From time to time, I get hung up on the “self-regulatory” requirement of our profession. To be part of a profession that self-regulates are challenging, but also enjoyable. Over the years we have forfeited various pieces of our self-regulation. But when it is all said and done, every day we still govern ourselves in the thousands of decisions we make on behalf of our clients, our firms, and the standard setters.

This policy evolved because we are constantly required to self-regulate ourselves throughout the work and procedures we perform as accountants, consultants, evaluators, fraud investigators, financial counselors, as well as in the assortment of other responsibilities we assume day-to-day through our work. As a self-regulated profession, we make literally hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions daily some requiring little thought and others requiring considerable thought.

I recently enjoyed a rerun of one of my all-time favorite movies, “Big.” You might not think so, but “Big,” released in 1988, was a comedy starring Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin. (Other members of the cast include Elizabeth Perkins, John Heard, and Robert Loggia.) It was directed by Penny Marshall, which only adds to the humor of the movie. As a 12-year-old, Josh makes a decision, in the form of a wish, to be “big.” Josh’s decision is based on nothing more than his desire to impress an older girl. He forms his decision and then makes a wish to using a fortune-telling machine (Zoltar Speaks.) His wish is granted and he becomes a 30-year-old adult overnight.

After a case of mistaken identity, Josh’s mother throws the older-appearing Josh out of the family home in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. Because he cannot return to his original state until he finds the fortune-telling machine again, and having nowhere to go, Josh, with the able assistance of his best friend, Billy, makes another decision to escape to New York City and lay low while the search for the Zoltar Speaks machine is conducted by Billy.  While in the city, Josh, given his 12-year-old mind, makes a number of adult decisions quite well. For instance, Josh secures a job with a toy company. While employed there, he rapidly works his way up to senior vice-president of product development. He is soon recognized as being very good at this position.  He achieves this by making numerous decisions as a child in an adult setting. He makes his decisions honestly, without personal objectives influencing him and by keeping it simple.

During his time of employment and given his high promotion as an executive, Josh enjoys a great life. He decides to purchase an incredible flat and jams it full of incredible games and toys. He enjoys great seats at Yankees’ baseball games, excellent food and restaurants, a great, fun job, and develops an intense romance with a co-worker named Susan Lawrence.

Throughout the movie, Josh makes astute decisions.  All of the decisions he made were done by a 12-year-old through the eyes of youth and innocence. Decisions, such as where to live, what to wear, where to eat, how to act in corporate meetings, what to do at a formal party, what to do with beautiful woman that has fallen in love with him and lastly, should he decide to give up the incredible adult life he was given by an amusement park fortune-telling machine. These decisions confront Josh and seemingly do not require a lot of thought from him.

The amount of professional decisions we make throughout any given work day is a very high number.  Unlike Josh, we tend to allow extra conversations and noise influence our decisions. Certainly, we cannot make all our decisions using Josh’s decision-making techniques, but we can take a lesson from him in our own practice and slow ourselves down, keep things simple, remove our bias, and still be well within the self-regulation requirements of our profession.

Arthur Winstead, Jr., CPA, CFE, CFF, CGMA
Arthur Winstead, Jr., CPA, CFE, CFF, CGMA

Art Winstead, CPA, CFE, CFF, CGMA, is a general services partner in DMJ’s Greensboro office, primarily serving in the firm's Accounting, Auditing, and Attestation Services Area. He serves as team captain and team member for on-site peer reviews and off-site engagement reviews throughout the country and the State of North Carolina. In addition, Art currently serves as the A&A Consultant-Director for CPAmerica Inc. 

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