BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA — Finance can be a numbing subject to the average person, lending the accounting field a rather stuffy reputation. However, if the average person met Michael Zovistoski or Howard Foote, two Niskayuna Certified Public Accountants, ‘stuffy’ would hardly be their first impression.
“I like to have fun,” Zovistoski said, shortly after arriving at the interview with this reporter in his convertible Mini Cooper with the top down.
Beyond being a CPA, Zovistoski is also a certified financial planner, partner at UHY, LLC and recently inaugurated president of the New York State Society of CPAs.
Similarly, Foote, who is the Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of UHY Advisors NY, Inc., and the chair on Siena College’s Board of Trustees, notes that having a healthy work-life balance is the cornerstone of his success.
All of the jargon that comes with Zovistoski’s and Foote’s titles sounds not only palatable but relatable when they share some of the behind-the-scenes details of their profession and how it allows them to be involved in the community.
“I live by a three-legged stool: one leg is my family, one is my profession, and one is my community,” Zovistoski said.
Across the Capital Region community, Zovistoski and Foote have both been members and leaders on several boards of community organizations over the past decade.
“That’s what I like to do, be on boards. But I will not just be the accountant on a board. I want to be a community leader on a board,” Zovistoski said.
Zovistoski served on the board of the Regional Food Bank for six years and is on the Planned Giving and Advisory Board at The College of Saint Rose.
Foote was a member of the Ellis Medicine board of directors for three years, during the transition period when Ellis Hospital became Ellis Medicine. Since 2015, Foote has been the chair of the board of trustees at Siena College, although he has been a member of the board for nine years.
In 2006, during Foote’s first year on the board of Ellis Medicine, the New York State Berger Commission, which aimed to right-size the health care industry, declared that the number of hospitals in the Schenectady area exceeded demand. This led Ellis Hospital to unify three other health care institutions in the area under the Ellis Medicine umbrella.
“So we faced the challenge of how to maintain effective health care and how to convert Ellis into a more community-centered hospital. And I think we did that,” Foote said.
Throughout his time on Siena’s board, Foote has seen many cultural shifts and challenges, but the ability of the board to maintain the identity and the core values of the institution during those times has been one of the most rewarding facets of being a board member.
“Innovation is really important, of course, and so is adapting. Siena was working on building a health care program last year, so I put some of the nurses at Ellis Medicine in contact with the president of the college and … it’s grown into a fully formed program since then,” Foote said, and despite the sunglasses he wore during the interview with this reporter that shaded some of his expressions, his smile made his passion for the college clear.
When they talk about their involvement with various community boards and organizations, both Foote and Zovistoski are quick to point out that their successes have come from building relationships with the community and in strong leadership.
“That’s how we run the firm. It’s always been about people and through all of the changes UHY has gone through we’ve kept that and that’s what has made us so successful,” Foote said.
UHY, LLC, started out over 40 years ago as a mid-level firm, Zovistoski said. It is now the twentieth-largest accounting firm in the country.
“We’ve had such great leadership along the way. With their support, it’s hard not to be successful,” Foote said, citing two longtime partners at UHY, Marilyn Pendergast and William Kahn, as inspiration.
However, this year Zovistoski has had to give up his leadership roles within the community, due to his new position as president of NYSSCPA. The NYSSCPA is an accountant trade organization that seeks to assist accountants with keeping in line with the profession’s core values of financial and legal integrity.
“It’s humbling and it’s really helping to shape the industry,” Zovistoski said. Of the 96 presidents of NYSSCPA, Zovistoski is only the second from the Northeast region to become president.
Beyond that leadership role, Zovistoski works with Eastern New York Angels to provide investment assistance to technology focused start-up companies.
“One start-up that I’ve loved working with is Free Form Fibers. They’re using nano-technology and taking it to a new level,” said Zovistoski. The company, based in Saratoga, manufactures tiny and lightweight ceramic fibers by directing laser lights into a gaseous substance. The fibers they create can be used in the aerospace, automobile, and energy industries.
Foote and Zovistoski both cite their families as the backbone of their success in their careers and a part of that “three-legged stool.”
“Susan, my wife, is virtually the heart of the family. She keeps everything together, she keeps everyone responsible and she’s the reason our family is so strong,” Foote said, noting that even though his children, Kevin and Jenna, have both graduated from college and started their own careers, they come to visit Niskayuna often.
Zovistoski said that before anything else, he’s there for his wife, Pamela, and their three sons, Jack, Michael and Zachary. “You go to all the baseball games when they’re little and I’ve even coached a few,” remembers Zovistoski. Last weekend, he and his wife traveled down south to attend a bridal shower for their son’s fiancee and the baseball games of years past seemed far away.
“I work while my wife drives down … I get bored really easily. But when you love what you do there is no divide between life and work and you bring that into the community,” Zovistoski said.
This sense of unflagging passion for career and community on the part of Foote and Zovistoski is part of what puts to bed the stereotype of accounting as a staid profession.
BY INDIANA NASH