Overheard at ENGAGE 23: Innovation, Change Management, Talent Development and More

With nine topic tracks, more than 300 speakers and 4,000 attendees, the sprawling nature of the AICPA and CIMA ENGAGE 23 conference June 5-8 in Las Vegas was as wide-ranging as the endless gaming tables and buffet spreads of the Strip. Here’s a sample of quotes we heard from a handful of experts:

“There’s nothing more defeating for a rising star who does everything he or she can – and then some – than to be told that there’s a ceiling to how high they can go based on how many years they’ve been with the firm or some other arbitrary rule.” – Tim O’Neill, senior tax manager, Wipfli, on the perils of chasing off young talent by stifling their growth.

“The most important part of holistic well-being programs is not necessarily just offering them but holding people accountable to use them.” – O’Neill, on keeping employees healthy and happy.

“While innovation often involves technology, the biggest piece of it is change management.” – Jim Bourke, managing director – advisory services, Withum, on utilizing innovation to grow an advisory mindset in a firm.

“Before a firm can go out and capitalize on technology to offer advisory services to its clients, it really has to get its own house in order first – that is, educating partners and staff on how to use those tools.” – Bourke, on a key component of any tech-focused advisory offering.

“When we go to a client, we’re not coming in as a tax expert or an audit expert – we’re coming in as an advisor. That may seem like a little thing, but it’s actually a very important distinction.” – Fiona Dixon, partner – digital transformation service, HLB Mann-Judd, on the importance of approaching client engagements with an advisory mindset.

“Everyone loves the idea of change until it’s going to affect them personally. That’s why communication is so important when it comes to successful innovation and change management projects.” – Dixon, on the key to reducing the friction that can come with change.

“One of the biggest risks we take in our firms is that we don’t take security seriously enough.” – Roman Kepczyk, director of firm technology strategy, Right Networks, on a ticking time bomb that many firms may be overlooking.

“For those of you not doing advisory services already, this is happening without you. That said, you have your client relationships in place, which is an advantage, but there’s no time to waste in building up the technology you need to establish a practice.” – Kepczyk, on the possibility of firms without advisory services getting left behind by the “innovation revolution.”

“Foresight is everything. Do an inventory, be honest with yourself.” – Paul Whitmore, customer success manager, OnPoint, on how the AICPA Dynamic Audit Solution may not be a great fit for every firm.

“It is your obligation and your opportunity to bring that second generation up, or you’re always going to have a bandwidth issue.” – Avani Desai, CEO, Schellman, on the need to delegate.

“Feedback, radical transparency and bringing you authentic self to work.” – Desai, on three things needed to aid in healthy discord.

“We have plenty of women in the profession, we just need them to lead.” – Jeannine Brown, founder and CEO, Everyday Lead, a consultancy providing talent development and DEI services, on how women should support each other to create a different kind of firm.

“I just said that.” – Orumé Hays, founder and managing director, HAYS CPA, a boutique client advisory and accounting services firm, on making sure the idea or proposal was hers when it’s repeated by someone else in a meeting.


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