CPAs are known as the proverbial bean counters, the people who are counted on to balance the accounts and report on performance. That reputation is entirely accurate, but it’s not comprehensive. Yes, we’re quite good at counting those beans. Doing so is absolutely essential to properly run a business. But CPAs are capable of much more, and are currently doing much more.
My Non-Traditional Accounting Path
My story is an extreme version of the ‘non-traditional’ CPA path, but not necessarily a rare one. My career path taught me just how valuable that designation is – the experience and skills, not the letters – regardless of what direction a CPA’s career takes.
After I left audit and spent a year in consulting, I decided the traditional route wasn’t a good fit for me. I knew I needed a change and was terrified that I had spent too much time learning skills I wouldn’t be utilizing. If I’m to be honest, I was jealous of the CPAs that loved it. They had found what makes them happy, and I hadn’t.
Over the next two years I earned a graduate degree in international affairs focusing on counter-terrorism, and worked in Scotiabank’s security (not securities) department with ex-CSIS and ex-military folks. Whether it was picking up the theoretical economics of conflict quickly, analyzing complex international financial policy, or simply being able to synthesize large amounts of information effectively; it amazed me how often my CPA experience helped me succeed in that field.
Following that, for over two years I helped build a wearable technology company. With our development team innovating across several technological frontiers, it was up to me to manage everything else. As expected my CPA gave me the skills required to do the bookkeeping or financial projections. It’s also no surprise that my CPA helped me build effective and lean processes, or raise (and be a good steward of) millions in investor capital. But I merit the CPA with much more.
The Power of the CPA
The CPA gave me the framework needed to make complex strategic and operational decisions. It taught me how to understand and effectively communicate those decisions, and the impact they have on overall company direction. Without it, I doubt I’d ever be able to write a coherent and persuasive business plan. Most importantly, the CPA gave me a foundation of logical reasoning and flexibility. I needed those skills to help these brilliant engineers mold their cutting edge technology into a marketable product with a business strategy capable of taking it to market.
For those unfamiliar with the CPA process, financial reporting makes up less than half of what we learn. Further, we spend years understanding what makes the cranks turn in countless real businesses. The CPA process creates well-rounded professionals capable of much more than counting beans. It transforms green university grads into seasoned professionals, proficient at building client relationships, working in teams, understanding the key levers of a business, and generally getting the job done.
It took me a few years to decide how I wanted to use my CPA, and I always thought myself an outlier. In the process of building my business, I spoke with hundreds of CPAs and am elated to find that I’m not an uncommon breed. Many more of us than I imagined want to, or have taken on, roles outside of our traditional ones.
Counting isn’t accounting.
It’s a time of immense change in the accounting profession in Canada. At Luminari we’re determined to build a more expansive reputation for CPAs, one that matches their capabilities.
CPAs are bean counters, but we’re also bean growers, and bean harvesters.
So to my fellow CPAs, we ask that you continue to cultivate this reputation in your words and actions. And to companies looking for their next great hire – whether you’re looking for an ops person, a ‘wearer of many hats’, or a technical expert – consider a CPA.