Interview with Eric Butts, CPA, PwC Partner, and Author

    Eric Butts, CPA is a partner at PwC, and the author of the go-to consulting blog, Never Less Than Success. In this revealing and straightforward interview, Eric discusses the early challenges and accomplishments of a man who loved numbers and saw accounting as a way to make a living in an honorable and professional way. Eric brings his candid advice to those who must meet challenges with this candid idea, “Do what they said you couldn’t do, and the naysayers will magically disappear.” New accountants entering the field will appreciate this frank look at clients, the business of accounting and the qualities necessary to succeed.

    eric-buttsWhat event or series of events led you to pursue accounting or the study of accounting as a professional choice?

    The biggest influence for me at first was an experience at a program called LEAD where I got exposure to the field of accounting that I realized it was an option. It involved numbers, which I loved, and seemed like a practical way to earn a living immediately out of undergrad, which was a must for me.

    Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your accounting career and the steps you took to meet these challenges.

    The biggest challenge for me has been dealing with the box many people will try to place you into when they hear you’re a CPA or studied accounting, etc. Some think CPAs can’t be forward-looking or have any analytical skills. For me, the best way to meet challenges like these is to prove people wrong. Do what they said you couldn’t do and the naysayers will magically disappear.

    How would you advise an individual entering the accounting profession to proceed? What are the challenges or obstacles that may be faced?

    Go for it with 100% effort. If you’re going to be an accountant, be a CPA and give it everything you have. Life will present all kinds of reasons for you to defer, but the sooner you do it the better. You’ll have fewer distractions, plus passing the CPA exam isn’t getting any easier.

    Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

    One of my more interesting projects was my first system implementation (SAP). I was working in industry at the time and as painful as it was, I learned so much during that time. Those who have been around this game even for a little bit of time know this is often the case. My role, while unofficial, was to act as a person who could talk the language of both the business and the developers to ensure business requirements were communicated clearly (e.g. in tech jargon) by end users to ensure successful delivery by the developers. I learned a whole new system and found a role I could play, which I’m still doing as a client service provider today.

    If you could suggest a role model for a new accountant, who would it be and why?

    There are lots of accountants I enjoy talking to and interacting with, but one of my favorites is Greg Kyte. He is a CPA, but he doesn’t fit into the mold of what a CPA is “supposed” to be. I used to have an accounting professor who always talked about how he teaches you how to think. If you can find a role model that teaches you how to think and/or forces you to think, then you’ve got yourself a good one.

    As an accomplished author of a blog related to accounting, what advice would you offer to the new accountant concerning the role of social media in their profession?

    Use it but use it wisely – it’s a powerful tool that can damage a brand or personal reputation as much it can help to build one. To put it bluntly, don’t be stupid on the Internet!

    This is the last question and time for the inner accountant in you to break free. What is the key strength you bring to your career, and how would you advise new accountants to mine their own strengths to further their careers.

    I have a high tolerance for chaos. In my role as a financial consultant, I see some strange things. Some people deal well with uncertainty and others don’t. Accountants perform many roles which rely on different strengths. The key is to understand where you excel (and where you need improvement) and to match that up with client demand. You’ll probably be happier, and you’ll definitely make more money.

    We enjoyed this interview with Eric Butts and wish to thank him for taking the time to offer his thoughts and experience regarding the accounting profession. Visit his website to read more, and connect with him on LinkedIn.