Change / transformation | Leadership | Learning / Education

After 14 years, BLI’s work is more important than ever

Time flies when you’re changing the world.

This month marks the Business Learning Institute’s 14th anniversary as a legal entity. At first glance, there’s nothing immediately notable about 14. It’s not a nice, round number. It’s not one of those anniversaries that people commemorate with big gifts and trips abroad.

But here in BLI country, it’s special nonetheless.

Over the past 14 years, the world of professional education has been turned on its head. It’s no longer about keeping a credential or positioning yourself for promotion. It’s about simple survival. In a world where technological advancements are changing every job on the planet, we can’t count on doing the same things we’ve always done. Given the pace of change and complexity, Fast Company editor Robert Safian says “the most important skill is the ability to learn new skills.”

That’s not why the Maryland Association of CPAs created the BLI, but it’s certainly serving that purpose.

The BLI’s roots are found in the CPA Vision 2020 project, a grassroots effort by the AICPA and the country’s state CPA societies to develop a vision for the CPA profession for the 21st century and beyond. That project found that the core competencies of tomorrow’s CPA are:

  • communications and leadership skills;
  • strategic and critical thinking skills;
  • skills that help us focus on customers, clients and markets;
  • interpretation of converging information; and
  • the ability to be technologically adept.

“We discussed this with our Board of Directors,” said MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood, CPA, “and we decided that if these were the skills CPAs would need to succeed going forward, shouldn’t the MACPA, as their professional association, be providing those skills to them?”

The answer was a resounding “yes.”

From those humble beginnings, in just 14 brief years, the BLI has become one of the largest providers of onsite training in the United States. Last year, the Business Learning Institute did more than $1.6 million in sales, primarily in on-site training but also in public seminars and webcasts. “The BLI has grown into a leading talent development and strategy organization for CPAs, finance and accounting professionals throughout the United States,” Hood said.

The numbers aren’t the point, though. They are merely evidence that CPAs need these skills and are hungry to get them — and that our world-class instructors and thought leaders are delivering the goods.

“Our focus on business success skills as an integral part of a robust learning curriculum has gained us a unique place in the CPA market,” said Pam Devine, the BLI’s manager of professional development and customized learning consultant. “We will continue to seek new opportunities to give CPAs the skills they need to grow and thrive in a changing and complex world.”

We’ve long believed that the future of the profession depends on our ability to outlearn the pace of change. That has been the BLI’s singular focus for the past 14 years — to help CPAs adopt a mindset that’s devoted to lifelong learning — learning that goes WAY beyond compliance and focuses instead on knowledge, wisdom, and innovation. A mindset like that will turn CPAs into invaluable business advisors to clients who desperately need that guidance.

Given the transformative nature of this profession, the BLI’s work has just begun.

Let the learning continue.


William D. Sheridan