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Transcript: Interview With Anne Hagen, CPA

September 2, 2021

In our latest Leading Forward podcast episode, Maureen gets personal with Anne Hagen, CPA, VSCPA board chair and CEO of the Masonic Home of Virginia. They discuss life and death, running a retirement community during a pandemic and leading a $100,000 centennial campaign honoring the first Black CPA in the United States. Listen to the full podcast here, and now you can watch the podcast recording here

 

Maureen:
Welcome to the via CPA's podcast. Leading forward. Today, we are with Anne Hagen CEO of the Masonic home, and we're also in our brand new media room. We have this awesome set up, so we are really excited to be getting a little more professional. So thank you Anne it's really fun to be here with you today.

Anne:
Thank you so much for inviting me.

Maureen:
Yeah. Yeah. So Ann is our chair of the via CPA board. So she has been pulling double duty with her full time job and with her volunteer job. So you've been a busy person so far, so, but before we dive into the podcast and to the, to your story, tell us a little bit about what Masonic Home is.

Anne:
Well, Masonic Home of Virginia is a continuing care retirement community. It actually started out as a home for children back in 1898. So it's been around over 130 years and in the seventies it was very proactive in terms of knowing that there was a need for a home for seniors. And so they began that. And so it's, we've probably served over 1200 adults and almost 900 children in our existence. So it's a fascinating nonprofit that serves Virginia.

Maureen:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, and I, I really want to focus on what your experience has been over the last 18 months, because you have been absolutely in the center of what we've experienced with COVID. But before we dive into that, I'm kind of interested in how you got to this position. Could you tell us a little bit about your leadership journey?

Anne:
Well, it certainly has been a journey Marine. It certainly has. You know, I think my, I guess my career, when I look back started when I was a child working in my parents' grocery store, oh my gosh, they were entrepreneurs and had a family business and were very successful. And I started out in that working alongside my parents when I was in third grade. So you know, I got a lot of really good life experiences there as I look back getting comfortable with people understanding responsibility, dedicating, you know, yourself to a schedule watching my parents work really hard. So that was probably a great, a great example right off the bat. And then always worked part-time jobs and things, but professionally you know, my first job was in the audit area and you quickly got a lot of responsibilities in that field and you became a supervisor shortly in a short order, you know, the next time they hired a group, you were already kind of in charge of some areas or that type of thing.

Anne:
So that really started it. And when I moved into nonprofit, I became you know, just in the accounting area, but I started taking on more responsibility. When you're in a nonprofit, no matter where you are, you have no limits, there's so many needs. And so few resources that there's a lot of opportunity for growth. And I really excelled in that, I think by picking up other areas like human resources and it, and facilities and you know, sometimes development. So a lot of that type. So I had opportunities there and they really continued to Masonic home when I was the chief financial officer there for a decade. And, and then, you know, as I say against all odds, you know they, you know, gave me that opportunity for a CEO.

Maureen:
That's a very traditional organization. So you've kind of I would guess broken some glass ceilings there, once you say that's true.

Anne:
Yeah, it is. I think I'm not, I'm not the first woman. But certainly you know, there hasn't been many, right. So I think either between my, my history with Catholic charities for many years as well as my history with the Masonic home, I do have a tendency and also an accounting and all the CPA firms, they're all fairly traditional environments and somehow I've been able to Excel in those and I've been very fortunate.

Maureen:
So I, I I'm interested in what you just said. There they've all been very traditional. What, what have been those little things along the way that kept you with it?

Anne:
You know, I I'd have to go back and attribute a lot to my mother, you know, watching her work alongside my father that many years ago. And she was a lot younger than my dad. So when the hours had to be long, they were seven days a week, you know, 11 to seven in the morning, till 11 at night, she would actually get my dad to go home. And so she would work longer sometimes than my dad because of their age difference. And so I've always watched a strong woman work. And so I think part of my ability to Excel in the traditional roles has been the fact that I just never questioned too much. I just keep, I just assumed that if you work hard enough, you will you'll progress and you will move on. And I think that has been true. I think it's helped me kind of confirm for me if I'm in the right environment, it's tested it a number of times. Right. You know, and I think even though they've been traditional, I haven't allowed that to limit me and I haven't allowed that to limit them. Right. So I want to make sure that I do all I can to show my talents and my strengths and hope that we're matching up and hoping that I am what they're looking for.

Maureen:
Right. So I love what you said about your mom and sounds like a role model or maybe even a mentor. Have you had others along the way, or have you been able to serve in that role or is that...

Anne:
You know, I think a lot of my my bosses would probably say that they have been mentors. I hope I have been one for others. And I've tried to be whether they be women, men, older people, younger people. I have certainly been willing to share my experiences and encourage people because I don't think in our world, we get enough encouragement, I think in general whether we're students whether we're professionals or just trying to do well in an environment. We just, I just don't think in general, we get enough encouragement. Some reason people are always trying to tell us about the barriers and you know, that kind of thing. And we need to understand that, you know, these kinds of everybody succeeds every day with hard work and talent and and resources.

Maureen:
Right, right, right. That's a great message that we all need to remember. I always think about how you know, telling the people that are important in your life that you love them. It's like, they might know it, but they need to hear it. Right. So encouraging the people around you telling them they're doing a great job, what they mean, how important they are

Maureen:
And encourage them that they can do it, whatever it might be is hard or difficult, or it takes a number of steps or whatever, you can do that. Right. We can do it. We can figure this out. You know, sounds

Maureen:
Like I'm passing the CPA exam. Right.

Maureen:
Exactly. Need a little exactly need

Maureen:
That push behind you. Right. They encouragement behind you to know you can do it. Yes. So with your career, I know that you've certainly learned a lot of leadership lessons, but over the last 18 months, you've had to face life and death. You've had to lead people through something that I know you've never expected. I'm guessing you've never expected. Like, can you tell us a little bit about some of the lessons that you learned or that maybe were amplified over the last 18 months?

Anne:
Sure. I think, you know you're exactly right. None of us understood what we were getting into when this pandemic began. But I will say that in a retirement community at the time were over half the deaths were occurring. It was undoubtedly the most scary time of my career. But it didn't frighten me in a way that froze me. Thank goodness. And it, it, I don't know. It just made me realize how it very much very important everything I did, how much it mattered. And so it really gave me a heightened sense of urgency, a heightened sense of using every skill that I have ever learned in my career. And I think I just, I got into some zone, some, some gear and I stayed there and thank God for a lot for that. But, you know, it took a lot of lessons you know, thinking ahead and planning unfortunately, or fortunately it depends on how people look at it. I, I looked and I read as much as I could read during that time. I was watching all the news channels. I was, I knew there was a, there's a lot of people that think there's not a lot of truth in the news. Right. But there has to be some level of truth there. So even if I took half the deaths away, there was way too many. And even if I there, and there were many in the retirement community settings, nursing homes, we were

Maureen:
Inundated, right.

Anne:
Yes. In our own community. And we were very early in our own community extremely early. So there wasn't a lot of lessons out there to learn. You had to, it was it was sort of a baptism by fire at that time. So we, you know, we did a lot of great things at that time and we, we just kept listening and learning and acting. And it was an every day decision making event. Every we got together, a key group, infection control, task force got together, and we just examined everything that was going on around us and tried to figure out what was real symptoms. What were, you know, at that time, you know, it just like it is now with children. There's a lot of symptoms like hold. And, you know, when you start taking people's temperature three times a day you know, you didn't, you don't even know what their temperature normally would be.

Anne:
You know? There's a lot of things with the, with seniors that cause your temperature to go up. There's a lot of symptoms that are similar to other things. So there was a lot of concern, some warranted, some not, and it was hard to discern exactly what you should be worried about and what you shouldn't, but we were worrying enough for everything. And just making a lot of decisions early on, we were early, we were early with a lot of our decisions. And I think in that regard, we, it, they served us well. We think we thought it did a lot of thinking, a lot of planning ahead. And then personally, I think what I realized early on was that I had to keep I had to keep my exercise and my selfcare.

Maureen:
Well, that's what I was wondering about with this sustained level of even just watching the news, taking all that in everyday decisions. How did you take care of yourself?

Anne:
You know, I found the time I I'm a morning person and I committed it. I just said, that's something I can't drop. And it was really important time for me because when you've got that time to yourself, it really allows you the opportunity to work things through in your head. And I worked out a lot of problems and a lot of new ideas in the mornings and I would be like, there's this, like they say, you know, you've, you've been thinking, thinking, thinking, doing, and when you give yourself that free time, right. That your brain will help you. And I think I was blessed with a lot of ideas during those mornings. Right. so that was, that was very helpful. I also, I just tried to think of the worst before my staff could think of the worst. I tried to think of the next COVID area that we might have to use.

Anne:
You know, what, what's the worst, the next worst thing that we could be facing? What happens if we run it? If we get low on PPE, what ha you know, and that helped. I think my staff not have to tell me the bad things. They're bad worries. I don't think they could articulate some of their concerns. I started to articulate some of those, and I think it took some of the pressure off us as a team, because if I was already expecting worst things to happen, they didn't have to let me down by telling me what was going to happen. Because I think that was helpful. You know, I, I've always tried to place myself in other people's shoes. I think that's served me well, when you try to put some yourself in the shoes of our residents, the shoes of our staff, the shoes of our board, the shoes of our families you know, it helps guide you in a lot of good ways.

Maureen:
Right. And the communication started very early on and it was early and often. And I do think that was another huge piece of, of our getting through this, the communication. Yes. Because we told what we knew. I was always honest, upfront. I told what we knew. I told what we didn't know. And we had an awful lot of board support and a board chair that's, that's a doctor and he's very, very well-known. So there's a lot of, I had a lot of good, good support. Right, right. And the communication helped because there was a lot of times when we were not available outside of the community, people were locked down. We didn't have visitors. We, you know, there was a lot of that time. And so some of our residents, you know, unless I gave them information, they wouldn't, they wouldn't know what was going on around them. Right. You know, too much. So that was a, that was a blessing because, you know, like I said, if people don't, if you don't give them the information, they're going to find it in other sources and they're

Maureen:
Not wrong. Yeah. That's right. That's right.

Anne:
So I guess that's a lot of, you know, those are a lot of the things that I think that I've put into place or right. And then just really being present every day among the residents, among our staff, on the campus, with the families available, right. By phone, by email, there was always every communications ask for suggestions if they had any, to send them to us. And it was really it worked out, worked out from that perspective for the first time in my career. I didn't hear any complaints about communication, so,

Maureen:
Well, that's amazing. Right. Because that's, that's one of the first things that

Maureen:
It is, isn't it, it's a common complaint that a lot of people have wherever their environment might be. They just, they don't ever feel like they have enough information. Right. I

Maureen:
Like what you said too about you told them what they knew, you knew and you didn't know. So just to be upfront, we don't know this and that's, at least it doesn't leave mines, turning and wandering that's right. So is there a I'm sorry, go ahead.

Anne:
Say, and the one thing we just continue to reiterate was that we were doing our best. We were literally doing our best every day. Right. And I think I think that showed through.

Maureen:
Was there a particular moment that, or a story that you just remember forever during this last 18 months?

Anne:
Gosh there's so there's been a lot of things that have gone on I wonder sometimes if I think back, if it will feel like I was really there, or if it was some kind of a, I wouldn't call it a dream, you know, it's sometimes it felt like a nightmare. Right. but I do wonder when I think back sometimes if I'll actually feel like it wasn't real, you know, but I do, you know, I I've, I a lot of the walks that I gave across the campus, many times, I intended to be a benefit to the residents because they, I wanted them to get the communication and having a quick re opportunity to question me about something that they may not understand. So I started walking the campus after those. And I think what happened to me during that time was that I was trying to be a resource to them as support to them. And what happened was they ended up being a support to me. Right. Because when they would come out and talk to me, they didn't really have questions. They really just wanted to thank me for my leadership and for, you know, keeping them safe. And of course I was just one person of a team, but it was, it meant the world to me during that time, it was very inspirational and very, very supportive.

New Speaker:
Well, you Had to make yourself physically present, like you said, to, to give and receive that. So good point. That's awesome. Good point.

Anne:
So to turn to a different topic quickly you have been a major player in our recent diversity equity and inclusion efforts. And back last year, when you were the chair elect our chair of the board Henry Davis asked you to step up and lead the council. And I know you had a particular reaction to that request. And could you tell us just a little bit how you felt with that? Sure.

Anne:
You know Henry's a great leader, you know, and obviously no one could know more about the topic than him. And at the same time we had there was a lot going on in in our world, a lot of criticism about people that weren't, that weren't, hadn't done things correctly had made wrong remarks, had done whatever, just hadn't hadn't done what people thought they should have done. Right. Right. It was, it was a tough time. And I remember telling Henry, you know, I'm not perfect, you know, I'm not perfect. I don't think I know enough as this, but, you know, I know you shouldn't lead it. You've got, you're the chair, so I'm happy to help you, but I need to know that I need you to know that I'm not, you know, this perfect person for this. And, you know, I said, I believe that we're all flawed.

Anne:
I believe that we all have room to grow and, you know, and there was, you know, some things that we discussed about what was going on in our world at the time that I agreed with and didn't agree with. And he was so supportive of me and he basically said, and that's, that's all you're, you're who we need to do this. Right. So he gave me the confidence to, to step up. I didn't feel very diverse, you know, back in my original early days, I was probably considered diverse as a woman in the field. But you know, I don't feel that as much that way today. Right.

Maureen:
Right. So while you were experiencing your career challenge, you had a little push in a totally a different

Anne:
Way, but it really helped me, I think because you know, at, at the home we have a very diverse employee base. And I think it was very helpful to me. I think the world of employees, I think we need employees from all walks of life. And everyone is trying, I think all of us are trying to do the same thing. We're trying to live a good life and we need financial resources to do that. Usually to raise a family, to keep a house, to be able to eat, to utilities, all of the health care, all of those things are part of a healthy life. And so we need to do the best we can in. All right. So you've

Maureen:
Gone from or you went from being uncertain that you were the right person to lead this brand new counsel to leading the charge on a hundred thousand dollar fundraising campaign. And that's, to me that's quite a leap in a progression in a very short time. And you are no joke when it comes to this. I really, I really just love the, the fire that you have for it. But tell us a little bit about how you went from that. I'm not sure if this is fine, if I'm the right person to really putting yourself out there in front of a lot of other people.

Anne:
Well, you know, I like so many of my peers and my, the other members that have as part of the Virginia society CPA many of my CPA friends that I worked with over several decades, you know, we've all benefited greatly from our profession. It has most likely been one of the most important things in our, our life and our personal professional financial, all those successes, I think, have been impacted greatly by the profession that we chose. And so I think everyone should have that opportunity. And if we've got a part of our society that is unaware of this wonderful profession, then we are obligated to be sure we do all we can to share the benefits of this wonderful profession with them. And I understand that we've made great progress with women. I've watched it. And but I, we have not seen that same progress with black students and black CPAs. And so I feel very strongly that we have an obligation to share that information and no better time than with the Centennial. And I think when I started thinking about the Centennial and what a wonderful window, this was you only get, you know, once to honor a Centennial, right.

Maureen:
That Centennial Centennial is for the first black CPA in the U S that's. Exactly. Yeah, yeah. That's exactly. Yeah. Right. So it falls

Anne:
I think, you know things, things just work out. And I think it was that coupled with a gift that someone made of a thousand dollars and I started, you know, as an accountant, I started trying to figure out, you know, can I, could I raise a hundred thousand dollars? And the Centennial year, I thought it would be quite quite something. And then I thought a thousand dollars, Hmm. Do I know a hundred CPAs? And I do. And I know, and most of them have done much better than I've done in my career. So I thought I could reach out to those and see if I could encourage them to help me and to help Virginia, to make, you know, to make a gift, to help scholarships for black students, black, aspiring CPAs to do, you know, to make a difference in our community and our state.

Maureen:
What I love about this initiative in your personal touch to it is that not only are you going to raise money for students, but you are having conversations with the CPAs about this topic. So it's not, it's not just about the thousand dollars, it's about opening their mind or answering questions, or even having some challenging discussions that who knows where it'll go, but that's where this will move is through the conversations. It's not just the checkbook good point. It's the conversation. And that's what I feel like you're bringing to this along the way. So it really is it's not just a mailer in the, that you drop in inside an email solicitation it's personal discussion.

Anne:
Yeah. It is. And, you know, we've just, you know, I've just felt like I've been so blessed in my life. And I know that this crowd that I've worked with over the years that have helped me and bring me along has been blessed as well. Right. And, you know, we do have, we do have an obligation to give back and to leave this place better than we found it. And it's not necessarily, you know, whatever you give. I just use that example because I can do the math pretty easily, a thousand dollars, a hundred people, but that's just because I liked the math, but any, any amount would be so would be so important and whatever we do. And we're so thrilled because it's in the name of the first first black, Virginia man and CPA and the first black woman CPA. And it's the duke Harris. Yes. So it's a way to honor that here in our state and also be part of this Centennial in the United States.

Maureen:
So Anne, we've covered a lot of ground. Before we wrap up, I just have one last question. So you've had quite a year with the pandemic, with leading this charge now being the chair, what do you do for fun?

Anne:
Wow. Well, you know, the good news is that I have always loved my job and I have always loved my volunteer work. So that is really been a blessing for me. And that that's allowed me to raise four boys while I've worked. I'm now you know, involved in with my two new grandchildren. So I, and, and about 30 years ago we took a leap and got a place on a lake in Virginia. And we spend a lot of time there and

Maureen:
Unplugging with nature and your family.

Anne:
And it's, I think it's been a huge part of, of how we've been able to manage as a family, how I've been able to manage as a, as a working mother professional and to keep, you know, a good, a good perspective.

Maureen:
So are you a fisherman Fisher woman?

Anne:
No. I'm more of a reader. I probably cook a little more down there than I do. Is there anything you like to cook? Oh gosh, I guess I'm a, I'm a big sweets person. Yeah. My German chocolate cake is, is pretty renowned, cheese cakes, things like that. Quiche. Crab cake. Stuff like that.

Maureen:
Wow. Well, you know what, give me that address. I'll come for a visit. So Anne, thank you so much. Thank you for everything you're doing. Thank you for your time today. It's just really been a pleasure.

Anne:
Oh, you're welcome. And I consider it an honor and a privilege to be not only in my role as a CEO of the Masonic home, but also the chair of the Virginia society of CPAs.

Maureen:
Awesome. All right. Thank you everyone for tuning in today. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite streaming service and stay tuned for our next episode.