NeilAs part of IMA’s global advertising campaign, we’ve been featuring stories from valued members of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) community about the ways the certification has made a difference: to their careers, their organizations, and even their communities.

The following are insights from Neil Baier, CMA, CFM, who is the vice president of finance at Crescent Crown Distributing in Mesa, Ariz. Neil earned his CMA in 1999, just one year after earning his MBA. Says Neil, “I found the CMA completely relevant to the work I was doing at the time, and it has remained relevant for me throughout my career.” Among his many accomplishments, Neil was the driver behind a huge rooftop solar panel project at his company, which is helping to eliminate 73 million pounds of CO2 and save more than $17 million over 25 years.

What’s the main value you get from being a CMA?

The CMA enhances my ability to bring strategic thinking and the ability to convert data into actionable information on a regular basis. As opposed to just “keeping score” or “counting the beans,” I’m expected to actually assist my sales and operations teams to “advance the ball down the field.” My work in identifying grant programs to help pay for employee training, in sourcing sustainability projects that improved operational efficiencies, and driving back-end efficiency projects that directly affected the bottom line – these accomplishments were all influenced by the skills enhanced with my CMA certification. 

Complete this sentence: I make a difference as a CMA because:

As opposed to being simply a scorekeeper, my organization expects me to be a proactive strategic force in creating bottom-line results.

What study tips would you give to someone pursuing their CMA certification?

Make studying for the exam just another part of your workday. The great thing about the CMA exam is that if you’re already working in finance, accounting, or management, the exam prep will only be enhancing your skillset at your job. Embrace this opportunity for self-improvement…and make sure to show off your new credentials to your boss (especially during your review!).

It’s also important to keep the “long view” in mind. I certainly remember how hard studying was, especially after an exhausting day of work. Like Steven Covey said in his famous “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you should always “begin with the end in mind.” Remember that this is just a part of the beginning of your journey towards becoming the best financial professional you can be. 

Any advice for those looking for a career/job in accounting or finance where they can make a difference? 

The days of the backward-looking “bean counter” are over. Today, organizations require their financial professionals to not only report the financials but also help drive financial results. My advice for someone looking for a career in accounting is to first develop a strong educational base, enhanced by the CMA, and eventually the CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis), certification. Then, once you start working, remember that the value you bring to an organization lies in the value-added strategic thinking that differentiates you from your peers. While challenging at first, keep on looking for opportunities to show your worth. And I would also say this: Swing really hard. You may miss a bunch of times, but sometimes, you’ll hit a homerun.

For more information on the CMA, please visit CMA certification