3 Books CPAs Should Read After Becoming a Partner

Experts recommend books that can help young CPAs become better managers, leaders, and owners.

March 15, 2016

Becoming a partner in a public accounting firm takes a lot of hard work and skill development. But that doesn’t stop once you make partner; if anything, you have to devote yourself to developing a whole new set of talents.

To help, we asked experts to recommend books that can assist young CPAs with becoming better managers, leaders, and owners. Here are their picks.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, by The Arbinger Institute. Originally published in 2000 and since revised, this book argues that people are masters of self-deception and thus unaware of their own destructive behaviors. Shedding light on this common practice helps readers become more effective leaders.

“This is one of my favorite leadership books because it discusses an often overlooked, but critical, failure of most people—the ability to deceive oneself,” said David Wood, Ph.D., an associate professor and Glen Ardis Fellow at Brigham Young University’s School of Accountancy. “This book is an accessible read that helps you learn how to see your own failings and problems.”

Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, by Whitney Johnson. Newly made partners who want to stand out in a crowd may find this book engaging. Published in October 2015, Disrupt Yourself suggests that you determine your strengths and then use that knowledge to innovate and, in effect, disrupt your life in a positive way.
The book helps prevent individuals from “falling into a rut of doing the same things over and over again,” says Brandon Allfrey, CPA, a new partner at Squire & Co., in Orem, Utah. “Just because I’m a partner doesn’t mean I can’t look at things differently than what has ever been done before.”
With changes occurring in the economy and the accounting profession, he adds, partners should evaluate how they can adapt, follow their passions, distinguish themselves, and be successful—all of which capture the book’s essence.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely. Duke University behavioral economist Ariely turned his book into a best-seller by exploring how unsound influences often impact decision-making and lure people into lousy predicaments. In his book, Ariely discusses everything from procrastination to ownership, with an overall theme of how people repeatedly make illogical decisions. “My further observation is that we are not only irrational, but we are predictably irrational—that our irrationality happens the same way, again and again,” writes Ariely in the book’s introduction.

Roger Debreceny, Ph.D., distinguished professor of accounting at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says the book challenges one’s thinking about how humans make certain choices. “We tend to think of accountants as ordered, rational folks,” he notes. “But by the time the CPA becomes a partner, they know this not to be true.” The book provides a framework for understanding how to deal with the implications of that realization.
Cheryl Meyer is a California-based freelance writer.

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