The Last Word: Robert Hockensmith

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

ROBERT HOCKENSMITH, CPA
Colonel, U. S. Army National Guard
Phoenix, Arizona

I WAS A 17-YEAR-OLD HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT DURING VIETNAM; I joined the military to get an education. I started as a communications specialist, carrying a radio on my back, and then switched to the military police. I grew up protecting my family so it just made sense to me to protect others. That’s how I see our role as CPAs, too—as helping and protecting people.

THE ARMY PAID FOR MY COLLEGE ON THE GI BILL. I intended to get a degree in computers, but the college had a requirement that all business majors take a year of accounting. The structure of accounting really appealed to me, so I changed to a dual major in MIS and accounting. I started out working for Arthur Andersen in its computer consulting division but I preferred to do accounting, so I struck out on my own in 1984. I have eight employees and 800 individual and corporate clients; I manage $25 million in client funds. My military background has absolutely helped me; a number of clients have told me they trust retired military.

WHILE I WAS IN THE ARMY I QUALIFIED IN FIVE AREAS: military police, finance, public relations, quartermaster and ordinance. Now I’m a full colonel in the Army National Guard. The more qualifications you have, the more likely you are to be called up. I’ve been called a number of times; if they call me again, I’ll be proud to serve. I served during the riots in Watts, when the Pope came to visit, during Desert Storm. I fought wildfires in Arizona and spent a month in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The military has allowed me to live a life I never would have experienced without them, and I believe it’s my responsibility to pay our society back. I believe in serving our country.

I’M A LIFELONG LEARNER; I feel like the more I know, the more I can protect my clients. I’m a certified financial planner and a licensed paralegal; I hold Series 6 and 63 securities licenses and insurance licenses. I’m in law school right now, not so much because I want to practice law but because I just want to know more. I figure if I have to get 40 hours of CPE, why not do it toward something that is really going to benefit me and my clients? I also do a segment about finance and tax on the NBC morning news every Sunday. And I’m a national bodybuilder. I’ve won the Mister Arizona contest five times and the Armed Forces World Championship, and I came in second for Mister North America. I just appeared on Pay Per View’s Night of Champions. I’m 51 years old and often compete against men in their 20s and 30s. They call me the Jack La Lanne of Phoenix.

A PROFESSOR OF MINE ONCE SAID the middle class is the middle class because they want to be; they come home from work and sit at home. I choose to keep myself busy. I learned in the military that giving yourself a goal pushes you to success. You can never be perfect—but you can always be better.

I SEE A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN THE MILITARY AND ACCOUNTING. Both require excellence and discipline, integrity and professionalism. In both we are given the public trust, and the charge and responsibility to guard that trust.

—As told to Cheryl Rosen

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