I recently read an article an issue of Accounting Today by Adam Blitz, CPA, a tax and consulting manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP, in CA. It was entitled “Five Things CPAs Can Learn from PGA Golfers.” It brought back memories of when I was asked to become a DMJ partner. I remember saying, “Well, I guess I will actually have to learn how to play golf now.” Ten years later, I still don’t play golf. My late husband was an avid golfer and because he putted every night on the rug and spent hours hitting balls over the house and in the yard, I always felt as though I knew a little about the game.
The article enumerated the following five things. I have paraphrased the author’s comments and have added some of my own analogies and comparisons.
- It takes practice.
- It takes patience.
- It takes confidence.
- It takes mental toughness.
- It takes creativity.
Practice means being “focused, intense, and mentally engaged;” not just hitting balls on the range or handling routine tax and accounting engagements. It is analyzing swing mechanics; developing positive habits, such as finding the perfect stance (the little dance that is done just before the swing has always made me chuckle); and the perfect hand position on the club. CPAs should be consistently practicing to enhance their abilities and overall potential. CPAs need to practice analytical and account relationship skills.
Patience is not throwing clubs or letting a string of expletives fly when the ball slices into the rough. Golfers usually have good days and bad days and so do CPAs. “CPAs normally are not ready to take on the biggest and most complex clients on the first day out of college,” says Blitz. It takes time to find your pace and then go after what you want.
Martin Kaymer didn’t start the 2014 U.S. Open with consecutive rounds of 65 (-5) to set a U.S. Open record for 36 holes just because he was hitting the ball well those two rounds. He hit the ball well and had the confidence to hit the difficult shots. He knew he was capable and he didn’t let anyone get in his way of doing it. “As a CPA, believe in yourself, because if you don’t, who will?” The article reminds us to find your strengths and recognize your weaknesses and seek help to cover those areas.
Golfers often cave under pressure. Not every golfer has Tiger Woods’ mental toughness. It is important for a CPA to be strong on a daily basis to be ready when your clients, co-workers, and family need you. We have to learn to handle stress and balance our work and family lives. Enhance your mental toughness by testing your limits in something outside of the accounting field that broadens your horizons. Each of us has to figure out what suits us.
“Golfers oftentimes face situations that require creativity in order to be resolved;” i.e., wearing a tennis ball around your neck as a practice aid is an example working for Kaymer. You have heard many times “SALY” is the easy solution to a problem and sometimes you don’t get the right answer by taking the “same as last year” approach. Look at each reoccurring situation carefully to be sure the facts are still the same or that a different approach might be more efficient due to technology changes.
The author’s premise is correct – The best CPAs, like golfers, are those that possess a natural ability. Those natural abilities and instincts – combined with practice, patience, confidence, mental toughness, and creativity – make for a successful career.
“The next time you are on the golf course, remember all the opportunities you have to learn on the course and bring those ideas back to the office,” says Blitz. Myself, I’ll continue to “think” I know something about the game and continue to look for another avenue to broaden my horizons.
Donna B. Johnson, CPA is a DMJ partner in the Sanford, North Carolina office located just thirty miles from Pinehurst, North Carolina, home of the U.S. Open Championship.