Steve Hube '73

How do you go from dentistry to accounting? Steve Hube doesn't know but that's what he did.

Hube, managing director at Cincinnati's fifth-largest accounting firm, Barnes Dennig, actually started college with plans to become a dentist. Once he started taking pre-med classes at Xavier University, he realized it wasn't for him. An economics course was the first thing he took that clicked. He talked to a professor, Joseph Link, who guided him to business and accounting. He transferred to the University of Cincinnati and the rest fell into place.

Hube became managing director at Barnes Dennig four years ago and has led the firm through a growth spurt, including two significant acquisitions that expanded the firm to Northern Kentucky and Indianapolis. He now oversees a total staff of 149. Mergers help a company grow, but the integration of two cultures isn't as simple as it might sound.

"There are guaranteed to be differences," he said, adding employees can be concerned about anything from health benefits to what kind of coffee is in the break room. "It's a lot of little stuff. But it's the little things that you can't take for granted."

Why have there been so many mergers and acquisitions involving accounting firms in the past year or so?

This is centered around partner transition and succession. Many smaller firms were founded with talented people from national firms who wanted to start their own practice. Now, as they look down the road, they may not have the entrepreneurial people in their practice to provide a succession plan for the firm's owners. They are looking to monetize the value they have developed in their firm so they look for a merger partner.

What challenges face the accounting business now and how do you how do you deal with those?

Likely our largest challenge is recruiting and retaining top talent. The number of accounting majors coming out of college is declining. Commercial businesses are doing better in this market, and there is a "talent grab" by large commercial businesses. Also the phenomenon of millennials who may not stay in their career for their entire work life adds complexity to this challenge. This gets back to why firms are merging. Increasingly complex rules and regulations facing clients mean that they turn to their CPA more for answers. Therefore the CPAs have to have more talent to help the clients with complex and sophisticated issues. This creates challenges, especially for small firms.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

We have favorite family vacation spots like Yellowstone, Glacier and Zion National Park. We like the Western national parks a great deal because we have always been drawn to the natural beauty, geography, terrain, wildlife, vastness and openness of these parks.

What do you do to stay healthy?

Not enough! I do power-walk with my wife frequently. We take long walks which we enjoy together.

You've just been given $100,000 to donate to charity. Which and why?

I would give part of the money to a charity that supports the well-being of children and food security for children and the underprivileged. I would also give part of the money to an organization that furthers the respect for human life in our world.

How has your leadership style evolved?

There has definitely been an evolution to being much more compassionate the more experience I got in the profession. There has been even more of a transition from "me" to "we" and increased focus on the needs of others. I credit a lot of the new ideas and work styles I've adopted to CEO working groups that I am a part of through our accounting association, Allinial Global. Also, external coaches and being surrounded by the brightest talent internally and externally has given me great insights and new ideas.

How do you motivate your employees?

I believe in empowering them and encouraging them instead of correcting them or criticizing them. Constructive criticism is important with an emphasis on being truly constructive. I also like to share with the the opportunities they have for advancement as well as ownership in our firm.

*This spotlight was written and published in the Cincinnati Business Journal - February 19, 2016