How to Become a Successful Senior Accountant: An Audit Manager’s Perspective

I joined Kreischer Miller in July 2003 after graduating from Bloomsburg University. I’m currently a manager in the Audit & Accounting group with a primary focus on clients in the investment industry. (Note: Craig was promoted to director after this post was published.) The audit, review, or attest teams I manage can be as small as two people or as large as 10, for clients with revenues ranging from a couple million dollars to over a billion.

One of the first pieces of advice I got when I joined the firm was from our founder, Jack Kreischer. He told me I should always be working my way out of my current position so I could move on to bigger and better things. For me, that meant the key to success and longevity in public accounting is to continually challenge yourself.

No matter which public accounting firm you work for, the hours will be long and the clients sometimes unorganized. However, as long as you are learning something new, it will be an exciting and enriching career. The key to continuous learning is to create a path where the people you’ve trained can function without you, so you can take on other projects and expand your skillset.

All public accounting firms have expectations that include solid audit and accounting skills, good project management skills, initiative and drive, and the ability to develop a team and establish relationships. All of those things are vital. To me though, if you really want to stand out, it all comes down to working purposefully and using common sense.

Just like Jack Kreischer told me all those years ago, in order to be successful, you should strive to perform your job in such a way that it can eventually function without you. If you’re at a firm that fosters that kind of attitude, you’ll have no problem being successful and moving on to bigger and better things. That’s the approach I’ve always taken, whether I was a staff or a senior, or even now as a manager.

Another tip is to look for ways to make your supervisor’s life easier and less stressful. Here’s a personal example. My very first assignment at Kreischer Miller involved a trip to Minneapolis on a due diligence engagement. Not only had I been at the firm for just a week, but as a brand new staff, I was flying out of town and the “team” was just me and one of the firm’s directors. I was nervous beyond belief.

But I made it my mission to find ways to make the engagement easier for my supervisor. I did tasks like looking up directions to the hotel, creating Excel spreadsheets, and making copies so my supervisor could focus more of his time on client work. I also acted as a sounding board for him to bounce ideas off, even though as a brand new staff member I certainly didn’t feel like I had much to add at that point. By the end of the trip, I think he was impressed by my initiative. And now, nearly twelve years later, I’m serving as the manager on that same account.

As the months flew by after that first trip, I went on more assignments and the seniors I worked with gave me more responsibilities. Sure, there were times I ran out to pick up snacks for the team on a hot summer day, but I had plenty of great learning opportunities as well. I worked hard, did what I was asked, and made myself available to help out wherever I could. To me, that was just a common sense way to build my reputation and manage my career.

About two years later, it became time for me to start senioring jobs. While it was now my turn to send my staff on some snack runs, I also concentrated on finding out what they were interested in learning and becoming the best teacher possible. I wanted to ensure my staff knew what was expected of them and had the tools and information they needed to do their jobs well.

As a senior, I had some teaching moments of my own along the way. I think my favorite was when my lack of explanation ahead of time resulted in my staff having to buy a new pair of pants for himself. We were doing an inventory observation at a mulch facility at the end of December. The staff stepped on what he thought was a patch of ice, but his foot went right through into a deep pool of mulch sludge. In hindsight, I should’ve done a better job explaining ahead of time that we would be outside in the freezing cold and he should wear rubber boots. That staff is still with the firm and he’s a manager now, so hopefully he learned from my teaching mistakes!

I also always focused on treating my staff with respect. If I asked them to work late, I was right there with them to answer questions. If I didn’t know an answer, I told them so, but then worked with them to get the right answer. I gave them honest feedback and made sure they knew that my goal was to challenge them so that they could take over for me.

For many years I’ve saved a text message I got from a former employee that said, “I miss you sensei. You are still and always will be a mentor to me. You are the one who taught me the greatness of public accounting and auditing.”

Bottom line: If you know your stuff, strive for continuous learning, become a teacher, go above and beyond, and always challenge yourself, you’ll be a successful senior.

Craig Evans is a director in Kreischer Miller’s Investment Industry Group. He has experience working with manufacturers, distributors, retailers, investment companies, and government contractors. Craig joined Kreischer Miller in 2003, after graduating from Bloomsburg University. Contact Craig at Email.

 

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