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Interview with Mike Sylvester, Managing Partner of the SBS CPA Group

Mike Sylvester blasts the well-known example of the stereotypical view that many individuals have of the accountant. While, today, Mike is a managing partner of one of the most successful CPA firms in the Midwest, he spent over twenty years in other areas of expertise. This background and experience, in Sylvester’s opinion, gives him an edge in working with clients, because he finds he is able to relate from a wide range of standpoints. He believes in the concept of partnering and enjoys this networking advantage with over two hundred businesses. Mike Sylvester, from SBS CPA Group, contributed a comprehensive assessment of his experience with the accounting profession and shows that it is never too late to enter the game.

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

I spent 19 years working in industry. Over that time I was an electronics technician on a nuclear submarine, an equipment operator in a nuclear power plant, a journeyman electrician in both a steel mill and a foundary, an automation technician in a bottling plant, and the Maintenance Manager in a factory. In my last industrial role as a Maintenance Manager I spent some time in China helping to move part of our operations overseas.

In the meantime I had two young children and my wife has always been an accountant. She was working part time out of our house as a public accountant. We saved up a fair amount of money and I left my full time job and worked for my wife part time while I went back to college and got my degree. My wife’s business was going well and my wife and I decided that accounting would be a good choice for me.

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

I have had a very rewarding career in accounting for the last nine years. I am the managing partner in a public accounting firm in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My largest challenge adjusting to a career in accounting was getting used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. In the past I tended to carry a tool belt or be operating large industrial machinery and getting used to an office environment was difficult for me. The first couple of years part way through each day I ended up taking a long walk each day.

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

I truly enjoy the accounting field. I would suggest that anyone entering the accounting field become a CPA. It is amazing how many doors open to you professionally when you are a CPA. Further I think it is important for college students to spend some time working in at least one of the accounting fields as an intern or by working a part time job.

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?

I have a client who has started a rather large company and I have been his professional advisor since before he started his company. I have helped him choose the other professionals he works with, how he raised the money needed to fund the venture, etc. He will soon sell his company for several million dollars and he will possibly be able to retire at that point. I find this very rewarding because I have helped him achieve personal financial success.

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

My father would be the best role model for a new accountant. My father was a pen and paper bookkeeper for a long time. He eventually went to business school and became an auditor with the Indiana Department of Revenue. My father was always level headed, detached, impartial, and had an amazing amount of personal integrity. My father is the type of person I have always wanted to be.

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?

I personally believe that in order to utilize social media you have to dedicate a large amount of time and effort to it. I find that most people dedicate less time than is necessary and due to this they see no return on their time investment. Socal media is not for everyone and if it is not something you can commit to then you should strongly consider avoiding it.

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.

My largest strength is I spent 19 years in industry prior to being an accountant. My personality is not that of a “typical” accountant and my professional experiences are very different from most accountants. This allows me to analyze problems differently and I have found that it allows me to relate to my clients better.

We would like to thank Mike Sylvester for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his journey towards accounting and his perception of the accounting profession as he practices today. Mike Sylvester’s writing can be found at SBS CPA Group Blog.