John Borrowman CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
Gallatin, TN

BV is more than just an industry, it’s a community. One of the things we’ve noticed about that community is the impressive number of volunteers who step up to support the growth of the industry, both through organizations and through one-on-one mentoring.

We started to think about whether that was unique in some way. Was it more, or less, than the level of volunteering/mentoring in the accounting field, for example? We spoke with a handful of practitioners among the many hundreds of volunteers across the country. Their replies painted a picture best described as ‘pay it forward’. Maybe they echo your own experience.

Richard Claywell suggested that the volunteerism sort of began in response to the nature of BV as a business of judgment. Twenty or more years ago, there were many fewer practitioners. The need to hone those judgments by testing them with each other was just as critical, however. Networks sprang up easily because practitioners didn’t see each other as competitors. Getting information required sharing information. Also contributing to the diminished sense of competition was the fact that so much of the work came from attorneys and there was a sense that improved work would produce an ongoing referral stream from the attorney. Claywell also commented on the desire to “keep the chain going. If there are those who want to learn the field and willing to invest the time, I’m willing to help”, he says. Claywell regularly hears from students in the courses he teaches for NACVA.

The opportunity to give back to the profession through teaching appeals to many, including John Barton. For him, teaching assures he stays on top of the latest developments in his profession. A volunteer with ASA, Barton said the size of the organization “plays a role in that it’s easy to volunteer and any volunteering shows up big.”

Comparing volunteer head counts in the credentialing organizations is an interesting exercise. Bruce Bingham, Chair of the ASA BV Committee, estimates the number to be about 30 within that organization. There are approximately 50 volunteers in AICPA’s BV-activities, according to Jim Feldman at the AICPA. NACVA has just over 50 volunteers who oversee the core of the organization. However, Doug Kirchner at NACVA explained there were another 275 members of various committees. Beyond that there are another 155 who, as members of a Mentor Support Group, make themselves available for phone mentoring. Though permitted to charge a nominal fee, Kirchner suspects that few do. From our own outsider’s view these higher NACVA numbers reflect both the greater number of credential holders and the fact that so many practice BV less-than-full-time and are hungrier for the benefits of networking through volunteering.

Chris Mellen has no doubt about the value of giving back to the profession. Admitting that he actually tracked close to 400 such hours last year, he underlines that it “definitely has been worth it. You give back and build at the same time.” Mellen says he has seen a lot of what he calls a “helping culture” in the profession. Echoing Claywell’s comments, he noted how in BV “a lot of folks are willing to help others.” Gary Trugman went a step further and observed that in the accounting field, generally, people are just not as giving as what he’s experienced in BV. He pointed out that, in some firms, Mellen’s volunteer hours would bring only questions about why they weren’t billable, instead.

Our sample was admittedly small, considering the universe of dedicated volunteers in the BV industry. Every one of our interviewees agreed, however, with the idea that volunteering is seen as being connected with being a professional. In other words, giving back to the industry is simply what professionals do. Leaving aside the more tangible benefits like increased referrals, each gave voice to a sense of fulfillment at being active in such a thriving and exciting industry.

John Borrowman