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State Board Report

March 2016

Many of you probably read Getting to Yes, a current top-selling and often quoted business book by William Ury and Roger Fisher, first published in 1981 with a second edition published in 1991 with Bruce M. Patton. I continue to go back to it as I find many of its tenets valuable. Much of the book reflects the work of Harvard University’s Negotiation Project, which was an integral part of my studies at the Kennedy School there. Through the years I have often heard interpretations that completely missed the point of the lessons in Getting to Yes. To better understand the context of the book, the subtitle, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, probably better represents the message.

Contrasting to Getting to Yes are the "lessons" in Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve Jobs, a biography of the late founder of Apple, one of the largest companies in the world. Although not intended to be a "business" book, it contains many essential processes and decision making protocols that are important to consider. My friend Michael Brannick, President of Prometric, wrote a fascinating book, Jobs at Prometric, wherein he uses the elements of Steve Jobs to create decision and management tools that he applied to his company. This past year we invited Mr. Brannick to Nashville to speak to our senior staff about his work, and we followed up by doing an internal study of how those lessons might apply to NASBA.

I would ask you to contrast what I believe may be the most encapsulating quotes from each book. In Getting to Yes, Professor Fisher states: "The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess." From Steve Jobs, the author describes when Jobs (the genius behind Apple Computers, the iPhone, and the iPad) was asked what were his greatest innovations, he responded, "The 2,000 times I said ‘no.’"

This week NASBA’s ALD/CPA Verify Committee released an update on the Accountancy Licensing Database (ALD) that now contains data from 51 jurisdictions (only Delaware, Hawaii, Utah and Wisconsin not yet included), which shows that 630,925 active licensed CPAs are in the system. When all U.S. jurisdictions are on board, we will certainly have over 650,000 licensees identified, making the U.S. Boards of Accountancy and NASBA the largest accounting regulatory association in the world. With the increasing complexity of U.S. and world accounting standards, the growing user and investor expectations of the profession, and the accelerating move towards a global economy, the importance of when we say "yes", "no" or when we work to achieve middle ground with our counterparts, becomes critical to our success.

As the CEO of NASBA, I have had to say "no" many times. Certainly not the 2,000 times that Steve Jobs described, but often. You’ve heard me say: "We are not going to write checks that we can’t cash." This cautious approach has yielded some positive results including hiring outstanding people, growing our financial reserves and becoming more collaborative and efficient. Saying "no" at the right times has allowed us to say "yes" to asks that have positive impacts on you, the Boards of Accountancy.

I recently signed one of the largest contracts in NASBA’s history to build an intuitive, safe and reliable CPE audit tool for all interested Boards of Accountancy at no cost to them. At last year’s Executive Directors’ meeting, in a closed session, the executive directors clearly articulated the need for that audit tool system. Many remember that I had to say "no" several times until we knew we had clear expectations and reliable information.

Just this past month we filled a new NASBA staff position: The Director of Technical Research will be a valuable resource for our volunteers serving on important national and international committees, boards and task forces. Again, there were many "no’s" before we developed the appropriate job description and found the right person to fill this key post.

There will certainly be more "no’s" in our future, but also significant "yes’s." We take our "Mission Driven, Member Focused" mantra very seriously. Our goal is to continue growing NASBA’s capability and capacity to provide State Boards with the tools and support they need to protect the public and to meet our mission: "To enhance the effectiveness and advance the common interests of the Boards of Accountancy." For you, we are getting to yes!

Semper ad meliora. (Always toward better things.)

— Ken L. Bishop
President and CEO

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