CPA INSIDER

Accountants reveal what inspires them every day

By Cheryl Meyer

CPAs in general are focused, driven, meticulous, and hardworking. But day in, day out, how do they stay inspired?

We asked nine accountants what inspires them and what advice they would give to help others in the profession find that inspiration. Here are their replies:

Make a difference. Sole proprietor James Scherer, CPA, owner of James T. Scherer, CPA, in Hiawatha, Kan., strives to better the lives of his clients, even beyond accounting. "I took one client to get her cataracts removed 70 miles away because there was no one else to help her," he said. "I approach each day knowing that I will make a difference in someone's life." His advice for staying inspired: Realize that you will influence your clients' lives and finances. "Your client is not just a number or someone who received that 1099, but they are a person who is just like your mother, father, spouse, child," he noted.

Meditate. A few years ago, Josh Ray, CPA/CITP/PFS, principal at Ray CPA P.C. in Round Rock, Texas, felt tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. So he began meditating, and he saw results immediately. Through meditation, he tries to "connect" and have compassion for everyone, including family, friends, colleagues, and clients. "My entire life has changed as a result," he said. "Even if I disagree with someone, I try to see things through their eyes. I no longer have enemies, only teachers. We are all connected."

Envision growth and success. Laura Canales, CPA, of Laura L. Canales CPA, in Eagle, Idaho, finds inspiration from the possibility of "growth and success" she sees with her business clients. She helps them solve problems through research and guidance. "I am always trying to figure out new things to teach them, connect them with other professionals who can advise them, and really try to push them to be better and more efficient in the use of their resources," she said. Her advice: "Look for the ways you can genuinely help your clients — become their adviser, not just their number cruncher." This can also help your business because you will likely gain referrals.

Help staff and young entrepreneurs. Tim Fulmer, CPA, CGMA, partner at Carr, Riggs & Ingram in Miramar Beach, Fla., feels inspired by helping his staff "learn and flourish in the exciting business of public accounting," he said. One way he does this is by allowing young employees to shadow him in client meetings "to show them how our work product impacts a case or how it impacts the client in getting a good result," he said. Fulmer also gets inspired when he uses his expertise to help young entrepreneurs.

Do what you love. Denise Kautzer, CPA, a licensed professional clinical counselor at the counseling and mental health firm Alberg & Associates in St. Paul, Minn., stays inspired through activities like yoga, cooking, painting, and reading. "I try to take the same advice I give to clients, which is, 'Find out what you like to do and do more of it.' I do these activities because they help to keep me mentally and physically healthy. They all provide ways to help reduce stress, which allows me to approach my work in a calm and even-tempered manner." Her additional advice for staying inspired: Work in an area or industry that you enjoy, find creative ways to use your expertise, and do work that you deem important.

Aspire to be the best. Honey Hernandez, CPA, audit manager at Fortner Smalley PLLC in Kingsport, Tenn., said she tries to be the best accountant for herself, her family, and her employer — and that keeps her motivated. "My job has meaning," she said. "I want to do the very best for my clients." Her advice: Keep up to speed on the latest regulatory rulings and how they will affect your clients.

Get to know clients and avoid burnout. Denise Graham, CPA, owner at Graham & Associates CPAs in Alabaster, Ala., gets inspired by engaging with clients, helping them with their businesses and taxes, and "getting to know them personally, along with their families," she said. Her advice for staying inspired and effectively working with clients: Avoid burnout. Pace yourself. "If you find that nothing is getting completed or you find it impossible to answer phone calls, schedule meetings, respond to emails,  then you have too much on your plate." Take a step back and get to the core of the problem, whether it's workload, a client, an employee, or a need for a vacation.

Connect with clients. Matt Solvason, CPA (Canada), CA (chartered accountant), and owner of Matt A. Solvason Chartered Professional Accountant Inc. in Winnipeg, Manitoba, loves learning and tries to stay up-to-date on any income tax changes by reading blogs and other websites. But he also finds inspiration by talking with his clients throughout the year to see how their businesses are faring. "It is always best to find out whether your client is thinking of buying or selling a business, deciding to purchase or lease equipment, etc., beforehand so that you can provide them with value-added services and analyses of the alternatives," he said. By doing this you can potentially save clients money, which can in turn help their businesses grow. His advice: Determine what you enjoy most about your work and incorporate that into your daily or weekly activities.

Create variety. Joe Rapacki, CPA/PFS, founder of Rapacki & Co., in Edina, Minn., finds inspiration in the mixture of work he does and the various clients his firm serves. "Although much of the accounting and tax work can be routine, I'm inspired by the variety of ideas clients have come up with, which results in successful small businesses," he said. "This is fun to learn and makes the work more interesting."

Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in California. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager of newsletters at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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