CPAs have a public image problem

CPAs have a brand image problem. The three words that the public most often associates with “CPA” are “accounting”, “audit”, and “tax”. Yet those words do not match the self-identity of any of the CPA firms I’ve known. We know our role as the most trusted strategic adviser for our clients. But we do a lousy job communicating that role. The result: what I actually do day-to-day is nothing like what people presume that I do.

Meanwhile, CPAs insist that the reason that young people are not coming into the field is due almost completely to the 150 credit hour education requirement. But the data does not support that belief. From my own perspective, 150 hours seems like a drop in the bucket of the training required to be successful. We should be embracing intense lifelong professional education, not be intimidated by it. Our role as strategic adviser requires us to be interested and knowledgeable in many aspects of our clients’ lives and businesses. It’s a never-ending education.

Anyway, I’ve been asked to repeat a an introductory presentation on the accounting industry to business students at Rowan College of South Jersey later this month. I hope to leave them with an understanding that a CPA like me is is the most trusted strategic adviser to individuals and organizations. It’s about much more than accounting, auditing and taxes. In fact, it’s about putting those smaller issues into perspective in a much larger mission of life and organizational success.