MBAF Earns The Second Annual Pyramid Award From INSIDE Public Accounting

Indianapolis, Ind. (Nov. 2012) – The Platt Group, publishers of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), is proud to present MBAF with the prestigious second annual Pyramid award. The award was presented Nov. 15 at the 2012 PRIME Symposium in Indianapolis.

Miami-based MBAF is receiving the second annual IPA Best of the Best “Pyramid Award” for the firm’s overall stellar performance in this year’s 21st annual IPA Survey and Analysis of Firms.

MBAF ranked among the Top 5 in the Best of the Best Firms by Region and is celebrating 10 consecutive years as a Best of the Best Firm. MBAF is an IPA Top 50 Firm, an IPA Top 100 Firm by Region in the Southeast and was named an IPA All-Star in Long-Range Planning this year.

Chairman and CEO Tony Argiz left his native Cuba at age 9 without his parents in what was known as the Peter Pan exodus, in which14,000 children were given “waiver visas” to leave Cuba. Upon receiving the award at the PRIME symposium in Indianapolis Nov. 15, Argiz said, “I had to mature quite early in life and it’s really helped our firm. It’s an honor to receive this award among my peers today.”

Best of the Best firms like MBAF represent the best of what the profession has to offer. Each of these firms demonstrates the right combination of vision, planning and execution to deliver superior performance and client service, in any economy.

“For a firm to make the IPA Best of the Best list in any given year is a great accomplishment and a well-deserved recognition of outstanding performance,” says Michael Platt, a principal with The Platt Group. “But for MBAF to have been named a Best of the Best for 10 years puts them in rarified air among the elite of the accounting profession.”

The Platt Group last week hosted the second annual PRIME Symposium, which brought together IPA Best of the Best firm leaders to discuss management practices with small groups of colleagues.

“In working with these firms for many years, we’ve seen what makes them tick,” says Kelly Platt, principal of the Platt Group and publisher of the accounting trade publication, INSIDE Public Accounting. “We launched the symposium so these leaders and others could share their knowledge, best practices and to openly discuss their challenges, experiences, and to ask questions and brainstorm solutions with some of the best minds in the business.”

Many of these firms have been named to the IPA Best of the Best list previously. Of the 50 firms named to the list in 2012, 29 were among this elite group in 2011, and 22 were on the list in 2010. To read the full list of Best of the Best firms, go to http://insidepublicaccounting.com/pages/IPABest.php.

Grassi & Co. Earns The Second Annual Pyramid Award From INSIDE Public Accounting

Indianapolis, Ind. (Nov. 2012) – The Platt Group, publishers of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), is proud to present Grassi & Co. with the prestigious second annual Fastest-Growing Pyramid award. The award was presented Nov. 15 at the 2012 PRIME Symposium in Indianapolis.

New York City-based Grassi & Co. has received INSIDE Public Accounting’s second annual Best of the Best Fastest-Growing “Pyramid Award” for the firm’s ongoing recognition as an IPA Best of the Best Firm.

Grassi celebrated its seventh consecutive year as a Best of the Best Firm in 2012 and was named an IPA Best of the Best Fastest-Growing Firm and a Mover and Shaker in 2012. Grassi & Co. moved up an impressive 29 positions in the rankings, to debut on the IPA 100 list at No. 83. The firm was named an IPA 100 Fastest-Growing Firm, and an IPA All-Star Firm for Long-Range Planning. Grassi & Co.’s managing partner, Lou Grassi, was named one of IPA’s “Most Admired Peers” in a 2012 survey with 430 participating firms responding.

Grassi & Co. is the recipient of the Fastest-Growing Pyramid award – designed to recognize public accounting firms whose leadership, operational, financial and firmwide culture are at the pinnacle of the profession. Upon receiving the award, Lou Grassi said “This is a great profession. I still tell everyone I jump out of bed every day. I’m excited about the profession. I’m excited about the firm and I’m excited about the future.”

Best of the Best firms like Grassi & Co. represent the best of what the profession has to offer. Each of these firms demonstrates the right combination of vision, planning and execution to deliver superior performance and client service, in any economy.

“For a firm to make the IPA Best of the Best list in any given year is a great accomplishment and a well-deserved recognition of outstanding performance,” says Michael Platt, a principal with The Platt Group. “But for Grassi & Co. to have been named a Best of the Best for seven years puts them in rarified air among the elite of the accounting profession.”

The Platt Group last week hosted the second annual PRIME Symposium, which brought together IPA Best of the Best firm leaders to discuss management practices with small groups of colleagues.

“In working with these firms for many years, we’ve seen what makes them tick,” says Kelly Platt, principal of the Platt Group and publisher of the accounting trade publication, INSIDE Public Accounting. “We launched the symposium so these leaders and others could share their knowledge, best practices and to openly discuss their challenges, experiences, and to ask questions and brainstorm solutions with some of the best minds in the business.”

Many of these firms have been named to the IPA Best of the Best list previously. Of the 50 firms named to the list in 2012, 29 were among this elite group in 2011, and 22 were on the list in 2010. To read the full list of Best of the Best firms, go to http://insidepublicaccounting.com/pages/IPABest.php.

Whitley Penn Earns The First-Ever Pyramid of Excellence Award

Indianapolis, Ind. (Nov. 2012) – The Platt Group, publishers of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), is proud to present Whitley Penn with the prestigious first annual Pyramid of Excellence award. The award was presented Nov. 15 at the 2012 PRIME Symposium in Indianapolis.

Whitley Penn, based in Fort Worth, Texas, ranked No. 1 in IPA’s Best of the Best category in 2011 and 2012. The firm has been named a Best of the Best Firm for a remarkable 12 consecutive years and was named an IPA Best of the Best Fastest-Growing Firm, an IPA Best of the Best By Region, an IPA Top 100 Firm, an IPA Top 100 Fastest-Growing Firm, an IPA Top 100 By Region, an IPA All-Star Firm for Overall Fastest-Growing Firm in the Nation, and an IPA All-Star Firm for Fastest-Growing by Region.

Whitley Penn’s managing partner, Larry Autrey, was named an IPA “Most Admired Peer” in the 2011 survey, which generated more than 400 firm responses nationwide.

Whitley Penn is the first recipient of the Pyramid of Excellence award – designed to recognize public accounting firms whose leadership, operational, financial and firmwide culture are at the pinnacle of the profession. Upon receiving the award, Autrey credited the “other 300 people who do the work who really should get this.”

Best of the Best firms like Whitley Penn represent the best of what the profession has to offer. Each of these firms demonstrates the right combination of vision, planning and execution to deliver superior performance and client service, in any economy.

“For a firm to make the IPA Best of the Best list in any given year is a great accomplishment and a well-deserved recognition of outstanding performance,” says Michael Platt, a principal with The Platt Group. “But for Whitley Penn to have been named a Best of the Best for 12 years puts them in rarified air among the elite of the accounting profession.”

The Platt Group last week hosted the second annual PRIME Symposium, which brought together IPA Best of the Best firm leaders to discuss management practices with small groups of colleagues.

“In working with these firms for many years, we’ve seen what makes them tick,” says Kelly Platt, principal of the Platt Group and publisher of the accounting trade publication, INSIDE Public Accounting. “We launched the symposium so these leaders and others could share their knowledge, best practices and to openly discuss their challenges, experiences, and to ask questions and brainstorm solutions with some of the best minds in the business.”

Many of these firms have been named to the IPA Best of the Best list previously. Of the 50 firms named to the list in 2012, 29 were among this elite group in 2011, and 22 were on the list in 2010. To read the full list of Best of the Best firms, go to http://insidepublicaccounting.com/pages/IPABest.php.

Succession Planning Eases Transitions, Develops Leaders

In the midst of doing billable client work, one of the last things many partners or management committee members want to discuss is long-term, operational issues.

But the daily focus on serving clients and solving problems shouldn’t stop firm leaders from considering the firm’s future. That’s why succession planning is so important, not only to ease concerns of shareholders but also to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening – chaos, uncertainty and even the threat of a firm folding.

The biggest problem with succession planning is failing to have one, says Scott Cytron, owner of Cytron and Company in Dallas, a strategic marketing and communications firm. “The issue doesn’t take care of itself. Often the managers are more focused on billable hours because that is the world they live in.”

However, succession planning eases the transition after an upheaval, such as the death of the MP or a group of partners leaving to start a new firm or join a competitor, Cytron says. Firm professionals should understand who is running the firm and making the tough decisions since clients will often call the firm with questions in the aftermath of a major change.

Succession planning is also needed to develop future leaders of the organization, says Rita Keller, president and founder of Keller Advisors, LLC in Ohio. Too often CPA firm partners have the attitude that “no one can replace them,” but the reality is that the firm lacks a plan for mentoring associates or younger partners for more significant operational roles.

Partners should be mentoring at least two colleagues for more senior roles, Keller says. That should be one of a firm’s top strategies. More leadership training will naturally lead to more options for a smooth transition in the future. “One of the topics I discuss with some of my clients is that a partner’s compensation should be tied in some way to the number of quality people you recruit to the firm and how you take on the role of mentoring,” Keller says.

Leaders can work with individual CPAs to create goals in their own personal development plans for future management responsibilities. Over the last decade, more firms have used such leadership programs as the Rainmaker Academy and Upstream Academy, as well as programs through such professional organizations as the AICPA to help further develop associates and younger partners.

For those professionals who desire a possible role as a managing partner or member of a management committee, such goals should be written into these individual marketing or career plans years in advance, Keller said. “It’s a great way to keep your young leaders motivated and focused on firm needs.

Financial advisers and CPAs who have mapped out a succession plan typically lead their peers in revenue, profit and the amount of assets that they manage, a new study has found. Yet only about half of all advisers have developed even a rough plan for passing on their businesses to future owners, according to the 2012 Succession Planning Study by IN Adviser Solutions.

As part of the study, IN Adviser Solutions surveyed 404 advisers and found that 7% have executed a succession plan, 15% are ready to implement a plan and 28% are refining their plans. That leaves close to 44% of advisers who say they are planning to create a plan and 6% who are not even thinking about it yet.

A report titled, “CPA Firm Succession Planning: A Perfect Storm” authored by Marc Rosenberg, CPA, owner of The Rosenberg Associates, indicates that the issue of succession planning has become more crucial over the last few years.

According to the report:

“Before the (2008/2009) recession, the AICPA’s survey of firms’ top practice management issues consistently reported succession planning as the No. 1 area of concern. More recently, recessionrelated issues such as bringing in new clients, client retention and fee pressure have pushed succession planning back to No. 5, but most industry observers regard it as the No. 1 endemic problem in the profession. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

According to the Rosenberg report the reason the problem is such an epidemic is based on several factors, including: aging partners, a shortage of talent, too few qualified accounting professors for the number of accounting majors, and what Rosenberg terms as a “fundamental flaw in firm management.” Partners are overloaded. “Devoting most of their attention to getting clients, keeping clients and performing client work, they lack the time and mental focus to develop people,” he writes. Rosenberg points to the number of firms that have folded or been acquired since the 1980s as evidence of this flaw.

One trend that Cytron sees becoming more relevant is having a non-traditional CEO/MP at the helm. Some firms will not have any interest in such a strategy, but a succession plan could include a non-CPA being a major part, or a leader, of a management committee. This can make sense because it naturally relieves such a managing partner of client account responsibilities.

“You can have an MP that is involved with the day-to-day operations and/or one who is focused on business development or client retention,” Cytron says, but “It’s really hard to do both. Keller doesn’t believe such a strategy is generally effective, saying the industry places high prestige on the CPA designation and so most would want a CPA in charge.

Even for firms that have a succession plan, they don’t update it as regularly as needed, Cytron says. The topic should be discussed annually. “You want to place someone at the helm who is responsible for bringing this topic up,” Cytron says. “You need to revisit it on a regular basis, even if the leadership hasn’t changed drastically over the year. You can control the process better if it is scheduled in.”

Another reason for an annual review is to keep up-and-coming leaders engaged and happy, Cytron says. “You want to keep your best people and give them an incentive such as becoming a partner and being involved in such decisions as succession planning.”

By MIKE SCOTT Special Writer

AGN International Elects New Leaders

Bob Oster, CEO of Bethlehem, Penn.-based Concannon, Miller & Co., has been elected chair of AGN International-North America, Inc. (AGN-NA), at the North American Board of Directors meeting in New Orleans, Oct. 18-21.

Oster will preside at meetings of the North American Region’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee for the next 12 months. Also elected to AGN-NA’s 2013 Executive Committee were Vice Chair Chris Judy, MP of Thomas, Judy & Tucker of Raleigh, N.C., Treasurer Gary Katz, MP of Logan Katz of Ottawa, Ontario, and Secretary Warren Barnes, MP of Kernutt Stokes of Eugene, Ore. (FY12 net revenue of $10.09 million).

Cherry, Bekaert & Holland Enhance International Tax Practice

Richmond, Va.-based Cherry, Bekaert & Holland (FY12 net revenue of $123.6 million) announced it has made a “significant investment in developing bench strength” for international tax under James Dawson, national director of the firm’s International Tax Group.

The group is headquartered in Atlanta and focuses on international tax and transfer pricing issues. “Each individual in his or her respective role has a reputation in the accounting profession as being a subject matter expert,” Dawson said. “This collaboration of experience allows us to address international tax and business issues in a proactive manner, and we will continue to add dynamic professionals in this area to our team as the practice grows.”

Son of Madoff Auditor Ends Life

Jeremy Friehling, the son of David Friehling, Bernard Madoff’s former auditor, has died of an apparent suicide, The Journal News reported. Friehling, 23, was found by police Nov. 15 in his Columbus, Ohio, apartment. He was attending medical school at Ohio State University.

“I can say he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but there was nothing to indicate any reasoning for that action,” Columbus Police Sgt. Christ Holzhauer said. “There is no indication at all that it had anything to do with his father’s situation.”

The elder Friehling was a partner in Friehling & Horowitz, the longtime auditing firm for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. He pleaded guilty to securities fraud, investment adviser fraud and obstructing tax law administration in 2009, but cooperated with authorities and avoided a prison sentence. Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme resulted in a 150-year prison sentence for Madoff. Madoff’s son Mark also committed suicide, hanging himself in his New York City apartment at the age of 46 in December 2010.

Lessons Taught By Guide Dogs; Leadership &Teamwork At Its Best; The Next Generation’s Passion

Guest column By Kyra Falen Shimizu Excerpted in part

I grew up in Marysville, Kansas. My dad was the local CPA doing small business accounting, numerous tax returns and audits. My mom taught piano, directed choirs and played the piano and organ in many town events. I first followed in my mom’s footprints, earning college degrees in piano and becoming a piano teacher and accompanist. Then a few years ago, I decided to change to my father’s career. I had enjoyed working for my dad when I was growing up, and I thought that accounting would offer a new challenge and a more secure income and benefits for my family.

In the past five years I have taken the required accounting and business classes in order to sit for the CPA exam, studied hard to pass all four sections of the CPA exam, and completed a master’s degree in accountancy from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

In the same five-year period I have raised five guide dog puppies. Four of these puppies are now working guide dogs in California, Minnesota, Utah and Colorado. In just a few days, the fifth puppy, Primrose, will return to Guide Dogs for the Blind for her final training. And in about a month, I will start a new career as a staff auditor at Denver-based Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman.

My guide dog puppies faithfully accompanied me to all of my accounting classes, group projects and class presentations. Adeline started off in the principles of accounting classes. Samba sometimes let out big sighs in my income tax class. Nadine played Jeopardy using CPA exam questions in auditing. Patrice was often a little impatient sitting through graduate ethics and tax research. Primrose spent many hours struggling through business combinations with me.

My professors and fellow students often commented that the puppies must know a lot about accounting, and I came to realize that guide dogs have taught me these important principles:

Teamwork: It’s all about the relationships. Guide dogs and their blind partners are the ultimate example of teamwork and the development of a trusting relationship.

In the beginning, accounting is all about numbers: debits and credits and financial statements. But it’s actually about the human relationships: relationships between team members working on an audit or a large tax return, and relationships between accountants and their clients. The distinguishing mark of a profession is its responsibility to the public. The public consists of the community ­– clients, colleagues, employers, investors and others – which relies on the work of an accountant.

Intelligent Disobedience: At times a blind person gives a command, and the guide dog may choose to disobey. When does this happen? At a street crossing, the dog may stop and disobey a “forward” command when there is a car coming. When there is a low-hanging tree branch, the dog may block the way and wait for the blind person to discover the obstacle.

Accountants must constantly evaluate the correctness of transactions in a general ledger, values in a financial statement, and a position in a tax return. There may be times when an accountant must stand firm against a team member or a client’s request to record revenue early or to avoid looking closely at a complex business transaction or tax position.

An accountant must always act with integrity, and it is this quality that instills public trust in the profession. Integrity incorporates objectivity and independence. An accountant must constantly assess what is right and just, even if he or she is being commanded to act differently.

Joy: It is fun to see the excitement and tail wagging of a guide dog when it has shown its partner the beginning of a staircase or has stopped at a pothole. The dog is so happy to leave the house with its blind partner every day and spend its days doing the work that it were born and trained to do.

The AICPA Codes of Professional Conduct do not directly address finding joy in our work. However, the principle of due care stresses the quest for excellence. Accountants must discharge their work with competence and diligence, and this should bring a deep satisfaction and enjoyment that result from being part of an honorable and respected profession.

In the book “Thunder Dog,” Michael Hingson describes how his guide dog Roselle saved his life at the World Trade Center on 9/11: “Most of all, what Roselle did that day and in fact every day she and I were together is nothing less than the most powerful evidence I can provide of the enduring value of trust and teamwork.”

As Primrose and I embark on the next stage of our separate careers, I hope that we will both develop the principles of teamwork, intelligent disobedience, and joy that will further our development as a dog and a human, and uphold the professions of guide dogs and accountants.

http://www.speakermatch.com/profile/MichaelHingson/videos/

http://michaelhingson.com/

The PRIME Symposium’s_Managing Partner Panel_INSIDE The Profession

Topic: INSIDE The Profession

Panelists:            

Tony Argiz, MBAF

Larry Autrey, Whitley Penn

Ken Baggett, CohnReznick

Ted Dickman, BKD LLP

Lou Grassi, Grassi & Co.

Gordon Krater, Plante Moran

Tom Marino, CohnReznick

Carl George, CliftonLarsonAllen

 

 

Two Albany, N.Y. Firms Unite

Robert H. Kind, MP of Teal, Becker & Chiaramonte of Albany, N.Y., has announced that accounting firm Dembo, Freedman & Shutt, also of Albany, joined TBC effective Oct. 1.

Kind says, “This continues TBC’s strategy of growing organically and through acquisitions.” It is the firm’s ninth acquisition since it was founded in 1971. TBC will benefit with additional clients, particularly family-owned businesses and individuals. Dembo, Freedman & Shutt partners Donald E. Shutt and George N. Cefferillo, Jr. will join TBC’s team of partners.