Waldron H. Rand & Co. builds on a long history
Waldron H. Rand’s 106-year-old values continue to guide the firm today
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.”
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