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Jim Haas

CPA is key to successful career as business owner for Jim Haas

The study of accounting and business at University of Detroit in the 1950s was the key that opened doors to the leaders of manufacturing in southeast Michigan for Jim Haas '51, '53.

After earning his CPA, he left a small accounting firm in Detroit and started his own practice in Southfield. For 50 years, Haas has counseled business owners on taxes, purchases, depreciation, acquisitions and more.

"As a business owner, you are the boss. All the success or failure is on your shoulders," he said.

"I've dealt with a variety of successful business people," he said. "I became extremely valuable to these groups of individuals who often were not educated in running a business. I became their financial arm and they sought my counsel and friendship."

Jim HaasAt 81, Jim still goes into the office and works for a handful of clients, tapered down from the large client roster that he once had. None of his three children have gone into accounting, so he will close his practice when he officially retires.

"It's more difficult now to start your own business as a CPA due to changes in the profession. Offices like mine might be the last of the sole practitioner firms," he said. "Instead of working for the 'Big Four' accounting firms, there are lot of mid-size firms that may be a better solution than the two to three-person office," he said.

Part of the demise is due to the need for expertise in international aspects of accounting and finance as more manufacturers move all or part of their operations overseas.

Jim is a champion of small business. "Small business is a vital part of our recovery as a nation that has gone through five years of recession. Lots of businesses are not financially able to go through this. Companies with 50 to 100 employees are not being serviced well with government policies this time around. They don't need faster depreciation on equipment that they can't afford right now, they need more business so they can hire more employees.

"The revival of manufacturing is possible," he noted. That's the positive view that he brings to his role as a member of the Board of Advisers to UDM's College of Business Administration. This group of 30 business leaders confers on academics, lends their support and advises Dean Joe Eisenhauer.

Jim's name appears on the "Hall of Honor" and a second-floor classroom. As a donor, he supports Athletics and the business school. He is a member of the CAL Club and is an avid Titans basketball fan. At Calihan Hall, the men's basketball office suite and the sports information center are named in his honor. He often travels with the men's basketball team to games. That's quite a ride for an alumnus who recalls attending games at Ferndale High School and U of D Jesuit High as an undergraduate when those were the home gyms prior to Calihan Hall, which was built in the early '50s. He also attended football games at the U of D stadium that stood where the all-purpose field is today.

Jim is one of only five to have received the Father Norbert Huetter, S.J. Award, which exemplifies the "best Jesuit principle of being men and women for others."

He continues to stay in touch with several alumni, including legendary writer Elmore Leonard '50. As an avid reader of mysteries, he relishes Leonard's books. Reading is one hobby that he wishes his six grandchildren would take to heart. He jokes that their main interest seems to be texting. He enjoys spending time with his adult children and their families (including three great-grandchildren) and also considers his UDM friends part of his family. Go Titans!

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