Marie Brilmyer, CPA

Partner, Assurance, with Cohen & Company in Akron, Ohio

Marie Brilmyer, CPA, is partner, Assurance, with Cohen & Company in Akron, Ohio.
Marie Brilmyer, CPA, is partner, Assurance, with Cohen & Company in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Phil Long/AP Images)

'Leadership is about empowering others ...'

Finding balance: My entire career has been spent in public accounting. I have three kids at home who are all active, and my husband works full time as well, and I've loved both the flexibility and the opportunities that public accounting allows. I think my greatest challenge has been in figuring out how to step back or when I need to step back. About five years ago, I sat down and wrote down everything I was involved in. I ultimately landed on prioritizing what I was spending my time on. There were things I was doing where I could take a lesser role. It's important to not multitask every single moment and to focus on being present. I worked on being at peace with that. I've learned what works for me but also realize that what works today may not work tomorrow, so it's also about remaining flexible.

Facing private companies' challenges with revenue recognition implementation: I do have clients in specialized industries who have been significantly affected in terms of revenue recognition. During my clients' implementation process, it's been clear that there's no shortage of information and implementation guides, but allocating the time and resources was the big struggle for clients. The most successful were the clients who wanted to talk about it before day one. They had been watching and keeping up. So it was something they integrated into the day to day, versus it being sudden and having to happen at audit time. It was a matter of us having the conversations with them early and throughout the process. They might be doing an evaluation and want to discuss with us, then do some more research and bring it back to us. It is a deliberate process.

The qualities of a successful leader: Successful leaders listen but also hear. When you receive feedback, or people think of new ideas, or you hear of problems that others have encountered, what are you doing with that information? I also have to go back to the idea of flexibility. What you planned to do in public accounting on any given day may not end up being what you need to do. Leadership is about empowering others to find the highest and best use of their skills and abilities, and the best ways they can use those within the team.

Helping younger CPAs in their career: I have served formally and informally as a mentor to younger CPAs over the years. My advice to them has really centered around what has worked for me. I tell them not to compare themselves to others — don't worry about who has been promoted, for example. No matter where they are in that continuum, those types of comparisons could make them feel bad. Instead, I ask them if they are happy with their contributions to their firm and if they are happy with how they're recognized for those contributions. If they're happy with those two items, that should be all that matters.

  • Favorite movie: Solid tie between The Princess Bride and Heathers. I can recite both basically word for word.
  • Favorite app: My local newspaper app. I am a news junkie!
  • Favorite item on my desk: I use sticky notes for everything. I have had to call people to take a picture of the notes on my desk and send them to me when I'm out of the office.

— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Virginia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at

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