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Paul F. Kersten, CPA – 2015 40 Under 40 Honoree

This year’s 40 Under 40 honorees are among the best and brightest talent in the accounting profession. They are all active in the professional community, as well as in their local communities, where many are small business owners and employers.

Paul F. Kersten, CPA – 38

Kersten Accounting & Tax Professionals
Shawano, WI

Twitter:  Kersten Accounting @kerstenllc


What is the name of one book that has been a great influence to you?  

There are many books that have had influence on my leadership style and professional approach.  The most recent of which is “The Advantage” by Patrick M Lencioni.

In what ways have you contributed to your firm/company to make it better?

I purchased the Accounting business 10 years ago and tripled the customer base, sales and profitability in the first two years.  We have grown a steady 10% per year since which is the goal for controlled growth I set after after experiencing the pros and cons of the dramatic growth of the first two years.  We are a small accounting office with only three full time employees and a few part time employees I utilize during tax  season or times of high volume.  

The full time employees have been with me over five years each.  For part time employees, the focus has been on their education so they can be effective once they find a full time job.  Through that focus I received satisfactory production from them over the years and approximately twenty of them are working successfully for other private sector employers in accounting related positions.  We are on good terms and every once in a while I still get questions from them regarding some accounting issues they are wrestling with.  

I believe the success of a former employee you trained is a compliment to you. I treat my clients like they are part of the family.  The accounting office has been in existence since 1978 so I have a lot of elderly in my client base.  Unfortunately that means many clients pass away each year and we take a personal approach to that reality. We work hard to achieve perfection in the work we do for them.

We understand we are human so an error will be made every once in a while.  Sometimes the fault of the client, sometimes our fault.  When such a negative event occurs, I believe how it is handled is what truly defines you, your credibility and the reputation of the business.  This is a quality I work to instill in my employees so they are not tempted to hide an error but instead see it as a learning experience and opportunity to fix the situation. (I’m sure there is a lot more I could list however this is all I have time for right now)

In what ways do you participate in the professional community to change/improve the accounting profession?

The professional associations and positions held listed above are somewhat self explanatory.  I am active in shaping the education programs offered to improve the profession by giving licensed and unlicensed preparers access to the education.  I maintain contact with our local legislators to stay abreast of changes proposed that will affect our profession.  Locally I am involved with economic development to aid in the supporting of local employers and recruitment of future employers to the area so we can create good paying jobs which in turn create future clients for our accounting office (as well as for all the accountants in the area).

In what ways do you participate in your local community to help others?  

I am active in my local church.  I volunteer through time, finances and materials for fundraisers, community awareness, improvement and various other activities they provide.  I am also active in a few other local community volunteer organizations that provide community events and fundraisers.

What changes do you foresee in the accounting profession of the near future (3-5 years)?  

I believe major legislative changes are on the horizon that will affect small accounting offices for licensed and unlicensed preparers.  I foresee off the shelf computer software taking an ever increasing toll on our profession by making people think they can do it all themselves.   This will be detrimental to the public overall since it will lead to less business advice, more over payment of taxes and ultimately more business failures because they are teaching people that they do not need a team of professionals to help them succeed.  I believe the shortage of quality accounting students coming out of colleges with a work ethic and sufficient knowledge base will continue to be a problem for the next ten to fifteen years despite the increase in number of students being turned out by the colleges.  I believe related professional organizations (accountants, bankers, insurance, attorneys, investment advisers, etc) will work together on an increasing basis going forward recognizing the issues affecting them are the same affecting everyone.

How do you see yourself participating in shaping the future of the accounting profession?  

I will continue to have an active role in the professional organizations I am involved in and increase my professional relationships.

What is your career philosophy?  

Find out what you love to do and then find a way to get paid to do it….that is what I have done.

Describe one person who has been an important mentor to you and how that person helped change your life.  

Many people have influenced me and I believe I can learn something from everyone, even if it’s “what not to do.”   I learned a lot from my former employers and supervisors about how to run an accounting office.  I learned a lot from my instructors about what it takes to be a good accountant.  I learned a lot from various leadership program speakers and writers about what it takes to be a good leader.   That being said, My parents have been the greatest positive influence on my life and my success.  They taught me responsibility and work ethic at a young age.  Through them I learned if you want something you have to work for it.  The harder you work for something, the more likely you are to appreciate it and also to learn valuable lessons from it.  When my Dad suggested I should go to college to become an accountant…I laughed.    I guess they really did know more about me than I did when I was 18.


See all of the “40 Under 40” honorees for 2015.