Kirsten Houghton, SVA Certified Public Accountants

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Kirsten Houghton, principal, SVA Certified Public Accountants.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

It is my honor to work with people who have dedicated their careers to the nonprofit sector. My days are unpredictable since I work with a variety of nonprofit organizations each day — in a given week, I may provide audit, tax, and consulting services, including board governance and board development. The most rewarding aspects for me are the personal connections I make with my clients.

Providing the local nonprofit sector with access to education and networking opportunities, through our Nonprofit Business Briefing series, has given me the chance to meet many of our community’s leaders and get to know the issues facing nonprofit organizations in Dane County. These events, hosted by SVA since 2005, provide relevant educational opportunities that are completely dedicated to the needs of people working in the nonprofit sector. We have a lot of fun and I love all the conversations and connections that go on during the networking and lunch portion of the event.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

Locally, I admire so many women and men in the nonprofit sector who have moved their organizations forward by focusing on key activities to make each entity successful, whether that is refining the mission, fundraising in the most effective manner, or staff development and training. There are many leaders in Madison who fit this description but several who come to mind are Jenni Jeffress, Bob Sorge, Sandy Morales, and Renee Moe.

On the national stage, and based on her recent support of female political candidates, I’d have to say Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is the epitome of a person who came from nothing and achieved amazing success. She ignores the naysayers, dreams big, and consistently uses her talents and influence to determine where to focus her efforts to help others.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

In 2014, I became a principal at SVA, which has allowed me to expand my client base while being very involved with the community and its needs. Bringing education to our local nonprofits to help them run their organizations as effectively as possible is my passion. Through our Nonprofit Business Briefings, I am always very excited to see a roomful of nonprofit leaders networking, learning, and moving their organizations forward. I am also excited to announce our new service offering — Board Building for Nonprofits. This customized training is focused on creating dynamic boards through using a module-based training approach.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Believe in yourself. Everything you need to make your life what you want is within. This is true for everyone. As a daughter of a father who grew up on a farm and was the first in his family to go to college and graduate school, I was taught the value of working hard. I’ve always set goals and worked to reach them, but over the years have realized that it’s not always about working harder but more about working smarter to really focus in on what is important, whether that is in my work or personal life.

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What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Over the 20 years I’ve lived in the Madison area, I’ve made so many good friends and met many friendly, caring people. I love the farmers markets, the many opportunities to enjoy the arts, sports, and the food scene, and the beauty of the lakes.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I love to swim and kayak and am better at both than most people would think!

What are your guilty pleasures?

I love to go up in a four-seat airplane to see the sights from the sky, whether over Madison or other places I’ve traveled with my husband. I still need to try hot air ballooning!

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