‘Most solutions require listening, analysis, and creativity.’
Finance runs in the family: My dad was Vermont’s deputy state auditor for 24 years, and his dad was an auditor and a utility accountant. I have one sibling that is a CFO and another that is an auditor. I started as an auditor with a Big Eight firm in Maine and spent nine years specializing in banks and municipalities. I returned to Vermont to run the SEC reporting of a publicly held commercial bank and went on to become CFO of Vermont’s only natural gas utility for 10 years. In 2019, I joined Lund as director of finance. In public accounting, our audit philosophy was “understanding the client’s business.” I have practiced that mantra throughout my career, and it has helped me transition from commercial banking to public utilities, state government, and nonprofits. I created Philo Financial Consulting LLC when I went out on my own to do fractional CFO services work. I have kept it active, as I still do some work from time to time, and my intention is to do more of it when I move into semiretirement.
Invest in accounting professionals: I firmly believe that the money nonprofits spend on their finance and accounting teams pays dividends, whether it is in the form of lower audit fees or enhanced credibility with funding sources. It is true that it is hard to fund-raise for overhead, but it is harder to fund-raise without solid management of finances and internal controls. If you can, pool resources with other smaller nonprofits to share the resources.
Young professionals are key to the future: We need to attract more young people to accounting. The Vermont Society has an active young professionals’ group that helps engage young people and helps them see a career path in accounting. My advice to young people is to learn as much as you can and do as many things as you can in as many different industries as you can.
Make career moves that suit your personality: One of the most important career decisions I made after college was choosing a firm whose personality was similar to mine. I did auditing in Maine, a part of New England where people are known for being practical. I see myself as a sort of practical accountant, and I really enjoyed working with clients and helping them make sense of their financial statements. I had many mentors — my dad, college professors, and other supervisors I have had along the way. Looking back on my career, it appears I had a plan all the way through, but a lot of it was figuring it out along the way and moving on to new roles when I was ready.
Important skills for successful CPAs: Listening is most important. Second is strong verbal communication skills, and third would be analytical ability. Most solutions require listening, analysis, and creativity.
Favorite cuisine: Italian is easily my favorite. I recently visited my daughter, who is studying in Rome, and that was the best week of eating I can imagine.
Favorite music: The Eagles have been my favorite for more than 45 years.
Favorite place to visit: I started a project to see a Major League Baseball game in all 30 stadiums and a professional game in all 50 states. I’m exactly halfway to reaching each goal.
— As told to Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to recommend an AICPA member as a Last Word subject, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.