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Mississippi CPA offers plan for ‘right tracking’ career

“Creating Value, Your 90 Day Plan to Right Tracking Your Career,” by Joey D. Havens, CPA, and Joseph S. Paul, Ph.D., is getting attention in business circles. The title was recently named the recommended book of the month by www.accountingweb.com.

“Response has been overwhelming, to tell you the truth,” said Havens, a board member of Horne LLP. “I just completed presentations at the state’s three major universities. The accounting students at Mississippi State, the University of Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss all reacted very favorable. We asked students to evaluate the program, and got excellent feedback.”

Students said things like, “This has really changed the way I have been thinking about my professional career.” And, “ I realize now I have to be more aggressive.”

Sandra Massey, director of marketing for the Mississippi Technology Alliance, says “Creating Value” is a “must read” for all professionals, at any rung on the ladder, serious about career development.

“I was so motivated by it that I ordered copies for everyone at my office,” Massey said. “‘Creating Value’ stresses that to keep growing professionally, we must continue to learn. It’s a very simple concept. But ultimately, our own success depends on our commitment and drive. Success doesn’t just happen, and we are not entitled to a certain title or position. We have to earn it.”

Massey valued the book’s emphasis on being a smart risk taker, extending outside of your comfort zone, personal accountability, maintaining integrity and learning to really listen.

“There is always room to grow and there is always something new to learn,” Massey said. “That is an exciting message and an exciting prospect.”

The book by Havens, who is from Madison, and Paul, a University of Southern Mississippi administrator from Hattiesburg, was published recently by AuthorHouse. It is available online at www.authorhouse.com, as well as through retail outlets such as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Each chapter includes self-check exercises that set a 90-day plan and provide a way to measure sticking with it.

“The key is not to wait for things to come to you, but recognize what creates value and make it happen,” Havens said. “Too many individuals miss opportunities because they are not focused or they are too scared to take a risk.”

Out of the comfort zone

Risk taking means different things for different individuals. Havens said the key is to push yourself out of your comfort zones, and make sure you make decisions about whatever aspect of the job you’re working on.

“Professionals need to be able to take the facts and make decisions,” he said. “It sounds simple, but too many professionals don’t make decisions because they are scared they are going to make a mistake. I have always liked the adage that people who aren’t making mistakes aren’t doing anything. That is the simple truth of the matter.”

Is it really necessary to work the self-check exercises in each chapter? Havens believes that without a written plan, you get average results.

“This book is about being better than average,” he said. “The reason we went with a 90-day plan is professionals need to frequently revisit where they are, especially in this fast-paced environment we are working in today. It is easy to get off track. It is so easy to be busy in today’s world without really accomplishing anything.”

One of the most important themes in the book is reflected by a famous Will Rogers quote at the first of the book, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Havens said today’s business environment changes so fast that skill sets only last five years.

“Soon it will probably be only three years,” he said. “People have to continue to grow and learn or they become obsolete in this knowledge economy. When you originally got out of school in the old economy, your skill set would last 20 years. But that isn’t true anymore. You have about a three- to five-year window.

“Also, it is very important to develop others. That is absolutely key both for personal satisfaction, and to really create value in today’s marketplace. You must help develop your team members as well as external customers.”

Integrity vital

The book also talks about the importance of integrity.
“Many young professionals, as well as older professionals, do not realize the amount of courage it takes to do what is right,” the book states. “We’ve seen the disasters in the business world from WorldCom, Enron, HealthSouth and many others, where leaders, professionals who had the trust of many individuals, did not have the courage to do the right thing. And without a corresponding dose of courage, our integrity can be easily lost.”

Havens said it can be the little things that cause people to question your integrity, like cheating at golf. And how you treat people at work in casual conversation can destroy trust and integrity.

“Whether it’s skimming your employer on time, giving less than your best efforts, inflating a reimbursable expense or cheating at a golf game, all these activities put your character in jeopardy and can lead to bigger compromises,” he said.

Havens said perhaps the most typical issue of integrity professionals face occurs when customers’ expectations conflict with the right thing to do. While you should try to give the customer the benefit of the doubt even when you feel they may be taking advantage of you, “no customer is worth your integrity.”

Achieving success

Havens said the book is an outgrowth of the desire to help people understand what it takes to be successful in today’s economy.

“It is so frustrating to see individuals waste talent and opportunity,” he said. “With the right focus, you can be better than ‘average.’ Too many professionals delay andor limit their success because they are afraid of taking risks, unfocused, too selfish or simply think they are entitled to success. Entitlement is a big hurdle for younger professionals since they are told from birth, ‘just get a college education and you will do well.’ The book helps people understand that they are running their own personal company and do control their success. The greatest satisfaction to me in my career has been to see others achieve more than they dreamed.”

Firms greatest challenge today is to recruit, train and retain great talent. Havens said companies need individuals to learn more, learn faster and assume leadership within the firm.

“The idea for the book came from our internal leadership classes where I teach a class on creating value as a professional,” Havens said. “With the book, I hope we can help other organizations, our firm and individuals achieve more and have a better sense of accomplishment and direction.”

Even if you work for someone else, “Creating Value” advocates that you recognize that you are running your own personal company, and that your success will be determined by the amount of time and resources that you invest. It is a win/win for both you and your employer.

“If you will invest a couple of hours in your personal company and learn about the 13 principles of ‘Creating Value,’ you will dramatically increase your effectiveness, your self-confidence and your personal satisfaction,” Havens said. “You can do great things when you take ownership of your company and implement a plan of action. ‘Right tracking’ your career requires balancing spiritual, personal and professional goals. You should see career as a constant effort to achieve good balance and purpose in life. The 13 principles taught in this book can dramatically increase the effectiveness of an established leader, as well as a young professional just starting out. The leadership opportunities will come quickly to those who apply these principles on a daily basis.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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