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CEO's Message—Third Quarter 2016
25 Years of History in the Making, Part III
Excerpts from an Interview with the CEO
Parnell Black, MBA, CPA, CVA
Chief Executive Officer
P = Parnell
I = Interviewer
This interview is the third in a series with Parnell Black, who is the current CEO of NACVA, and has been since its inception 25 years ago when he and Robert (Bob) L. Green founded the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts. For transcripts to the prior two, click History in the Making, Part I from the NACVA and the CTI’s 2016 Annual Consultant’s Conference Guide; and 25 Years of History in the Making, Part II from the Association News CEO’s Message—Second Quarter 2016.
I—Mr. Black, let’s pick up where we left off. In our previous discussion, you spoke of two events that you attribute to NACVA’s early success, those being the AICPA survey and the Chicago benefactors. What other factors would you say brought NACVA to life?
P—Most definitely Practical Accountant magazine who in 1992 got wind of NACVA and its CVA designation. This was the result of a press release I had sent to them and a few hundred other publishers. They called and wanted to do a profile on us and our new CVA credential for an upcoming issue. They even interviewed one of our members, Bill Black from Georgia, who by the way, is still a member.
Of course we jumped at the opportunity, but what came out of it was beyond our wildest expectations. When we received the issue published in February 1993, our eyes popped out because “CVA” was emblazoned in neon lights on the cover of the magazine. And we knew that with 35,000 subscribers to Practical Accountant, things were going to change. They did.
We signed up 400 new members in the next 60 days, growing our membership from 350 to 750; plus we had talked to hundreds more, many of whom ultimately became members. For that, I will always be grateful to Practical Accountant, which unfortunately is no longer being published.
I—Now that I would say, was a stroke of luck.
P—Maybe, but I would like to think it was a stroke of luck we made happen. But certainly, had it not happened, we very possibly would not exist today.
I—Why do you say that?
P—Bob and I had almost no capital back then. What little we had, combined with a loan from my mother, was almost entirely gone. We had not yet found investors. You could say we were declining fast. The windfall we got from Practical Accountant turned that around. Or at least it bought us some time.
I—You mean the 400 new members did not put you on easy street?
P—I would have hoped so, but soon after we recruited the 400 new members, we realized that member expectations had grown too. Our five-person team at headquarters, which included Bob and I, was not enough to support 750 members and grow the company. Thus, we began to hire more staff.
Consequently, we were still losing money. It was about that time that I began to wonder, at what number of members would we start to break even?
I—So where is that number?
P—For us, it was about 2,500 members before we could start digging out from the debt we had accumulated. I am sure that number varies from association to association, but we had set an aggressive path for ourselves and with that came a lot of investment and overhead.
I—I assume you found investors?
P—Yes, we did, and it was soon after that Bob Green and I parted ways.
I—Okay, add Practical Accountant to the list of key historical factors. Was there anything else you think is worth mentioning?
P—There were certainly a few others, but a really significant one was the many years of build-up the AICPA put into planning and rolling out their ABV credential.
After they saw our early success, they started doing all kinds of things, such as, sending out surveys and endlessly debating whether they wanted to even offer specialty credentials. This stretched on for probably three years, and during this time they raised enormous awareness of the opportunity in business valuation, of which we were a major beneficiary.
So, I owe thanks to them, however, I will qualify that had it not been for our success, I believe they never would have rolled-out with their ABV credential.
I—I can see NACVA has a lot of history and suspect you have hundreds of stories you could tell because, as it is, we have only covered the first five years. In the interest of time, how would you sum up the next 20 years bringing us to the current day?
P—Maybe the best way to lead into this is by repeating what I said to a mentor back in the early 2000’s who asked, “Parnell, how would you describe your job?”
I told him that every day when I come to my office and sit at my desk, I feel like I am sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet because once things start, I am flying so fast, it takes my breath away. It was a blast back then; things happened very fast. And, it has not really stopped, though I am accustom to it. I am very fortunate and have had a wonderful career.
But, in conclusion to your earlier question about significant factors in our history that without, we likely would not be where we are today—I have to say the most significant one is our members and the willingness they had back then and still have today, to step forward and help us in whatever capacity they can.
I—Could you please expand on that a little?
P—Along the 20-year path, there were hundreds of significant events, milestones, and developments, involving board and committee actions, standards development, instructors, partnerships, product development, industry dynamics—all critical to NACVA’s development and character, and of which, members have played a critical role.
Maybe, if you are interested, this three-part interview can be the first in a series where I can do justice to the last 20 years of our evolution, and to the members who have been key to our growth and success.
I—Would you have done anything differently?
P—There are a lot of things I would like to have done differently as it pertains to different program policies, like the prerequisite criteria for the MAFF credential, recertification, and things like that. One could probably assume so much just by observing how many times we changed, reinvented, and modified these and other programs to get them perfected.
But you do not know about these things until you try. On second thought, I would probably do everything the same because I did not know any better or differently. Now, going forward, will I make the same mistakes? Hopefully not.
I—Do you see your time with NACVA coming to an end?
P—I need to be practical and I need to look out for NACVA’s best interest. It is not practical, nor wise, for me to continue running NACVA until I am unable to. Many associations have found their demise going down that path.
NACVA can live forever, and I want it to. In that vein, I will take measures over the next few years to find and train my successor.
I—Wow, that might take a few folks by surprise.
P—It might, but it shouldn’t. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. I think it is an inevitability that maybe folks do not want to think about. Possibly because it means change, and most people hate change. And, possibly because it is a reminder to all, that they too, are moving on in their careers.
Frankly, I think it will be good because I have never thought I had all the answers. I am just one person who has tried to do the best he could.
Most definitely, I will be around in some capacity for many years to come. NACVA will always be in my heart.
I—Thank you, Mr. Black. That concludes our interview, for now anyway.