Tom Hood: AccountingWEB CPA Association Employee of the Year

Thomas Hood, CPA, executive director of the Maryland Association of CPAs, (MACPA) has been named AccountingWEB's Outstanding CPA Association Employee of the Year for 2008. Executive director and CEO of MACPA since January 1997, Hood's passion is connecting with members, listening to their issues, and gaining direct member feedback in order to best meet their needs. "For Tom, connecting with the members is his job," says Jackie Brown, deputy executive director and chief operating officer. "He is on the road, out with the members all the time."

Named one of the "100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession" by Accounting Today magazine for his profession-wide change management efforts and his role in creating a national "shared services" model for the state and national CPA organizations, Hood has helped the MACPA achieve national recognition as a leader in preparing the CPA profession for the 21st century.

Hood has led the profession in using social media to create, manage, and enhance relationships and share information, knowledge, and resources. He brought MACPA to the virtual (online) world of CPA Island on Second Life, just one example of ways that involves the members in new technologies which can help them succeed.

"What Tom brings to our association is a vision, says MACPA's Board Chairman, Arthur E. Flach, CPA, managing partner, Grant Thornton, LLP in Baltimore. "He is proactive, anticipatory, always asking how the association can bring value, how it can benefit our members."

Association members can be involved in a great many rewarding activities, Flach says. "One way is when MACPA members provide guidance to the legislature on how pending laws impact our clients and ourselves. In this way, our members have the opportunity to take control of their own profession and make sure that everything we do is to protect the public interest.

"Another area that I find very rewarding is involvement in our financial literacy program, which is designed to inform the public about the financial implications of their decisions at all life stages. We speak to teenagers, young adults and retirees," Flach said.

"Tom makes sure that our members succeed through their involvement," Flach said. "He is very forward looking and has become a leader in the social media, for example, and he brings us to the new technologies that our younger members are using."

Speaking of the social media in a recent interview with Rick Telberg on cpa2biz.com, Hood said, "CPAs are in the relationship business and these tools help manage relationships. CPAs are in the information and knowledge-management business and these tools help manage information and get answers. CPAs are in the communication business and these tools help to communicate."

And Hood added, "Did I say that most of these tools are free?" Hood went on to say that he thinks, "We are on the brink of another major technological disruption due to the evolution of these tools. They are being adopted at record-breaking levels and quickly gaining respect in the mainstream business arena."

"Tom sees opportunities way before any of us do," says Bill Sheridan, MACPA's electronic communications manager/editor. "He first wants to know if a new way of communicating is worth doing, if it is right for our members. If it is, then we will figure out how to do it."

"We are really intrigued by the possibilities for education in Second Life and see this as an investment in the future. We want to be part of the evolution and not just find ourselves trying to figure it out by the time it has matured," Sheridan said.

On February 13-14, 2009, Hood met with accounting educators and a major publisher at the Pearson Prentice Hall Accounting Symposium for Educators (PHASE) in Savannah, Georgia, and on February 21 – 22 in San Diego, California, he spoke on "Keeping Up With Accounting: From Globalization to Web 2.0." and moderated a panel on international accounting/IFRS. He writes about some of the highlights of these meetings in a post on MACPA's www.cpasuccess.com.

In yet one more foray into the social media, on February 26th MACPA conducted a Tweetup in Columbia, Maryland.

Hood excels as a speaker and facilitator. He relishes the kind of face-to-face contact that he has with members at the MACPA Town Hall Professional Issues Updates meetings held around the state, Sheridan explained. "He really establishes a bond with members at these meetings. The feedback is incredible, talking about opportunities, issues, what we are doing, and he really takes it to heart. The attendance at these meetings has exploded. Over 1,000 members attended Town Hall meetings last year." Members receive free CPE credits for attendance.

"Tom uses his amazing abilities with technology to enhance his communication with members at Town Halls and other meetings," said Richard Rabicoff, MACPA career initiatives and public relations manager. "He uses his technical abilities very creatively to put together a visual product for a Town Hall or to recap a committee meeting. Tom inserted a clip from 'The Devil Wears Prada' into a PowerPoint presentation that was a wrap up of one meeting. It made a point. It confirmed what had been discussed. He sends these to our member participants. They are busy people. They can look at these presentations and say, 'Yes, that's what we did,' and reflect on what they have processed."

CPA candidates and accounting students who might be thinking about entering the profession are also invited to attend the Town Hall meetings, said Kathleen Sobieralski, assistant academic director, accounting business and professional programs, School of Undergraduate Studies, University of Maryland University College. Students may join MACPA's Tomorrow's CPA group (it is free! the site proclaims) and check out their new web page and TCPA blog.

Hood's gifts as a facilitator were evident in his effort to bring together MACPA members from the academic community with stakeholders from business and government to participate in the MACPA's Accounting Education and Career Task Force. "He is very much a unifier," says Sobieralski, helping to link the academic community, the education committee of the MACPA, and legislators. "He is very well connected; he can bring people together and make connections that we could never have made."

"The Task Force meeting was at first an opportunity to vent about differences in their approaches to problems," said Rabicoff, "but both educators and employers found that one problem they shared was the growing gap between their expectations and the expectations of students. The problems created by this gap are becoming more acute because of the declining numbers of students entering accounting, which puts pressure on both sides. Hood recruited representatives from many fields: academics and employers from accounting firms, business, industry, and government, and brought them together to begin a dialogue, build mutual understanding, and emerge with an action plan. As the facilitator he was able to redirect people to something that really matters."

"Tom has a huge contextual knowledge, an enormous grasp of the academic, technical, regulatory, and management issues, which was needed to bring people of such disparate views to produce recommendations, isolating near-term and long-term issues," Rabicoff said.

"Tom really celebrates the new CPAs," says Sobieralski, "at meetings, through newcpas.com and at events scheduled throughout the year. A swearing-in ceremony was held last year at Baltimore Convention Center following Day 1 of the Maryland Business and Accounting Expo, where outgoing MACPA Chair Tom Foard told the new CPAs that the 'The oath demonstrates that you have an obligation to protect the public interest and adhere to our code of conduct and the laws and regulations promulgated by the state of Maryland.'"

One recent standout event sponsored by MACPA's New/Young Professional Network (NYPN) (and it was Hood's idea, says Sobieralski), was the Holiday Party, held on Thursday December 4, 2008. NYPN extended their invitation to all MACPA members of any age and professional experience to "Join us for a . . . . Certified Penguin Extravaganza! At the Mansion House at the Maryland Zoo, Baltimore, with Special Guest Stars: African Penguins!" Members were invited to take advantage of "Photo opportunities with our feathered friends."

A severe ice storm may have held down attendance at the annual MACPA-sponsored CPA Day in January said Sheridan, writing in the Legislative Insider blog, but the members arrived nonetheless. Members enjoyed a lunch with lawmakers following morning meetings. During the afternoon they testified at hearings in support of the Comptroller e-filing bill SB 96 and attended a briefing on the implementation of the Maryland Tax Preparer Act of 2008 before the House Economic Matters Committee.

With the support of MACPA, in 2008 the Maryland legislature passed mobility legislation, amended the Tax Preparer Licensing legislation to exempt CPAs (and out-of-state CPAs) and their staff from extra licensing fees, additional CPE, and more regulatory oversight, and in special session defeated sales tax on accounting and tax services.

Hood's outstanding management makes the MACPA "by far the best run state CPA society," according to Director Allen P. DeLeon, CPA, founding partner at Gaithersburg, MD-based DeLeon & Stang, CPAs and Advisors. Under Hood's strong leadership and through his innovations, and leading edge thinking, "The MACPA is also making important contributions to the CPA profession nationally."

"Tom is an amazing relationship builder with strong connections in the business community, the academic world, and government," Brown said, "and every relationship has a benefit to our members. He is a passionate leader who is earned the deep respect of his colleagues in Maryland and the accounting profession nationally."

Quick to give credit to others, Tom Hood is not an easy person to recognize in a public forum or even in conversation. "It is difficult to talk to Tom about what he achieves," said Rabicoff.

"He is truly the servant leader that we all read about," said Brown."

AccountingWEB congratulates him for his commitment to the future of his profession and the success of his members, his forward looking commitment to technology and his dedication to his colleagues.

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