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Five Key Traits of Top CPAs

Five Key Traits of Top CPAs

| June 16, 2016

What does a great CPA look like? Would you be able to recognize one walking down the street? Are there common habits of the top performing CPAs? In our work with hundreds of CPAs, we’ve discovered five key characteristics that separate the average from the excellent. You’ll know you’ve come across a stellar accountant when you see these five traits.

Fingers Uncrossed

Enron. That one word is enough for most people to think of the importance of ethics in accounting. The best CPAs don’t hide things, fudge numbers, or ignore irregularities. In fact, strong ethics isn’t just a mark of a great accountant, it should be a bare minimum requirement to be active in the profession.

Moral integrity will keep a CPA from pushing the limits of the grey areas of accounting and ensure that their clients’ financials are always clear, straightforward, and completely legal. The best accountants have a strong character grounded in honesty, which shows in their work. They honor a client’s confidentiality, which enables them to build strong, lasting relationships.

In addition to ethical behavior, it is vital for a CPA to be seen as trustworthy. No crossing her fingers behind her back, no sugar coating things. Clients need to know that they will get the truth from their accountant, no matter how it might make them feel. Good accountants are also honest about the fees that they charge as well. Transparent compensation models with fair invoicing and billing are the norm for top CPAs.

Watch On The Wrist

The ability to manage time effectively is the differentiating factor between those who accomplish great things and those who just get by. Wise use of time allows a CPA to accomplish more with less stress. For those with their own firms, it allows them to work on the business itself and not just in the business.

The best accountants aren’t just meticulous in managing their time, but in everything else as well. They are highly organized and have structures and systems in place for everything. With all of the figures, data and paperwork they handle everyday, exceptional organization allows for optimal efficiency.

Smile On The Face

A great CPA should be dedicated to great client service. Many people associate accounting with math and numbers, but really it is a people business. All of the best accountants have taken the time to develop superb people skills which allow them to attract and retain clients and coworkers alike.

Accountants need to be able to work well with a variety of people of differing skill levels and personality types both within the firm and outside of it. Much of what an accountant does involves working face-to-face with others and on teams, so they need to be sensitive to others, eager to reciprocate, and willing to put the greater good before their own.

Ears Wide Open

Many people avoid math and finance because it can be confusing, intimidating and not very interesting. A good CPA has the necessary communication skills to not only communicate complex accounting concepts in a way that her clients understand, but to also do it in a way that doesn’t bore the clients to death. Being able to communicate clearly and interpret difficult concepts is an invaluable skill that the best accountants both possess and are constantly seeking to improve.

Even more important than how well they explain is how they listen. The best CPAs know when to close their mouths and give the client a chance to talk. Taking the time to stop and listen to a client’s wishes, questions and concerns will not only aide her in meeting their needs more precisely, but will also help build a strong relationship with the client.

Nose In A Book

It takes a lot of education to become a CPA, but the learning shouldn’t stop once the designation is conferred. A rock-star accountant should be continually developing his skills and staying ahead of the game. He needs to stay up-to-date on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), industry trends, tax laws, and new legislation. He should also be on top of technological advances, how they affect his industry and how he can take advantage of them to better serve his clients and more efficiently run his business. Continuing education, conferences, seminars and good old-fashioned reading are not luxuries, but necessities for high caliber CPAs.

A well-rounded accountant is also preferred among clients. Specialized knowledge can be helpful, but most clients have more holistic financial needs. It is essential to have a good grasp of all major accounting areas, from auditing to tax law to financial planning strategies, to provide the most value. The best CPAs are continually learning and expanding their knowledge base.

If you’re a top CPA looking to become more well-rounded, we have a successful track record of helping CPAs increase their service offerings to include wealth management. With our proven model and step-by-step process, there is no easier way to expand your business beyond the traditional accounting services and make it stand out from the crowd. Take action today and call us at 860-659-5977 ext. 204 or email

About CPA Squared

The CPA Squared program is an easy to implement turn-key program to successfully integrate wealth management services into your practice. With our proven model and step-by-step process, there is no easier way to expand your business beyond the traditional accounting services and make it stand out from the crowd. Please call us at 860-659-5977 ext. 204, so we can discuss how we can help you build your firm.