The term CPA is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
The term has always troubled me.
I took my first CPA exam while still an undergraduate at my professor’s insistence, but I never got my score so apparently undergraduate scores didn’t count. I passed the exam soon after I graduated with half an hour in the AA&Co library to learn governmental accounting. I got my certificate nine months later when I satisfied the experience requirement.
The CPA exam was a popular topic of discussion among AA&Co staff, half or more of whom had not passed the exam. Other than that, it wasn’t discussed at all. It was just the price of entry to the accounting profession. Without it you could not very well practice accounting. For those who hadn’t passed it, it was like Damocles sword hanging over their heads.
My career progressed into Fortune 500’s, where they didn’t care whether you were a CPA or not. In fact, I never heard it mentioned. Two of my accounting bosses at two different Fortune 500’s did not have their certificate. As my career progressed into the C suite, the subject never came up. And to be perfectly honest, I began to see it as a bit of an impediment, that somehow it pulled me down to their level & degraded me.
Later after attempting to buy my Fortune 500 employer, attempting an LBO and running for Congress, the CPA designation came back into focus when I decided to open an accounting practice of my own. I suddenly found myself in an environment where the CPA designation was talked about a lot. In fact it separated the top echelon from the wannabes. If you had a CPA certificate the other CPA thought you walked on water.
I had a staff person one time who passed the exam while working for me. He immediately walked into my office and quit to open his own firm. I told him he probably didn’t have enough experience to go out on his own, but that just mad because he had always heard just the opposite. He joined an office sharing arrangement and then just disappeared. That experience had a big influence on my attitude about the CPA designation and on the general intelligence of CPA’s.
Over time I dropped the CPA & began calling my company simply ‘Ellis’, rather than the legal title ECPA PC or Ellis CPA Firm PC.
But the deciding factor hit yesterday while watching a Youtube video by Dan Pena about creating deal flow. Pena’s tagline is “the Fifty Trillion Dollar man” so he does have some influence and is worth listening to. Pena ridiculed the CPA designation. “People who call themselves CPA’s are doing business out of their bedrooms.” and “Deloitte doesn’t call itself CPA. Ernst & Young doesn’t call itself CPA. PWC doesn’t call itself CPA. Peat Marwick doesn’t call itself CPA.” In fact, out of 2019’s top 100 accounting firms, only four included the term CPA in the name.
That brought back memories of a magazine I subscribed to when I first started my practice. The Practical Accountant ran a monthly article of demeaning published comments about CPA’s, who were apparently widely ridiculed across society. The magazine ceased publication years ago, but apparently the attitude they wrote about is still prevalent.
So … This morning, I texted the person working on a new logo for Ellis to brand around and told her to nix the CPA. Not that I include it in our online name, but I was going to include it on my updated landing page, but I decided other wise.
It’s very likely that the CPA designation is a net negative in the real world.