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CEO's Message—Third Quarter 2015
Thought-Provoking Personal Perspectives
By Parnell Black, MBA, CPA, CVA
Chief Executive Officer
Every year, Accounting Today (AT) magazine conducts their search for the Top 100 most influential people in the accounting profession. Fundamental to their search is the candidate’s response to AT’s thought-provoking queries on the future of the profession and one’s career. For the last 16 years I have been asked to respond to their queries having been identified as someone for consideration to be included in the Top 100. I am proud to say, I have been selected 14 of those years and am waiting to see if I will be selected again this year.
I put a considerable amount of thought into the questions asked by AT, which are always great questions. But unfortunately, no one other than the AT editorial board sees them, and only snippets of a few of the Top 100’s responses are published.
Thus, I would like to share with you my response to the following questions:
- What is the most important issue currently facing the accounting profession?
- 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?
- Have you achieved work-life balance? If yes, how? If not, how are you trying to achieve it, if at all?
I would be very interested in hearing from some of our members as to how you would respond to one or more of these questions, and will publish those responses in my 4th Quarter CEO’s Message. Please send those to me at Parnell1@NACVA.com.
Meanwhile, here are my responses:
What is the most important issue currently facing the accounting profession?
Adapting—The profession is an old one still widely run by matriarchs who were around when fax machines were the newest and greatest technological innovation. I know this because I am one of them. We have seen unbelievable and transformative changes in technology since that first innovation, so much in fact that many of us have been in the middle of a learning curve throughout our entire careers. This may be slowing from a technological standpoint and as evidenced with Apple, Microsoft®, and Google who all seem to be grasping at straws for innovations that will match those from the past. What is not slowing, but rather is heating up, is the way the new generation communicates, networks, and obtains its information. They are all over the internet—using Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other forms of social media for connecting and finding sources of news and information. For me to understand and master this new world would require a substantial amount of time, time that I do not have. Yes, I can and do hire employees that understand the new generation of communication tools, but as the leader of my organization, I need to know how to integrate these tools into our business model. Therefore, I must adapt. I simply have no choice, and many of my peers, I assume, are in the same boat.
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?
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 to 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, 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 the mentor to others that he has been to me.
Have you achieved work-life balance? If yes, how? If not, how are you trying to achieve it, if at all?
Life Altering—Four years ago, I had a life altering experience nearly succumbing to a bout with pneumonia. And I woke up. After recovering, I realized how precious my life was and after 56 years (at that point in time), time was running out. I also realized that the prior 10 years was gone in a blink of an eye. The only thing I could really say for myself was I had worked hard, and had made a successful career for myself and the many others I have supported as co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts. I could be proud of that, but it wasn’t nearly enough. My lack of attention to my health was shameful. I had not expanded my mind beyond the realm of my profession. I had not spent enough time with my wife, family, and friends. Extracurricular activities were nonexistent. Travel for pleasure, minimal. Basically, I had little to brag about.
Now, not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself about the importance of balance in my life. And each day I bring something into it that I would not have five years ago. I will say it is an enormous challenge because my business is always tugging at me and I have to remind myself not to let it draw me in too deep, because if that happens, I firmly believe I will end up back where I was four years ago—only a few years older, but with less time left.
The single most significant thing I have done to bring balance into my life is to start working from a home office. I save time on commutes which gives me more time in the day, and I avoid distractions that get me off focus and are often unnecessary diversions, or issues that can be dealt with in a short e-mail exchange rather than a 15-minute conversation. I do, however, still appreciate and enjoy the face-to-face interactions when I have them.
Parnell Black, MBA, CPA, CVA
Chief Executive Officer