By: Scott Showalter
Did you know NCACPA has vision and mission statements to guide its future direction? I didn’t either, until I became a member of the Board of Directors. The vision and mission statements were last updated in 2006. I think it’s safe to assume we’re all in agreement that things look slightly different now than they did thirteen years ago.
As part of NCACPA’s centennial celebration, the Board is having a lot of fun reminiscing on the past 100 years. We are also engaging in conversations about how to ensure the future success of this organization while navigating the great pace of change happening all around us. At the 2019 Leadership Summit in May, Chair of the Board Austin Wachter challenged the Association’s leadership to imagine what NCACPA would look like in 100 years. These discussions started to get the ball rolling, and led to great conversations about the landscape of the accounting profession.
If I were to answer the question of why the Board decided to study these statements in a single word, it would be—change. In fact, Austin was surprised to learn that it had been over a decade since the vision and mission statements had been reviewed. He said, “Given the rapidly changing environment for our profession, and the length of time since we last revisited these statements, this was a perfect opportunity to take a fresh look.” Not only have there been many changes in the accounting profession since 2006 (when the statements were revised), but more importantly, I ask you to consider the changes currently facing the accounting profession and the changes projected over the next three to five years. For example:
- Given the pace of change, accounting professionals in public accounting, industry, and government will need to retool their skills.
- Accounting firms and companies have modified their hiring to include individuals who have computer science and data analytics degrees.
- Professionals today are not attracted to joining organizations, but rather would like to purchase needed services without belonging to the organization.
- The lines are blurring between what CPAs and non-CPAs do.
Who will professionals and related organizations in the accounting profession turn to in helping them respond to these changes? Wanting the answer to be NCACPA, we as a board recognized our need to address our statements and determine whether they provided a platform for growth and encouraged future accounting professionals to purchase services from the Association.
A TASK FORCE IS BORN
During July 2019, Board Chair Austin Wachter appointed seven members to serve on the Vision and Mission Task Force with the following charge:
- Evaluate the current vision and mission statements
- Determine if there is a need for change based on current and future profession trends
- If so, develop recommended vision and mission statements for consideration by the Board
Amelia Crawford, CPA, Cherry Bekaert LLP
Rick Niswander, CPA, PhD, East Carolina University
Joan Pharr, CPA, CGMA, Blackman & Sloop
Joanne Phillips, CPA, CGMA, Red Hat
James Robinson, CPA, Ernst & Young
Scott Showalter, CPA, CGMA, CGFM, NC State University
Julia Truelove, CPA, Martin Marietta Inc.
Members of the task force reflect the diversity facing the accounting profession—youth and experience; public accounting and industry; and both smaller and larger organizations. The task force was asked to report their results during the October Board meeting.
CREATING A COMMON DEFINITION
It was important for the task force to level-set in terms of the definition of vision and mission statements. Vision and mission statements are integral components of an organization’s strategy. The statements are complementary, but unique. They provide the foundation for the strategic initiatives.
THE TASK FORCE’S PROCESS
As part of their assignments, the task force reviewed existing vision and mission statements from CPA associations and national nonprofit organizations; analyzed definitions of the elements of vision and mission statements; and identified existing and projected changes to the accounting profession that will impact the Association and the individuals and organizations served by NCACPA.
In preparation for one of their meetings, each task force member drafted a vision and mission.
The task force report was presented at the October 2-3 Board meeting. After a thorough discussion, and asking numerous questions, the Board unanimously approved the proposed vision and mission statements with a few minor modifications. The vision and mission statements in this article will reflect those modifications. In addition to approving the enhanced vision and mission statements, the Board requested a robust communications plan be put in place to share the updated statements with the Association’s leadership, members, and staff.
The proposed statements were summarized and provided a basis for the discussion. During deliberations, the task force consistently referenced the definition of vision and mission statements and accounting profession trends to ensure the proposed vision and mission statements would provide the necessary foundation to facilitate the sustainability of the Association. Each word was highly debated, and in the end, each word was accepted and unanimously approved by the task force for consideration by the Board.
VISION STATEMENT EXPLAINED
Remembering a vision statement is aspirational, forward-looking, and the end state the Association is striving to achieve, the Board unanimously approved the following vision statement:
A highly valued accounting profession advancing the success of individuals and organizations.
As mentioned, each element and word was debated and only agreed to after consensus was reached. What follows is an analysis of each element of the vision and why it was selected.
A Highly valued – Highly valued is an external validation of the accounting profession. The Association is striving to contribute to an accounting profession that is highly valued by the individuals, organizations, and community served by the accounting profession.
accounting profession – This was one of the most debated elements of the vision statement. Should it be “accounting profession” to “accounting professionals?” Because the lines are blurring between what CPAs and non-CPAs do, and many individuals working in the accounting profession don’t consider themselves accounting professionals, the task force wanted to encompass all individuals working directly or indirectly in the accounting profession. As the vision is centered on the accounting profession as a whole, the vision also incorporates more than Association members. Therefore, “accounting profession” was selected.
advancing the success – The task force decided the vision should portray the accounting profession as proactive in contributing to the success of individuals, organizations, and the community served by the accounting profession. Recognizing success can have numerous meanings, it is appropriate for success for be determined in context of who is being served.
of individuals and organizations – When it comes to who is served by the accounting profession, it was determined best to use the phrase “individuals and organizations.” That includes the individuals and organizations within the accounting profession as well as the individuals, organization, and the community served by the accounting profession.
MISSION STATEMENT EXPLAINED
Remembering a mission statement describes what an organization does and who it does it for, the Board unanimously approved the following mission statement:
Enhancing the accounting profession and the community it serves through advocacy, connections, education, and resources.
Again, each element and word of the mission were debated and only agreed to after consensus was reached. Let’s take a similar look at each element in the mission.
Enhancing – Building on the use of the word “success” in the vision, the Association’s mission is to “enhance” the accounting profession. By enhancing the accounting profession and community it serves, the Association will move beyond status quo by helping the accounting profession maximize the many opportunities available due to the changes it faces.
the accounting profession and community it serves – The next element indicates who the Association serves. Building on the long-standing tradition of community service, the task force selected “the accounting profession and the community it serves.” Similar to the discussion about the use of “accounting profession” versus “accounting professionals” for the vision statement, for the same reasons, “accounting profession” was selected for the mission. Opportunities for the Association will extend beyond members and to the broader accounting profession.
through advocacy, connections, education, and resources – The third element describes what the Association will provide. The task force’s discussion centered around four areas:
Advocacy – Advocacy incorporates legislative and non-legislative efforts and building awareness of issues and results.
Connections – While building on the obvious relationship to “connect,” this area includes connections developed between accounting professionals. There was a strong desire by task force members, especially the younger ones, to develop relationships that could help mentor careers and provide technical advice.
Education – The accounting profession has always required life-long learning. However,
with the many changes currently facing the accounting profession, the need to retool the entire profession is critical. The Association is well positioned to meet this life-long education need that extends far beyond CPE.
Resources – This area includes the many other services and products the Association can provide to members and non-members— today and tomorrow (e.g. helping accounting firms with succession planning, helping accounting professionals and firms leverage emerging technologies, etc.).
One question we received at the Board meeting concerned the listing order of these four areas. Was it in order of priority? The answer is no. The task force decided to list the areas in alphabetical order because the priority of each area will change over time and the mission should not be adjusted as the priority of each area changes.
For those of you familiar with the Association’s strategic initiatives, you will see some similarities. Although not a requirement of the assessment effort, the good news is the current interlocking strategic initiatives fit well with the enhanced vision and mission statements.
COMPARISON TO PREVIOUS STATEMENTS
Below is a comparison of the previous and enhanced statements:
Previous Vision Statement
To be the essential resource for the North Carolina CPA.
Enhanced Vision Statement
A highly valued accounting profession advancing the success
of individuals and organizations.
The biggest difference is that the previous statement is focused on the Association and limited to the state of North Carolina. As previously explained, a vision statement should focus on the future state the Association seeks to achieve, so the enhanced vision statement focuses on the future of the accounting profession and does not limit the Association’s influence to North Carolina. The Board foresees near-term and longer-term opportunities to offer services to individuals and organizations outside of North Carolina, and the enhanced vision recognizes this potential.
Previous Mission Statement
NCACPA promotes the competence, integrity, civic responsibility,
and success of North Carolina CPAs.
Enhanced Mission Statement
Enhancing the accounting profession and the community it serves through advocacy, connections, education, and resources.
The task force concluded use of the word “enhancing” was more proactive than using “promotes.” Further, use of advocacy, connections, education, and resources clearly states what the Association can provide today and tomorrow, while “competence, integrity, and civic responsibility” were more of an outcome than a service. Again, the previous mission limited the Association to North Carolina, while the enhanced statement expands influence beyond our state.
My fervent hope is that given the explanations offered, you can understand why the Board undertook this effort and appreciate the task force’s work in creating change. After hearing the task force’s recommendation, Chair Austin Wachter said, “I’m confident these new statements will serve as an important guide for NCACPA as we enter our second century.” This is a sound point because with these enhanced statements, NCACPA is better positioned to meet the needs of an ever-changing accounting profession and openly communicate the role the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants plays in providing for them and the community they serve.
As mentioned, the Board requested a robust communications plan to inform the membership. While this article is the first effort, many others will follow in December. The NCACPA team is developing a webcast of the presentation that the Board received, content for e-newsletters and the website, and more. Members of the task force will also share information via Connect in December.
“I’m confident these new statements will serve as an important guide for NCACPA as we enter our second century.”
On behalf of the Board and the task force, I’d like to convey our desire to hear your feedback. Connect is a great way to share your views, but also feel free to reach out to Board members, task force members, and committee leadership. While the previous vision and mission remained for 13 years, we don’t anticipate the enhanced statements lasting as long due to the many changes facing the accounting profession.
We hope you experience the same level of excitement as the Board when envisioning the future described in our enhanced vision and mission statements.