UHY auditor aims to win in World Series of softball, despite pandemic

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Hailee Johnson, a manager in UHY’s audit practice in Michigan, led a softball team sponsored by the firm to a World Series C Softball Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in 2017, and she is hoping to win the championship this year, pandemic or no pandemic.

She and the team are already well on their way, and so far have won two tournaments in Michigan and Ohio.

“Basically I came to UHY two years ago with a proposition,” she told Accounting Today. “I play competitive softball. I said, ‘Hey, you know, this is a great marketing aspect. I think we should really dive into this.’ So I brought it to the table and they said yes. So they sponsored my team and then we ended up winning the World Series, which is played down in Orlando every year. We got the ring. And then we got bumped up to Class B, which is what we're playing in this year. So far, we're undefeated. Things are looking pretty good for us.”

Even though COVID-19 has sidelined Major League Baseball for the time being, softball teams have still been playing, but with extra precautions for players and fans alike.

“They required that we have to have face masks when we play and anytime we're in the dugout,” said Johnson. “But as long as we're out in the field — and it’s such a big field where we're far enough away — we’re not overly concerned with anything. But that's why we've been traveling to Ohio a lot. It's more open down there than it has been back here in Michigan.”

After the win in 2017, the team took some time off and regrouped this year. She and her teammates are still planning to head down to Orlando for the tournament at the end of September or early October, although the rapid spread of coronavirus in Florida recently may affect those plans. Several Major League Baseball teams have moved their practices from Florida to their home states in recent weeks.

While she’s on the road or in the air, Johnson finds time to do her auditing work for her clients, even while she’s at the ballpark between games and at batting practice. She specializes in construction industry clients and is part of UHY’s construction group.

“I bring my computer everywhere I go,” said Johnson. “Since it is a lot of traveling, I get things done when we're flying to Florida or.Louisiana. I'm always doing auditing work, especially during our downtime. Sometimes we'll have eight-hour gaps between our first and our next game. It's a great conversation starter, though. People see you work and they ask what you're doing and it kind of opens the door for you to market.”

In addition to construction industry clients, Johnson also has a sports client. “I just recently acquired a soccer club, so I am in the process of doing their books for them and helping them out right now,” she said. “We're hoping to eventually move into more sports areas. But unfortunately, not many sports companies are private, which is what we work in. A lot of them are publicly owned.”

Johnson hails from Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Michigan two months after she graduated from college in 2015. “My mom took over a Wendy's franchise up here in Michigan,” she said. “I actually worked at Wendy’s as a manager for eight years prior to coming to UHY. And I was going to Oakland University during that time and I was getting my accounting degree, and played two years of college softball as well.”

Last June, she received her CPA license in Michigan after initially considering a career in broadcasting. “I actually wasn't even going into accounting,” she said. “I originally was going into broadcasting. There was a little bit of a delay there because I switched my degree halfway through my broadcasting degree. I was going to Central Michigan and I needed money to pay for gas and everything else. So I ended up tutoring in accounting. And next thing I know, I'm falling in love with accounting and I'm not enjoying broadcasting as much as I thought I was going to, so I ended up switching and it was a great idea.”

It was an unexpected career turn for her. “My first accounting class I ever took at the community college that I went to, I actually ended up failing it, and I thought, OK, I’m never going to go into that because I thought I was going to be going into broadcasting,” she said. “But then when I went off to college, one of my friends said, ‘Hey, I need a tutor in accounting.’ I was like, ‘You know, I have some background in it.’ And so it kind of forced me to relearn it, and once I relearned it and fully grasped it, I actually ended up loving it. And truthfully, I didn't feel challenged enough in the broadcasting program, whereas accounting challenges me every single day. Every day, there’s a new problem to solve. Being an athlete myself, I absolutely love to push my limits.”

At the World Series this fall, Johnson will be competing against around 150 to 200 teams from across the U.S. “It's pretty fun,” she said. “We get to meet people from all over. The general consensus that I've been getting over the past few years is that the Michigan teams are actually the most competitive teams and the better teams as well. It's been nice to hear that. There are about 25 Michigan teams that go down every year, us included. When we won it back in 2017, there were about 110 teams down there, and we actually ended up knocking out another Michigan team at the championship.”

After protracted negotiations, Major League Baseball announced this week a shortened 60-game season this year starting in late July, and for many fans it won’t come soon enough. In the meantime, plenty of fans have been enjoying softball games. Johnson is hoping those fans will come down to watch the softball championships.

“I miss sports,” she said. “I'm sure everybody else misses sports. The facility that we go to is the one the Atlanta Braves play out of, and we see them during their training during that time while we’re down there, which is pretty cool.”

Some of the players on the softball teams actually played Major League Baseball or in the minor leagues at one time. “I know a lot of them are really hoping to see the major league actually start coming back because they miss it themselves,” said Johnson.

While it’s an open question whether fans will be allowed at many of the Major League Baseball ballparks this year, Johnson is hoping to see fans in the stands at the softball championship.

“So far, they haven't said there can't be, so I’m assuming yes,” she said. “Which I really hope is still the case because some of the people I play with have kids and they want to make sure that their kids are still able to come. They take it as a family vacation when we go down there.”

Besides auditing and softball, Johnson has been keeping busy building the construction group at UHY.

“I'm helping one of our principals here progress our construction group and push it national,” she said. “Every year we actually do a construction outlook, and this past year I presented one of our significant topics in the accounting world, revenue recognition. I was able to go out there and talk about that in front of clients and potential clients, even individuals that just needed general guidance on how to implement this accounting standard. This year, due to COVID-19, we're looking to make it more of a webinar.”

On top of that, she’s active in UHY’s Women Invested in Success and Excellence (WISE) Group and found time to play on the firm’s in-house softball team. “As far as the WISE program goes, that is actually pretty cool because a lot of the women that are involved in that previously played softball as well, so we started a team last year,” she said. “We just started kind of a rec team where we all get together and we play out in Rochester, Michigan. That's been nice, seeing all the other women at the company that actually play softball or previously played softball. They're just really, really passionate about it. It's nice to share a common thing with other people at the company. UHY sponsors it. It's a combination of supporting something that one of their employees wants to do and a marketing aspect as well, especially as we keep winning.”

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