Why I Wrote a Book About Accounting and Leadership
Apr 29, 2020 | By Michael Whitmire
It’s been well over a month since the order to shelter in place came down here in Los Angeles, and while there’s much uncertainty to come, it’s good to be able to take time to reflect about how we get to where we are.
Since the time I graduated from college in 2006 and went straight into audit at Ernst and Young, I’ve felt there were better ways in which accountants could be utilized. 3.5 long, long years later, I joined Cornerstone OnDemand as the company prepared for its IPO, helping transition from Quickbooks to NetSuite, working on the S-1 filing and initial public offering, and taking on SOX compliance. Another, 3.5 long, long years later, I decided to found FloQast to solve some of the challenges we had faced at Cornerstone.
Those experiences brought with them a multitude of truly valuable lessons. — Seriously, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. In reflecting on this time, I’ve come to realize that much of the stress and long hours expected of young auditors and accountants can be mitigated if leaders are better prepared to take on the laundry list of responsibilities that comes with the Controller title.
So, yeah, I wrote a book. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons.
Reflecting on what is expected of young finance and accounting professionals and how they climb the ranks, I felt that there really weren’t many resources to become more than just effective technical accountants. In the years since we launched FloQast, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of finance leaders, and from these interactions, it’s become clear to me how they operate — what works for them, what doesn’t, and how they respond. So much of accounting is reactionary, and when accomplished accountants take on leadership roles, it’s more because of their technical accounting skills than their leadership abilities. Simply put, there are no books or classes that succeed in teaching what skills are necessary to succeed as accounting leaders — Seriously, it’s 2020; it’s time.
So much is expected of accounting leaders today that just keeping your head above water is a minor success. Controllers need to be more than just experts in their trade: They have to be able to manage, train, and support a team of accountants with varying personal and professional needs. They need to get more done with less. They have to cope with rapidly expanding expectations and a shrinking pool of resources. And this is what we aspire to attain when we select accounting as our major!
It really can be lonely at the top.
I wrote “Controller's Code: The Secret Formula to a Successful Career in Finance” because I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned over the last 14 years — from the thousands of conversations with finance leaders, to the long hours in audit and accounting, to the time here at FloQast. You don’t realize it at the time, but all those experiences add up — they influence how you operate as a person, as a leader, and as a co-founder.
The purpose of this book is simple: Help accounting leaders identify the skills they need to succeed in the modern controller position, how they can build a winning team with a sustainable, positive culture, and to reduce risk by using technology in order to see what others don’t.
It’s my hope that the accounting leaders of the future can take in a few interpersonal and technical skills that — until now, really — had to be learned through some sort of wicked concoction of stress, 80-hour work weeks, bad coffee, and panic.
In the end, progress is only made when we’re willing to admit there’s a need for change.