Navigating change and our evolving profession with curiosity and participation

April 1, 2020

SeleneSullivanBy Selene Sullivan, CPA, OSCPA Chair

As I begin my year as OSCPA Chair, I’m grateful and humbled by the opportunity to pursue my commitment to the continuing professional success of the members of OSCPA. It has been a true pleasure to be part of your Board of Directors and to be involved with the leaders, volunteers, and committees that examine the relevant issues and events shaping our industry.

Meeting members from around the state and hearing them share their ideas and expertise has been amazing. When you have professionals from different businesses, governments, schools, and firms gathering to discuss the current topics, you truly experience all the ways that people put their CPA into practice. It is a great community!

In thinking about what to write for my first article, after the fear subsided, my initial thoughts focused on two major ideas: change and transition. Our profession is constantly evolving due to sweeping new tax changes, technological innovations, financial reporting, licensing requirements, and the CPA exam itself. Our profession does not remain static, and, as such, our success depends on the ability to adapt to change and make transitions to the new regulations, rules, or requirements. But we all know that it’s not always easy. The fact is, change is hard to accept, and transitions can be difficult.

Our world is changing faster than ever before. We will need to become more adept and flexible in our thinking about “What does a CPA look like?” As CPAs, we have all worked very hard and spent countless hours of education and testing to get to where we are today. Yet, there has been a lot of talk in the profession of making changes to the existing CPA model, including education, the CPA Exam, and certification requirements.

These changes may be hard to accept for those who see the old way as the only path to becoming a CPA. Still, when you consider the innovative ways that individuals in our profession are putting
their license to use to open new opportunities and serve a broader client base, it’s evident that what it means to be a CPA has changed. As we embark on new professional journeys, we may have to adapt even more to ensure that the CPA license fits the reality of what a CPA is today and in the future.

My own firm in Eugene has gone through many changes over the last ten years. In that span, we have incorporated three separate firms into a single firm as our colleagues and mentors have retired. My partners and I have gone from serving 250 clients to now serving over 1,600 clients. To accomplish this task, we have had to accept many changes.

For example, we’ve changed our physical location, remodeled the current office space to accommodate the latest increase in employees, and hired an office manager to help us manage the day-to-day business. We have gone from a somewhat informal office environment, where we had a lot of unwritten rules, to a more professional workplace where we now have formal written policies and procedures. I did not think when I started in this profession 26 years ago that I would one day be writing an official office policy and procedure for my firm. But here we are.

Our firm’s transition has been an incredible and sometimes terrifying journey – but worth it every step of the way. If you asked my partners or me, none of us would say ’We love change.” However, our goals for the continuing success of our business or our employees would not have been possible without a willingness to change.

My partners and I have learned many valuable lessons about change, but one that we all remember is the importance of listening and giving merit to each other’s goals and ideas. The outcome is, at times, surprising but always valuable, and we have found that it positively impacts our business results.

A great way to deal with change and transition is to engage people being affected by the impending changes. Much can be gained by listening and gathering input from people in industries that have endured and adapted to developments similar to those our profession currently faces.

In her book “Dare to Lead,” Brené Brown talks about approaching life and circumstances with a sense of curiosity. This is my goal for both professional and personal change. I find myself asking “Why is it necessary?” and “Why must it be done now?” But I am also asking people to tell me more. I want to gather as much information so that I can make an informed decision as to how to tackle whatever comes next. A sense of curiosity is important as we consider the changing landscape of our profession.

As we move forward, it is vitally important that we participate in the change – for guidance and for understanding. I believe that part of having a voice is to volunteer where you have interests and want to affect the changes that impact your area of practice and your work. I invite you to join me in the call to serve our fellow CPAs. Together, we’ll continue to make this the best profession out there!

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