Wednesday, August 31, 2011 myBiz Blog
Business School Alumni Spotlight: American Idol Participant & PwC Accountant by sbarber

By day Steve Beguhn may be just another mild mannered accountant, but last January he showed the world that accountants have other talents too. The Milwaukee CPA and 2007 Wisconsin School of Business alum cashed in on a trip to Hollywood when he auditioned for the hit TV show, “American Idol” at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Called “disturbingly great” by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, the auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers received rave reviews from all three celebrity judges for his performance of the “The Man Can’t be Moved.” Beguhn was just one of 300 people to move on to Hollywood auditions out of the 125,000 who auditioned in seven cities. “One of the things the Idol experience gave me was the opportunity to break down traditional stereotypes about accountants and prove to people that we are much more talented and dynamic than the world thinks,” he explained. A senior associate with PwC in Milwaukee, Beguhn was fortunate to receive the backing of his superiors at the firm who have since altered his work responsibilities to include performing at various corporate meetings, including a live town hall webcast from Tampa, Florida that was beamed to all 30,000 PwC employees in the U.S.

A self-described “type A” personality who prides himself on getting along with people and building relationships, the Rice Lake native and high school valedictorian was looking for a bigger stage when he chose to study at UW-Madison. “Moving to Madison was an opportunity to attend a world class university, attend competitive Division 1 sporting events, and make a name for myself in a bigger city and build my personal brand,” he explained.

The son of educators, Beguhn looked at several other majors before deciding on accounting. Like many young men who were immersed in athletics in high school -- Beguhn had offers to play basketball and football for several Division II and III schools—he considered majoring in broadcast journalism and later political science. “One semester I took an accounting 100 course and the first day my teaching assistant presented us with a list of why you should choose to major in accounting. After pointing out accounting’s great job placement and good pay he got my attention,”

Beguhn is not a newcomer to singing. While a student, he was a tenor in the popular male a cappella group the MadHatters.  His business skills came in handy as he served as group’s business manager for two years where he handled the bookings, logistics and contract negotiation.

He credits his Professional Communication class for helping him hone the communication and writing skills he sees as vital for careers in business and accounting. People think accounting is all about the numbers, but really it’s all about relationships and communicating well with clients to advance that relationship, Beguhn points out. “If you don’t know an accounting answer you can look it up, but you can’t look up how to communicate with a CFO,” he said. Beguhn notes that a degree from UW-Madison comes with a certain prestige and reputation and he advises students to match that reputation by carrying themselves with confidence or a “Badger swagger” as he calls it.

As for the future, the newly married Beguhn is at a point where he wants to make a serious run in music. Eliminated in the first round at the Idol Hollywood auditions, he knows he has a lot of work to do before he can consider himself a legitimate musician.” My Hollywood audition wasn’t up to snuff and I knew that, he said. I chose the wrong type of song that didn’t showcase my range like my earlier audition did.” Today he is trying to build on the excitement and exposure Idol gave him and position himself to accept new ventures as they come up. His employer is supporting that his effort by restructuring his role which includes some PR, recruiting and marketing for the firm in addition to his auditing work, giving him more flexibility to accept performing opportunities.

Beguhn knows better than to pass up those opportunities. He decided to audition for Idol following the death of a close friend who was a huge Idol fan and big supporter of his music. Her death made him realize that nothing in life is guaranteed so he took a chance and auditioned. “Currently I have the best of both worlds – accounting and performing, “he notes.” I’m smart enough to know that this could all go away as quickly as it came. I have the opportunity to keep the dream alive and keep the fire burning.”

Something this accountant will do with a “Badger swagger” for sure.