Remembering an enthusiastic CPA who challenged the status quo

Hosted by Neil Amato

Steve Player, a CPA with a passion for advancing the profession, recently died. Today, we pause to remember Player and the contributions he enthusiastically made to accounting.

Player generously lent his expertise to numerous Journal of Accountancy and FM magazine projects over the years, and he was a regular speaker at conferences. He did all of that with an infectious fervor.

In 2014, he was the first guest on the CGMA Magazine podcast, the precursor to the FM podcast. On that channel, he was a guest for an episode in March 2020.

This podcast episode with transcript is a tribute to Steve Player, a leading voice among CPAs on the value of agility and someone whose voice could capture the attention of any room.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Player's words on the value of adding agility to the budgeting process.
  • How fellow CPAs and others he worked with appreciated Player's ability to engage with an audience.
  • How Player became an influencer in the profession and his words about being agile in the early days of the pandemic: "We're all in this together."

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: Hello and welcome to the Journal of Accountancy Podcast. This is your host, Neil Amato. This episode is a tribute to a CPA who gave so much to the profession but was taken from us too soon.

Steve Player, a regular source of advice on podcasts, videos, and in articles on our sites died a few weeks ago in his home state of Texas. If you saw Steve Player speak at a conference, you remembered him: the booming voice, the enthusiasm for moving the profession and budgeting forward.

He was a key member of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table. He was an author and a consultant, and he was willing to lend a hand in many ways, whether it was for one of my articles, or a podcast, or someone he was working with at a conference. He was always willing to listen, and he was enthusiastic in giving advice to others. Player was a guest on the first episode of the CGMA Magazine podcast back in 2014. That podcast became the FM magazine podcast, for which he was also a guest in March of 2020.

Steve Player: If you can't change very fast, if your organization is slow and hidebound and stuck on an annual budget, it's real difficult to get people to change, you're like an old ocean tanker out there. You're very slow to turn, and you lose to an organization that is much more like a motorboat. All our organizations in the 21st century need to operate more like motorboats. By that I mean, we've got to get more agile. We've got to increase our ability to change. We have to increase our culture. That requires trust and a whole lot of things that we don't have time to talk about today. The more agile your organization is, the less dependent you are on forecasting.

If I'm an ocean tanker and it takes me a long time to change, I have to have a forecast that sees a very, very long horizon because I have to see problems and opportunities way in advance because my ship doesn't turn nearly as quickly. If I become more nimble, if I become more agile, if I'm quicker to change, all of a sudden I've got a lot more flexibility and a lot more moves I can make simply because I change faster.

The watchword for all organizations is we have to become more agile. We have got to become quicker. That's the reason annual budgets, to me, they're out the window because they're based on an annual plan, and nothing operates annually anymore. Everything is operating in a far faster window than that.

Amato: I'm going to share the thoughts of three people who knew Steve over the years. Donny Shimamoto, also a forward-thinking CPA and sought-after speaker, considered Steve Player a mentor.

Donny Shimamoto: I do remember the first time he came to one of my sessions. It made me super nervous, which was at the AICPA FP&A Conference, and how he stepped in to — there was a question that came in from one of the participants and they asked, "Well, how do you do that?" I gave an answer and they said, "I don't know if we could do that." Then Steve jumped in and kind of helped frame it in a different way. And they were like, "Oh, OK, that makes sense." It was super helpful to have him in the room with that one. That's where we started talking a lot more.

Amato: Lisa Roman, formerly a member of the AICPA's conferences team, worked with Player numerous times at events, starting about a decade ago.

Lisa Roman: First experience with Steve was in connection to the Controllers Conference, doing his budgeting and forecasting sessions. I think people really enjoyed Steve's presentations because he was such an expert and a long-standing expert in his field. He had quite a breadth of knowledge to bring to the presentation. But also just his presence, I think his booming voice and his sincerity just connected with people. He was able to really engage an audience. Every session I ever heard him present, his audience was extremely interested in what he was saying.

Amato: Tom Hood, who has also been a speaker and forward-thinking CPA, certainly recalls Steve Player's enthusiasm for the profession.

Tom Hood: He was an early, what we now know as "thought leaders." I think of it more as an influencer because he brought a lot of new and innovative ideas to the accounting world. We need people like that who make you think differently, who make you challenge your status quo. We'll miss him a lot because he was just a great human and one that really challenged us to think differently about this profession.

Player: We're all in this together. As you make these conversions, it may be scary to move away from that annual budget that gave you the illusion of control and made you think like you had control of things; the reality is, you probably never did. This is a time we've got to work together and keep focused on what do we do differently.

Let's think about, "How do we create good forecasts that are out there? How do we shift to driver-based things so we're not just guessing about what the numbers should be?" But seeing the physical things and looking see with the leads in the orders are there. How do we get much more thoughtful? Because if one thing we can do with this is use this to convert finance into a more forward-looking organization. I think we could come out of this helping our organization survive and prosper.

Amato: Again, those were the words of Steve Player from a conversation in March 2020. In the show notes will be several links to podcasts or articles that feature the insights of Steve Player. Thanks for listening to the Journal of Accountancy Podcast.