insight magazine

Lessons Learned for the Race Ahead

The right tools and mindsets are keys to keeping us in the race for relevance. By Tom Murtagh, CPA | Spring 2021

As a child of immigrants, I learned the value of education and hard work from my parents at an early age. Leveraging my education to secure my financial future was a top priority for them, and my dad made sure to keep it front of mind. He was a skilled tradesman, could fix anything with a motor, and had a knack for teaching me lessons through experience. Whether it was through chiseling the grout between bricks to prepare for the tuck pointer, climbing into a catch basin to help rod it out when it was clogged, or being reminded of how easy we had it as compared to the hard-scrabble upbringing he had in rural Ireland, I learned a lot of lessons that built me into the CPA I am today.

First, tools make the job. If I had the tuck pointer’s concrete saw, I could have saved a day’s labor and my scraped knuckles! As a CPA, the right technology also makes all the difference. Whether you are relying on bots or just stable Wi-Fi, being nimble and responsive depends on making sound investments in the right tools.

Second, a good plumber is worth every penny and can get you out of messy situations. And so is a good CPA! We might not be heading into a sewer every day, but we put in long hours digging through some messy information to sort out complex problems.

Third, attitude is everything. My dad often told me to come with a solution and not a complaint. That mindset has helped me navigate some rough waters during my career and is a hallmark of what is expected at BKD as we deliver on our promise of unmatched client service. I encourage you to believe in the value that you bring.

Just as my dad taught me some impactful life lessons, weathering the pandemic has taught us all some powerful lessons that I hope will help us to build better practices, attract new talent into the profession, and be better strategic business advisors to our companies and clients in a post-pandemic world.

We learned that harnessing technology keeps us nimble and responsive and drives stability in our practices and the economy. Information portals, electronic data storage systems, online workflow tools, and digital signature apps, just to name a few, all contributed positively to our ability to work in a dispersed environment. And by using technology well, we freed up time to be more engaged and strategic with our peers and clients.

We also learned more about the diverse demands that we all manage in our daily lives. We learned to work asynchronously and, as a result, we learned to develop schedules that better consider each constituent’s wants and needs. Done well, this shift has the power to qualitatively change the culture of our profession for the better.

And, perhaps most importantly, we learned that we are more flexible and adaptable than we might have ever believed, which is important given the pace of change in which we operate. Just think of the number of different video conferencing platforms you used over the past year. I can think of at least 10! Through these tools, we have learned to connect in new ways, to be more intentional, and to listen more actively. (We have also learned that video filters can be our friends and sources of humor—or great frustration.)

I have always enjoyed the way that my work as a CPA has kept me on track for constant growth and development. As your board chair for the next year, I look forward to continuing to learn and grow alongside you as we race on to become our companies’ and clients’ most trusted and strategic business advisors.



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