background image
Connecticut CPA
November/December 2017
Don't be afraid of selling or marketing.
You may have noticed that those part-
ners in a public accounting firm who
typically make the most money or ex-
ecutives in a corporation who achieve
the highest positions have good sell-
ing and/or persuasion skills. Hard work
and good technical skills will provide
you with a good living; the ability to
attract new clients or persuade oth-
ers can make you a real financial suc-
cess. Some professionals, including
accountants and lawyers, really dislike
the word "selling," but without sales,
there is no business.
The problem for many of us is that we
view ourselves exclusively as techni-
cians dealing with extremely complex
issues and solutions. Solving difficult
tax and accounting issues often takes
concentration and time spent alone.
Furthermore, for some of us, this brand
of work suits our introvert personali-
ties. Consequently, we don't view the
idea of selling or marketing as an es-
sential element of our career.
When I was promoted to partner, it
became clear that my success would
hinge more on my business develop-
ment success rather than on my tech-
nical skills. Technical skills remained
important, but the quicker path to
achieving greater financial success
and stature within the firm was to at-
tract new clients or sell new work to
existing clients.
There is no one particular formula for
successful marketing. You must find
what works for you based on your in-
terests and personality. But at the core,
marketing begins with human connec-
tion and building relationships. I find
that face-to-face interaction, either
lunch or breakfast meetings or pre-
senting at live seminars, works best for
me. Some find success in joining non-
profit organizations and participating in
community events.
I advise younger colleagues to network
and stay close to their own generation
because the person you meet today
could one day soon be the business
owner or CFO. There are many paths
to successful marketing the key is to
become involved in life's activities.
Focus on leadership skills.
At some point in your career, you will
be managing or leading others. Many
people leave employers because their
supervisors lack basic people-man-
agement skills. Such skills can include
employee motivation, mentoring, of-
fering constructive criticism, leading a
team during stressful periods, and, in
general, effectively dealing with the hu-
man aspect of work. Good leadership
is required to retain valuable talent in
today's competitive recruiting market.
Study both great and poor leaders.
Take mental note of the leadership at-
tributes (both good and bad) that you
see exhibited in your daily work. Read
leadership books (there are many) and
become a student of leading, coun-
seling, and mentoring others. For the
most part, leadership skills are learned;
few of us are born leaders.
Read to become a more
interesting person.
Early in my career, I was so focused on
learning the technical aspects of taxa-
tion that most of my outside reading
centered around the latest court cases
and articles written on taxation. I be-
came very one-dimensional. I failed to
understand that being well-read and
knowledgeable in other aspects of
life including art, literature, and sports
were critical to enhancing interperson-
al relationships, including business re-
lationships. To make connections with
others, you need to be able to carry
on interesting conversations. Read as
much as you can on the greatest vari-
ety of subjects possible.
Stay in the student mindset.
Learning must never stop. We all need
to be in the student mindset, even
when we have completed all of our
formal education. The accounting and
tax profession is dynamic; the rules,
the law, and the processes are in a
constant state of change. We cannot
fall behind.
If financially possible, continue your
formal education beyond your initial
degree(s). Take a new attitude toward
continuing professional education it
is more than merely state-mandated
credits for licensing purposes. Move
out of your comfort zone by learning
new skills and accepting new challeng-
es. Personal growth can be achieved
through continuous learning.
Apply the success formula:
Learn, practice, teach.
This simple formula is a true career
1. Learn: Challenge yourself to learn a
new area in tax or accounting read ar-
ticles, attend seminars or webinars, and
immerse yourself in the topic with the
ultimate goal of becoming a subject-
matter expert.
2. Practice: Apply your newfound
knowledge on the job. Speak to your
supervisor and seek out projects that
will allow for on-the-job practice.
3. Teach: Teach others what you
have learned. Teaching a subject will
reinforce the knowledge and experi-
ence you have gained. Set up a semi-
nar, lunch-and-learn, or a webinar for
your company or through commu-
nity or professional organizations like
the CTCPA.
Learn and practice a formula to
deal with mistakes.
Working in the accounting profession
is challenging. We deal with complex
issues. At times, it can be a humbling
experience. Inevitably, we all make
mistakes and must learn to effectively
handle the emotional aspects of mak-
ing mistakes. The goal is to regain
confidence and get back to work as
quickly as possible.
Mistakes can be damaging to our self-
esteem and impede our personal prog-
ress if we let them control our mental
framework in tackling new tasks or
moving forward in our career.