Farewell, Clarke

December 18, 2012

By Brendan Fitzgerald, CPA
2012-2013 Chair of the Executive Board

It is not easy to craft a column that is worthy of saying farewell to Clarke Price. At the end of this month, Clarke will retire after 40 years with The Ohio Society of CPAs, the last 22 of which serving as president and CEO. While the number of years alone is impressive, it is really not what bears recognition. It is the legacy he created and leaves behind. He guided OSCPA to be nationally recognized and respected while advocating on behalf of our members. We all reaped the benefits of his dedicated service, his leadership and his integrity. He loyally served with distinction, selflessly promoting our profession with creativity and commitment.

I tried to imagine what past presidents and chairs of The Ohio Society of CPAs would say about Clarke if they were in my place. The stories that each could tell (or not tell). While the issues of their day might have been different, the character traits they would use to describe Clarke would likely be similar. Clarke was the one constant: a true leader and a better man. During his tenure as CEO, he answered to a different boss each year. He survived not by adapting to the annually changing styles and personalities of each individual, but by acting consistently with the best interest of OSCPA in mind. He turned ideas to action and action became habit. That habitual behavior allowed for continuity of focus each year. He led with wisdom and vision and the virtue to follow both. He did not dwell on what he had already accomplished, and instead set his sights on what remained unfinished.

If you were to ask Clarke to describe successes or setbacks under his leadership, he would describe them each with the same passion. In times of adversity and controversy he stood strong, as leaders should. He deftly allowed deliberation to evolve, all the while absorbing, percolating and even reformulating his advice. He had plenty of opportunities to shed opinions that were inconsistent with his own, but his conscience would not allow it. By the time an issue had been decided, it had been thoroughly analyzed and challenged. Clarke accepted that he served the Board and our members, and that never stopped him from offering sage advice. He participated in discussions and his opinion was always solicited. We knew we could count on him to advise us with conviction and execute dutifully on our directives.

Clarke would readily offer that not all success should be solely attributed to him. Along the way, he assembled a staff unparalleled in skill and professionalism. He was a demanding boss who held others to the same standards to which he held himself. It was not merely acceptable that his team fulfilled the directives put forth by the Board, but to do so with an expectation of adding value along the way. A true leader and teacher, he took interest in staff development and provided them with opportunities to achieve beyond what they might have thought attainable. He worked with volunteer leaders to enhance OSCPA in ways that were not just relevant to members, but relevant to our profession.

It would be selfish of us to be saddened by his retirement. We can remember him and smile that he led us for so long. Few men of action are able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time. During this, his final year, he vowed to not slow down and he was true to his word. Clarke’s dedication to our organization throughout the years came with personal sacrifices we accepted without acknowledgement. He has given so much to us and we owe him a debt we can never repay. The best we can do is move forward without constraint.

In 1983 the final episode of the television show M*A*S*H aired, which at the time was the most watched show in television history. The final scene had Alan Alda’s character, Capt. Hawkeye Pierce, flying away from the camp in a helicopter. Once airborne, the message, spelled out in stones, became clear and brought a smile to Captain Pierce. I hope that message brings a smile to Clarke as well… GOODBYE.


CPAs can give peace of mind around the Fiscal Cliff

December 17, 2012
Nicole Cassidy, CPA of Zapitelli CPAs Inc. & Andy Nentwich, CPA of GBQ Partners, LLC answer viewer calls during the NBC4 fiscal cliff call in Dec. 11.

Nicole Cassidy, CPA of Zapitelli CPAs Inc. & Andy Nentwich, CPA of GBQ Partners, LLC answer viewer calls during the NBC4 fiscal cliff call in Dec. 11.

Even if we manage to avoid the fiscal cliff as a nation, it is pretty much impossible to avoid the fiscal cliff news cycle. 24-7 updates on the web, TV and social media have bombarded Americans with pundit opinions, what-if scenarios and the specter of uncompromising politicians.

What does it all mean? Unfortunately, many Americans don’t seem to understand the potential implications to their own financial situation. That was abundantly clear during a fiscal cliff call in show airing this month on NBC4 evening news in Columbus. During the news hour, a group of Ohio CPAs fielded hundreds of calls from central Ohio viewers.

One remarked he was really surprised at the number of callers who really had no clue about what could be coming. But they took the first step to getting advice by making the call.

Now is really the time to map out a “what-if” scenario and CPAs are uniquely positioned to offer sound tax and financial advice to not only clients, but the public as well.

CPAs can help educate the public in several ways:

  • Consider authoring a blog post for your firm’s website, offering a free webinar or serving as a content curator of external articles.
  • Talk to your friends and family to make sure they understand the basics.
  • Call your local civic organization (Kiwanis, VFW Post) and ask if they would be interested in a half hour presentation on the fiscal cliff.
  • Become an OSCPA volunteer and serve as a media spokesperson for tax call ins and related interviews.

Not only will your efforts generate positive publicity for your firm, but you may also bring in new clients. Most importantly, you can use your skill set to help those less informed get ready, even if no one knows quite what to expect come January 1.

For more fiscal cliff resources, visit Financial Fitness Ohio’s Tax Tips or visit the AICPA’s resource page.

As I see it: Looking back & looking forward

December 12, 2012

By Clarke Price, CAE, President and CEO

I never thought about what I’d want to say in my final commentary to the membership. In all that I’ve written over the years and in all the presentations I’ve made, I honestly never thought what would my final words be about, so the prospect of writing this commentary is proving to be more daunting than I ever expected it to be.

Looking back

Lately I’ve been asked variations on the question “did you accomplish what you wanted” or “what’s been your major accomplishment as CEO” and that’s a tough question to answer. There are a lot of “highs” as I look back, and I have to admit that there are several “lows” too.

What stands out for me on the list of specific things that we’ve accomplished at OSCPA can vary the more I think about what’s happened in the 22 years that I’ve been CEO.

Streamlining OSCPA’s governance stands out as something that makes us a better, more responsive organization. Collapsing the old 12-member Executive Committee and 43-member Board of Directors into a single 17-member Executive Board was a positive step. But more beneficial was the change in our committee structure that led to appointing narrowly focused, short-term task forces to deal with a single issue. Time is a precious commodity for most of us and the old model of lots of committees that would meet four or five times each year and accomplish little because the agenda was too long represented a major abuser of our members’ time. Moving to highly focused task forces allowed us to make better use of everyone’s time, deal with developing issues quickly and produce meaningful results. While many organizations point to a long list of committees to demonstrate high involvement, OSCPA chose to focus on results rather than appearances.

Significant expansion of our advocacy involvement is another accomplishment that has been very positive. While some members may say “OSCPA has no business being involved in politics,” I prefer to say “the reality is the CPA profession is one bill away from catastrophe and nobody but OSCPA is looking out for the welfare of CPAs.” We’ve come a long way in the scope of both our statehouse activities and the depth of our relationships with Ohio’s Congressional delegation. OSCPA has accomplished a lot, and though there have also been battles that we’ve lost, The Ohio Society of CPAs and the CPA profession are now legitimate players in the legislative process. The benefits for the CPA profession are significant. The next challenge, however, will come as the Society continues to expand its involvement in public policy issues. OSCPA’s Ohio Budget Advisory Task Force Report in 2009 provided a dramatic step forward for OSCPA in the public policy arena and will soon be followed with other forays beyond clearly defined legislative issues. Again, this will increase our visibility and our voice on the critical issues facing Ohio’s businesses and citizens.

Certainly, our entry into the digital age and electronic communications is one thing that stands out. While we all have dimensions of any website that we like and don’t like, and I don’t think there’s any web page that is 100% perfect, I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished in our online presentations (and the new website that will be unveiled later in 2013 will be better than ever).

I’m also very pleased with what we’ve accomplished lately in our presentation of web-based professional development. OSCPA’s Online Library is a great addition and our simulcasting of courses is taking the inconvenience of travel out of CPE for many members. Both of those are recent changes that will only expand and become better resources for our members.

Finally, being profiled in the book 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t provided significant recognition for OSCPA’s innovative culture. Working with Good to Great author Jim Collins and applying his research methodology to examining associations, the American Society of Association Executives identified nine associations that are “remarkable.” Having The Ohio Society of CPAs identified in that list, and be the only state-based organization, was certainly a high point as I reflect on what we’ve accomplished at OSCPA.

Looking forward

As I think about the issues that are developing over the horizon, there’s no question that the future will present new challenges and opportunities for the Society.

The legislative arena, both in Ohio and Congress, is going to be a continuing challenge. Tax issues will continue to be of paramount importance and will provide a platform for OSCPA to continue to be in the forefront of that dimension of the public policy debate. An advantage we have is that CPAs enjoy wide respect for their expertise and impartial views on tax issues. We need to leverage our bully pulpit to emphasize the need for common sense tax laws at both the state and federal levels.

The regulatory environment will continue to come under scrutiny. Will a state-based licensing scheme for the CPA profession continue to make sense in the future? Will a national or global CPA credential be a possibility for which we should be preparing? Those are questions that aren’t easily answered, but I think we’re going to face them sooner rather than later.

I’ve often said that as a profession we’re just one headline away from challenges to the respect we enjoy today. We experienced just how quickly public opinion can turn following the scandals associated with Enron, Worldcom, HealthSouth, etc. CPAs fell from the top of public opinion to the depths and while our image has recovered, we must always be prepared for that to happen again. The result can be more than challenges in the court of public opinion. It can open up legislative and regulatory challenges as well.

Will the pipeline into the CPA profession continue to be full? Today we enjoy a reality where college classrooms are overflowing with accounting majors. Will that continue to be the case? We need to continue to focus on why students choose accounting as their major and what we can be doing to drive graduates to the CPA exam and into the profession. A further challenge for all employers is to consider how generational attitudes and expectations are changing and how those who employee CPAs should be evolving what life is like for their associates. The historic status quo just won’t cut it for the future!

Finally, we need to constantly work to tell the CPA profession’s story in a manner that resonates with the public. We continue to work under stereotypes that don’t represent the realities of the CPA profession. Just as we are in the forefront of the debate surrounding major public policy issues, I’m confident that we can define a completely new – and more realistic – image of what being a CPA means and what the letters C-P-A represent.

One final observation I’ve been fortunate to work with a team of professionals who genuinely care about our members and their welfare. The OSCPA staff makes it possible for me to be out in front and often take the bows (some may say take the credit) for the work they do to serve our members. They make my job easy and they make it fun to come to work. I’ll miss working with them.

Wrapping up It’s been a great pleasure to work for The Ohio Society of CPAs. This isn’t the career I envisioned when I graduated from college in 1969, but it’s one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It’s been a pleasure to work with CPAs and to be associated with this profession. We’ve come a very long way since I arrived on the doorstep 40 years ago and further since I became CEO in 1990.

I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the Society. THANK YOU.

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