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Practice Management

A Challenge to the 2011 40 under 40 Honorees: Create a Vision

Congratulations to the 2011 “40 under 40” tax and accounting profession leaders! I envy young professionals today because we are keenly aware of the importance of networking and programs that help to polish leadership skills. The Kansas Society of CPAs has its “20 up to 40,” one of many successful leadership development programs sponsored by state CPA societies, and the AICPA is ready to launch its third Leadership Academy.

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Congratulations to the 2011 “40 under 40” tax and accounting profession leaders!

I envy young professionals today because we are keenly aware of the importance of networking and programs that help to polish leadership skills. The Kansas Society of CPAs has its “20 up to 40,” one of many successful leadership development programs sponsored by state CPA societies, and the AICPA is ready to launch its third Leadership Academy. I am proud of the impact these programs have had on our profession and even more proud of the caliber of the individuals who are embracing leadership as a professional responsibility.

With recognitions such as the “40 under 40” comes responsibility. It is a responsibility to craft a vision for the profession that impacts positively on our society, to develop strategies, and to take action that transforms vision into reality.

So it is not my goal today to extol wisdom or present accolades or to even make this an “advice” column. Rather, I wish to take this opportunity to challenge the “40 under 40” to envision a positive future that sustains our role as the most trusted advisor!

Before Bill Gates and Paul Allen ever wrote BASIC for Microsoft, they were talking about “a computer on every desk and in every home.” That was perhaps 1977, when the eldest of today’s 40 under 40 were barely out of diapers. It sounded silly back then when business students were still stacking up “punch cards” and frustrated with their typos during “debugging.” Today, we call these words vision.

When I started my career in public accounting, the managing partner chastised me for using a memory typewriter in my attempt to more efficiently create a spreadsheet because “professionals don’t type.” That sounds silly today!

What sounds silly today may be a vision of our future, and the reality of the past may seem quite silly by today’s standards.

That’s what vision is all about. Vision unleashes our creativity and gives us permission to dream … and to be somewhat silly. The fact is no profession is better able to solve problems with vision than the accounting profession. So we look to the “40 under 40” to ask the right questions that pull us into the future and create a better world, not only for business, but also for our society.

When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started to expound their vision almost 40 years ago, did we really think that was going to happen? Did we really think that we would all be able to afford our own computers?

And today, we have to wonder how soon the PC will become part of history as our mobile society relies more on affordable tablets and smartphones. With the way transactions are captured today, we have to ask ourselves if tax professionals will become obsolete. In fact, what will the role of the accountant be in 2041, 30 years from now? With the exponential rate at which technology is growing, the next 30 years will leave the last 30 years in the dust. If we sit in a vacuum and think accounting services will be the same as they are today, this profession will also be left in the dust.

As an eternal optimist, I don’t believe accountants will become obsolete because we are creative problem solvers and systems designers … and we are adaptable. Did I say creative and adaptable? Yes! Accountants use their natural problem-solving ability to understand the process of making decisions. And as the typ

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