Honest. Ethical. Devoted. Dynamic. Articulate. Profound. Passionate. Kind. Giving. Compassionate. Selfless. Supportive. Forward-thinking. Inspiring. Humble. Legendary.
These are all words admirers have used to describe Dan Griffiths, CPA, 2015 winner of the AICPA Outstanding Young CPA Award in Honor of Maximo Mukelabai. The annual award, now in its fourth year, was established to recognize a CPA under the age of 40 who has contributed greatly to the accounting profession and the community through outstanding work and volunteer service. The award also recognizes those who have acted as leaders to other young CPAs entering the field.
“Maximo was someone I knew personally, and he was an example of everything that it means to give back without expecting any immediate, tangible reward in exchange for the things that you do,” said Griffiths, director of strategic planning for Tanner LLC in the Salt Lake City area. “This award is not about me. It’s about highlighting the importance of giving back and the responsibilities that CPAs have to give back.”
Griffiths was chosen the winner by a task force of 13 individuals, who made their selection based on professional reference letters and an evaluation of the leadership and volunteer roles each candidate held.
The award honors Mukelabai, who was a young CPA in North Carolina who “had the capacity to inspire,” said Donna Salter, senior manager for Young Member Initiatives at the AICPA. Like Griffiths, Mukelabai was involved in the AICPA and with his state professional organization, and he volunteered extensively in his community. Following his death, Salter helped create an award in his honor to recognize other CPAs who had made a difference.
Griffiths, a native of Michigan and father of four children, was a natural choice for this year’s award because of his numerous accomplishments and accolades. Currently, among other endeavors, Griffiths is an AICPA Council member and an executive board member for the Utah Association of CPAs. He served as the AICPA’s returning Leadership Academy representative for three years. He is also a founding board member of Financial Ready Utah, a nonprofit organization, and previously served on the Utah State Board of Education. He has taught English as a second language to children and years ago worked as a tax compliance volunteer, offering free tax assistance to people in the community.
Griffiths said he feels “a sense of obligation” to the CPAs before him who worked tirelessly to build practices and to enhance the profession. “We stand on the shoulders of all of those people who have made significant sacrifices and contributions in the past,” he said. “This is a taxing profession. To me, volunteerism is a great outlet, a way of recharging my batteries and feeling that I am a part of something greater than myself.”
Professionally, he has excelled in virtually every venture. He earned his master of accountancy degree from Brigham Young University in 2005, graduating with high honors. In January 2011, he co-founded a consulting firm called Proficio Services Group, which focused on strategy and leadership. In 2013, he merged that practice with Tanner, a firm he had worked with earlier in his career. Today, as director of strategic planning, Griffiths works with Tanner’s corporate clients to not only fine-tune their missions but also to improve their performance, and his success has been great, says Tanner Leadership Solutions Partner Gary Vickrey.
“The thing that differentiates Dan is that when he’s helping an organization, he never asserts his own views and biases into the conversation,” Vickrey said. “He is so good at remaining objective and facilitating the right kind of conversations.”
Griffiths learned early in his career that success was not about numbers, but rather about people, and that insight has helped chart his path. When people share the same visions and values, organizations can be successful at almost every endeavor, he says.
Ultimately, he hopes to run a CPA firm.
“Griffiths has a unique character and “an ability to connect with anyone on any level,” Salter said. “Dan absolutely carries the same torch that Max did in his passion and intellect, and by inspiring and motivating others.”
Photo (L-R): Bobby Schroeder, Chairman of the 2014-2015 E.D.G.E. conference; Dan Griffiths, winner of the Maximo Award in 2015; and winner of the 2014 Award — Mark K. Rich, CPA, Director of Investments at Kimbell Art Foundation
Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in California.
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