One-on-One with Robert Harris

The new chairman of the AICPA, Robert R. Harris, has already served the AICPA in a number of roles. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the AICPA, and has been a member of the governing Council for 15 years. He was president of the Florida Institute of CPAs from 1990-1991. He is Managing Director of Harris, Cotherman, Jones, Price & Associates, CPAs, in Vero Beach, Fla.

WHAT COUNTS: What are your goals for your stint as chairman?

Robert Harris: Probably the three big goals are, one, getting the “blue-ribbon panel” on financial reporting standards up and running. They will help determine how the U.S. accounting standards can best meet the needs of users of private company financial statements. Number two would be sustainability, and introducing sustainability to the CPA profession, because most CPAs are way behind on this. Right now it’s being led by the Business & Industry Executive Committee. Number three is getting young people involved in the profession. That doesn’t just mean more young people becoming CPAs, but actually getting them involved in volunteering and committees. I asked to put somebody under 36 on every committee in the institute. I feel that it’s important to get the views of young people. They bring together an entirely different social networking methodology.

WC: What do you bring to the chairmanship?

RH: Many, many years of experience. I’m a past Chairman of the Florida Institute of CPAs. I bring the small firm perspective. I also have been involved in defending CPA firms since 1996, so I’ve had the opportunity to visit CPAs and their firms and understanding how they practice, which is more than most chairmen actually have. That gives me a unique perspective on practices. I’ve been involved with a tremendous number and great variety of committees, and I’ve been involved since I was very young. I was on the Private Companies Practice Section Executive Committee when I was 32.

WC: What are you most looking forward to about the year ahead?

RH: I’m probably most looking forward to just being out and visiting with members. Just like when I spent the day in Rhode Island, it’s just getting to know more CPAs, meeting more and more, and spreading the message about what the AICPA is and what we do.

WC: To what do you attribute your professional success?

RH: I attribute a lot of it to being involved at a very young age, and being involved very early in networking – the opportunity to have known so many CPAs and worked with so many CPAs. That network has given me such a diversity of experience. It’s all about me giving back at this point. I’ve really had a lot of opportunities to get to know so many people through the committee work, that it’s helped me become much broader than I otherwise would be working at a small CPA firm in a small city.

WC: What do you like to do in your free time?

RH: I spend my free time snow skiing, believe it or not. I spend a minimum of three weeks a year in Colorado, skiing. And in the summers, I kite board.