Bob Hirth: The Most Interesting Man in Internal Audit

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It’s not every day that San Francisco Senior Managing Director Bob Hirth performs internal audits in marketing, but when he does…

He inspires crowds with informative presentations, serves on boards of large organizations and puts in long hours with clients, making him the most interesting quintessential role model for marketing and networking.

“The opportunities that we have at Protiviti are just totally awesome,” said Bob. “I think I have been able to do so many different things thanks to the great organization we have and our leadership team allowing me to do them.”

 

 

Bob’s Beginnings

After he graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with a concentration in accounting, Bob began his career in public accounting then joined Arthur Andersen in 1976, where he would become a global equity partner. During his tenure, he worked in the Dallas, Melbourne, Australia, San Jose, and San Francisco offices, serving as a partner in both the audit and advisory practices of the firm. He also interned in Stuttgart, Germany the summer between his sophomore and junior years.

“What I’ve tried to do in my career is move upward and onward and take on broader and broader challenges,” said Bob.

One of those challenges came in 2002, when Protiviti was born.

Protiviti’s Formation

When Protiviti was initially started, Bob wore multiple hats as the head of the San Francisco office, including Regional Leader and Internal Audit Leader, in addition to his role on the operating committee. He chaired the naming committee that would ultimately create the Protiviti brand.

“The status quo was not an option,” said Bob. “Our employer, as we knew it, was going away. We had no choice but to do something different.”

Together, Bob and then-Arthur Andersen audit partner for RHI, Bob Christensen, turned over the Robert Half opportunity to the firm in March 2002.

“Protiviti has really allowed me to continue my career and progress in my professional activities,” Bob said.

Professional Associations

Despite his many roles in Protiviti – or perhaps as a result of them – Bob found himself searching for ways to make an impact outside the office, as well as inside.

Between 2013 and 2015, Bob was named Chairman of the Institute of Internal Auditors International Professional Practices Framework Re-look Task Force where he would help define changes to the structure and content of the framework. Around this same time, he served two terms as an active member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s Standing Advisory Group, providing input on PCAOB standards.

Over the last year, Bob has made waves as a board member and the Sector Chair for Technology & Communications on The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), while maintaining his role as Chair of Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), which he’s held since 2013.

These endeavors bring new relationships to the firm he helped build from scratch, and help him reach his goal of taking on broader challenges.

SASB defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs when the time comes. Bob says being on the SASB has been a learning experience, allowing him to bring insights around environmental, social and governance sustainability to the investor community and reporting functions of public companies.

“A company is more than just financial statements,” said Bob. “Investors want more than just finance information, they want to know what a company is doing to become or remain sustainable.”

The SASB creates and maintains sustainability accounting standards to help public corporations disclose material, decision-useful information to investors in mandatory filings.

“COSO allows me to contribute to the broader profession, and the SASB allows me contribute to a global issue that impacts every human being on our planet,” said Bob. “Unless I go intergalactic, I feel like I’ve been able to participate and contribute to the broadest possible level on this issue.” He enjoys his time on these various boards, and encourages others to get involved in their areas of expertise, too.

“When I do these things, it’s good for me as a person, but it’s also good for Protiviti,” said Bob. “What we do as individuals is a reflection on Protiviti as well.”

Marketing Success

That attitude is part of what has made Bob so successful throughout his career. EVP Strategic Plan Leader Jim Pajakowski has worked closely with Bob for nearly 20 years, going back to Arthur Andersen. He said, “Bob knows how to communicate messages. He has lots of great ideas and is a high energy marketer. He’s been successful because of his ability to network and his marketing savvy.”

While many consultants may not think of themselves as marketers, Bob certainly does.

“You have to create a discipline around letting people know what you do,” he said. Disciplines and habits like this one would become the basis for Protiviti’s Mastering Business Relationships Training, which Bob helped to create, alongside the Network Creation and Development Continuum.

Protiviti Senior Director Ashley Hartley, who Bob mentored for several years, said it was the little things Bob did that made such a huge impact.

“I recall him writing personal messages on the bottom of his letters,” Ashley said. “He always answered his phone, even if he was in a meeting, and politely told the caller he would call them back – which he did.”

Ashley said that as a mentor, Bob was patient, helpful, energetic, hardworking, and humble, adding, “he really taught people how to develop and sustain genuine relationships with others.”

Bob Off the Job

Bob’s dedication to developing relationships and making an impact extend beyond his career. At home, he is a devoted husband and father. He and his wife Deb have two teenaged children, Eric and Lilli.

“It’s always good and so very important to be with my family,” said Bob. “As I’ve become more senior at Protiviti, I’ve been able to have more flexibly in my schedule, which has meant being able to be busy with them as well as my career. But, I know what needs to get done and when, which takes effort, thought and discipline.”

And believe it or not, Bob still finds time for himself, too, riding 4,000 miles each year on his bicycle.

“I like being outside, and I like going somewhere, so I get to really see a lot when I’m out on the bay. I find it’s a great way for me to enjoy the scenery but also think. I probably do my best thinking when I’m on the bike,” Bob said.

Words of Wisdom

Bob says his career boils down to one important characteristic: knowing how to build relationships. And he has an important takeaway for how to get there: listen, then act.

“Listening is an active skill,” said Bob. “You’ve got to be awake when you’re listening to what people are saying, then act on that listening. Really be proactive to think ahead about how you can help somebody. Have a ‘give first’ mentality. If you give first, over time it’ll come back to you.  You’ve got to give something first before you can get something in return. People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.”

Post by Dayna-Schmidt Johnson, Internal Communications at Protiviti 

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