A Passion For Wine, A Passion To Help Small Businesses Grow

CPA Timothy Allen grew up among the rolling hills and lush vineyards that define California’s picturesque Sonoma County. At an early age, he discovered he was good with numbers, enjoyed helping others, and loved the wine business that surrounded him. Allen deliberately melded his passion with his talent in 2009 when he created St. Helena Winery Accounting & Finance – a full-service accounting and finance company exclusively for the wine industry. “It hasn’t felt like work in 15 years,” Allen beams.

Allen started his accounting career in the tax department of Deloitte & Touche, and later transferred to the audit department, auditing vineyards around Sonoma. “The accounting partner track wasn’t interesting to me,” he says, “but the winery business was.” After five years with D&T, Allen left the comfort and security of the Big Four firm and opened his own accounting and consulting business, exclusively serving wineries.

Today, Allen offers back office support and business consulting services to small vintners, allowing the proprietors to focus on what they do best – making fine California wine. Recognizing that the business needs of his clients lie in the managerial and consulting side of his business, he created a finance department for his clients, and has focused his efforts on helping them standardize their financial processes and systems. With so much consolidation occurring in the winery business today, Allen’s outsourced services are an attractive option to small wineries and potential acquirers alike. In fact, the last four companies he worked with have all been sold, and the business systems he instituted helped earn a premium on each.

Allen’s love for the wine business doesn’t stop with his clients. He also has developed his wine brand, Bartz-Allen, and is enrolled in the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma courses in pursuit of his Master of Wine credential. “I try to make it all-encompassing,” he says of his love for the industry.

Allen recognizes that aspiring accountants often look for the most popular careers, rarely considering what motivates them outside of the workplace. “Accountants traditionally put our passions second to our careers,” he tells IPA. By combining the two, Allen acknowledges that “choosing your passion doesn’t always make you a million dollars out of the box, but it is richly rewarding in terms of quality of life, family time and general day-to-day happiness.”

Of his peers across the profession, Allen notes, “When you are young, you tend to look at the bright shiny objects – the career that will get you a six-figure salary as quickly as possible.” He encourages everyone to find what they love and discover how they can build a career around it. “There are many niche markets that don’t necessarily attract the best and brightest accountants. Music, fashion, travel – they all need good CPAs.”