Wal­dron H. Rand & Co. builds on a long his­tory

Wal­dron H. Rand’s 106-year-old val­ues con­tinue to guide the firm to­day

Accounting Today - - Contents - BY DANIELLE LEE

Wal­dron H. Rand was born on July 6, 1851, formed his name­sake firm with Hazen Philbrick in 1912, and would serve as the sec­ond pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of CPAS from 1918-20. A full cen­tury later, cur­rent mem­bers of Ded­ham, Mass­a­chu­setts-based ac­count­ing firm Wal­dron H. Rand & Co. might strug­gle with re­mem­ber­ing these pre­cise dates, if not for their cur­rent dis­play on a mounted time­line in the firm’s lobby, a prod­uct of share­holder Sharon Shaff’s re­cent dig­ging into the prac­tice’s his­tory.

The self-ap­pointed firm his­to­rian, Shaff has been fer­vently re­search­ing Wal­dron H. Rand & Co. mile­stones for years. And with the firm’s long his­tory — the part­ner group be­lieves it to be the old­est con­tin­u­ously op­er­at­ing firm in Mass­a­chu­setts — Shaff had a large task at hand.

“It’s re­ally cool,” she shared. “Wal­dron Rand was a CPA who was re­ally ac­tively in­volved in a small group of peo­ple who started the AICPA, and joined forces with an­other part­ner in 1912 [to form Wal­dron H. Rand & Co.], which from what I can tell is the old­est on­go­ing firm in the coun­try. I’ve tried to find any­one older than us with the same name [since they were es­tab­lished] but I haven’t been able to.” Shaff and her fel­low share­hold­ers be­lieve the firm’s 106 years of or­ganic growth are a re­sult of hold­ing true to Rand and Philbrick’s found­ing prin­ci­ples. These val­ues have been handed down through the years, Shaff ex­plained, but she’s also read them in Rand’s books and es­says, which she re­cently dis­cov­ered and also put on dis­play.

In 1917, Rand wrote “What is a Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Ac­coun­tant?” and re­cited it to the Mass­a­chu­setts So­ci­ety of CPAS, where he served as pres­i­dent. The speech was largely de­voted to the tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments and ex­pec­ta­tions of a CPA, but touched on their in­scrutable na­ture, es­pe­cially com­pared to their pro­fes­sional-ser­vices peers. “The in­di­vid­ual man, who is not en­gaged in the ac­count­ing end of a busi­ness or in touch with it, might go a long while in ig­no­rance of the work of the Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Ac­coun­tant, al­though au­dits of the ac­counts might have been reg­u­larly go­ing on; and where there is no marked oc­ca­sion for ex­pla­na­tion, the Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Ac­coun­tant is not given to ad­ver­tis­ing or pub­lish­ing his at­tain­ments,” Rand wrote. “Every­body knows a doc­tor, lawyer, a preacher, a den­tist, a book­keeper, and what the name means, be­cause every­body ei­ther has need of one, or has seen one, or heard one at work; but com­par­a­tively few per­sons, af­ter all, have oc­ca­sion to know the Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Ac­coun­tant.”

His­tory lessons

Ini­tially driven by cu­rios­ity in her re­search, Shaff’s dis­cov­ery of mod­ern-day cor­re­la­tions in Rand’s words pro­pelled her to seek more of his writ­ing.

In ad­di­tion to this ad­dress to the MSCPA, Shaff found a col­lec­tion of es­says Rand had writ­ten anony­mously from 1920-22 called “Spare Mo­ments,” chron­i­cling his thoughts on mod­ern life. Ex­cerpts where Rand ad­mon­ished peo­ple for har­bor­ing too much road rage or not drink­ing enough water Shaff found par­tic­u­larly amus­ing: “The one about road rage — in 1922? — I found it funny.”

Be­yond the mun­dane, Rand had strong thoughts about the pro­fes­sion and the role of the ac­coun­tant. “He re­ally felt like you should un­der­stand clients’ busi­ness, and don’t have an ego — un­der­stand tax, and their busi­ness,” Shaff said. “You’re use­less if you just go in as an au­di­tor, and can’t re­late to the client, or have an ego. That is ex­actly us.”

Bill Kams, who served as man­ag­ing part­ner from 1974 to 2017, when cur­rent MP Rick Dlu­gasch took over, shared many of the val­ues Rand wrote about, though he didn’t re­al­ize, un­til Shaff’s re­search, how ex­plic­itly they were stated in the past. In­cluded in Kams’ be­lief sys­tem is plac­ing less of an em­pha­sis on ti­tles — per­haps un­usual

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