Decision Vision Episode 82: Should I Obtain a Professional Accreditation or Designation? – An Interview with Brien Jones, National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts
What are the benefits of a professional accreditation? Beyond the knowledge you gain, does it help in marketing yourself as a professional services provider? Brien Jones of NACVA joins host Mike Blake to discuss these questions and much more. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Brien Jones, COO, National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts
Brien Jones has been with NACVA® and the CTI™ since 1997. He is a seasoned association executive with extensive professional experience in continuing professional education management, online/distance learning, business development, strategic planning, member recruitment and retention, and association governance. In his position, Brien balances internal management with external leadership, leading to healthy business development and greater visibility to support the growth and goals of the organizations. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, and the Industry Advisory Council for Associated Luxury Hotels International.
Brien is a past recipient of Utah Business magazine’s Forty Under 40 Rising Stars, an Ambassador Award recipient from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, and holds a Diplôme from the International Olympic Committee for volunteerism during the 19th Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
He holds a Bachelor of Behavioral Science in Public Communication from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and was formerly employed as a Loaned Executive for the United Way of Salt Lake City, Public Relations Specialist for Visit Salt Lake, Director of Advertising and Exhibits for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and as an Account Executive for Utility Data Institute Data and Directories/Platts McGraw Hill Financial.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast.
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Intro: Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we will discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owner’s or executive’s perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: My name is Mike Blake and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio with offices in Dayton, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Indiana, and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta per social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator. And please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: So, the topic for today is, should I obtain a professional accreditation or designation? Now, for those of you who have listened to the program for any length of time, i.e., this is not your first rodeo with us, you know that I am a professional business appraiser and that’s how I make my living. And we are considered a profession, generally, within the accounting industry. There’s a whole discussion as to whether or not appraisal is a separate industry. That’s not the topic of today’s podcast, so just sort of roll with that.
Mike Blake: And in my profession, as in many others, it’s generally considered very important to obtain professional accreditations. And they usually are reflected in some sequence of letters after your name. So, I happen to hold the Chartered Financial Analyst Charter or CFA. I happen to hold the Accredited Senior Appraiser or ASA. And as well as the Accredited in Business Appraisal Review or ÁBAR. And, you know, in our world, there’s sometimes discussion as to whether or not we have too many accreditations. And I’m not going to get into that discussion. But each credentialing organization would argue that they bring something different and unique to the table. And I think I agree with that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t hold as many designations as I do.
Mike Blake: But I think this topic becomes particularly important and germane today because this current world that we’re in, I think, is causing many of us to reflect upon our careers and our chosen field. And some of us may, frankly, have downtime. We may have been unfortunately laid off. We may be underutilized. We may be furloughed. We may be taking paid vacation while we can. We may be taking some kind of leave.
Mike Blake: Right now, whether desired or not, a lot more of us are finding ourselves with more time on our hands than we had anticipated and perhaps would have liked. And one of the, I think, more clear options to productively use that time is to go out and obtain some sort of professional credential, something that tells the world that you have successfully studied some area of knowledge. And, at least, to the satisfaction of the organization that offers a credential, you have mastered that knowledge set and then you are able to, in effect, carry their brand. And, you know, it may very well be a good thing to do. And you see this in all walks of life. Insurance has their own accreditations. Financial advisory has their own accreditations. There are a bunch of them in information technology, software development, project management. Frankly, engineering, entertainment, the list goes on and on.
Mike Blake: So, you know, it would be natural to kind of wonder, well, if I’ve kind of got this downtime or if I’m looking to make myself more marketable in what has clearly become a sharply more competitive job environment for most of us, one of the things you might do is explore whether or not a professional credential or accreditation or one that’s in addition to one that you already have would be a good investment of your time and your resources.
Mike Blake: And so, as it turns out, we have the opportunity to address a subject matter expert in this. And we’re being joined by Brien Jones, who is the Chief Operating Officer of the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts. And that is the credentialing organization that is the host for my ABAR. The National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts or NACVA, is a global professional association that delivers training and certification programs in accounting and financial consulting fields such as business valuation, financial litigation, forensics expert witnessing, forensic accounting, fraud, risk management, mergers and acquisitions, business and intellectual property damages, fair value, health care consulting and exit strategies.
Mike Blake: NACVA is a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. NACVA is a Certified Valuation Analysts, or CVA, designation is the only valuation credential accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies – actually, I did not know that – the accreditation body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. Other professional certifications offered by NACVA include the Master Analyst in Financial Forensics and the Accredited in Business Appraisal Review designation.
Mike Blake: Brien has been with NACVA and the Consultants’ Training Institute since 1997. He’s a seasoned association executive with extensive professional experience and continuing professional education management, online distance learning – that’s going to be a big deal right now – business development, strategic planning, member recruitment and retention, and association governance. In his position, Brien balances internal management with external leadership leading to healthy business development and greater visibility to support the growth and goals of the organizations. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives and the Industry Advisory Council for Associated Luxury Hotels International.
Mike Blake: Brien is a past recipient of the Utah Business magazine’s Forty Under 40 Rising Stars, an Ambassador Award recipient from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, and holds a diplome from the International Olympic Committee for Volunteerism during the 19th Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City. He holds a Bachelor of Behavioral Science and Public Communication from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. And was formerly employed as a loan executive for the United Way of Salt Lake City, public relations specialist for Visit Salt Lake, director of advertising and exhibits for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and as an account executive for Utility Data Institute Data and Directories/Platts McGraw Hill Financial.
Mike Blake: Most interestingly, outside of his profession, Brien is an accomplished stage actor who thrives on learning and challenging himself to learn new and different things. He loves nature, camping, outdoor adventures, and travel every chance he gets. So, Salt Lake is a great way to enjoy that. He also really loves people and making a positive impact on the lives of others. Brien Jones, welcome to the program.
Brien Jones: Hi, Mike. Thank you for having me.
Mike Blake: So, yeah, yeah, we’re going to talk about all this credential thing. But I want to talk about being an accomplished stage actor. So, what kind of productions do you do? Are you a Shakespearean actor? Are you something else? I’m showing my ignorance. I don’t know what kind of actors there are.
Brien Jones: No. Yeah. That’s a good question.
Mike Blake: So, what do you act in or what have you acted in?
Brien Jones: Sure. Well, I have great fortune to be on a number of professional stages in Salt Lake City, mainly comedic or dramatic. I have done some musical work. I love singing. I grew up singing in church. But singing for the theater and the stage is completely different than singing in church. Shakespearean acting requires a whole other set of training and skill. I have not had an opportunity to do those types of shows.
Brien Jones: But, mainly, some Pulitzer Prize winning plays you might know of. A Soldiers Play, series of plays by August Wilson, Jitney, Fences. Also, I was in a musical once that was based on the life of Tony Kushner, who wrote the well-known Angels in America, the show Caroline, or Change, which is a somewhat autobiographical play about him growing up in Louisiana. But I’ve enjoyed the opportunities that I’ve gotten to be on stage in Salt Lake. It’s a nice balance from the very intense, and busy, and hectic professional career that I have. It’s a lot of fun.
Mike Blake: Yeah. And do you get a chance to do it now still or you’re too busy?
Brien Jones: Well, actually, the whole world of theater is changing in this COVID universe
Mike Blake: Of course.
Brien Jones: Yeah. In fact, Salt Lake is pioneering, like most theater companies across the nation, as to how they adapt to rehearsals with social distancing, how they produce shows with social distancing, how they even seats in the audience with social distancing. I think, it’s still yet to be determined how these theater companies will evolve to address safety and health concerns for the cast, and crew, and audience members. But currently, most of the productions that I’ve been aware of are going to a virtual platform like most. And so, it’s an evolving medium. It’ll be quite interesting to see how it all shakes out over these next several weeks and months.
Mike Blake: I’m a semi-professional rock musician myself. And we’re facing, of course, similar issues. Here in Georgia, we’ve been very aggressive in trying to open up the economy and try to get back to normal. And it’s debatable whether that was wise. But it happened. But I’m experiencing the same thing as you as I have not had an opportunity to perform in front of people really since mid-March. I’m a keyboard player, and the problem with keyboard players, everybody assumes that then you know everything about technology and setting all that stuff up. And, you know, whether you’re rehearsing for theater or for music, you know, it’s the same thing to kind of create this virtual presence that everything sort of works well and there’s enough bandwidth to go around. It ain’t easy. And I just don’t have the time to do it, unfortunately. But I appreciate those who do and are making the effort to do so.
Mike Blake: So, let’s jump into this as fascinated as people are about my fantastic musical career. Let’s start off, what is a professional certification and accreditation? And actually, let’s start there. Is there a difference between a certification and an accreditation?
Brien Jones: Those words are generally used interchangeably. They are, obviously, quite similar. A certification, generally, refers to training and the successful achievement or passing of some assessment exam or case studies in a specific field or area. Whereas, accreditation generally refers to those services that apply with standards or a holding in a body or an individual, not only to specific skills, but also to standards that govern over that specific area of work.
Brien Jones: So, they’re generally interchangeable. They do refer to separate things. Certification is generally on an individual basis. Where accreditation is on an organizational basis. But it kind of depends on the organization themselves how they term their credentialing program or accrediting program. So, they’re similar, a little different, but there’s certainly a lot of overlap.
Mike Blake: Okay. Yeah. I thought there might be a subtle difference, but you’re right, they’re often used interchangeably. But I suspected there might be a subtle difference because, ultimately, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a certification in the business valuation context. And therefore – although, there is a certified valuation analyst. So, I guess that shows what I know. Now, these credentials or the notion of being credentialed, how is that different from having a permit or a license?
Brien Jones: So, permits or licenses are, generally, where there is a legal body or a regulatory body that oversees the health of the public. For example, massage therapists have certain health criteria, doctors have certain health criteria, legal concerns providing services to the general public. So, licenses or permits, generally, assume that the individual has to achieve those from some governing body, a regulatory or state or local body to comply with those policies to provide those services. So, they are a little different than a certification, which may or may not be a public service kind of role.
Brien Jones: And that would be a bit of the distinction between a license and a certification and an accreditation. Some folks have all of those. Or some of those credentials are licenses may straddle all three. For example, the CPA license has to be achieved by the state. And CPAs then may determine to specialize in business valuations, so they can earn a certification or an accreditation in a specialty area like business valuation. And as a CPA, they have to uphold standards of their association. At least the AICPA, our organization as well, and others in the business valuation community or profession have standards.
Brien Jones: And so, those individuals who hold the certification or accreditation then have to uphold standards for their accreditation or certification. And so, there’s a whole series of responsibilities that the individual license holder needing to comply with the regulatory body. If they hold a certificate or a credential or an accreditation, they didn’t have to uphold that organization’s standards that exist. And so, that would be sort of the lay of the land between a license and an accreditation and a credentialing program.
Mike Blake: And I infer from that that, in effect, there are certain professions where you need a permit or a license simply to be legally allowed to practice. So, I guess another one might be – I’m drawing a blank now – you know, a plumber, for example, typically needs a license. They may become accredited. Or a physician needs a license, as you mentioned. But maybe they’re accredited in certain other areas. Or a financial adviser needs some sort of license from FINRA just to be in the business. But then, they may seek some sort of accreditation for another purpose. So, we’ll get to in just a second.
Mike Blake: So, if you don’t strictly need an accreditation to practice, for example, in our field in business appraisal, you generally don’t need any kind of license. You don’t require any letters after your name. No accreditation at all to practice. And that may or may not be a strength or weakness of the profession. Why would somebody then undertake that?
Brien Jones: Sure. I think by an individual seeking an accreditation or a certification in a specific area of practice demonstrates to their potential pool of clients that they are differentiating themselves from others who practice in the area by seeking higher education, continuing professional education in these areas. Not to say that someone who doesn’t hold a certification or an accreditation isn’t qualified. But those that seek an accreditation sort of demonstrating that they’re wanting to have a more substantial body of knowledge, more training, be held to a higher standard for renewing certifications by whatever means that organization may require that those credentials or accreditation need to be renewed. Generally, that’s through continuing education in some period of time.
Brien Jones: It also demonstrates to general community or audience that would be served by the service that the individual is investing more in themselves and in their practice from a knowledge and affiliation with an organization than not. And most accrediting and credentialing bodies have standards which means that there is another level of competence and assurance to the way those business practices are carried out. And more independence in how the analyst or the individual approaches the engagements, how they even – in our example, at least – calculate values. How they are very impartial to one specific way of doing things, but are required to consider a number of approaches to valuation. And not just advocating even for the client, at least, in the position of our industry. That the analyst is advocating for the right value and not necessarily the value of what the client may want.
Brien Jones: And so, further, the accomplishment of earning a credential can say with relation to the legal profession or the courts that there is some sense of awareness of how to practice within the legal domain. And so, to earn a certification or an accreditation really demonstrates to the marketplace that the individual is seeking higher education, continuing professional education, affiliating with a professional body which may or may not have standards, which elevates generally their – or differentiates them, generally, from their peers that are working in the same space.
Mike Blake: So, in a way it sounds like when you obtain a credential, you are in effect borrowing the brand of the credentialing organization, right? I think that’s so important in our industry – in our profession, because there is no license. And what we do is so specific. It’s very challenging. It’s very challenging for a potential client, frankly, to distinguish one person from another. It’s hard enough to even get people to understand our work product after they’ve hired us. You know, having to understand that there is some core body of knowledge and core set of professional practices to which one is adhering at least gives the public a fighting chance.
Brien Jones: Right. And in many cases, too, it’s an opportunity to educate that client, as to your point, best practices to approaching whatever it is in that industry. In our space, it’s calculating value, or calculating damages, or testifying in court that the individuals understand the federal rules of evidence, for example, and how that applies to testimony. Or, how in assessing value for a company, you just don’t add up the value of the assets, the land, the building, the machinery or equipment to get a value. You look really at more past and future financial benchmarks as well as the state of the economy, generally, and the local economy benchmarking against similar companies in an industry, in a locale.
Brien Jones: And so, in our example, at least, it really allows that analyst to demonstrate to the client that there are best practices to approaching an engagement versus – not to say that someone who doesn’t hold an accreditation or credential would not know that. But at least having that certification gives a sense of what’s generally accepted throughout the profession and the courts or regulatory bodies to distinguish them from just a general practitioner.
Mike Blake: Brien, I have to say, I really like how circumspect you are. And you’re being very careful in a good way to not say that just because a professional happens to hold a credential that they’re somehow better, stronger than somebody who does not. And I wish I saw that more. Frankly. I think you seen a lot in our world. I get asked a lot, which is the best credential to get. And I’m thankful actually to my CFA charter, because in the code of professional conduct for the CFA Institute, they are very clear that you’re not supposed to go around beating your chest saying that I’m a CFA charter holder. And it’s a direct violation of the code of conduct to do anything like that. So, I just want to tell you and make an observation, I think the way that you present that in terms of helping somebody understand what a credential means and what it doesn’t mean, I think, that’s really good. And I think it speaks very well of you and speaks very well of the the organization of which I’m a member.
Brien Jones: Yeah. Well, from my perspective and even from the perspective of our association – and you touched on this earlier – in the business valuation space, there are a lot of credentials. I want to say five or six, maybe more certifications that generally have the same body of knowledge, generally have the same testing and examination requirements, and generally the same adherence to professional standards. What distinguishes, I think, the credentials and the organizations apart is how they serve their membership and perhaps how they serve the community – the audience of those who need that service.
Brien Jones: I think that’s really where, as an individual seeking an accreditation or certification, can sort of pair between all of the options, you know, which is the best fit for them. But overall, the folks who are even practicing in a particular area certainly have a lot of experience or can, and skill. And may or may not even be following those best practices without a credential or certification. They just may be referring to and adopting those methodologies and approaches, but still practicing in that area but not as a credential holder.
Mike Blake: Yeah. And let’s get into that, because I think that’s a very important point. The business appraisal profession is not unique in this regard, but you and I happen to be associated with it, so it’s already example. We do have a lot of competing credentials. And there is ample opportunity to have so many letters after your name, it has to go on the other side of the business card. But generally speaking, and it may be – I’ll let you answer this however you want, but I suspect it’s usually a kind can step outside valuation, especially because you’ve been involved with so many other credentialing organizations. As a general rule or is there a general kind of thought process or flow chart or something where somebody can think about, “Okay. I’m going to go into this profession X. And there are three different credentials I can obtain.” How do you assess which one is not the best but which one is the appropriate one for that person to get at that particular point in time?
Brien Jones: Sure. Well, I think there are a couple of decision criteria that an individual can take into consideration. I think one of them would be the length of time that credential has been in that particular market space. Certainly, a certification or an accrediting program that’s been around for many decades over a certification program that’s fairly new to the market would indicate, at least, it’s perceived or might even be true how much is permeated in that market space.
Brien Jones: And so, I think one would be the length of time that the credential has been around as compared to others, like, one is considering. The other would be the criteria to earning that credential itself. How rigorous is it? Or is it just you pay a fee to earn it? Or do you have to achieve or complete some metric of continued education or examination? And that also would be another consideration, because where credentials may all – or sort of accreditation may all be in essence doing the same or providing the same service. Having a certification or accreditation that actually requires examination and/or a case study in that professional area of service would distinguish those credentials versus just having to pay a fee to earn it
Brien Jones: The other decision criteria I would suggest that people consider is how do you keep and maintain that credential? Is it just something you pay a fee for and you have it for the rest of your life? Or is it an accreditation or credential that requires some renewal for some period of time, two years, three years, five years? And what that renewal – what is required to renew that certification and keep it active? Generally, it’s continuing education. And so, that would be another consideration as what is the criteria for that credential holder or accredited person needing to do to maintain that credential?
Brien Jones: Further, I would suggest that someone consider making a decision about a credential as if that organization has standards that holds those accredited members or credential holders to another level of performance, not only for the client, but for the public. And if there are those standards, that means that credential holder is considering more than just the job itself, but also providing that service in some ethical way. Another decision criteria – and I’ll maybe end with this one.
Mike Blake: No. Please, go ahead. Go ahead.
Brien Jones: … is whether or not that organization issuing the credential is accredited themselves, like a college or university that is accredited by a third party. It demonstrates that that organization issuing degrees, diplomas, or accreditation themselves are held to a higher standard in how they issue the credential, how they establish the body of knowledge, how they establish testing processes, how they communicate and make the process of earning a certification or credential transparent. So, that earning a credential and maintaining it isn’t this cloak and dagger behind the scenes, no one knows how you get it, no one knows how you keep it.
Brien Jones: These organizations that accredit their credentialing programs or accreditation programs are demonstrating to the public and demonstrating to those who are credential holders that all their practices and policies in issuing these credentials is similar to those who are earning it themselves. They have to be renewed. They have to be transparent. They’re held to a bit of a higher standard to serving the public, to serving the members, the credential holders themselves. And I think those would be some fairly good metrics to determine, at least, generally on the surface. If I was looking for a credential, I would start by benchmarking those against each other in that way.
Mike Blake: And what about, maybe, looking at job postings as well? Maybe, you know, if I were looking at a credential or if my purpose is to make myself more marketable or maybe increase my compensation, would a reasonable approach also be to review job postings to see how many listings in my chosen field indicate that holding a particular credential is either preferable or mandatory for that particular job?
Brien Jones: Yes. That would actually be a great idea. Certainly, there’s a lot of ways to search for a particular position or role – duty in a company and an area. And with hiring practices of firms or companies or organizations holding a credential, generally, again, sets those individuals apart as having achieved the higher level of knowledge and training and experience. So, I would agree to that. Looking at the job market – yeah, the job market itself as a benchmark as to whether or not a credential would help to achieving greater ability to be hired.
Mike Blake: So, I want to address a question that is probably going to seem very elementary to you. But I think it’s also important and I’ll bet you’ve encountered this in a serious way. And that is, just because you’re a member, you can join, for example, NACVA without actually holding a credential, correct?
Brien Jones: Yes.
Mike Blake: And it’s important to understand – I mean, I suppose there are some organizations where, by definition, if you join, then you do obtain a credential, but that’s not necessarily the case for a lot of these organizations. And I suspect it’s important to make sure that you read the fine print and make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Brien Jones: Right. I totally agree. Organizations certainly sustain themselves, like we do, by having members who have earned a credential that are practitioners. Meaning, they hold a credential and they’re practicing in the area of valuation or so forth. Whereas, there are other levels of membership where someone can affiliate with the organization to take advantage of the benefits that are extended, the publications, the discounts, the training, the access to the directory and other services that certainly help individuals with their practice that are not necessarily accredited or credentialed.
Brien Jones: I think as a consumer, if there is a professional who is listing that they’re a member of an organization, I think it’s necessary for that consumer to look at what level of membership is being held. Is it actually just a membership that’s an affiliation or a membership that holds with it an accreditation because they are two distinct different things.
Mike Blake: Now, we’ve talked about obtaining one particular credential. Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum. Is there value to pursuing multiple credentials? As I mentioned, I’ve got ten letters after my name, I was told. Is that overkill that I waste a bunch of time and money doing that?
Brien Jones: You know, I would say no to that. And we, certainly, as you know, in our space, our valuation analysts tend to hold a credential with a number of organizations, if not all of the organizations that issue a valuation credential to have them all. And I think that might partly be an attest to super intelligent, someone who is seeking a lot of education, a lot of credibility, and again, to distinguish oneself from the general marketplace for whom they may be competing with for that work by being accredited or credentialed member with multiple organizations in the space.
Brien Jones: Certainly, I can say that a consumer is like, “Wow. This individual is involved in multiple professional organizations, holds multiple certifications.” Then, there’s the assumption that they may have an increased level of knowledge or an increased level of experience. I think it’s an individual choice to make because holding multiple certifications certainly has some expense and cost around it as well as time for renewing those certifications. But I can see value to it.
Brien Jones: In our space, particularly, there’s a large number of CPAs who hold a business valuation credential. The American Institute of CPA is one of the organizations that has a credential. NACVA is not a CPA organization. But mostly a business valuation organization with a lot of CPAs. And so, for a CPA, certainly, they want to hold a credential with their organization from which their CPA is affiliated with. And another one being a valuation specific organization. And another one being an appraisal organization. The American Society of Appraisers, because appraisal of tangible assets is also very tied to the appraisal of intangible assets. And so, I can see, at least in our space, why someone having a CPA license but wanting to be in a specialized organization, but then again, wanting to be affiliated with an organization that has appraisal of tangible assets. It makes sense.
Brien Jones: So, there are some benefits to it, certainly. And again, it’s what distinguishes you amongst your competition. You know, to have one or five or ten you might see in our space. It’s, I would say, a branding, and a marketing, and something that would make that individual a little more unique and distinguished amongst their competition.
Mike Blake: So, you touched on this a little bit, but I want to come back to it because I think it’s very important. And your peers at NACVA will be delighted because it is going to give you a chance to go into marketing mode. But that’s okay. And that is, other than simply obtaining the credential, do organizations that confer the credential, do they offer other benefits other than just simply having the letters after your name?
Brien Jones: They should, but not all do. Some organizations just provide a path to earn it and how to maintain it, which includes the membership. And they may do more along the lines of promoting the service, or the membership, or the organization to those who use the credentials to build the brand and esteem amongst the users of those services. But as a professional association, certainly, it’s an individual decision from the management or of the governing boards of those organizations as to their business model and member support.
Brien Jones: The NACVA takes the position in that we wish to be a full service association. And that we provide outstanding credentialing programs, a fairly achievable and not a difficult and stringent process to recertify that credential. But we pour a ton of resources, reinvesting membership dues into education. Once you earn a credential or an accreditation, it’s beholden upon that credential holder to learn everything they can about where they’re practicing. And they can certainly get that from a number of places. But as an association, I mean NACVA, it’s part of our core function to the membership.
Brien Jones: But to the profession at large, there’s a lot to learn and stay on top of from regulatory requirements to how to write a report, to how to even specialize in doing a valuation for a gift and estate tax purpose, or doing a valuation for matrimonial disputes, or doing a valuation for fair value reporting. And then, staying on top of what the IRS requires, and what the courts require, and what your client might need. And on top of that, how do you build your practice? How do you distinguish yourself from a marketing and branding perspective? So, I think that each organization itself, that’s part of their DNA or what they choose to do for their members and the public.
Brien Jones: But what we are very, very aware of as an association in NACVA is that a credentialing program is awesome. Earning a credential is great. That’s a fundamental demonstration to a body of knowledge to practice in a certain area. But there’s way more to do and learn and stay on top of beyond just earning that credential. And we want our members to be successful in every regard. If they need a question, or an answer, or specializing in an area, or how to write a report, or how to comply with standards, or even how to market my practice, how do I get my brand out there, and how do I distinguish myself from my competition. We reinvest a lot of our member dues to provide full service to our members, publishing journals, blogs, producing podcasts and webcasts similar to this, so that our members have every stitch of information and support they need beyond just earning that certification.
Mike Blake: And, you know, I think, a feature that is also often overlooked is also interacting with other practitioners in your community. And I can’t speak for any other industry. But generally speaking, I found the field of business appraisal to be fairly collegial. There are exceptions. But, you know, just yesterday, I had an-hour long conversation with a friend of mine with a competing accounting firm. And he had a couple of questions about a particular kind of valuation that I probably do a lot more of than does he. And I was happy to spend 45 minutes, an hour with him helping him kind of think about the key issues and what is going to lead to a positive outcome for him and his client.
Brien Jones: And in other cases, there are people that I’m able to call up because I don’t know everything. And there are people that are smarter than I am in certain places. And it’s really great to be able to call somebody up that’s a fellow credential holder and we’ll talk it through. And, you know, even putting your name on the directory, I will tell you, I’ve actually gotten a couple of clients that have found me through the member directory.
Brien Jones: That’s awesome.
Mike Blake: It does not happen often. It happens, I would say, once every couple of years or so. And there’s no marginal cost of doing it. It’s really like free money, basically.
Brien Jones: Right. Yeah. That would be another benefit of membership. And I think another possible decision criteria is what is the organization doing to help drive business your way and build awareness for you as a provider of a service?
Mike Blake: I think that’s right. And I think that’s, frankly, among the business valuation organizations. I think far and away, NAVCA does the best job of that, far and away. It’s not even close. I don’t think the other organizations would even bother to argue the point. It’s such a big gap. I think they just concede the point and say that’s not part of their mission.
Brien Jones: Yeah. It is for us. And again, it goes back to being full service. It’s not cheap, as you well know, to credentialing program, pay your dues every year, recertify every three years. And feel beholden or feel you have value with an organization. Which is why we go to such lengths at the NACVA to, as I indicated, provide all the education possible and all the resources possible. But, also, to reinvest our dues to marketing and building brand recognition within the legal community, the business owners community, because those are the folks who are going to be calling you for work to engage with you.
Brien Jones: And so, an organization, at least in my opinion, has a responsibility to its credential holders and its members to serve them to their best ability to be successful in their practice beyond just earning that credential. And we really care about that at NACVA. And to those lengths of service and training and support that we extend.
Mike Blake: We are talking with Brien Jones, who is Chief Operating Officer of the National Association of Certified Valuation and Analysts. And we’re talking about should the decision process around obtaining one or more professional accreditations or credentials. Now, one other thing I think to consider and keep in mind is that credentials, once you obtain one, you don’t have a constitutional right to hang on it forever, do you?
Brien Jones: No.
Mike Blake: It’s not an asset, right?
Brien Jones: Right.
Mike Blake: You know, how important are the ongoing requirements to maintain that credential over time in the decision as to whether or not to obtain it?
Brien Jones: Well, I think it’s certainly something to consider. Some crediting programs don’t require anything to be renewed other than, maybe, an annual fee. Others require the credential or accredited holder to demonstrate some level of continuing education, which demonstrates to the consumer that that individual is really on an ongoing basis on seeking the latest methods, approaches, industry standards, or best practices to provide that service. Because, certainly, in any industry – in most industries, things change all the time. And continuing education demonstrates that that individual is keeping up to date on what’s current in that profession. I think that would be important to determine if you’re looking at other credentials as what is the requirement to staying up to date with what’s happening in that industry.
Mike Blake: Now, we only have time for a couple more questions before I let you go here. But what I want to address is, some credentialing programs will offer some sort of candidate status that, I guess, you can somehow publicize. For example, the CFA Institute, you know, once you pass – I’m sorry – when you’re preparing for an exam, you can identify yourselves as – I got to remember this here. The CFA has three exams so you can identify yourself as, say, a level one CFA candidate, level two, and then, the ASA credit – sorry – American Society of Appraisers has something called an associate member where you get the full ASA. I don’t think NACVA has anything like that or do you?
Brien Jones: We do. We have a candidate status for our credentials. Yes.
Mike Blake: Okay. And what’s the purpose of that? What’s the goal of that?
Brien Jones: Sure. It’s like the chicken and egg concept. What comes first, the experience or the credibility? And I think it’s a valuable service to provide, because someone who is seeking an accreditation may qualify to earn a credential, but may not have the full experience to earn that credential. And so, to achieve or pass the examination process and/or the case study process, to qualify for a credential that may require also experience, which is the case for the NACVA, both of our certifications in valuation and financial litigation. Similarly with the ASA, the American Society of Appraisers, there are some experience requirements to practicing in those areas.
Brien Jones: And so, someone can take the test and pass, do the case study and pass, check all the boxes off for the educational requirements, but need to have work in the field in order to fully earn it. And it gives and attests to that holder that they’ve achieved, at least, the educational requirements and expand the educational requirements for those certifications. But they’re working towards the experience. And I think it’s really helpful that it puts those individuals on the path to demonstrating that they’re working hard at it, that they do value holding a credential or an accreditation.
Brien Jones: And in our case, too, it’s been very, very helpful for graduate students and MBA students who are looking to get into the business valuation field, who don’t have the CPA license, or don’t yet have experience in the field. But can certainly demonstrate knowledge and pass a test, and write a case study, and do a business valuation case study. And it gives them that – as we spoke about earlier – a leg up in competing for jobs to be able to say, “Hey, I’ve done this great program. I passed these hard tests. I want to specialize in this area. I’m working towards earning a credential.” And it really, again, can distinguish some folks who don’t have a lot of experience yet that they’re working towards it.
Brien Jones: And a lot of firms, at least in our space, I know are genuinely looking for analysts to help grow their valuation or litigation practice. And to see someone that has a candidate after their name. It lets them know, “Wow. This person is already invested in learning the methodologies and approaches and holding themselves a little bit outside the general population to work towards an accreditation.” So, from a hiring perspective, too, it might help those firms to make a better decision about who they want to bring onboard.
Mike Blake: Brien, this has been a good conversation and I learned a bunch even about my own organization, of which I’m a member. So, I want to thank you for coming on.
Brien Jones: Thanks for inviting me.
Mike Blake: But, unfortunately, we can’t just trap you here for interrogation endlessly. So, if somebody listening here has a question about credentialing in general – I don’t know how many people are in the business valuation profession are listening, but there are probably people that are listening that are considering obtaining a credential, especially in this time when I think they may be more attractive. Would you be willing to entertain their questions? And if so, how could they best contact you?
Brien Jones: Absolutely. I make a couple of recommendations. The National Commission for Credentialing Agencies, NCCA, would be a great place to look. Also, the Institute of Credentialing Excellence, which you mentioned earlier. NACVA is accredited by those organizations. But, also, the American National Standards Institute, ANSI, would be great places to look. NACVA happens to be accredited by both organizations, NCCA and ANSI. But, certainly, I’d be open to entertaining questions. You can reach me through the nacva.com is our website. We have a headquarters directory. I’m the only Brien on staff. So, at the NACVA website headquarters directory, you can certainly find me. My name is Brien, a little differently spelled, B-R-I-E-N, Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call me, 800-677-2009. I’d be happy to answer as much questions as I can within our industry and without, if someone’s curious about earning an accreditation or certification.
Mike Blake: Well, thank you so much for joining us. This has been great. And that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Brien Jones so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us today.
Mike Blake: We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is, Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.