When the concept of being audited comes to mind, most people think of the IRS and the trouble that can ensue from an auditor coming in to a business. However, Beth Vice, shareholder of VonLehman and a CPA with the firm, works in the audit department and sees an entirely different side to the process.
"Auditing is really about looking at a company’s numbers and its procedures to arrive at those numbers," says Vice. "Auditors are usually brought in, not because a company is in trouble, but because it’s been required for them to bring in an auditor for one reason or another. We don’t want to be seen as the bad guys."
Vice specializes in manufacturing and distribution companies throughout Greater Cincinnati. She has worked with VonLehman for more than 15 years. She says that many times an auditor is brought in to evaluate a company if it is seeking to borrow money. "We’re brought in just to report that a company’s financial statements are fairly stated. This is clearly very relevant information to a lender," says Vice.
Vice is also called in to evaluate companies’ compliance with employee benefit plans, such as 401k plans. In this case, she says, typically the plan sponsor hires an auditor to fulfill a requirement of the Department of Labor. These audits assist plan sponsors in understanding their plans and ensuring they are in compliance.
Vice also works intimately with VL Cares, an internal VonLehman committee, as the committee chair. She has led the organization for more than seven years and has worked to benefit the community through VL Cares. The organization, started as an employee recommendation, works to do things that help both the workplace at VonLehman, and the communities of the Tri-State region.
"It kind of got put in my lap in the beginning, but I really enjoy being the head of VL Cares," says Vice. "I’m actually very glad that it worked out the way it did."
The committee often is responsible for donations to charities that are firm clients or that employees are involved in or passionate about. Vice says one of the things she feels is most significant about the program is that it is an activity that everyone in the firm is able to participate in, including employees’ friends and families. "There’s been a fair amount of participation with the events the committee has sponsored," says Vice. "We’ve been able to keep this committee going for around 10 years."
Vice says her favorite project with VL Cares was working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to ensure that two families would be able to make a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. The firm collected donations of money and items for the families’ trips, and gifted them to the families at a large party. "It was so great to see how excited the little girls were, and it makes you remember what is important," says Vice.
"We’re accountants. We’re seen as wearing suits and sitting at a desk with a calculator," says Vice. She explains that this is a stark contrast to the dirt-covered employees who worked together to help a local elderly woman maintain her personal yard work and landscaping after she was incapable of keeping it up herself.
Vice recalls that the best thing about that experience was watching the 20 employees who arrived at the scene working together, regardless of their rank within the company. Working on the VL Cares programs brings together a diverse group of volunteers from within VonLehman, and everyone works together to get their hands dirty and accomplish the task at hand. Vice explains that participants recognize this time of shoulder-to-shoulder teamwork from their daily work at VonLehman. "Teamwork is key to success in our profession," says Vice. "This includes teams within the firm, and being a vital part of our client’s team."
"Working as a team like that really helps you relate to everyone in the firm," says Vice. "Otherwise, when you are just starting out your career, some people can seem intimidating. It opens the lines of communication within the company and helps to show the human side of everyone."
Vice recalls a time the organization got together to help perform a particularly challenging task. "We helped put insulation into a home once," she says. "That was definitely something I’d never done before, but we worked together as a team and got the job done."
Since being promoted to shareholder, Vice says it has also been important that she be an example for many other working women in Greater Cincinnati. Vice is working to prove that having a family doesn’t mean a woman can’t succeed in both the workplace and at home.
"Families don’t have to be a deterrent," says Vice. "You can still make it to the top and raise your children. You don’t have to give up on one or the other."
Vice also says that it has helped her immensely that VonLehman is like a family, and the clients the company works with become family-like as well. "Everyone is very flexible. We partner with clients who feel that family comes first," says Vice. "This really enabled me to work to fit everything in."