As part of our Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting report, we asked all the candidates: "Did you have a mentor or mentors? If yes, how did they impact your career? If you didn’t have a mentor, how do you think it affected your career??"
Their answers of all the candidates – many of which include fulsome and heartfelt remembrances -- are given in full below.
I’ve been extremely lucky to have mentors who have helped provide perspective and insights that have guided me throughout my career. Whether it was an executive early on who gave me the business savvy and perspective to help me reach my full potential, or some of our Millennial staff who have provided fresh thinking and new ways of looking at things – mentorship can come in many forms and from many people. Of course, one of my greatest mentors is my father, who introduced me to the joys and challenges of a global business and instilled in me a passion for always putting customers first.
--Karen Abramson, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
I have been fortunate to have many mentors over my career. One of the most influential is Bob Jensen, who is retiring this fall after 47 years with our firm. I met Bob early in my McGladrey career at a golf outing where I was paired with him and two other senior partners in my office – Mark Scally and John Putta. They appreciated my competitive nature, and we played golf until it was almost dark. Feeling like senior leaders in my office cared about me started my McGladrey career off on the right foot.
Over the years, I have always been able to rely on Bob’s advice at important junctures in my career. But I think I learned the most from watching Bob grow in his career. He has served as leader of our consulting practice, which he helped start in 1974, leader of the Midwest Region and managing partner of our firm. He also brought in more than $350 million in new service revenue by merging in more than 20 firms as our national merger and acquisitions leader, and was one of the early architects of our private equity practice.
Without the strong mentorship of Bob and so many others throughout my career, I would not be where I am today. One reason I am so driven to make McGladrey the very best firm it can be is to honor those who did great things before me and those who will do great things long after I retire. That is our core value of stewardship.
--Joe Adams, Managing partner and CEO, McGladrey
I was fortunate to have a mentor who took an interest in me at the very beginning of my career. He was the managing partner of my firm and he was definitely “old school,” meaning that he was pretty tough but taught me a lot. Many of the lessons were not delivered as kindly and gently as I probably would have liked, but knowing that he really cared about my success made a big difference to me.
--Gary Adamson, President, Adamson Advisory
I have been blessed with a number of mentors who have positively impacted my career. Two such individuals really stand out. Steve Albrecht was my very first accounting professor at BYU. I was taking Accounting 101 in route to a general degree in business. One day after class, Professor Albrecht pulled me aside and asked me about my career plans. During the ensuing discussion he explained how accounting could be a wonderful career for me and open the door to many possibilities. That meeting and subsequent meetings with this good man led me to a BS degree in accounting and to a wonderful career in accounting. I will be forever grateful for his willingness to take the time to help me plan a successful career.
The other key mentor in my career was the first office managing partner of Main Hurdman, Harvey Grant. About four months into my career, Harvey invited me to join him for a lunch meeting with a prospective client. I was impressed with how he approached this opportunity to completely focus on the client’s needs and share everything he could to assist them. This began a regular pattern of invitations to join him as he met with clients, prospects, and referral sources. He helped me catch the vision of a trusted advisor role and helped me see how successful business development was much more about helping than about selling. He lit a fire under me to become a great trusted advisor and help as many people as I could. He literally changed the trajectory of my career and got me on the path to becoming a successful business developer and trusted advisor.
--Sam Allred, Director, Upstream Academy
Absolutely! I have had several mentors throughout my career, some within the profession and some not. The insight, direction and candid feedback that I’ve received have had a tremendously positive impact on my career. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping me keep my feet moving during difficult times while other times an entire new way of looking at something is introduced. I continue to seek out the advice of my mentors. If you don’t have a mentor, find one. Better yet, find two. I’m also a fan of peer groups, which can be extremely effective.
--Brian Amann, CEO, TaxOps
Yes. The most valuable thing she taught me was that you can only lose your credibility once.
--John Ams, Executive vice president, NSA
I’ve had mentors throughout my career, but the role they play has evolved. In the early stages of my professional development, mentors provided direction and a roadmap for career success. Today, they mainly serve as a source of valued feedback and coaching.
--Erik Asgeirsson, CEO, CPA.com
Yes. Consistent “do the right thing” guidance together with 24/7 open-door availability for consultative support.
--Billy Atkinson, Chairman, Private Company Council
I have had several mentors during my career. Each one provided me with professional and personal insights. These were individuals I highly respected and trusted. Sometimes they were brutally blunt with my performance and development, but also had my best interest in mind. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without their guidance and influence.
--August Aquila, President and CEO, Aquila Global Advisors, LLC
I had the good fortune of having many mentors, the first being my father, who taught me entrepreneurialism and customer service from inside a barber’s chair. My high school accounting teacher is probably the reason I’m a CPA. Many authors –– some I’ve met, some I haven’t –– have been distant mentors to me through their works. The most significant being George Gilder and Peter Drucker. I believe everyone needs a mentor, but I don’t believe firms should attempt to appoint or assign a mentor. It is a deeply personal relationship, and it cannot be imposed upon two people, but rather must be freely entered into and maintained to be most effective.
--Ron Baker, Founder, VeraSage Institute
I have had an army of mentors -- and my career would not be what it is today if it weren’t so. Brian Austin, who I’m fortunate to call my husband as of August 30, may be the single most influential person in my career -- in fact, he’s responsible for introducing me to the AT team back in 2010. He often reminds me that he only made the introduction -- I had to prove myself worthy - but there is also something to be said for showing up to the party (or the accounting conference) with the right person.
I have been so privileged to be mentored by so many other amazing and inspiring people along the way -- from Geni Whitehouse, to one of my first manager’s back at Liberty IMS, Lee Triebwasser, to very recently Caroline Cummings, who is such a motivating person to have in your corner. Each of these people (and many more) have put their marks on me and helped shape me into the professional I am today.
--Kim Austin, Business development manager, national accounts, Intuit
I didn’t have a formal relationship with a specific mentor, as is the norm today. Since I firmly believe one of the most valuable things you can do for your career is to observe leadership characteristics in others, that’s the path I took. I had a number of very good supervisors in my career to whom I went for advice and counsel, and I’d say what furthered my career more than anything was seeking out wide and varied opportunities that stretched me in many ways. Not only were the experiences themselves invaluable, but the variety of people I had the opportunity to work with taught me so much.
--Jon Baron, Managing director, Professional Segment, Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting
Yes. Having a mentor is a game-changer for your career success. I sought someone who was the exact opposite of me so that I could benefit from the traits that made him successful that were suppressed in me. Over the years, he taught me to ask for what I want, to act with confidence and authority, to see perfectionism as a weakness, and to always look behind me to identify the up-and-coming stars. I am a better leader as a result of that input. The smartest people are the ones who know that they don’t know it all. It took me a while to get there. He helped me to paint a picture of where I wanted to be and to identify and tear down my own mental limitations.
--Joanne Barry, Executive director and CEO, NYSSCPA
I had two partners in my former firm who were great inspirations to me. Jim Lears was the tax partner who hired me and he had an incredible work ethic, while also being able to balance a very good family life and many outside activities Also, Joe Carlozo, another partner at the firm, was the one who helped me see the importance of the CPA helping clients in the broader financial planning areas. He gave me the motivation to move into this area of practice and eventually become one of the leaders of the profession.
--Lyle Benson, President and founder, L.K. Benson & Co.
I have had many mentors over my career and have learned from all of them. In my opinion I have probably interacted with more thought leaders and accountants in the profession than anyone else presently out there and have garnered knowledge from each. I have worked as a vendor for most of the over 25 years in the profession, while in fact I have been a strategic advisor to all I have come in contact with. I did presentations with many of the thought leaders way back such as Jim Metzler, Gary Boomer, and Roman Kepczyk, to name a few. I have preached Edi Osborne’s methodology.
--David Bergstein, Strategic account manager, Accountant & Advisory Group, Intuit
I have always been one to take in and learn from whomever I interact with. We can always learn and better ourselves. I had many mentors along the way.
--Wayne Berson, CEO, BDO USA
No, I didn’t have a mentor. My primary source for advice was professionals with expertise in different areas that I closely interacted with, as well as good books. I do believe a good mentor would have helped prevent a few mistakes.
--Chandra Bhansali, President, AccountantsWorld
No, I don’t have a mentor. I wish I had one.
--Sharada Bhansali, Executive vice president and co-founder, AccountantsWorld
I was blessed to have mentors at a few critical milestones in my career. The type and level of mentoring ranged from “knocking off burrs” to “polish.” The fact that several individuals took the time to invest in me though their mentoring efforts had a tremendous impact on my success as an individual, but also in my ability to be effective and impactful. A critical element of successful mentoring is trust. Knowing that the motivation of a mentor is your growth and success is critical. I do not think I would have enjoyed the opportunities and successes I have had without the mentoring I received. I am now at a stage in my career where mentoring others is a key component of my goals and achievements.
--Ken Bishop, President and CEO, NASBA
Yes, I had and retain a mentor counsel of five mentors. They have advised me throughout my career on “sharp-end” commercial issues that the educational institutions don’t cover. It has taken my theory and added real-life experience and “savvy” to accelerate my development.
--Martin Bissett, Founder, Upward Spiral Partnership
Started out lucky — I have a mentor, who when just out of college and starting my career, was my first employer and my boss. Now he is my partner. He has been my primary mentor for 35 years, and his name is Terry Isom. There are so many praises I could share upon him that I cannot do him full justice here. His role as my mentor first began on a business trip to New York 32 years ago where we first truly became acquainted. Though Terry was my employer, he encouraged me to start my own business, stating that I had a true entrepreneurial spirit and the makings of someone he knew would be very successful in his career. I left that job one year later to start my own business, a CPA firm. Terry became one of my early clients and referred me many others. A few years later when I started the NACVA, and was desperate for startup capital, he was the only investor who came through for me, though I approached many. He has been my partner ever since. Over the years, Terry has counseled me on the hundreds of decisions, never once telling me what to do, but guiding me to good decisions by asking questions that forced me to look at all the angles, and by keying on important elements that I either overlooked or glossed over. I have always enjoyed our interaction and exchange, though after 25 years I have grown to be more self-reliant and he has moved further into retirement, so our interaction is less frequent. But when we do get together to talk business, it is still highly rewarding. I can only aspire to be a mentor to others that he has been to me.
--Parnell Black, CEO, NACVA
My grandfather: The one who introduced me to the accounting profession. He likes to brag that his CPA number is in the 4000’s. He recently decided to let his license lapse at the age of 90.
Chris Frederickson: The one who introduced me to the accounting industry. I was unaware that there were actually thought leaders in the accounting industry. He has opened up my eyes to the opportunities available for those CPAs who want to lead the profession (and not necessarily practice in it).
Tim Ferris, Bill George, Patrick Lencioni, Ed Catmull among others: These authors and thought leaders have guided me to achieve results that I could not conceive of five years ago. They have given me insight into my self-confidence, doing the things I love, and pushing boundaries.
These mentors have given me a path to achieving the results I have that at one time I believed were distant. The confidence, excitement and enthusiasm that they believe in themselves is infectious. Without the guidance, tutelage and experience of these mentors, I would not have the opportunities that are available to me today.
--Adam Blitz, Business development manager, Reckon
Yes, the Thriveal community I am a member of mentors me, as well as my own personal coach. I run every big idea by my community and coach and allow them to challenge me to make my ideas more effective, and more valuable. I have definitely made more money and delivered higher value to my customers because of the mentorship I receive.
--Jason Blumer, Chief innovation Officer, Blumer & Associates, CPAs; founder and CEO, Thriveal Network
I would list three.
- Don Fleming, a past president of the Indiana CPA Society.
- John Plymyer from Washington State Society of CPAs.
- Stan Bonta from the Iowa Society of CPAs.
Don was serving his term as I transitioned to the chief staff executive position. He was a partner in a Big Eight accounting firm and later the CFO at a local college. Don provided unique insights to process and success.
Both John and Stan were two experienced state society chief executives who impacted me early in my tenure as chief exec.
All three provided significant insights and guidance on group processes as well as the “long view” of strategic planning, and the CEO’s role in that process.
--Gary Bolinger, President and CEO, Indiana CPA Society
I had several mentors throughout my life, but the biggest impact has come from my personal coach, Dan Sullivan. He has been very influential in defining my unique abilities and allowing me to build a unique ability team where everyone contributes. The biggest impact has been in promoting life-long learning and the ability to re-invent myself in order to remain relevant. He often quotes Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, “The books you read and the people you associate with determine who you will be in five years.”
--Gary Boomer, CEO, Boomer Consulting
I’ve had several mentors throughout my career yet two stand out in regards to their impact on my career.
My father has acted as a mentor in many ways and I’m fortunate that he continues to play that role in my business career. He’s challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and offered advice about those paths to follow and those to avoid. At the same time he has empowered me to succeed and fail based on my own decisions and actions.
A senior manager during my time at Arthur Andersen taught me what it means to truly integrate work and life in a way that achieves the balance you desire. His words and actions have stuck with me throughout my career.
--Jim Boomer, Shareholder, Boomer Consulting
I didn’t have a formal mentor as we do in our firm today. When I started it was more of an informal mentor program. In fact, I don’t even believe we ever referred to a “mentor.”
My mentor was Ivan Brown. Ivan was our prior managing partner and someone that I looked up to and respected my entire career (through today).
Ivan led by example. He didn’t just talk about work-life balance as many do. Ivan never preached it, he practiced it! He ALWAYS found time for his family and his children as they were growing up. To him, family was No. 1! I look at it like this: He had two sons, he treated the firm as the daughter that he never had!
I respected him immensely. He was a great leader, a technically proficient professional and well-respected in the professional community by assuming active positions in both professional and community organizations.
I made it a point during my entire professional career to follow in his footsteps. I’ve never regretted a day!
He was, and still is, an amazing mentor. I honestly don’t believe I would have achieved as much success, peace of mind and quality of life and family, if it were not for the guidance that he directly and indirectly gave to me.
--Jim Bourke, partner at WithumSmith+Brown
I never had a formal mentor/mentee relationship, but there are many who I have studied and followed their example in my career and in building my firm.
--Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, President, BBR Marketing
I have had several mentors in my career. My first mentors were my parents. They taught me the importance of working purposefully, setting goals, and putting the needs of others first.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have been mentored by several business leaders who provided valuable advice. The best mentors I’ve had encouraged me to find one big problem that I am passionate about and try to solve it.
--Jim Buttonow, Director of tax practice and procedure services and software, H&R Block
Early in my accounting marketing career I worked for Bob Israeloff, now a retired partner of Israeloff, Trattner & Co. and former chairman of the AICPA. Bob taught me about business and gave me a long rope regarding the firm’s marketing program.
Currently, I consider Rick Telberg a mentor. Ironically, I first met Rick when I was the marketing coordinator at Israeloff, Trattner & Co. and Rick was the editor of Accounting Today. It’s come full circle.
Both of these men are brilliant and kind enough to challenge and encourage me to succeed.
--Jean Marie Caragher, President, Capstone Marketing
I have been very fortunate to have mentors as a student in college and law school, as a tax lawyer in practice, and as a tax professor in academia. At various points, they provided invaluable guidance and encouragement.
--Paul Caron, Publisher and editor-in-chief, TaxProf Blog
One thing I admire about the CPA profession is their willingness and readiness to help other CPAs. Because of this quality, I feel that I have so many mentors who have spoken into my life and given me opportunities that I would be nowhere without. However, my “personal” mentor has specifically taken great lengths to be patient in teaching me, give me valuable insight and direction, and encourage me in all of my prospects. He is my boss, as well as the CPA I did my general experience requirement under. He has obviously been a huge reason I could even earn my license in the first place. Not many professionals would take a 15-year-old accounting student under their wing, but I am inexpressibly grateful that he did.
There are so many others that I could note who got me interested in accounting in the first place, gave me personal introductions to other professionals, answered any and every question I would have, and kept me going even in the rough patches.
I believe that there is no teacher like experience, but that experience can be given from people. I have been privileged to learn so many lessons from other’s backgrounds; wisdom from situations that I would have never been able to go through myself. All of their shared stories have, I believe, helped to produce a maturation and a cultured outlook on life and on my career. I would be very lost, with no sense of direction, if it had not been for many of these mentors.
--Belicia Cespedes, Treasurer, AWSCPA (and one of the youngest CPAs ever)
In career and in life, I could not ask for a better mentor than William “Bill” G. Bishop III, who — among his other professional accomplishments — served as president of the IIA for 12 years. Though he passed in 2004, I am still inspired by his special combination of enthusiasm and leadership traits that enhanced the practice of internal auditing and its value to organizations and stakeholders. He also fostered growth in the IIA’s membership and professional certifications.
Not only did Bill achieve great things, he taught me that how you do something is just as important as what you do. Bill modeled passion for his work and his family, and a high ethical standard that guided his actions. He was dedicated to developing others so that they could achieve their full potential. His legacy compels me to push further to advance the profession.
--Richard Chambers, President and CEO, Institute of Internal Auditors
I have been fortunate to have had a number of mentors. They provided invaluable advice based on their wisdom and experience which, at those particular stages in my career, I had yet to acquire. Their confidence in me gave me confidence in myself and without their guidance, I doubt I would be where I am now. I wholeheartedly encourage young professionals to find a mentor, ideally someone who will empathize with what you are going through because they have had similar experiences. A great mentor will advise you through difficult situations and help you navigate the path toward success.
--Fayezul Choudhury, CEO of International Federation of Accountants
I have enjoyed several mentors and gained different benefits from each. They enabled me to avoid unnecessary mistakes and learn more deeply from mistakes that did occur. Importantly, they taught me the competitive advantage of optimism and a consistently positive attitude.
--Tim Christen, Incoming chair, AICPA; chairman and CEO, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
Yes – I had a mentor very early in my career. Probably the most significant lesson I learned “focus.” While there are any number of good things that could be accomplished in any given day, my mentor helped to instill in me the desire and ability to focus on the most important priorities. In other words, tune out the noise and the never-ending distractions in order to pursue the highest and best goals.
--David Cieslak, Principal, Arxis Technology
I have never had one single mentor. I have never sought one single mentor. That does not mean that no one has contributed to my perspectives and my success.
“I am the sum of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’m gone which would not have happened if I had not come.” -- Salman Rushdie
I honestly seek to be a compilation of the brightest pieces of every person that I have ever met. And these best people have done the same.
There were many incredible parts of the Under 30 Forbes Summit. Listening to Malala Yousafsai, hearing Monica Lewinsky’s side of the story and meeting Josh Harris (finance), Steve Cash (tech) and Jim Breyer (venture capital) to name a few. BUT – the grandest and most notable trend was clearly the raw desire to communicate and learn from each other.
While almost every hand-selected attendee had a story about how their perspectives impacted their career in a major way, those that I have met, including myself, crave something larger. A way to come together, physically and mentally, to share ideas and collaborate. When you seek to learn from everyone you meet, you are open to the endless opportunities to compare notes, plan collaborations and form bonds that can echo for decades.
Consider, for example, the purpose of this summit. To invite about 1,000 of the world’s “movers and shakers” under 30 and put them in one room to watch what happens to the world. With the top young entrepreneurs, doers and game-changers in every major field coming together to figure out how to advance their companies, causes – and themselves — further and faster.
The more granular answer: to swap ideas, collaborate, cook up business ideas, create partnerships and learn. To mentor and be mentored. Cross-pollination is key in the accounting profession. Leaders in technology need to talk with those disrupting the accounting industry. Finance geniuses need to compare notes with law and policy prodigies. And so on, from education to marketing to media.
This is how a career will thrive.
This is mentorship.
--Sarah Cirelli, Marketing manager, Interactive Marketing WithumSmith+Brown
I had many great mentors, mostly at IBM, because the company was very focused on personal and leadership development. Jerry Murphy was one of my most influential mentors. He taught me how to connect with others, always thinking of ways to help them and aligning our interests. I credit much of my success to his influence.
--Gale Crosley, President, Crosley+Co.
I have always admired the tenacity my mother demonstrated as the only female accounting major at her university. My mom was the only woman accounting major at the University of Pittsburgh when she graduated in 1951. One accounting professor figured it was just a matter of time before she’d quit — which, of course, she never did, despite him asking her this virtually every day when she came to class. After graduation and receiving multiple offers both in public accounting and industry, she worked in a major oil company’s accounting department, helping my dad through medical school. She went on to become a strong leader in the community, as our town's first woman councilman as well as the first woman elder at our church. It's tough to say whether it was her influence or her genes, but her mentorship taught me that there were no barriers to achieving what I wanted.
When I was 25 and had only been in public accounting for a few years, I strongly considered leaving and taking a high-level internal audit job at a client. I went to two very senior partners, for guidance. They didn't want me to leave and laid out a plan for how I could achieve great success by staying in public accounting. They helped me see myself in a partner role, which was incredibly inspiring to me. The thing that most impacted my decision to stay was their statement that they really looked forward to the day when we would be peers in the partnership. This helped me envision a path forward that I have never imagined before. Even though there were only a handful of female partners at that time, I truly believed that I had the opportunity to achieve a place in the partnership.
--Deborah DeHaas, Vice chair, chief inclusion officer, national managing partner of the Center for Corporate Governance, Deloitte LLP
Yes! And I still do. My mentors are the reason I am where I am today. My first mentor is the one that could see my potential before I could and pushed me towards consulting. The others along the way have made me better at what I do. I doubt I would be where I am today without the mentors I have had guiding me.
--Sarah Johnson Dobek, President and founder, Inovautus Consulting
I am a strong believer in mentorship. I’ve had many colleagues who have helped me progress, both in my career and personal life. I’m a member of Ascend, a nonprofit pan-Asian organization for professionals, which helps develop leaders in the Asian-American community. And as CEO of CalCPA, I make it a point to meet our younger members and to encourage our older members to reach out to the next generation.
--Loretta Doon, CEO, California Society of CPAs
The late Rod Hills, former SEC chairman. Rod demonstrated that the life of the mind could be well-led, through the effective involvement of thought in the world of action and affairs. He was one of the best men for the world's fight.
--James Doty, Chairman, PCAOB
I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors and sponsors throughout my career. They helped me grow personally and professionally. They listened and provided guidance at critical moments. They put me forward for career growth opportunities that I may not have had the opportunity to pursue otherwise. I’m passionate about helping others develop and advance in their careers and I serve as a mentor and sponsor for numerous individuals.
--Lynne Doughtie, Chairman and CEO, KPMG
I had two mentors who had a significant impact in my career: my high school math teacher and a tax partner at an accounting firm. My math teacher inspired a love of mathematics in me and helped guide me toward an accounting career. When I got my first job, a tax partner at the accounting firm taught me about tax law and how to approach and research issues.
--George Farrah, Editorial director, tax and Accounting Bloomberg BNA
Early in my career, I was fortunate to be mentored by two extraordinary women whose guidance and views helped shape my career.
The first of my mentors taught me the importance of regularly stepping back and looking at the big picture. This advice continues to serve me well as the leader of an organization dedicated not only to serving public company auditors, but also investors and the markets more globally.
The second showed me how to handle and benefit from career evaluations, both formal and informal. Through her counsel and example, I gained an ability not just to receive career feedback dispassionately, but also to make that feedback actionable. Having this understanding is critical to anyone looking to improve professionally.
--Cindy Fornelli, Executive director, Center for Audit Quality
I’ve had two mentors. The first was assigned to me at Ernst & Young when I was a staff auditor. That mentor told me that if I really wanted to work in the M&A space I should switch firms because audits were scheduled six months in advance and M&A activity was on an as-needed basis. In order not to be scheduled for audits six months out, my mentor told me to switch firms, which I did when I went to PwC. In doing so, I saw that both firms needed updated electronic audit confirmation services and those two experiences are what prompted me to start Confirmation.com. My second mentor is Chris Schellhorn, who has been my partner at Confirmation.com since the first year I started it. I can’t begin to explain all that I’ve learned – both in business and personally – from Chris over the last 15 years, nor can I ever thank him enough for his belief in me and the wisdom I’ve gained through experience with his coaching. I couldn’t be more proud than having him be the godfather to my youngest daughter.
--Brian Fox, Founder and president of Confirmation.com
I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of mentors who had profound effects on my professional development and my career. Without the encouragement, support and “arm-twisting” of those mentors, I likely would not have ended up in some of the significant leadership roles that I’ve held in the profession and in my work.
--Jeanette Franzel, Board member, PCAOB
I have had a number of mentors. The most significant was Ulrich Kramer, a partner at Touche Ross & Co. He took me under his wing, guided me, corrected me, developed me and shepherded me to partnership at age 30.
--Chris Frederiksen, Chairman, The 2020 Group
I was lucky to have many mentors in my career, and believe all great leaders are mentors. Having spent eight years at Adobe when it was just beginning allowed me to work alongside John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, the founders. I learned what it meant to build a truly great company from a passionate beginning. John taught me that new ideas can’t be tested as they hadn’t been experienced before. Chuck taught me that leadership can come from a position of [being] calm and gentle.
--Russell Fujioka, President, U.S. at Xero
Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet some very wonderful and powerful people. They have given me great advice on balancing work and family life. They have also had a tremendous impact on how I respond to business challenges
--Tim Gearty, National lead instructor and national editor-in-chief, Becker Professional Education
I have had several mentors throughout my career. Debits and credits can be learned in a classroom — but a mentor helps you learn how to succeed in the workplace. A good mentor leads by example and provides you with the feedback you need to improve. My mentors taught me how to work with people, to lead, build consensus, and problem solve. Those lessons have helped me at all levels of my career, but especially in my role as chair of the FASB.
--Russell Golden, Chairman, FASB
Early in my career I had several partners at Arthur Young that were good mentors and showed me the ropes of the accounting profession. Recently I have relied more on a colleague and friend (Gary Boomer) to help me talk through various opportunities and business decisions. Gary has a very deep and independent view of this industry and has many leading edge thoughts. I appreciate his perspective.
--Jeff Gramlich, President, AccountantsWorld
I have always had people I learned from throughout my career. There are many who have invested and still continue to invest in my development and take an interest in my growth and success. It was always my parents, sometimes it was my boss, sometimes it was a colleague. Of course, when Troy Waugh hired me back in 2001, he provided a wealth of knowledge about the industry and the needs and opportunities that still exist today.
I look for ways to improve constantly and sometimes certain people are more direct on how I need to do so. This helps. The bottom line for me is those people who believed in me and inspired me impacted me the most. I hope to be this person for others as well.
--Angie Grissom, President, The Rainmaker Companies
I started my career in 1972 with Padgett Business Services when the founder Walt Padgett was the leading force in our company. Though he was a difficult man to please, he gave me many of the work habits and philosophies that still drive me to be successful today. I did not appreciate at the time how much he would impact my career. I am grateful to have had such an influential mentor. While technology has dramatically changed how we do things today, the basic foundation of the business that I learned from Walt Padgett still works today.
--Roger Harris, President and COO, Padgett Business Services
Yes, the Maryland Association of CPAs was my mentor and involvement in associations continues to give me access to mentors. The minute I passed the CPA Exam, I was encouraged (told) to join the MACPA and AICPA, which I did. I soon volunteered for committees and a whole new world of contacts, mentors, and access to the CPA profession which made all the difference in my career. To this day, I continue to volunteer in various ways and continue to find I always get back way more than I give, but you have to give first!
--Tom Hood, CEO and executive director, MACPA & BLI
I have had mentors all through my career. Currently, my fellow board members and staff are my collective mentor. Being an “accidental accountant,” I profit from their knowledge and wisdom every day.
--Hans Hoogervorst, Chairman of IFRS
Yes, and I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for a select few mentors who really helped guide me. Bob Mapes was the former director of tax at Rea & Associates and was my first “champion” of a Lean Six Sigma project within a CPA firm. He instilled confidence in me and demonstrated a great deal of enthusiasm for the methodology and its eventual success. He continues to be a good friend and mentor, even though he has retired from public accounting.
Rita Keller has always been that trusted person I could go to with any question or concern. She showed a great deal of interest in me as a new consultant in the profession six years ago – and she was one of the first phone calls I made when I decided to branch off on my own and start Flowtivity. She has been a tremendous resource in understanding firm dynamics and especially the practice management side of CPA firms.
Gary Boomer has helped me in a very similar way to what Bob and Rita have as well. Gary has always been a supporter of me as a consultant and most importantly had a natural way to build your confidence. He is someone who I always learn something new from every conversation we have together and I value our friendship and business relationship greatly.
--Dustin Hostetler, Shareholder and Lean Six Sigma consultant, Boomer Consulting
I have been very fortunate to have several mentors over the years – in my academic pursuits, certainly with my career, and in the community. If I had to choose the two most important, they would be the ones closest to home.
My father was a partner with Coopers & Lybrand. Through his example, I gained a deep appreciation of what this profession stands for – excellence in client service, objectivity, independence, partnership and a deep respect for understanding details. His personal example not only got me interested in the profession, but it also spurred me to reach even further to create open doors and pathways so others could grow and take advantage of the enormous opportunities the profession affords as well.
I also have been fortunate to have a host of mentors at EY over 33 years at the firm. All have helped me grow in different ways but some themes have been consistent: the importance of driving our inclusive people agenda; enabling great collaboration across EY; never losing sight of the importance of integrity; and always living our values, which are at the heart of EY.
From the perspective of living with purpose and making a difference, I have to give the credit to my wife, Kate. For coming up on 30 years, she’s been the force that has helped us achieve balanced success – family, career and giving back. We love taking on projects together and supporting the efforts of those around us. Giving back is the ultimate satisfaction gained from our hard work.
I could not have been blessed with better examples of the power of partnership.
--Stephen Howe, Managing partner, EY
Fortunately, I’ve had mentors throughout my entire career. During my first “real” job, I worked for a partner at Arthur Andersen (Nancy Pechloff) who truly cared about me and wanted to see me reach my potential. There is no doubt that I would not be where I am without her caring and counsel. After three years as an auditor I knew it was time for a change. Because of my strong relationship with Nancy, I was open about the fact that I wanted to leave AA and pursue an opportunity on the marketing/sales side of an organization. She listened to my reasoning, asked a lot of questions and within a few days she helped me land a position as a manager on the marketing side of AA. I spent four more years in this position learning about professional service marketing and the “business” of accounting … a wonderful background for my current roles and responsibilities.
Next, I developed a strong relationship with Marc Rosenberg. He’s taught me everything I know about practice management consulting (since there is no formal class!), he’s furthered my knowledge in regards to the business of accounting, and he is always available when I need to bend his ear about an issue or challenge. He sold us The Rosenberg Survey six years ago and has been truly amazing along the way. There is no way we could have achieved the success we have with the survey without him. Finally, as a business owner I face different challenges so I joined EO (formerly YEO) and my forum (a group of 11 business owners) serves as my current “mentor” helping me with issues, challenging me and being available as a sounding board.
--Charles Hylan, Partner, The Growth Partnership
I’ve always felt like an outsider in the accounting world because I don’t fit a mold. I didn’t fit in a public accounting firm and I didn’t fit in a large business. I always did have an entrepreneurial spirit and thankfully I’ve been able to live that life the past six years. With that being said, I might not have had a traditional mentor, but I have found inspiration in my career. For example, my first boss in forensic accounting did so well at teaching me how to do the work. I always think of him when I try to teach someone else something.
I currently find inspiration in business reality TV shows and watching experts like Marcus Lemonis advise businesses on how to better operate and that success isn’t just about working a lot, but having the right systems, strategy and people in place.
My closest to thing to a mentor is my friendship with Stacy Kildal. Over the past few years, she has been able to share her perspective on running a similar business and shared her advice based on her own experiences. That friendship has been invaluable to me the past few years.
--Cathy Iconis, CEO, Iconis Group
I was fortunate to have many mentors, although it took quite a few years to find them. When I started my CPA practice I had great technical skills but knew nothing about growing a business. My practice grew very slowly.
Shortly after starting my business, I was introduced to the National Conference of CPA Practitioners. I was surrounded by my peers and discovered a group of people willing to share what they knew with their competitors and friends. They were not threatened by the competition, there was enough business to go around.
While they did not know it, this group of CPAs became my mentors. They taught me to be a better CPA. They taught me to be a better businesswoman. And as I rose through the ranks at NCCPAP, they taught me to be a leader. I am eternally grateful to this group of wonderful men and women.
--Sandy Johnson, President, NCCPAP
Yes, I have been fortunate to have a number of mentors. One key individual is Dr. Bob Spencer who made sure I understood how technology applied to business and to filter out vendor initiatives in favor of business needs, thinking strategically and holistically. Another mentor was Gary Boomer who taught me to look for a vertical market specialty. Initially we shared the industry of community banking as our specialty and eventually morphed into support of public practice firms. Doug Sleeter taught me the value of small-business accounting and the consultants who work so hard every day to make products like QuickBooks, Xero and Sage 50 work effectively. Finally, I was lucky enough to connect with my K2 enterprise partners, Will Fleenor and Val Steed, as well as Greg LaFollette, who taught me the value and influence of the accounting profession. Our K2 team has done our best to return the favor of teaching accountants the value of technology.
--Randy Johnston, Executive vice president and partner, K2 Enterprises, CEO, Network Management Group
The managing partner of the CPA firm in which I worked when I passed the CPA Exam impressed on me how important it was to give back to the profession. He urged me to immediately join the AICPA and the Greater Washington Society of CPAs. But more importantly, he encouraged and supported my active involvement with the GWSCPAs. That encouragement opened a floodgate of volunteerism, not only with the GWSCPAs where I served on the Federal Tax Committee, the board, and as chair of the Publications Committee for many years, but in many religious and community activities as well. That love of volunteerism that he spurred was also important for me in my AICPA role as we are the beneficiaries of the very generous contribution of hours by many CPA volunteers.
--Edward Karl, Vice president of taxation, AICPA
I have not had a mentor in the “formal” sense, but I have been incredibly fortunate that many people who I consider exceptional entrepreneurs, inside and outside of the accounting profession, have been willing share their time, their stories and/or their advice with me. While it is always wonderful to hear about success stories, it is really helpful when someone who has accomplished a great deal is willing to talk about the times that were not easy, or when they were faced with difficult decisions, when they made mistakes, or when they were working 100 hours per week to reach their goals, and hear about how they found the drive and strength to get through those times.
When I was just starting my own practice, I happened to meet a founding partner from a very successful firm in the Northeast. This partner was the chairman of our state board of accountancy, was active in many industry and community organizations, was at his desk in the morning by the time I woke up, and yet seemed to make it all work so magically. I was in the midst of my early growing pains, and as I made mistakes or things would blow up around me, I would think of him and wonder how in the world I would ever get to where he was. As I reached more and more of my goals in the profession, the pressure continued to mount. I will never forget one night, while I was at a hotel in San Francisco after having been selected to participate on an advisory board that I was thrilled about, that I just felt as if I desperately needed a sounding board. I sent a quick e-mail to that partner telling him how much I admired him and how I wished I had his magic skills for balancing everything, considering I was feeling pulled in so many directions. The reply I received was a lunch invitation for the following week. In the months that followed, that partner so kindly took the time to talk with and share with me, send me e-mails just to keep me laughing and moving forward, and actually rolled up his sleeves to help me sort through evaluating a number of opportunities as they came my way. Among the most important things he shared with me was how much even he struggled with the juggling act of everything, how often he was trying to keep the “swirling glass dishes in the air” from crashing, etc. While that time and those discussions did not magically make my path easier, it did help to significantly change my view of what the path to success may look like, and gave me a tremendous amount of comfort and confidence.
That is just one example of someone who I certainly consider a mentor, and I am now having the pleasure of watching him formally retire, check things off of his actual “bucket list” that he created, and spend lots of time with his grandchildren. While again there was no formal “mentoring” involved, I know that this person has had an unbelievable impact on my career.
Today, I find myself being mentored a great deal by the head of the division in my company, who I have found to be an exceptional speaker, and who leads our team with a level of transparency and integrity that is extremely rare. I would easily consider him to be among the top three professionals I have ever worked with, and I would go so far as to rank him at the top of even that group. I routinely approach him with questions, requests for advice, and as much I just enjoy any opportunity I have to observe him at work, because each time I pick up a lesson or two that I am able to incorporate in to my own work.
There are several other amazing individuals who I have not mentioned here, but who I will never be able to thank enough for what they have added to my world.
The greatest gift I have received from all of the people who have taken time for me, is an understanding of how much that can mean to someone, both professionally and personally. It makes me always want to be willing to be as generous with my time and share as openly when others now come to me and ask for some time and sharing.
--Jennifer Katrulya, Accounting operations director, H&R Block Small Business
The reality is I've had countless mentors throughout my career. I try to take a little piece from every interaction and learn from it every day. I have gained insights from people inside and outside of our profession at every career phase or life stage and all that has gone into the leader I've become. When I started with O’Connor Davies 37 years ago, I had big dreams, but I couldn’t have made it to where I am today had it not been for those who took the time to support and counsel me along the way.
Being open to advice and perspectives has had an invaluable impact on my career, and I am grateful to those who took the time to guide me, challenge me and motivate me – they know who they are.
--Kevin Keane, Managing partner, O’Connor Davies
I am so fortunate. I have had numerous mentors over the many years I have spent in the accounting profession. It is actually one of the topics I focus on in my consulting practice. The CPA profession is built on a foundation of mentoring, an older, more experienced person guides, teaches, coaches a younger, less experienced person. It is how accountants have been passing along their skills and expertise for decades. Sometimes, I think they forget they are actually mentoring! They need to expand upon their mentoring and include a wider range of skills as they mentor younger people. Mentoring is more than just the technical skills, it’s helping develop life skills, too.
When I was a beginner, if I met someone who impressed me, seemed to really know what they were doing in managing an accounting firm, I introduced myself and got to know them. Whether it was a CPA practitioner, a managing partner, a firm administrator, a technology expert, or a consultant to the CPA profession, I wanted them to know that I wanted to learn from them. Many of these people became my mentors and some still are. It made ALL of the difference in my career development. I have always worked best surrounded by people would challenge me to do more and be more.
--Rita Keller, President of Keller Advisors
Yes, I was fortunate to have two great CPA mentors, one to give me the initial opportunities to pursue new business lines and another to give me responsibilities so I could grow. The first pushed me to pursue my passion for technology and to go after training/certifications that would benefit both me and the firm (which could also use my new knowledge to implement IT solutions). The second to let me succeed (and fail) on my own by giving me responsibility and accountability, but always being there with advice and resources when I needed help to get back on track. My second mentor encouraged me to pursue consulting so I could schedule more time with family.
--Roman Kepczyk, Director of consulting, Xcentric LLC
Yes, I have had too many to list. Probably the most significant has been Howard Hansen. Howard was head of HR and an organizational development consultant for partners at Great Plains Software back in the 1990s. He introduced me to some incredible concepts about leadership and consulting that I used every day of my life and not just in my career. Listening skills, authenticity, non-anxious leadership to name but a few.
Ed Kless, Senior director, Sage
I don’t have one specific mentor -- I tend to draw from my friends in the industry -- I’m always asking what works for them, how they do things, what works for them, what doesn’t. Then I tell them that I’m stealing the good ideas, but that I will absolutely give them credit if someone asks how I came up with it!
--Stacy Kildal, Creator, StacyKAcademy.com; owner, Kildal Services LLC
I have been blessed to have had four great mentors in public accounting. Howard Schnoll of Nankin Schnoll, who kept me in public accounting when I wanted out. Irwin Friedman, who promoted me from staff accountant to partner in FERS. Gary Shamis (formerly SS&G, now BDO), who has mentored me for the past 15 years. And Tom Feeley of Feeley & Driscoll, who has been an overall mentor to me for the past three decades. If I could give one piece of advice on growing professionally, it is not only the importance of identifying great mentors, but also listening to their advice along the way and actually doing the things they tell you to do!
--Allan Koltin, CEO, Koltin Consulting Group
I’ve had mentors throughout my career, but have selected using a mentor based on the mentor’s strengths and trying to emulate that behavior. If there wasn’t someone that I could lean on as a mentor, I found it was time for me to leave and find new opportunities. I believe mentors can help with retention, but the person has to self-select the mentor they are looking for. Chances are, if they can’t find one internally, they may not fit into the culture.
--Mark Koziel, Vice president of firm services & global alliances, AICPA
Yes. Throughout my career, I have had mentors who helped me identify potential opportunities and challenges. They helped me think about the direction of my career and what I’d need to do to achieve my goals. They also modeled leadership skills, and why professionalism is just as important as accounting expertise.
--Jim Kroeker, Vice chairman, FASB
I’m a stealth mentee.* I have (and I’ve had) several mentors, but they don’t know they’re my mentors. They’re friends who I respect and who I pump for information in an attempt to replicate their success. I was assigned a mentor at the CPA firm I used to work for. Being assigned a mentor is like being assigned a hero. “You will idolize Neil Diamond.” “Damnit.” The mentoring relationships that have developed organically have helped me a ton by opening doors, providing wisdom, and every now and then picking up the tab for dinner.
--Greg Kyte, Founder, Comedy CPE
*The word mentee bothers me. Too close to manatee.
I had a very easy time finding my mentors – they sat at the dinner table with me. My family – including my mom, dad, grandparents and great-grandparents -- founded 13 companies before I was even an adult. My dad helped grow one of my family’s accountant businesses and both of my grandmothers and my great-grandfather were accountants.
Dinner always included conversations that focused on cash flow, hiring and business growth strategies. I called all this discussion the “Dinner Table MBA program.” I learned how to listen, sell, take risks, weigh business decisions, work hard and funnel my passion into results. These conversations primed me to become a fourth-generation entrepreneur who has founded my own two companies.
Now, when I sit down with my own family, I continue the Dinner Table MBA program by inviting and nurturing open and honest business conversations like the ones I enjoyed when young.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some very brilliant accounting and technology professionals as well and am thankful for that experience. But in regards to mentors, it all started at home for me and I hope to continue that trend with my children.
--Rene Lacerte, Founder and CEO, Bill.com
I’ve had an amazing array of helpful and instructive mentors and colleagues. My first boss, Walt Schaefer at McCrossan Boys Ranch, taught me the power of personal connections. He was 35 years ahead of LinkedIn and he taught me the importance on maintaining and fostering contacts.
--Greg LaFollette, Strategic advisor, CPA.com
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have several mentors – both formal and informal – throughout my career. Each has played an important hand in developing my overall learning, professional growth and leadership style. Being able to learn from the experiences of others is truly a gift, and I have worked to adapt what I’ve learned into something that works for me personally. Even now, I have established a network that I am constantly learning from and, in turn, reciprocate with knowledge and perspective that I can lend to my peers.
--Teresa Mackintosh, President and CEO, CCH Software, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
John Hunnicutt, the former senior VP of public affairs for the AICPA, impacted my career greatly. He taught me the importance of consensus-building in driving change and innovation. He led from the front and, at the same time, always made his team feel accountability and pride at being leaders for a proud profession.
--Janice Maiman, Senior vice president, Communications, Media, News & Professional Pathways, AICPA
I have been fortunate to have several mentors at important stages of my professional development who had profound impacts on my career. Some of them knew they were mentors and willingly shared their guidance, expertise and experience; with others, I was able to study from a distance and take away the key lessons – good and bad -- that helped me find my own path forward.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to work very closely with an executive who was at their peak. That individual was able to provide key lessons on leadership and perseverance that have stayed with me to this day, and was able to offer encouragement when I was being asked to reach for objectives that might not have seemed reasonable.
Later in my career, I was once again fortunate to gain insights from another mentor who taught me the value of servant leadership and the gains that can be made by focusing on helping people and teams develop and perform as highly as possible.
--Jason Marx, President, CCH Small Firm Services, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
Two of my mentors were my graduate school professors of marketing and entrepreneurship at Pace University in Manhattan where I completed an MBA and two years of doctoral studies. Due to the courses I took with them I developed a passion for marketing and entrepreneurship. That passion helped me to be successful in my career managing profit centers for H&R Block and ultimately led to me founding several small businesses and succeeding in growing my businesses, enabling them to survive, evolve and become profitable. My core business, Peoples Income Tax, celebrated its 28th anniversary on September 1, 2015.
--Charles McCabe, Founder, president/CEO, The Income Tax School Inc.
I’ve been honored to be mentored at every step of my career including A.G. Lafley at P&G, Greg Shearson formerly of PepsiCo, Mike Griffith, formerly CEO of Activision, and Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit. I was particularly privileged when I first joined Intuit to be mentored by Jill Ward, formerly of Intuit, on the value of accountants and their importance to the Quickbooks ecosystem.
--Jim McGinnis, Vice president, Accountant and Advisor Group, Intuit Inc.
I have a lengthy list of mentors -- the chairs and vice chairs of the AICPA that I’ve served with, going back from Ron Cohen to our current chair, Tommye Barie. I constantly turn to them for advice and guidance, even when they’re no longer serving in their official capacity. Each chair brings a different perspective and experience, and they’ve all helped shape my leadership style and decision-making. I also invest in a coach to keep me continually challenging myself, my assumptions and my personal development. I speak to thousands of members in every discipline and segment every year. I work hard to listen to each perspective. The richness of those views shape me.
--Barry Melancon, President and CEO, AICPA
I was fortunate to have my father, who was a CPA, be my mentor. I also started a stamp business when I was 13 and many of the people I met because of this were mentors. I worked for small CPA firms and my bosses were mentors, in particular Alan A. Brown, Max Simansky and Bernard Kleinman. Throughout my life I met people that provided mentoring of some sort and I was lucky enough to be alert enough to grasp the gems they were teaching me.
Edward Mendlowitz, Partner emeritus, WithumSmith+Brown
Yes. May father impacted my career greatly in many ways. He owned a small auto parts store and I started working there when I was 14. He taught me to ask a customer as many questions as I could because if I sold them the wrong auto part we would lose our loyal customers and the store would close. Fast-forward to my CPA career and I quickly discovered that I could bring in new clients easily and keep them for the long term. It took me decades to realize that my Dad taught me how to sell when I was 14 and how to get better at it with every customer. He taught me that asking enough questions to offer the correct solution or solve a problem was important not only to auto parts. I learned that clients were no different with their businesses and financial lives and that if I could learn enough by collaborating with them, I could offer them great advice and perform services they greatly valued and they would be clients for life. As asking questions compounded in my career I learned that the clients saw all those questions as my caring about them and my relationships thrived even more. Thanks Dad!
--James Metzler, Founder, Metzler Advisory Group LLC
I had various mentors who helped me throughout my career, although I don’t think they ever called or considered themselves my mentors. These were people who took time to provide guidance in technical areas, but more importantly in personal development areas such as practice development and people management. I think most people who have had successful careers can point out at least one or two people who were significant contributors to their professional success.
--Stan Mork, President, ITA
My mentor is Dr. Sandra Richtermeyer, associate dean at Xavier University. She had a large impact on my career and, most importantly, my passion to serve the profession. I think servant leadership is greatly needed in our profession today, and she demonstrates that in nearly everything she does. I got to witness this firsthand, and she continues to encourage me in this area. I really never thought of leading like that until she became my mentor. She got me involved in teaching at a local university, volunteer leadership with the IMA (ultimately becoming the chair) and serving on the Accounting Advisory Board at Xavier University.
Today’s up-and-coming accounting professionals must make servant leadership important to them in order for the profession to continue to thrive. I wish our profession had more mentors like Dr. Richtermeyer. Unfortunately, many younger professionals get caught up in the online networking and connection environment, and they don’t go so far as to find a mentor. I was there, and I think it held my leadership development back somewhat. This will eventually create a leadership problem for our profession in the next 20 years if we don’t do something to bring awareness to this problem. Formal mentorship programs like what the IMA provides to its members is greatly needed!
--Benjamin Mulling, Chair, Institute of Management Accountants
Yes I did have a mentor. His name was Don Istvan. Some of your readers will remember Don. He was the guru to the CPA consulting community and he and I became very close friends. Don once gave me an interesting piece of advice that I built my consulting practice by. He said, "Jay there are two types of consultants in this world. Those who tell their clients what they want to hear so they are invited back, and those who tell their clients what they NEED to hear and hope they are invited back." I chose the latter approach to building my career in the CPA community and I believe it has served me and my clients well. I believe that CPA practitioners who also choose this route will far better serve their clients as well. Don had a significant affect on my career and whatever success I've had. We lost Don far too soon and I always miss his sage advice but I've hung on to what he offered me while we were together.
--Jay Nisberg, President, Jay Nisberg & Associates
I have a few mentors, but the only reason they are mentors is because I reached out to them to ask for help. They gave me a few opportunities, but I followed up and asked for more. The more I asked, the more I received. So many professionals are open to helping and growing someone under them but they won’t necessarily volunteer it. Be upfront, ask and tell them what you need. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for their help and confidence that I was capable and the belief that I would be successful when I didn’t believe it myself.
--Jody Padar, CEO and principal, New Vision CPA Group
I have had coaches from time to time and they have definitely helped to refine and sharpen my abilities in order to make me a more effective leader.
--Brian Peccarelli, President, the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters
I did not have any mentors as I came into the profession. For me, not having a mentor forced me to develop into a CPA and a professional in a manner that resulted in very positive outcomes. As an active mentor today of college students in their final years, not having a mentor has made me a better mentor. Not having a mentor made me persevere on my own without a sounding board or guidance, it made me a stronger leader and one who understands what it takes to survive on a professional career track.
--Carl Peterson, Vice president of small firm interests, AICPA
While I did not have a mentor physically present in my life, I have always admired the works of Warren Buffett and have worked to model my own career after his accomplishments and attributes. Buffett was a determined entrepreneur. He made his first investment when he was 11 and owned his first business when he was 13, learning in between those two years the importance of patience in investing and learning from his mistakes. Although I wasn’t as young when I started Roger CPA Review, I had to learn how to run my own business from scratch, accept failure as part of a milestone to success, and learn from my own mistakes. Entrepreneurship really teaches you the importance of taking initiative and being a self-starter in everything that you do. Buffett also has a great reputation for being one of the most unpretentious billionaires in the world, donating his entire fortune to charity. I admire his humbleness and desire to help others, which is what I always incorporate into my staff and business model: “Seek your goals and find success by loving the means that will get you there. Enjoy what you’re doing. Always.”
I strive every day to be equally compassionate toward others as I am passionate about my work. Helping people pass the CPA Exam — one of the most difficult tests – and go on to pursue their license is an incredibly rewarding experience. And I’m lucky enough to say that I do it for a living.
--Roger Philipp, CEO and owner, Roger CPA Review
I am fortunate to have mentors including Rebecca Ryan, who showed me a future of our profession that we are now trying to create; and entrepreneur Vernon Niven, who shortened my learning curve for running a business. There are many more I don’t have room to mention, but the cumulative effect of these mentors is that I confidently take good risks and know how to execute because others showed me the way.
--Jeff Phillips, CEO, Accountingfly
My monthly Illinois CPA Society’s Women’s Mentoring Circle consisting of 10 women is one of the most influential mentoring experiences in my life and career. I have learned from these women’s perspectives and made small changes to my life that have made big impacts, including getting organized and learning how to delegate effectively. Both of these behaviors have helped me to become more efficient and spend better time coaching. It has been rewarding to be a mentor and friend to the wonderful women in this group.
One of the strongest mentors in my life is the founder and former CEO of ArrowStream Inc., Steven LaVoie. He encouraged me to be bolder and speak up more at work and through my volunteer activities. He instilled in me the value of hard work toward pursuing big dreams while still living in the present and building a life rich with family, friends and experiences.
--Elizabeth Pittelkow, Director of Accounting and Compliance, ArrowStream Inc.
Yes — I have had mentors who have had an enormously positive influence on my career growth. To me, working with a good mentor is like being part of an on-the-job MBA program. I learned a lot about leadership, management, and personal and professional development. Working with mentors over the course of my career has given me that extra “push” and confidence to get out of my comfort zone and stretch myself.
Furthermore, a good mentor is not afraid to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. My best mentors used a form of professional “tough love” -- I knew exactly when I had made mistakes and missteps, as well as when I had done well. Ultimately, though, it has made me a better professional and a better leader.
--Terri Polley, President and CEO, FAF
Yes I did. Two were very influential. One was the managing partner of the accounting firm where I began my career out of school. The other was the CEO of H&R Block, which acquired our firm in 1998 and to whom I reported for about three years. Both instilled in me a set of values on how to conduct myself that helped pattern my career. I learned it isn’t so much what you know, but how you treat and show respect for your peers that has the biggest impact on how effective your leadership will be.
--Terry Putney, CEO, Transition Advisors
Yes, I had two mentors who had a significant impact on my career.
The most significant mentor I had was a partner at my last firm. Mike Knowles filled the role of mentor and sponsor.
He gave me the autonomy to serve clients in the way I felt was best. This allowed me control over my schedule and the feeling of satisfaction and drive when I did an excellent job because I knew I did it without being micro-managed. We had unparalleled client loyalty while I was working with Mike.
He put my name in the ring for special opportunities at our firm. I chaired a newly formed sustainability committee, developed a new service line after identifying a client need, and led a firm-wide client-service initiative.
I never had to overcome gender bias during the formative years of my career. In working with him and at our firm, equality seemed more prevalent than not. I’m very lucky in that regard, as someone can’t truly be a mentor if they see you as second-class in any way.
In contrast, I knew many other people who did not have this kind of guidance and opportunity. While they continue to do well in their career, the trajectory I achieved was in large part due to the support I had from mentors like Mike.
--Kristen Rampe, Owner, Kristen Rampe Consulting
I have been blessed with a number of mentors throughout my career who have guided me to my current path.
My first mentor was a kind, older gentleman whom I met when I was just 10 years old. He agreed to pay me 10 cents to sweep the driveway of his service station. After doing a very poor job of sweeping the driveway, he took me in his office, bought me a Coke, and explained why he could not pay me for the job I had just completed. I cried the entire way home, defeated that I had not done what I needed to do. As upset as I was, I walked away knowing what it would take to earn that dime.
I got that dime the next week, and for the next several weeks, until I got my first raise to a quarter. I was then tutored on how I should dress when I came to work. If I was going to be part of his team, I should take pride in my appearance, comb my hair, and wear a belt and socks.
I continued to do odd jobs for this older gentleman all the way through elementary school. Eventually, he was not only reviewing the odd jobs I did for him, but my school work and even how I conducted myself during my time at school.
Although I continued to do odd jobs for this wonderful person until I graduated from the sixth grade, I was never given a pay raise above that original quarter.
From time to time, I will have a day where I wish he could be here with me to offer advice on how to handle something or just so that I could hug his neck after remembering something he taught me and knowing how to react. The education I received from this wonderful man has served me well throughout the rest of my life. God bless men like him who give so much and ask so little.
I still like to think that he walks the halls of the ACFE with me, helping me make those tough decisions that go beyond money and meetings.
--James Ratley, CFE, President and CEO, ACFE
Informal mentors have played a tremendous role in my personal and professional development over the years. In general, they were caring people who responded to my passion and hard work and saw some potential in me. They were willing to give honest feedback and discuss ideas that I had. Several of my informal mentors currently are or were founding board members of SASB. I could not have taken the chances in life that I have taken, for example leaving Deloitte and going to Harvard to do a post-doc fellowship, without the encouragement of my mentors, including Steve Gunders (retired from Deloitte and founding SASB board member). Starting SASB was a similar risk — mentors including Steve Lydenberg (partner, Domini Investments) played a pivotal clarifying and supporting role, as did Bob Eccles (HBS professor and founding chairman of SASB).
--Jean Rogers, CEO and founder, SASB
I have -- Steven Covey and Brunello Cucinelli. Covey’s writings have inspired and empowered me to realize that I could do anything I want to do and if I adopt the right mindset. Cucinelli inspires me to dig deep, be creative, and to think about things from a much more philosophical perspective. Their teachings impact the way I live my life every day and inspire me to help others.
--Darren Root, President & CEO, RootWorks
I had two mentors: One during my VP/controller days who taught me how businesses are managed and gave me a lot of freedom, as a financial guy, to get involved in every aspect of the business, including the interpersonal issues between key officers in our division. Second, while at a large CPA firm, I was hired to be that firm’s first-ever COO. The firm’s founder and MP, Irwin Friedman of FERS, taught me how CPA firms should be properly managed. With Irwin, there was always a lot of “tough love,” but what he taught me enabled me to launch my career as a CPA firm consultant, a career that is absolutely perfect for me.
Marc Rosenberg, President, The Rosenberg Associates
Yes, I’ve had a number of mentors over the years. They have provided invaluable insights that helped accelerate the progression of my career by many years.
--G. Brint Ryan, Chairman and CEO, Ryan
I've had formal mentors in the workplace but it's the conversations with informal mentors that has made the greatest impact on my career. The first informal mentor who comes to mind is Tom Rimerman. Tom is a retired managing partner of Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP -- a firm where I worked for 10 years. Tom is also a former chair of the AICPA and past CalCPA President.
In my first year of public accounting, I interviewed Tom for an internal newsletter. In telling me the history of the firm, I also learned the story of his career. Tom gave so much service to the profession while simultaneously building a prominent practice. He truly inspired me to be more than an employee. I saw the value in being an active member of the profession. Tom's wisdom inspired me to become a leader within CalCPA and give service in areas that I am passionate about -- education and career development.
The second more influential informal mentor of my career has been DeAnne Aussem. DeAnne is the director of PwC's U.S. Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence. Like me, she is a CPA and a certified coach. Years ago I reached out to DeAnne to learn more about coach training programs. During the call she shared what she saw. “It sounds like you have outgrown your fishbowl,? she said.
DeAnne was right. I was hungry to make an even greater impact on the profession. Her metaphor has stuck with me for years and I now continuously look at myself to see and question if I am thinking big enough.
In their own ways, both Tom and Deanne inspired me to move from helping hundreds of CPAs in one firm to impacting thousands via my consulting practice, freelance writing, and involvement with the CalCPA.
--Amber Setter, Chief opportunity officer, Intention Setter
I can’t say that I’ve had a mentor in the true sense of someone taking you under their wing and guiding you in career decisions. I have had people that I’ve worked for who have had a profound impact on my career, typically by challenging me to improve and continually evolve. The business world is constantly changing, and being pushed to improve has led me to always question the status quo. That doesn’t mean we always have to change, but at least question what we do and whether it can be done better.
The lack of a “true” mentor has helped me to push myself to look for opportunities to positively impact any business that I’ve been involved with. I coached youth soccer for a number of years and I used to quote Wayne Gretzky to my players: “You miss 100 percent of the shots that you never take.” This is as true for the business world as it is for soccer. I always say “take the shot.”
--Todd Shapiro, President and CEO, ICPAS
I had champions rather than mentors. They helped to open doors and create opportunities for me that helped to accelerate my professional growth and upward career momentum.
--Donny Shimamoto, Managing director, IntrapriseTechKnowlogies
When I began facilitating the mergers of accounting firms 25 years ago, there were very few consultants in this arena and limited precedents to follow. The lack of a mentor in my field made the learning process much longer and became more about experience than education. That said, there were role models/mentors that heavily influenced my life, teaching me that as a business professional, my first job is to bring value to my clients. They advised me to initially focus on quality and integrity and then assured me that income will follow. Many of these early life lessons came from my father. Later in my career, I was inspired by watching and learning from well-respected accounting professionals such as Jim Metzler and Barry Melancon.
--Joel Sinkin, President, Transition Advisors
I’ve received great coaching from several people throughout my life. My father taught me the power of building win-win relationships, based in ethical business practices that focus on customer value. Sometimes coaches don’t even realize that they’re the coach. For example, even though my father-in-law never tried to play the role of coach, I learned from him that we all need a “reason to live.” As long as you find you own special reason, you’ll be on the road to pursuing your own happiness.
The impact for me? The journey has been the best reward, but also, by focusing on the lessons of my mentors, I built a valuable firm that was recently acquired by a large multinational company who wanted exactly what we built. They valued our community, and our independent, ethical approach to helping accountants build success.
I think everyone should surround themselves with great people who can help them grow. It could be a boss, a peer, or even a neighbor or family member, but successful people depend on the insight of others to shape their own life and career. If you think you know it all, you probably do, but that means you’re not learning, growing, and remaining relevant as the world changes. So what you know now will soon be irrelevant. Agility trumps ability!
--Doug Sleeter, Founder, The Sleeter Group
I’ve had many mentors throughout my career, but my Dad is the one who mentored me from a young age. In fact, the best advice I ever received was from my Dad. Unfortunately I didn’t always follow it, but when I did, his wisdom changed the course of my life for the better. I am living proof of Mark Twain’s famous quote: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
I was finishing college and facing a “make or break” decision. I was agonizing between two job offers I had received, and was fearful that I would make the wrong choice, propelling me down a doomed career path forever more. My Dad sat me down to give me a few pointers about choosing the best course. In a classic father’s approach, he kept it simple, backed up by years of personal experience.
He advised me that choosing the right job was not a sudden lightning bolt of realization, nor was it for most of us something we knew we wanted to do since we were kids (oh, how I envied those kids). Rather, it was a process of trial and error – a voyage of discovery.
My Dad is no longer with me, but his advice is. When I disregarded his advice (which was more than once), I learned the hard way. But when I heeded his advice, I found my personal True North. It is amazing how much my Dad learned on his journey from ignorance to genius as I came of age, and how much I have benefited from taking his crash course!
--Brad Smith, President and CEO, Intuit
I haven’t had a mentor per se, but I have maintained great relationships with CEOs of technology companies. In a way, I see each of these individuals as mentors. There is nothing more inspiring than learning how a successful entrepreneur built their business. And there’s nothing more useful than learning firsthand from a CEO where they screwed up. Sharing these war stories has been a lifesaver at times. Being a senior leader can sometimes be challenging and having peers to discuss tricky situations really helps.
Mentorship is important and I set aside time to provide mentoring to individuals and startups. One conversation can make a difference. It’s like the famous Wayne Gretzky quote: ”You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
--Jamie Sutherland, GM, U.S. Products & Solutions, Xero
Not sure this applies to me. But my mentors have always been the gadflies, mavericks and outsiders — the ones with establishment ties willing to see through the BS and speak plainly. I miss them: Abe Briloff, Eli Mason, Jerome Solomon, Bruce W. Marcus. Today, I look to Jody Padar, Ed Mendlowitz, August Aquila, Marc Rosenberg, Jean Caragher, Martin Bissett, Tom Hood, Roman Kepczyk, Randy Johnston.
--Rick Telberg, Founder and CEO, CPA Trendlines
Yes and they have changed over the years. Two come immediately to mind — both helped me through times of tremendous change. Both were older and had greater experience so they could more readily see the future and they helped me find greater clarity earlier on in the change process. And they both cared deeply about my career progression.
--Arleen Thomas, Senior vice president of management accounting and global markets, AICPA
Yes. I wouldn’t be where I am without sponsors. My sponsors opened doors, knocked down barriers, and helped my career take off. I say “sponsor” instead of “mentor” because I believe that firms should take traditional mentor programs one step further and move toward sponsorship/advocate programs. Mentors are valuable, but sponsor/advocates are close enough to protégés’ career trajectories and personal goals to clearly see in detail where protégés should be focusing their efforts in the near future to accomplish their professional, and sometimes life, goals.
--Ralph Thomas, CEO and Executive Director, NJCPA
“Officially” I never had what you would call a formal mentor. Over the course of my career, including CFO and CEO roles, I have informally identified people I know either personally or from afar and tried to evolve my leadership style using their approach or philosophy. For example, my Mom is a mentor of sorts and a role model for sure, even at age 92.
--Jeffrey Thomson, President and CEO, IMA
I’ve received some invaluable advice from the past and current directors on my board – they have been and continue to be my most important role models, advisors and mentors: Greg Pond, Lee Reams and Tom Unterman. Greg taught me to let people talk – oftentimes they need to be heard before they can listen. He also taught me to temper my own quick reactions for more thoughtful responses. Lee taught me the importance of great software that is built properly. Tom’s depth of experience is awe-inspiring; I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Tom has the ability to look at many data points and immediately identify those that potentially create risk for the company.
--Therese Tucker, CEO and founder, BlackLine
I have been blessed with many mentors, two of whom stand out. John Waddell was the managing partner of John Waddell and Co. who taught me about the profession of public accounting – it is based upon the integrity and objectivity of the professional. Stuart Smits, a lawyer friend, taught me about setting and defining my goals – in my profession and in my life. Both mentors were very good listeners and offered sage advice when appropriate.
--Michael Ueltzen, Partner, Ueltzen & Co.
I did have mentors, and their impact on my career has been and continues to be substantial. They helped me grasp the importance of both understanding and taking care of the people you work with as a means to create success, both for them and across the organization. People try too often to drive a personal agenda without realizing it’s much more impactful to take care of people around you -- with organizational alignment comes both an agenda and strategic alignment, and as a result taking care of others, in my experience, fundamentally benefits the whole. Much of the guidance I received was around listening, understanding, paying attention, and looking at others with objective eyes and an open mind. I learned how to have genuine, truthful discussions around what was important to my team members and peers. Perhaps the most important lesson passed along to me was also the most simple: Take care of people … great things happen!
--Pascal Van Dooren, Chief revenue officer, Avalara
Two partners at KPMG were my mentors. I learned both technical and professional skills by working closely with them. Their guidance definitely impacted my desire to become a KPMG partner myself and fueled my passion to make a difference in my community by sharing my professional skills.
--David Vaudt, Chairman, GASB
There have been many people over time that have impacted the path I have taken in my career, starting from the time I was 12 years old and working in my family’s business. When meeting business people at networking events that I would go to with my family at a young age, I would ask them what path I should take with my career and they all said to go into accounting. Their reasoning was that having accounting knowledge helps give you the foundational business knowledge you need in any career path. Between my experience working in a family business and the advice I got from those professionals, it set me on the path of going into accounting, but also understanding the plight of a small-business owner and the struggles they have to be profitable and stay alive. That passion for wanting to help entrepreneurs has given me my purpose in what I do and wanting to help the industry grow and change so their clients are successful and prosperous.
--Amy Vetter, Global vice president of education and head of accounting, USA, Xero
I have had a number of mentors throughout my life, some formal and some informal. My best experience by far was a few years ago when I had the opportunity to be formally mentored by a Sage executive for almost a year who I have a great deal of respect for -- it was transformative. To have someone with more career experience and different strengths invest in you and share the truth (even when it stings a bit) and then support you in advancing in ways that will help you achieve your greatest potential is pretty amazing. Our formal mentorship program at Sage was designed to help you become the best version of yourself so it wasn’t like working with someone who was trying to “fix” something about you, but rather coach you in ways that will take your strengths and build upon them. I look back at how much I grew professionally and personally in that year and I am amazed and grateful for the experience.
--Jennifer Warawa, Global vice president of product marketing, Sage
I have had many mentors in my professional career. The ones that have had the biggest impacts have been those that had a skillset that I needed in order to improve my skills and continue moving my career in an upward direction. One example was an entrepreneur who had built a company from the ground up and I wanted to understand how they managed their business in a highly profitable manner. I contact them and they graciously agreed to meet with me on a monthly basis. Great people like to help people who aspire to be better.
--Sandra Wiley, Shareholder, and COO, Boomer Consulting
I have had a number of important mentors in my life and career and continue to have mentors today. My parents and older siblings served as my first mentors, and then influential teachers shaped how I viewed the world and myself. At each of my employers I have had at least one significant mentor: Alexander Tuszynski, David Samuels, CPA, Valerie Kozikowski, CPA, and James Metzler, CPA, and they each encouraged me to honestly look at my mindset and skills and find ways to grow, learn, get better and make a bigger impact. My partner, Tamera Loerzel, my team members and many of my clients influence me and push me to be better every day. I have sought out mentors in wellness to: my long-time yoga teacher (16 years), my physical therapist, and my marathon coach who is helping me train for my first full marathon (in September). These people have impacted both my mental commitment and my performance. I cannot imagine my life without the gifts that these people have invested – and still do -- in me.
--Jennifer Wilson, Co-founder and owner, ConvergenceCoaching
I did have multiple mentors, but the most impactful was my own CPA, and his greatest contribution to me and my business was not the accounting information. We generate that on our own as members of the profession. His greatest contribution was the guidance he provided my company (i.e., the management consulting and strategy consulting he provided), where his intimate knowledge of our accounting (financial position and performance) played a role in this guidance. In other words, when my CPA played the role of “trusted advisor,” he made a profound impact on me personally and on my business as a whole.
--Joe Woodard, CEO, Woodard Companies
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