By Chris Hervochon, CPA, CVA | SCACPA Member Since 2017

Great leadership is about understanding yourself, providing ideas and a vision, and effectively communicating to varying personalities. This past fall, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the AICPA Leadership Academy to learn about all of these things and more.

If you’re a young CPA, I strongly recommend that you consider applying. The experience will change your life. Seriously.

What to Expect

The Leadership Academy itself is an unreal experience. It takes place over five days in Durham, North Carolina, and they are full days. Prior to attending the Academy you will have an introductory call with the AICPA and your classmates, and you’ll participate in a 360-degree review process where your co-workers, colleagues, friends and family will provide anonymous assessments of your leadership capabilities. The data is compiled into a useful personality chart, and then the data is explained to you by a member of the coaching organization that facilitates the Academy.

The Academy itself is five full days of intensive learning that builds your leadership skills with multiple facilitators. One of the best things about the Academy is the opportunity to meet and talk with the leadership of the AICPA. We had ample time to interact with Barry Melancon, the AICPA’s CEO, and Erik Hansen, the AICPA Chairman. Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, was one of the facilitators. These three are some of the most influential people in the profession, and it’s not every day that you get to spend time with people like that.

Above all, you will forge deep relationships with some of the brightest young minds in the profession. While I only graduated last year, it is clear to me that I have gained lifelong friendships with some of my fellow graduates. Additionally, we have monthly video conferences that are open to our entire class from Leadership Academy. There are no agendas to the calls, but generally we talk through career challenges and opportunities. The broad perspectives we provide each other, no doubt, are allowing us to grow faster collectively.

The AICPA conducts a full day “2.0” session at ENGAGE with graduates from past Leadership Academy classes. This session is only open to graduates, and I am looking forward to attending this year.

What I Learned

There’s nothing quite like Leadership Academy, and I can’t even begin to list all the things I learned, and continue to learn. However, three things stand out in particular:

1) How the people around me view my leadership abilities and what to do with that information

2) How to identify future trends and opportunities both within the profession and for our clients

3) How to facilitate collaboration

Taking a hard look at yourself is difficult but highly instructive. Leadership Academy teaches you that to lead others, you must first understand yourself.

Leadership Academy provides a unique context for identifying “hard trends,” or future facts, which you can then build strategy around. What should you be reading on a regular basis? What’s the difference between hard and soft trends? What’s the thought process to identify each type of trend?

Once you identify a trend, you can begin act on it by utilizing the collaboration techniques that are also taught.

How to Apply

To apply for the 2019 Leadership Academy, you must do so by May 31. Qualified applicants must:

  • Be between the ages of 25 and 35
  • Have three years of professional experience
  • Be a member of your state society (in this case, SCACPA)
  • Be a member of the AICPA

You can apply at the link above, and you will need to include:

  • A professional headshot
  • Two reference forms (provided on the website)
  • Your resume
  • Two essays

The process is very competitive, and they only accept about 35-40 applications. Additionally, they do a very good job of purposely selecting a diverse group of people. I would offer two points of advice to increase your likelihood of getting accepted:

  1. Have strong recommendation letters. If you can have a prior Leadership Academy graduate write one for you, even better.
  2. Volunteer within the profession. A good example is to serve on a SCACPA committee.

If you have the drive and desire to move yourself and the profession forward, then Leadership Academy is for you. The information you gather, the tools and techniques that you learn, and the bonds you form over those five days are priceless.

If you think you might be a good fit for Leadership Academy and you’d like to learn more, I am happy to be a resource for young South Carolina CPAs. Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or via email at chris@betterwaycpa.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Hervochon is the owner of Strategic Operational Accounting Resources (SOAR), a sole-proprietor CPA firm based in Hilton Head that provides outsourced accounting and tax preparation for small businesses and individuals. He serves on SCACPA’s committees of Member Engagement and Governmental Affairs. In 2018, he graduated from the AICPA Leadership Academy. When not crunching numbers, Chris likes to spend time with his wife and three children.