This episode of the Sage Thought Leadership Podcast features Roger Philipp. For almost 30 years, Roger has motivated aspiring certified public accountants to pass the CPA exam. As the lead instructor for Roger CPA Review, Philipp connects overarching themes with the help of tips and tricks for audit business, environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation sections of the CPA exam. throughout the program, Roger breaks down difficult accounting topics into simplified concepts. His renowned memory aids include creative mnemonics and humorous anecdotes that help students retain valuable information in a fun and interesting way, improving the student’s recall on exam day.
Why do you do what you do?
Philipp: I love helping people accomplish their goals; it gives me value. I started working at Deloitte many years ago in downtown Los Angeles, where I got my CPA certificate. I used to say, “I could die as a partner here.” But life’s too short and I started to feel like it wasn’t my passion.
I started teaching CPA review and loved it, so I eventually started my own company about 20 years ago. Then about three years ago, we merged with a company called UWorld, and have been working together ever since. At UWorld Roger CPA Review, not only do we have CPAs, but also accountants, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and finance professionals preparing them for high stakes exams.
I get hundreds of messages thanking me for helping them accomplish their goals and making their dreams a reality. As we all get a little grayer, you start to realize there’s more to life than just a fancy car and money. It’s about passion and feeling good about what you do.
What are some changes that are coming up for the CPA exam?
Philipp: Things have definitely changed quite a bit since I started at Deloitte. Basically, we’re now going to have three core areas and three disciplines…and a lot more data analytics and tech. Not to mention more expectations for CPAs.
I always tell my students that what’s great about the profession is you’ve got to keep your CPA certificate active, meaning you need 80 hours of CPE, every two years. Because of that, you get a lot of training and experience. Whether it’s tax codes or just tech, you’re always keeping up to date. It’s a great profession for keeping on top of a changing business climate.
I also think that it’s about keeping up with the notion that there are areas of specialization as well, which I think is going to be helpful for not only the professionals, but also people who are learning, or hiring as well.
Philipp: Totally. That’s one of the things I say when I go out to universities and give presentations. It’s about, “how do you work a room? How do you shake a hand? How do you make good eye contact? How do you keep a conversation going?”
Because in life, it’s not always just what you know, but who you know. And you meet those people by getting actively involved, so I always encourage involvement in state societies and going back to your university as your alma mater and speaking to them because it’s not only fulfilling for you, but it’s also giving back. One of the things that’s great about public accounting firms is that they really encourage giving back to the community and to society as well.
Yes, social capital is so important. As our grandparents put it, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Philipp: Very true. It’s important too because what you want out of life changes as you age. As you get older, you realize more holistically about things, like giving back and volunteerism. It’s about balancing your life. So, the longer we live, the wiser we become.
It’s funny, you mentioned this notion of working a room and being better from a language perspective. A guy by the name of Tim Hartfield wrote a book called the 50 Inventions That Change the Modern World, and one of the inventions is double-entry bookkeeping. In that chapter, he mentions that the very language of accounting is “linguistic, it’s rare, it’s relationship.”
Philipp: That’s interesting. I always tell people that I studied accounting because when I was a kid, I was an entrepreneur. One day in elementary school, I noticed they didn’t sell candy. So, I bought chocolate bars. They were three for a quarter. I would bring them to school and the kids would come up and go, “How much for a candy bar?”
Being a wannabe CPA, I’d said, “How much do you have?” And so, I became an entrepreneur.
When I got into college, I studied business and I had to pick a major. I felt like accounting was a language and something you really had to sit down and study. So, I realized that that’s something that I could do; marketing, management, finance, things I could apply in the real world. Studying the language of accounting was something that I’m glad I ended up doing, or I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.
Who is your hero and why?
Philipp: It sounds a little corny, but my parents. They were forced out of Nazi, Germany. My mom left in 1940, and my dad in 1941. I think the fact that they lost everything and had to start all over is inspiring. They raised three successful boys. I got a brother, who’s a doctor, one who’s a PhD. Then there’s me, the brain dead one—a CPA.
But to my point, I think my parents are my hero in that regards to teaching me not to sweat the small things. As they always say, “A lot of it is small, or most of it is.” Believe it or not, they’re still alive at 95 and 92. They were just interviewed last week for a holocaust museum, about their experiences and how they got out and so on. My grandfathers were very successful, had a huge company with employees, and they unfortunately lost everything and had to start over. And so, I sit here and think, “Yeah, don’t sweat the small stuff.” Even when things get overwhelming, the one thing to I remember is something my grandmother once said, “Any problem that can be solved with money isn’t a problem.” And I like that.