency received a lot of federal funding, and I was responsible for making sure we were in compliance with all the standards and policies. I started taking night classes toward my MBA and when I took a couple of accounting classes I finally figured out what I wanted to be. I passed the CPA exam and took a job with a small firm that was acquired by LarsonAllen in 1994. Now I’m a tax principal in the manufacturing, distribution and retail industry group.

I STILL PLAY THE PIANO. I’ve accompanied children’s choirs at church and played for a couple of weddings, but mostly I play for personal enjoyment.

WHAT ATTRACTED ME TO ACCOUNTING were the detail and the organization and the process that are part of the early positions in your career. I like all the rules. I love tax in particular. It’s the arena where you can make a bottom-line difference in terms of good planning for a business owner.

I HAVE TWO CHILDREN, so it’s super-important to me to figure out a way to blend my career with my family. Some days it goes really well and some days I feel like a total loser on both sides. I don’t have delusions of being a superstar, but I do want to achieve a level of satisfaction in both roles—for myself and also as a role model for other women.

FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS LarsonAllen has served as a corporate sponsor for an initiative of the College of St. Catherine to help middle-market women-owned businesses grow. A local law firm approached me about helping and I took the idea to our board of directors, which approved it unanimously. We feel it’s the right thing to be doing for a couple of reasons. There are 209,000 women-owned businesses in Minnesota; one goal of the initiative is to enhance networking opportunities for women throughout the community. So being part of this puts us out in front of a lot of potential clients. Internally, it’s been a fantastic opportunity for the women in our firm to get to know each other and really come to understand the different services the firm provides. There’s a different energy in networking events that are largely for and by women.

PUBLIC ACCOUNTING IS SOMEWHAT 24/7 in the sense that it’s driven by business relationships, and they don’t have a neat beginning and end. But when you’re raising children, there’s just a small window of time to spend with them. I don’t want to give that up—and I also don’t want to step out of my career. If you’re very organized, though, you can serve your clients, meet your scheduling commitments and still be a soccer mom. I live three miles from downtown, so I don’t spend a lot of time commuting. As a tax principal, I rely on my husband to take on much more of the household load during tax season. I do think blending career and family has made it harder for me to achieve the status of equity principal, but I do plan to get there.

IF YOU CAN STAY IN THE GAME and successfully keep both pieces moving, then at the natural point when your children are independent you can step back into work at a stronger level. I think it’s important for my children to see the role model of having a career and children. I’m really grateful to be a woman in America, to have these choices. The nation needs the strength of women who want to contribute to the economy and to their families. I believe it’s a noble cause.

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