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Chair's corner.

This is my last Chair's Corner. The temptation is to try tot something profound, but experience tells me that profundity, at least in my case, occurs more often by accident than by design. Instead, I'd like to use this final opportunity to communicate a few simple observations regarding lessons learned or reinforced during my year as AICPA Chair.

Trust is hard to earn and hard to keep. According to a recent Penn Schoen & Berland survey, CPAs have recovered most of the ground we may have lost during the dark years of Enron, WorldCom, abusive tax shelters and other problems. Most of us did not experience a loss of trust directly from our employers or clients but we felt it intensely when we read press reports of audit failures and comments by regulators, investors and politicians. I doubt anyone in our profession is cavalier about the importance of continuing to earn back and keep the trust of those who rely on our skills and ethics as the underpinnings of America's financial markets. This shared commitment will be tested often as we face a continuous flow of new laws, regulations and standards intended by their designers to enhance the value and credibility of our services in the marketplace.

Vocal minorities are not always polite. In a profession as diverse as ours, it is a given there will always be some vocal minorities centered on one or more issues that impact their careers or areas of interest. Often these groups feel that their concerns are not being heard, and they become frustrated with and distrustful of due processes they believe are ignoring, or even actively opposing, their interests. This leads to a loss of trust and a breakdown in diplomacy.

I've learned that those in the majority need to look past the polemics to hem the legitimate concerns of the minority. They usually have some valid issues that need to be understood and given appropriate consideration, even if we don't like the way they express themselves. Besides, I've been in the minority a few times myself, and that's what I expected from the majority then.

We do have something in common. As a volunteer leader in the AICPA. I'm constantly reminded of the diversity of interests and needs of CPAs in America. It's not just about public practice verses industry, government and academia. Each of these groups has myriad subgroups with distinct interests and issues. Each group wants AICPA resources directed at their issues, and each group independently weighs the AICPA value proposition in terms of their wants and needs.

However, if we focus on what unites us the list is pretty impressive. We all want the CPA initials to stand for something trustworthy, respected and even admired in the marketplace and in society. We expect to have a seat at the table whenever regulations and laws are made that affect our livelihoods and our standing in the world. We want to have a sense of community with CPAs who share our areas of interest. We want to be communicated with when new rules and standards are proposed and again when they are adopted so that we can have input in the formative stages and know how to comply when they become official. We want our national organization to help enhance our standing as CPAs with the public at large, the regulators and law makers. We all want America to count on CPAs.

It takes ten AICPA Chairs to get anything done. Most of the really big things we do as a profession take time. An idea becomes a task force which issues a discussion paper which goes though a comment period and many revisions before it becomes reality or is consigned to the dust bin of history. If an AICPA voluntary leader is really lucky, he or she will be in the chair when important decisions are made by the Board and the AICPA Council. The genesis of these decisions may have originated with a chair five years before and been nurtured by many others along the way. Hopefully, each chair also initiates something that will be the hallmark of a future chair's year in the spotlight.

My year is not quite over at this writing but I have definitely been able to reap some crops sown by many chairs before me. I may even be able to leave a few victories for successor chairs to harvest.

Some jobs are thankless. Why would anyone want to be an airline ticket agent? I've traveled a lot over the past 35 years and the last two have been heavier than most. Ticket agents absorb the brunt of the complaints and abuse resulting from today's mostly unhappy airline passengers. I can only conclude that they must have a strong service orientation to endure the stresses they face almost every working day.

I often think the same thoughts about the incredible staff of the state CPA societies and the AICPA. As our world becomes more complex and the demands we make upon them more diverse, they overwhelmingly maintain a cordial, service oriented, positive attitude. They diplomatically manage the volunteer leaders, often covering for missed deadlines and individual idiosyncrasies. They solve problems that are rarely of their own making and take responsibility in the name of member relations and customer service. They are the real engines of our associations and we probably do not thank them often enough. So, thanks folks.

And, thanks to America's CPAs for giving me the opportunity to serve. It has been a life-changing experience.
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Author:Bunting, Robert L.
Publication:CPA Letter
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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