Floyd Amuchie, CPA, has been the corporate controller at Virgin Galactic, the space travel company, for about a year. In this episode, Amuchie discusses his early fascination with astronomy, why the phrase "lift as you climb" is meaningful to him, what parenting a newborn was like during the pandemic, and why "invest" is part of his career advice to aspiring CPAs.
Also, hear a summary of two recent news items related to the IRS:
- The IRS has eased the application process for U.S. residency certification.
- The IRS issued proposed regulations that would revise the premium tax credit's affordability test.
What you'll learn from this episode:
- How an early interest in space led to Amuchie landing a job with Virgin Galactic.
- The importance of the phrase "lift as you climb."
- What the pandemic lockdown period taught him about the value of human connection.
- Why finance purpose statements can be a "guiding light."
- The advice he offers aspiring CPAs.
Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:
To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.
Neil Amato: We're glad to have you back for another episode of the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is Neil Amato. Coming up is a wide-ranging conversation with the corporate controller at Virgin Galactic, CPA Floyd Amuchie. We talk first-time parenthood, career advice, and the value of having a finance purpose statement. Also, we have news on several fronts related to the IRS. You'll hear it all after this word from our sponsor.
Amato: Welcome to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. I'm your host, Neil Amato. For this segment, I'm joined by CPA Floyd Amuchie. Floyd is the corporate controller at Virgin Galactic, the space travel company. Floyd, welcome to the podcast, and I guess, actually, welcome back, as we did have you on a short segment in a December episode. Thanks for coming back.
Floyd Amuchie: No problem. Happy to be back.
Amato: First, I mentioned the company that you work for, Virgin Galactic. How did you become interested in working for them?
Amuchie: I've always had an interest in space, in astronomy, and I'm sure you could probably remember the first time you saw a model of a solar system, or first time you drew a spaceship in elementary school. Or even the first time you understood how many miles it's really between the Earth and the moon.
I think space has always been a thing of wonder for me at least. I was already open when I got the call from Virgin about the position. Really after I had dug into the history of Virgin Galactic and really evaluated the unique opportunity that I was presented with, I went to Allina, my wife, told her that this was something I wanted to do and we decided together that this would definitely be something worth investing in and really has been great ever since. I was already open to the whole industry before.
Amato: How long have you worked for them?
Amuchie: I'm just crossing my one-year anniversary. April 1st, so a year now.
Amato: OK. Great. You're Southern California-based, correct?
Amuchie: Yes. Orange County.
Amato: Now speaking of Orange County, I believe it's the Orange County Business Journal in which I saw a headline on an article about you that mentioned the phrase, "Lift as you climb." What's the significance of that to you, "Lift as you climb"?
Amuchie: It's a real meaningful phrase. Lifting as we climb is something that I learned back when I first became a member of the National Association of Black Accountants [NABA]. That's actually their motto. It was really members of NABA, black men, black women, who were successful in their own careers. People were working hard to carve their own place in the profession. People with busy schedules, busy lives, and they really took time out of their lives to invest their time and energy in helping me see the opportunities in the CPA profession and everything that the profession had to give.
When I actually decided to enter their profession, they really made it a comfortable and familiar space for me. I wouldn't really be on this specific path if had not been for NABA. Because of that, I feel like I have a responsibility to do that for others. As I continue to push and continue to grow, I have to look back and lift others and show them that there's a place for them here as well. As you continue to progress, you got to go back, lift people up as well. There's a lot of meaning I think in that phrase, and I'm living it right now.
Amato: Later on in this segment, we will touch on maybe some advice you might have for aspiring CPAs. I guess you can help lift them up. In a previous conversation, you mentioned that during the pandemic you became a parent. Were you a first-time parent? And what was that like having that happen while also trying to work, I guess, full-time remote?
Amuchie: Yeah. First-time parent, my daughter, Sofia, is amazing. We actually have one on the way as well, so I'm going to be a second-time parent pretty soon. But, yeah, Sofia is funny. Sofia is really into Coco right now. I have the morning drop-off, so all we do is sing Disney songs together. I'm not going to prove it here, but I know all the words to "Un Poco Loco." I know all of them.
Amato: I won't make you do that.
Amuchie: Thank you. But, yeah, I think being a parent is probably, I'd say, the greatest journey I've been on. It's probably one of the greatest journeys anyone can experience. But the beginning is tough. When you're dealing with a newborn, you got no sleep, there's crying, dirty diapers. It gets to be a lot. You're kind of in lockdown already because the baby is small. You can't really go outside. You can't really do much. I think every parent really secretly dreams of when the baby is 4 to 5 months, you can actually go outside, experience the world. They're more active. They can do stuff.
We got to that point really around February of 2020, and then the lockdown happened. We were already in lockdown, really looking forward to escaping, and then we were back locked down again, and it was even tougher because now you have to work. You have to go on Zoom meetings. I got really good at mute on and mute off. When they cry, you just put the mute on. But it was definitely tough. Glad we got through it. I think we're better because we got that time to spend with our daughter and be close to her versus just being full-time working parents. But I definitely think that every pandemic parent deserves a medal, a gold star, and probably a couple of glasses of wine, too.
Amato: Yeah. You mentioned resilience when we talked before about looking back on that time and thinking about the notion of "we made it," but I guess it had a special meaning for you and your wife in that time.
Amuchie: Definitely, tough times, but we got stronger, if anything, through that, and we were able to spend time together. So wouldn't take it away, wouldn't go back and change anything.
Amato: What would you say you learned about yourself from that whole experience?
Amuchie: I learned a lot. I think the main thing definitely is that I learned I'm very lucky to have such an amazing wife. My wife is a great mother to our little girl, and Sofia and I are definitely lucky to have her. I think without her, we definitely wouldn't have made it through. That's number one. I'm lucky to have a great wife, great partner. I think aside from that, I think the pandemic really solidified my love for community and people and being around good people, because I think a lot of people, myself included, took advantage of that connection before the pandemic.
Then once you're in lockdown and you really you can't go out and meet new people. You can't really work with your colleagues on a day-to-day basis just in person. I think you start to miss that. I think we're two-plus, I guess, years from where we've all just had distance. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back out there and just restoring those connections, building new ones both personally and professionally. But I think just being able to have that human connection is something that I learned that is very important to me.
Amato: One instance where we did get to renew those human connections was in December in Nashville, where I got to meet you at the Future of Finance Summit. On the topic of that summit, that group, the Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group, I guess you've been talking about finance purpose statements. I think some people have been sharing, if they have such a purpose statement for their finance team, what those are. I'm hoping you can share what that means to you, why you have them, and what specifically is your finance purpose statement for Virgin Galactic?
Amuchie: Yeah. Finance purpose statements. I think of them as a guiding light that helps you understand where your focus needs to be. Most companies, especially ones that are growing a lot like Virgin Galactic, there's just a lot to tackle on a day-to-day basis.
You don't always have unlimited resources to tackle everything, so you really have to prioritize and figure out where you need to put your focus on so that you can get the biggest impact of your time. We all have limited time.
I think a purpose statement can help with that. At VG, our accounting team, we have three pillars: foundational excellence, supporting operational insight, and increasing operational leverage. I think those three things mean a little something different to every person, but there is a consistent theme. On our team, they're really purposefully ordered. You start with foundational excellence. That's really being amazing at your core job duties. That starts with understanding what those responsibilities are, understanding how you can be successful, given those responsibilities, and really understanding how you can measure your performance.
Really just taking stake in what you need to do, your core day-to-day, and making sure you could be amazing at that. Once you get that down, then you could really start helping the organization. I think that's key for the finance function because a lot of data just comes across our desk.
We see not only financial information but also operational information. Really, I think we have a responsibility to show or help the company understand, through that data, how they're performing. We can help business leaders make informed business decisions with the data that's coming across us. I think that's very important for us to help the organization to succeed in that way.
But, of course, you can't do that unless you're doing your job right first, so that's why foundational excellence is first. Then after you can have time to really help with operational insight, then you go to increasing operational leverage, and that's really having that efficient scale. At Virgin, we want to grow, we have plans to grow rapidly, but we want to grow efficiently. We just don't want to throw money at everywhere and hope it sticks. The accounting team is not excluded from that, so that means we have to find ways to leverage technology, streamline processes, and really help drive operational leverage within our function while also helping leaders outside of the accounting finance function understand that increasing operational leverage is important to the business.
That's really how we scale them, how there's no more funds that job to the bottom line that we then invest in the future or invest in our talent, in our people. At least those are the three pillars that we go by and really helps give us a guiding light on where we really need to focus, helps us prioritize, helps us say, OK, we probably can't do this now if it's not within those three pillars. We could do it later, but at least we can do everything we can for those three pillars first to set up a good foundation for the growth of our company.
Amato: For someone whose finance function maybe doesn't have such a finance purpose statement right now, what can you tell about how one should go about creating it perhaps?
Amuchie: I would really try to understand, number one, what is the function? How can you be successful? Really understanding that, your core job duties, will give you understanding of where you need to focus.
There are fires every day, but if you go down to the level of what do I need to do to make sure that we have a world-class finance team. That might be paying vendors on time, that might be giving operational reports timely, curating data, what is your true function?
Then you say, OK, let me make sure that I have something that can guide me to make sure I focus on that first. That just helps guide you, I think. Really understanding what your function is, what's expected of the finance team at your organization, I think is definitely a good start.
Amato: What two or three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring CPAs out there?
Amuchie: I would say number one, invest. I think if you invest in the profession, the opportunities that will come your way are really endless. That's just really taking the time to learn, taking the time to be open to different things, and really just invest in being good at your profession. This is like a lifelong profession for some people and really takes that understanding that you need to invest in it to really go places. I'd say that's probably number one, just invest.
I think number two is definitely try to understand the business of whatever company, firm, or even entrepreneurial thing that you take on. Try to understand the inner workings of the business because accounting in general makes so much more sense once you understand the business. Then you could apply the accounting profession to really anything.
I think the last thing is really probably cliché for the industry I'm in. Chase the wonder, reach for the stars, continue to set goals, and continue to achieve them. We're only here once, so might as well try to be the best at whatever you're trying to accomplish.
Amato: I think that's a really good message. Floyd, anything you'd like to add in closing? I've enjoyed the conversation.
Amuchie: I think I really want to echo what I said before just about the resilience. I think we met in December, and there are still different variants and stuff. People haven't fully returned to work. Hopefully, that's going to be sooner rather than later, but I think we just need to continue to be resilient.
We have been. We just need to continue to do that, and we'll get on the other side of this and really be, I think, better off than when we were.
Amato: Floyd, thank you very much.
Amuchie: Thank you so much for having me. Look forward to the next one.
Amato: Again, that was CPA Floyd Amuchie. In other news, the Journal of Accountancy's Paul Bonner has coverage of two recent Internal Revenue Service items of interest.
First, the IRS temporarily revised its procedures for some submitters of a U.S. residency certification form to facilitate applications where the IRS has not yet completed its processing of the applicant's most recently filed tax return.
Also, the IRS proposed regulations Tuesday that would change the interpretation of how affordability of employer health care coverage is determined for purposes of a premium tax credit. You can find that headline, "Proposed regulations revise premium tax credits affordability test," on the Journal of Accountancy homepage. You can also find a link to those articles in the show notes for this episode.
Paul Bonner is also covering the Senate Finance Committee hearing with the IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. That's on Thursday, just about when this podcast is publishing, so look for updates on the JofA page or in future episodes. Thanks for listening to the Journal of Accountancy podcast.