February 28, 2016
Working at a cherry canning factory in Michigan decades ago, David Hill, a 1980 graduate of the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, realized his rigorous work ethic. It’s that work ethic that has led to a long, successful career in public accounting.
“For six summers in a row, I would get on a forklift at about 6:00 in the morning, and during the cherry harvest, which usually lasted about five to six weeks, I would get off the forklift between 8:00 and 10:00 at night. We ran all day. I was busy all day long,” Hill said. “I would work 100-120 hours a week during the pack. You don’t do that anymore. That kind of work was my motivation to go back to school and get good grades to get a good job so I didn’t have to do that the rest of my life.”
Hill began his career in public accounting in 1980 at what was then Arnett Foster in Charleston. He left the company for a short period of time in 1994 to be the chief financial officer of a bank in Parkersburg, West Virginia, but returned to the firm in Charleston as executive director.
With the growth of the company and his hard work and dedication, Hill is now partner and chief operating officer of Arnett Carbis Toothman. In this role, Hill oversees the operations of the firm.
“There are a lot of moving parts of the firm. My primary role is kind of working with the operational side. I work with all the functional areas within the firm as far as HR, technology, the accounting side,” he said. “I have an advantage over most people in my role because I grew up in the accounting world as a staff accountant. I understand how people think and what it’s like to be on that side. I’ve also been on the administrative side in a much smaller firm where you had to be hands-on with everything.”
With his remarkable career with the firm, Hill has operated in several functions, including auditing, accounting and consulting. His favorite part overall? The people and using his problem solving expertise.
“I’ve always enjoyed being around people and working with them. One of my favorite things I enjoy doing is going on the WVU campus and talking about careers in accounting,” he said. “I’m also a problem solver. You come to me with an issue, and the first thing in my mind is how to solve it. The challenges we have had to address during the merger negotiations and implementation processes that we have had over the past four years have probably been the most stressful things I have done in my career. However, they have absolutely been the most rewarding for me because it’s a legacy type thing. I enjoy the challenges.”
Recruiting B&E accounting students on campus is just one way he remains involved with his alma mater. Hill and his wife, Susan, are members of the WVU Alumni Association and loyal Mountaineer football fans. He is also a major advocate for B&E’s student honorary organization, Beta Alpha Psi.
"I’ve actually gone to classes at Marshall and WVU as part of the recruiting for the Beta Alpha Psi chapter and said, ‘If you want to know about the profession, whether it’s public accounting or private industry, go to these Beta Alpha Psi meetings and get involved because these are the students that firms want to hire,’” he said.
Hill said he enjoys talking with the students and inspiring them to follow their dreams.
“Whatever you do, do it with passion. Life is too short to do something you don’t want to do. I got lucky – I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve been able to financially support myself and my family. But I tell people, ‘You have to find what you want to do, and whatever it is you have to have a passion for it, enjoy it and love it because there are days when it’s going to be miserable,” he said. “Any job you have, there are days when it is just plain terrible. But there are other days when you think, ‘This is cool. This is a good day, a great week.’ And your goal is to have a ton more of the good days than the bad days.”
In addition to these efforts, Hill is also the chair of B&E’s newly formed Accounting Advisory Council, in which he was instrumental in forming. He is heavily involved with his church and is on the West Virginia Board of Accountancy.
And when it comes time to unwind from the work week and his other activities, Hill heads to the sky. He says that flying single engine airplanes is a form of therapy for him.
“I’ve just always had a love affair with flying. Whenever I’m flying, I always want the window seat so I can lookout and see outside. I just decided one day, and I told my wife, ‘I’m going to go up to the local airport and see if they offer flying lessons. I just want to go up in a little plane and fly one.’ I went up there, and as soon as I took off, I was hooked,” he said. “It was a habit. It was frustrating and hard. It wasn’t as difficult as the CPA exam, but it was just as emotionally consuming. You just really need to commit to get it done.”