Archives for May 2011

RubinBrown Expands Denver Presence

St. Louis-based RubinBrown expanded its Denver presence by merging with Denver-based Bondi & Co. The deal is effective June 1.

Bondi has 30 staff and specializes in audit with some tax capabilities. With the latest deal, RubinBrown doubles it Denver presence with nearly 60 accounting, tax and business professionals.

James Castellano, chairman of RubinBrown, says the deal will boost the firm’s revenue from $54 million to $65 million. The combined firm will maintain the RubinBrown name. Castellano first met Bondi partner Bert Bondi three years ago when RubinBrown was exploring entering the Denver market. RubinBrown merging last summer with Saltzman, Hamma, Nelson and Massaro of Denver, but Castellano and Bondi kept in touch.

RB partner Gregory Osborn will continue to serve as the Denver office’s MP. Bondi, Evelyn Law, Julia Stone and Cheryl Wallace have all been named partners. Looking ahead, Castellano said RubinBrown wants to add a fourth market by the end of 2015.

Meyers Norris Penny Continues Expansion

Calgary, Alberta-based Meyers Norris Penny acquired Retford Lane Bates of Toronto (eight staff, including two partners). James Lane and Joseph Bates will join MNP as partners. MNP also acquired Montreal-based, Wise, Blackman.

Warren Averett Acquires Alabama Firm

Birmingham, Ala.-based Warren, Averett, Kimbrough & Marino (FY10 net revenue of $36.3 million) announced its acquisition of Huntsville, Ala.-based White Fleming & Co.

The combining of firms will serve to launch WAKM into Alabama’s fastest-growing metropolitan market. The firm said in a statement that the addition of WF&Co.’s health care practice will establish it as the dominant service provider to hospitals and physicians in Alabama. White’s leadership and staff join WAKM on July 1, and adds 23 employees.

CPA Leadership Launches Knowledge Center

CPA Leadership, Chicago, launched Knowledge Center – an all-inclusive resource for CPAs who want to improve leadership and management skills; enhance specialized services to clients; share insights and experiences with other CPAs, and learn from thought leaders in the accounting profession.

The Knowledge Center is a place where CPAs can attend free webinars, collaborate and exchange ideas, get advice, obtain whitepapers, and find industry blogs. For more information visit

Firm Culture, Partner Behavior and the One-Firm Concept

CPA firms strive to be the firm of choice in their marketplace; to the business community as well as their employees and future recruits. They spend a lot of time and money in marketing and in developing staff.

But as I continue to work with CPA firms in the development of their strategic plans, governance structure, partner accountability and compensation plans, and partner development programs, I find that the firm’s culture and method of operating on a day-to-day basis are critical factors to the firm’s success.

The One-Firm concept is a term we often use in today’s CPA world. What is it and how does it differ from traditional firm practice models?

How most firms developed

Most firms began with one or several entrepreneurial CPAs who joined together to practice tax or assurance services. One of the advantages of joining forces was the sharing of staff and office space. Even though most firms are much more than just a sharing-arrangement, they generally have grown as a result of each partner doing his or her thing. That “thing” often centers on building a book-of-business that the partner then manages.

The book-of-business has become very important within most firms. In many cases, it is the power behind a partner’s influence in firm governance. It is also a security blanket to the partner as it generally is the single most important statistic in determining his or her current and future compensation.

The book-of-business model has its limitations. Here are a few of them:

• In business development – Partners often play “Lone Ranger” in obtaining new business as they want to be sure to get the credit for bringing the new account to the firm, and certainly want it to end up in their book-of-business. Many firms have new-business incentives in place that unintentionally further motivate the partners to act on their own. However, this approach often reduces the likelihood of winning the new business against other competent competitors who present firm resources to the potential client.

• In bringing valued services to clients – Partners tend to be protective and possessive of their clients, even if they could be better served by other firm members. There is reluctance in letting another partner too close to the client relationship. In some cases where firm resources are utilized to serve the client’s needs, they are funneled through the relationship partner who “owns” the account, rather than there being direct contact between the client and the resource.

• In having partners continually operate at a high level – As a partner’s book-of-business grows, he or she becomes consumed by the clients’ needs. There is less and less time for high level partner activities, such as leadership and management, business development, building client relationships, training and coaching staff, and developing specialty services and industry niches. In other words, less time is spent on what made the partner successful in the first place.

• In operating with common policies and procedures – Where the book-of-business model is strong, it is not uncommon to find varying procedures and systems in place. Partners are somewhat free to inflict their will in everything from how the work is completed, to the layout of the work papers, and to the look of the product and the way it is delivered. Besides being very inefficient for the firm, it is a source of great frustration to staff as they continually adapt to the whims of the various partners. At the same time, there is a lack of consistent messaging presented to the business community.

• In effective communications – In firms that have a strong book-of-business orientation, communications within the firm often suffer as mixed messages are delivered by people considered to be in a position of authority (the partners). As partners focus on their client responsibilities, they tend to think less about the firm as a whole, which limits their big picture view.

• In sharing a common vision – A partner group whose main focus is meeting the needs of their clients may lack a commitment to a common vision for the firm. As a result, staff, and often partners’, motivation and morale suffer as team members do not have a common goal they are striving to achieve. They may be unsure of what the firm stands for and what is its purpose and direction.

A changing environment

It has become apparent that firms need to move beyond the book-of-business model in order to effectively move forward and deal with current market conditions. Consider the following:

• As has been revealed in many national firm surveys and professional conferences, a growing percentage of firm partners are closing in on retirement. If they are not already doing so, firms will be facing serious succession issues in the near term. The client relationships that exist will need to be transitioned to the next generation. Firms will be scrambling to replace lost talent and knowledge. Therefore, the need to develop future firm leadership has never been greater.

• Competition for good clients has intensified. Progressive firms have become much more sophisticated in how they are structure internally to govern themselves and to manage and market firm services. It is no longer unusual for a firm to bring various resources into a proposal situation and exhibit specialized knowledge and understanding specifically related to the prospect’s needs.

• Just as good clients are more demanding and seek value in their CPA relationship, so are staff members and recruits. Today’s employee wants to be a part of something of significance. They want to know what the firm is all about and what it is striving to become. They want challenging work, the opportunity to grow professionally, to feel they are making a difference and a choice in career paths. They also want recognition and advancement opportunities, competitive compensation and benefits, and a reasonable work/life balance.

The One-Firm Concept

As a result of this evolution, progressive firms are working hard to make the change from the book-of-business model to the One-Firm model. Characteristics of the One-Firm model include:

• Centralized governance where the firm is led and managed by an elected CEO and executive committee rather than having all partners involved in decision-making.

• Firm members share a common vision and understand the goals of the firm’s strategic plan. They also understand the firm’s mission and live by its core values. Firm members play to their strengths and focus on their roles and responsibilities within the firm, which are determined by and aligned with the goals and strategies of the strategic plan. Along with this comes a high degree of accountability.

• Communication is abundant, from the top down and the bottom up.

The firm has established policies and procedures related to:

• Expected behavior of firm members, including what behaviors are not acceptable.

• How it markets, sells and obtains new clients.

• How it produces the work and delivers the product.

• How employees are brought into the firm, oriented, trained and developed.

Policies and procedures are clearly communicated and all employees, especially the partners, are expected to support them in word and deed.

• The firm is organized to bring firm resources directly to its clients. Although a partner may play a relationship role, his or her clients are “firm clients” with direct access to all the firm has to offer. The firm is client centered with a focus on delivering value through innovative products and services that address clients’ needs.

• The firm may have well-defined segments, consisting of service lines and industry niches. These segments are at the center of marketing, new business acquisition, client service, product innovation, and staff development. Essentially, each segment operates as a business within the firm. Collectively, they are joined by a common vision and culture, working with one another to bring valued services to the clientele.

• Because firm personnel work within service lines and industry niches, they develop significant expertise and knowledge. Not only does this retain talented staff, but it provides a means of natural succession, thereby raising up future leaders and retaining knowledge and relationships when partner retire.

As with most initiatives, the partner group makes or breaks the One-Firm model. To make it work, partners need to live the firm’s values and enthusiastically support leadership. They need to continually work to delegate responsibilities, develop future leaders, and work at a high level, thereby bringing value to the firm every day. The result will be a more effective and growing organization that offers a rewarding career to its people, while providing valued services to its clients.

About the author: Timothy I. Michel, CPA is a consultant to CPA firms and a former managing partner of a Top 100 CPA firm. He helps CPA firm owners create value in their practice by drawing on his own experiences to assist them in identifying and overcoming obstacles and focusing on opportunities to increase growth and profitability. For more information, visit the website at or contact Tim directly at

Applying Strategy and Execution to Achieve Success

The business world is competitive. Firms enter into battle daily. Their battles include winning new clients, hiring and retaining staff, developing future leaders and so forth. The outcome of each battle is determined by the strategies employed and the degree of execution.

Setting a strategy to move the firm forward can take many forms. And every firm has a strategy; some are passive while others are active.

A passive strategy – In passive firms, partners and staff come to work and “do their thing.” Leadership does not establish a plan or vision. There is very little coordinated effort and generally a lack of accountability in the partner group. Partners focus efforts on managing their own personal books of business.

An active strategy – Firms with an active strategy focus on what is best for the firm. Leadership has a desire to move the firm forward. They understand the roles and responsibilities to keep the firm strong and successful. Leaders recognize the importance of identifying strengths and weaknesses and strive to take advantage of opportunities while mitigating threats.

Strategic planning should take place at various levels within the firm:

The CEO/MP should make time to think about the firm and create a vision for the future. The firm should be the No. 1 client. When I was in this role at my former firm, I often found time to think about the possibilities. Ideas came to me while I was away from the office driving from location to location, working around the house and occasionally in the middle of the night.

The firm’s executive committee should set aside time to think about the various aspects of the practice. What are we doing well? What should we discontinue? Where should we deploy our time and dollars?

The service line leaders and industry niche leaders should prepare an annual business plan that lays out the important aspects of their practice. These leaders need to take ownership by setting the vision, determining the marketing strategy, products and services, staffing requirements, etc. of their segment areas.

Department heads, including the COO/firm administrator, HR director, IT director and marketing director can have a major impact on the firm’s progress by tying their strategic goals with that of the firms. They need to think constantly about how making the firm stronger.

Along with the partner group, these firm leaders should join together in developing a three- to five-year strategic plan.

Areas of opportunity requiring strategic thinking

Operations – Including governance (leadership and management) and the systems, processes, tools and technology to be effective and efficient. Culture – How a firm thinks, how it acts and what it strives for. Being the firm of choice for its people, clients and community. People – Recruiting, retaining and developing the firm’s future leaders. Having the right people in all positions. Client service – Quality, timeliness and the ability to deliver value through service lines and industry niches. Unique services that deliver value and solve client issues. Business development – Setting a marketing strategy that communicates a firm’s unique value proposition. Creating attributes that differentiate the firm from its competition. Determining how to be recognized as thought leaders. Using technology such as social media, websites and portals. Results – Defining growth goals, profitability and other measures of success. Bringing accountability, recognition and reward into daily management.


Benefits of creating a strategic game plan:

  • A common vision that unites the team
  • Identification and resolution of firm issues
  • A roadmap to achieve desired success
  • Increased focus and execution of leadership talent
  • More effective employment of firm resources
  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Increased accountability
  • Meaningful progress



Execution is one area where strategic planning falls apart, creating frustration for leaders and firm members alike. To be successful, the MP, with the support of the executive committee, has to act with a sense of urgency. Leadership needs to set the tone that progress is expected, and excuses are not accepted.

Every partner has a role to play in the success of the strategic plan. Too often they fail to act or get distracted by other responsibilities. It is leadership’s responsibility to see that the strategies are employed in a timely manner and goals are achieved.

The following steps may help:

  • Determine partner strengths and passions.
  • Understand that each partner is unique.
  • Assign specific firm goals to those partners with the required strengths.
  • Be sure every partner’s goals are aligned with firm goals.
  • Remove obstacles that will prevent success. This could be other duties, lack of resources or lack of drive and/or direction.
  • Provide needed tools and support.
  • Hold periodic coaching sessions to monitor progress and offer support.
  • Hold people accountable for their responsibilities.
  • Link compensation to the process. Reward success.


From a practical standpoint, the MP and executive committee should review the strategic plan regularly to ensure progress is being made. It should be their roadmap, a working document. The strategic plan should be fluid, changing for current circumstances and market conditions.  

About the author: Timothy I. Michel, CPA is a consultant to CPA firms and a former managing partner of a Top 100 CPA firm. He helps CPA firm owners create value in their practice by drawing on his own experiences to assist them in identifying and overcoming obstacles and focusing on opportunities to increase growth and profitability. For more information, visit the website at or contact Tim directly at

Burr Pilger Mayer Aquires CBIZ’s San Jose Unit

San Francisco-based Burr Pilger Mayer Inc. (FY09 net revenue of $64.8 million) has agreed to acquire the San Jose, Calif., accounting and tax operations of Cleveland-based CBIZ Inc.

“This acquisition will enhance our ability to serve our current South Bay clients, and give us an opportunity to continue to meet the needs of CBIZ’s clients,” says BPM CEO Steve Mayer.

CBIZ’s San Jose accounting and tax staff will move into BPM’s San Jose office – one of BPM’s six offices around the Bay Area. CBIZ will maintain its San Jose office for other services, such as employee benefits consulting and property and casualty insurance.

“The accounting and tax group in San Jose is excited to join BPM, a firm with a similar and compatible culture,” says Jim Babcock, managing director of CBIZ in San Jose.

Friedman Adds Two Offices With Merger

New York-based Friedman LLP (FY09 net revenue of $58 million) merged-in former partners of Tracey Heun Brennan & Co. of Linwood, N.J., and Toms River, N.J. on May 1, adding two new office locations to the firm.

Those joining the firm are Douglas Heun, Debra Parker, and David Waddington, as partners; and Audrey Sherrick, as principal.

Waddington will continue to lead the pension administrative services within Benefits 21 LLC, which was formed as a Friedman company.

KPMG International Appoints Next Global Chairman

KPMG International has appointed Michael Andrew as the next global chairman to succeed current chair, Timothy Flynn.

Andrew begins his term on October 1, when Flynn retires after 32 years. Andrew is the KPMG Australia chairman and has led KPMG in Australia since 2007. Andrew is involved with the corporate governance, strategy and risk management advice to large Australian companies.

Based in Hong Kong, Andrew’s primary focus as KPMG International chairman will be “developing and empowering our people so they can execute on our strategy and help KPMG’s client’s succeed in this increasingly complex world,” he says. “Under Tim’s leadership, KPMG launched an ambitious growth strategy in 2010, and with our strategic blueprint firmly in place it’s now about execution and winning in our key markets,” Andrew says. “Tim is an outstanding professional who brings an exceptional breadth of experience to the position, not only through his leadership role in Australia but with his expanding influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region,” he says.

LarsonAllen Expands Presence in Florida & Massachusetts

Minneapolis-based LarsonAllen (FY09 net revenue of $217.9 million) will acquire Winter Haven, Fla.-based, NCT Group and New Bedford, Mass.-based Raymon Pielech Zexter, effective July 1.

The NCT Group serves clients throughout Florida from its offices in Lakeland, Winter Haven and Sebring, which will expand LarsonAllen’s presence in the state to seven locations including Orlando, Tampa, Naples and Fort Myers. NCT has 64 employees and reports annual revenues of approximately $6.5 million, according to reports.

The addition of RPZ’s New Bedford office to LA’s existing Boston operations, 25 employees will expand LA’s presence in Massachusetts. Jeff Raymon, Bob Pielech and Alan Zexter will join LA as partners.