Planning to Become a Better CPA

In an article by Bill Tsotsos, he discusses professional development specific to the profession. He believes that there is a natural human desire to improve professionally. Whether the reason is to earn more money, a firm promotion, peer recognition or the satisfaction that we are operating at a high level for our clients, most of us want to improve our skills to be the best we can be. Since professional goals may be in conflict with personal goals (spending more time at home with the family), the answer is not simply to work more hours. The question is: How do I become better at what I do; how do I become a better CPA?

Tsotsos maintains that becoming a better CPA involves designing an annual plan for professional growth.

The primary elements of his professional growth plan include:

  • Industry expertise. A CPA can add much more value to a client if they become an expert in that client industry. To become an expert, talk to industry leaders, read what they read, join industry associations and attend local chapter meetings.
  • Service niche or tax specialty area. You don’t want to be a tax generalist; select an area of tax law and “make your mark.” Similarly, identify a service niche you would like to pursue – forensic accounting, business succession, merger and acquisition, and develop expertise.
  • CPE/soft skill development. Soft skills are typically identified as leadership, management, communication, and business development. Plan to take courses in these areas even if there are no continuing education credits available.
  • Build your referral pipeline. With the advent of social media, it is no longer necessary to ask for a referral with the question “Who do you know?” Once you are connected to a client on LinkedIn, you can now ask for introductions to specific people by name.
  • Organizations to join or attend. Consider professional associations of referral partners like estate planning attorneys or bankers. Joining a nonprofit association gives you exposure and access to community leaders.
  • Mentoring. Ask a partner of the firm to mentor you and schedule regular meetings. Ask to be included with client lunches, meetings with prospects and referral or potential referral partners.
  • Plan to have a coffee, breakfast, or lunch each business day (200 times/year) with a client, prospect or referral partner. This will produce a solid referral pipeline and enable you to know your client on a deeper level.
  • Hire a trainer/coach. Executives hire coaches and take management courses on how to be better leaders. A coach can give you a different perspective, advice and help you get the most out of your efforts.

If you are serious about becoming a better CPA, design an annual plan for professional growth and enlist an accountability partner. Do not limit expenditures to what might be reimbursable by your employer – invest in yourself and in your career. Take personal responsibility for your career development. It will pay huge dividends.