Platt’s Perspective: It’s A Jungle Gym Out There

junglegymOn my annual vacation, I typically select one or two business books and one just-for-me book to read during my shutdown time. This year I chose Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg as one of my business books. I have no doubt you’ve heard about it. The gist is she encourages women to “lean in,” define their ambitions, and not let anything hold them back as they pursue their goals.

I read the chapter, “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder,” from my window seat somewhere over the Pacific. This chapter resonated with me. I thought, “I wish I knew this when I entered the workforce.”

Ladders are limiting – people can move up, down, or off. The jungle gym model benefits everyone.”

The traditional analogy for moving up in the workplace is the corporate ladder. But Sandberg notes all that is changing – for women and men – in favor of the jungle gym. Rather than climbing up, down, or staying put, people are exploring different paths on the way to the top.

I understood what Sandberg was saying. I, too, have taken the jungle gym path. There was no ladder in my future, so I thought. I had no idea how I could contribute to the corporate world. I had no path. I had no strategy. I just needed to make a living, and I let things happen.

Sandberg also says, “We need to start talking about how women underestimate their abilities compared to men and how for women, success and likeability are negatively correlated. What this means is that as a woman becomes more successful in the workplace, she will be less liked. Women need a different type of management and mentorship, a different form of sponsorship and encouragement than men,” she says.

  Sandberg on Leadership

“As traditional structures are breaking down, leadership has to evolve as well – from hierarchy to shared responsibility, from command and control to listening and guiding. You’ve been trained by this great institution not just to be part of these trends, but to lead,” she says. Sandberg goes on to say, “The workplace is a difficult place for anyone to tell the truth, because no matter how flat we want our organizations to be, all organizations have some form of hierarchy.

“Think about how people speak in a typical workforce. Rather than say, ‘I disagree with our expansion strategy’ ” or better yet, ‘this seems truly stupid,’ they say, ‘I think there are many good reasons why we’re entering this new line of business, and I’m certain the management team has done a thorough ROI analysis, but I’m not sure we have fully considered the downstream effects of taking this step forward at this time.’ As we would say at Facebook, three letters: WTF,” she says.

According to Sandberg, making the best decisions in business today is challenging due to the fact that no one tells the truth anymore; people lie about ideas, opinions and feelings about something.

There is a solution: “In being able to understand that the truth is subjective for everyone, and that people may very well have very different notions of “truth.” Because of this, individuals need to create a dialogue in which each participant feels comfortable sharing his or her idea of the truth. Empowerment comes from not only being able to listen to the opinions of others, but also from being able to take full responsibility of mistakes. Authentic communication demonstrates the power of an open mind,” Sandberg says.

What are your three words for 2014?

Green Bulb

A post by Tom Hood of the Maryland Association of CPAs was asked to come up with three words as guideposts for the year ahead. Tom shares his three words: Proactive, innovative, and collaborative.

“I selected words that end in ‘tive’ — adjectives that show the ability to perform the activity represented by the verb or competencies that can be developed. These are skills I intend to focus on for myself and our team at the MACPA and BLI.”

You can read the entire post online.

Jansen Admitted as Partner at Maxwell Locke & Ritter

jansenDena Jansen has been admitted as a partner at Austin, Texas-based Maxwell Locke & Ritter (FY12 net revenue of $16.4 million). Jansen is an audit partner in the nonprofit niche. She focuses on facilitating technical and nontechnical training to our associates, clients and the business community.

Miller Admitted as Partner at Maxwell Locke & Ritter

Tmillerodd Miller has been admitted as a tax partner at Austin, Texas-based Maxwell Locke & Ritter (FY12 net revenue of $16.4 million). He serves as one of the leaders of the individual advisor and estate niche and focuses on providing tax services to high net worth individuals, trusts and pass-through entities.

Reppy Admitted as Partner at Abeles and Hoffman

Reppy_009Justin Reppy has been admitted as a partner at Abeles and Hoffman of St. Louis. Reppy provides comprehensive tax and consulting services to the firm’s clients, including family partnerships, consolidated groups, S corporations, privately held businesses and high net-worth individuals. “Justin’s vision and strong commitment to serving our clients make him an ideal candidate for principal,” said Ron Abeles, Abeles and Hoffman president.

Ban Joins CohnReznick as a Partner

Michael Ban, JD, has joined New York-based CohnReznick (FY13 net revenue of $481.8 million) as a principal and the firm’s trust and estates co-practice leader. He leads the private client service group in New York. Prior to joining CohnReznick, he was a partner at a Big Four firm. He managed multimillion dollar engagements for high-net-worth individuals, including services in the areas of income, gift and trust taxation, philanthropic planning, risk management, financial planning, and cross border consulting.

Predictions for 2014 and Beyond

By Joseph A. Tarasco, Accountants Advisory Group

As we approach the end of 2013, the accounting profession and marketplace is changing quickly. Here are some predictions and trends that you may wish to consider and take into account in your strategic planning for 2014 and beyond.

  • Competitive fee pressures, rising labor costs  and lack of quality staff will force firms to carefully examine their mix of services, industry concentrations and their positioning in their marketplace relative to their resources and competition. Industry, niche, and service segments will eventually be viewed as profit centers and partners will have to make the tough decisions to increase profitability in their respective areas. Partner accountability to increase bottom line profitability will put more responsibility on leaders to better manage the recruiting process, staff development and retention, marketing, work flow optimization and efficiency. More firms will move toward an up or out policy vs. the permanent manager type of structure.
  • Career development and leadership training will continue to grow as the need for quality professional staff at the manager and partner levels turns into a crisis mode. Firms will have no choice but to invest heavily in their best and brightest in all stages of their careers in order to remain competitive and develop a succession plan.
  • As the oldest Baby Boomers turn 68 in 2014, the firm’s who have grown thru consolidation of aging practices will begin to deal with intensified succession issues. Consolidation of the top 100 firms in the country will continue at a faster pace, especially on the east  and west coasts as new and larger national firms will be created eventually growing into 2nd tier firms.
  • Managing Partners and Executive Committee members will come under more scrutiny by their partners in their ability to lead and manage successfully while large numbers of partners retire and younger partners must step up their game. Aggressive firms will look at this as an opportunity to market to clients in larger firms who are experiencing service deficiencies while transitioning is in process.
  • Firms will take a hard look at their partner retirement compensation structure and policies and adjust them to the new economy to avoid younger partners from leaving and to attract quality partners and merger candidates.
  • The partnership structure will fade away and be replaced by a corporate type structure at the top 200 firms in the country. Firms will hire professional COO’s from outside of the CPA profession to assist them in managing their organizations.
  • Mergers of similar size firms with less than 20 partners will increase as a succession and growth strategy, in order for partners to maintain control and avoid culture shock of merging into much larger firms.
  • Partner compensation will be more geared to higher levels of performance and contribution to the future success of the firm. Aligning the firm’s goals and vision with partner performance criteria will be a key objective for progressive firms.
  • There will be at least 5 mergers of international associations of accounting firms in the next five years as associations lose members to mergers.
  • More small firms will split up due to a lack of partner consensus on succession planning and investing in the future direction of the firm.

The Accountants Advisory Group wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous 2014.

BDO Acquires IPA 100 Pittsburgh Firm

BDO USA, expanded today into Pittsburgh through the addition of 250 partners and staff formerly with Pittsburgh-based Alpern Rosenthal (FY12 net revenue of $39.2 million). The firm provides a full range of accounting and consulting services to a diversified client base of privately-held and public companies in the construction, manufacturing, medical, high-technology, nonprofit, professional services, real estate, retail and wholesale industries.  The combination of BDO and Alpern Rosenthal is effective December 16.

“I want to welcome all of the partners and staff of Alpern Rosenthal to BDO.  Alpern Rosenthal’s prominent position and deep community ties provides us with an ideal entry point into the Pittsburgh market,” says Wayne Berson, CEO of BDO USA.  “Alpern’s entrepreneurial culture, commitment to superior client service and work life balance made them a natural cultural fit with BDO.  Combined with other recent additions our firm has made in Anchorage, McLean, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and San Antonio, this is powerful evidence that our growth strategy is continuing to gain momentum around the country.”

Alexander Paul, who joined Alpern in 1983 and was named president of the firm in 1998, will serve as the MP of the Pittsburgh office of BDO USA.  Margaret Tanney, who has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting, will be responsible for managing the Pittsburgh assurance practice, and Celeste Suchko, who joined the firm in 1994, will manage the tax practice.  Brandon Otis will lead the business valuation and litigation support practices for BDO Consulting in the Pittsburgh market.

“We are extremely excited to be joining BDO USA, a national firm with a very compatible practice philosophy and culture to our own,” says Paul.  “With our entire staff moving to BDO, our clients will still receive the local, hands-on service they have always valued from our firm, but will now have access to a wider array of services, broad industry experience and the resources of BDO’s extensive global network.  These expanded resources will help our clients grow and become even more successful.”

Two North Carolina Firms Join Jan. 1

Smith Leonard of High Point, N.C., will merge with Smith McWhorter of Lexington, N.C. and operate as Smith Leonard PLLC on Jan. 1, the Dispatch reported. Smith Leonard MP Darlene Leonard says “The joining of these two firms allows Smith Leonard to expand in two key service areas – real estate and small business services. Tom Smith and Aimee McWhorter bring tremendous expertise to our firm. Both specialize in tax and accounting services for individuals and privately held companies, but most importantly both share our core belief of delivering exceptional client service.”

PwC to Acquire Booz & Co.

The partners of Booz & Co. have approved the acquisition of the firm by New York-based PwC (FY12 gross revenues of $10.2 billion). PwC and Booz & Co. will create a global operating model for the new combined business. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014. The branding for the business, under the PwC umbrella, is being jointly determined now and will be announced in the coming months, Booz announced. “Clients are demanding practical strategies that deliver sustainable outcomes. Our industry is responding with consolidation across the consulting spectrum,” said Cesare Mainardi, CEO of Booz & Co. “We believe this positions us together as a ‘Category of One’ – the only global consulting team that’s figured out how to truly bridge the best of operational and strategy consulting.”