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State Board Report

August 2014

On a couple of occasions over the past few years, I have quoted my late grandfather’s “words of wisdom” that have stuck with me through the years. As a blacksmith, craftsman and wood worker, he was truly an artisan with many raw materials that ultimately became valuable tools or beautiful pieces. When I was a young boy, I would visit his shop and he would take the time to show me how to do things. Occasionally, I was tempted to take a shortcut, or want to rush, and his message to me was always the same: “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” I often think of that advice and, to the chagrin of others, I occasionally repeat it to my staff.

The irony of the subtitle of this memo, “Doing the Right Things and Doing Things Right,” is that each element is independent of the other. You can do “wrong things” right, and you can do “right things” wrong. To take my grandfather’s sage advice one step further: we should strive to do “right things” and “do them right!”

In the past year or so at NASBA conferences and meetings, and through our writings and postings, we have been exposing and discussing ideas and proposals. Many of the issues we are considering, such as firm mobility, changing the definition of “attest,” developing a unilateral approach to international practice privileges, recognizing and using global credentials, or striving for continued and enhanced uniformity in states’ statutes and rules, will take some of us out of our comfort zone. Most, if not all, of the changes being considered have merit and are likely to happen at some point in the future, but only when we are confident that we are doing the right things and doing things right.

The past few weeks have been busy, important and interesting. Of particular note was a meeting of North American accounting leadership held in Mexico City. The thoughtful conversations and discussions in Mexico made it clear that many of the issues we are addressing are not confined to the United States, but are truly global in nature. While our countries’ laws, rules and regulatory structures may have significant differences, their core goals of sound public policy are similar. More importantly, a close listening to the reports from our neighbors from the north and south made it clear that significant changes are happening and that more change is inevitable.

NASBA’s Chair, Carlos Johnson, and I share an appreciation for the book Who Moved My Cheese, written by Dr. Spencer Johnson in 1989. I would summarize the lessons of the book in four key elements: (1) Change is going to happen; (2) We should anticipate and look for change; (3) We have a responsibility to monitor and measure change; (4) Ultimately we should embrace change that makes sense. We see constant improvements in instant and global communications, the new generation of practitioners and users of accounting professional services, and the critical nexus between business and technology. All are indicative that change is indeed ongoing and is going to impact the accounting profession and how it is regulated. If change is inevitable, NASBA and Boards of Accountancy must step up to insure we are doing the right things and doing things right.

When you are a leader of any organization or association, whether staff or volunteer, you will ultimately be judged not on what you maintained, but on what you changed (and hopefully improved). Of course we maintain standards, but how we do that effectively is going to change. In the short run, sticking to the status quo is generally the safer approach to anything. If you accept the notion that “change is going to happen,” you realize that, if you maintain what is comfortable for too long, it may ultimately mean a lost opportunity or stagnation. John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

The leadership of NASBA is open to change and embraces it. “Doing things right” takes on a particularly important meaning in the sphere of public protection and sound public policy. Through transparency, open and meaningful dialog with our stakeholders, and ample due diligence, we can make changes in the right way by “doing things right and doing right things.”

Semper ad meliora. (Always toward better things.)

— Ken L. Bishop
President and CEO

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