Archives for May 2014

AICPA Proposes Peer Review Standards Change

The AICPA Peer Review Board has proposed changes to peer review standards that the board believes will eliminate inconsistencies and improve openness of reports for engagement reviews, the Journal of Accountancy reported.

The proposal (link to , outlined in an exposure draft, would change the impact to an engagement review report when more than one engagement is submitted for review; the same deficiency occurs on each of the engagements submitted for review; and no other deficiencies exist.

Existing guidance under this scenario calls for a “pass with deficiencies” rating in the firm’s engagement review report. If the proposal is implemented, this scenario would result in a “fail” rating.

The “pass with deficiencies” rating came about as the result of an exception created when new peer review standards took effect Jan. 1, 2009. At the time, members of the peer review community commented that a “fail” rating under this scenario was unfair to a firm that performs multiple engagements with the same deficiency and no others. Since then, after hearing concerns about inconsistencies in the existing guidance and considering the perspective of report users, the PRB is proposing to eliminate the exception.

Anyone interested in submitting comments on the proposal can send an email to by July 5. If approved, the changes would take effect Sept. 1.

Congratulations To All Association for Accounting Marketing Award Winners

Forty-three awards for marketing accomplishment were awarded this evening for accounting marketers recognized for achievement. The Association for Accounting Marketing annual award gala features awards in multiple categories: web sites, branding, multimedia and maverick marketing.

Expert category judges, including professionals in marketing, advertising, communications and professional services, reviewed and judged 104 entries. Winning entries were recognized for the accomplishment of a specific goal or objective, executing a project strategically, and measurable results.

Firm marketing professionals were recognized at the 25th annual Association for Accounting Marketing Summit, Take AAM and Engage, as a culmination of over two days of education sessions for over 400 attendees.

The categories and winners are as follows:


Logo – New or Refreshed, Warren Averett
Integrated Branding Programs with a budget under $100,000, BERDON LLP – Accountants and Advisors
Integrated Branding Program with a budget of $100,000 or more, Richter LLP


Brochures, Warren Averett
Announcements/Invitations, Herbein + Company, Inc.
Publications: firms with $9.9 million in revenue or less, CERINI & ASSOCIATES, LLP
Publications: firms between $10 and $24.9 million in revenue, Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough
Publications: firms with $25 million in revenue and above, Rehmann

Marketing Campaigns

Recruiting Campaign: firms with $25 million in revenue and above, Rehmann
Integrated Marketing, Bourgeois Bennett, CPAs & Consultants
Direct Marketing – Direct mail campaign, Crowe Horwath LLP
Integrated Online Marketing Campaigns, WeiserMazars LLP

Media Relations

Non-Technical Published and Feature Articles, UHY Advisors Texas
Technical Published and Feature Articles, Carr, Riggs and Ingram
Integrated PR Campaign, Freed Maxick CPAs


Single Ads, Richter LLP
Campaign: total spend of $24,999 or less, Bourgeois Bennett, CPAs & Consultants
Campaign: total spend of $25,000 or above, SS&G
Paid Online Campaigns, Louis Plung & Company, LLP


Firms with $9.9 million or less in revenue, Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore P.C.
Firms between $10 and $24.9 million in revenue, Weinstein Spira
Firms with $25 million or more in revenue, Bennett Thrasher LLP
Blogs, WithumSmith+Brown


Budget of $9,999 or less, Peterson Sullivan LLP
Budget of $10,000 or more, WithumSmith+Brown

Internal Programs

Corporate Social Responsibility: firms with $25 million in revenue and above, Richter LLP


Budget less than $9,999, UHY Advisors Texas
Budget between $10,000 and $24,999, BKD, LLP
Seminars/webinars: budget of $25,000 or more, CERINI & ASSOCIATES, LLP

Client Service/ Surveys

Client Service/Surveys, Freed Maxick CPAs

Business Development /Sales Proposals/Presentations

Sales Presentations, Carr, Riggs and Ingram
Winning Proposals, Clark Nuber P.S.

Maverick Marketing

Maverick Marketing, UHY Advisors Texas

Members Choice

Members Choice, Hawkins Ash CPAs


Randy Mowat Named 2014 Marketer of the Year

Randy Mowat
Randy Mowat

The Marketer of the Year designation goes to an experienced marketer producing extraordinary results. This year’s winner is a stellar performer, having made a major contribution to firm growth; creating, introducing and implementing an idea producing significant results.

Randy Mowat, MNP LLP, in Calgary, AB Canada was chosen for Marketer of the Year for his high energy leadership, a visionary approach, and having the absolute support of his firm management. Mowat, nominated by one of his fellow partners ,is attributed with double digit growth in his firm Mowat was first marketing director, and is most proud of having built the firm’s first full service marketing department in 1997. By establishing trust and delivering value, the department has evolved to a highly effective and strategic full service marketing team.Among Mowat’s most significant accomplishments is the development of a highly successful succession services business development campaign that generated over $7MM in revenue, and his nominator calls the results of the program “immense,” both internally and externally.


Julie Tucek Inducted Into the Hall of Fame

Julie Tucek

Julie Tucek

Awarded to the “Best of the Best” in the Accounting Marketing profession, the Hall of Fame award goes to recipients with ten years or more of service, and recognizes both outstanding accomplishments and leadership in the association. Tucek is the Marketing Director at Legacy Professionals LLP of Chicago , IL. Legacy Professionals LLP is a niche firm providing audit, accounting and tax services to nonprofit organizations, labor unions, and employee benefit plans, governmental, and other entities. Tucek is responsible for the firm’s corporate marketing and business development working with the partners and managers to develop new business for the firm.

Tucek has been a member of AAM since 1998, serving as committee member and also as a member of the board. Tucek is a former board president for the association, and is viewed as an invaluable mentor in the accounting marketing profession.


Bonnie Buol Ruszczsyk Named 2014 Volunteer of the Year

Bonnie Buol Ruszczsyk
Bonnie Buol Ruszczsyk


AAM recognizes working volunteers as the functional driving force in the association; and the Volunteer of the Year award recognizes dedication to AAM, accomplishments within the marketplace, and involvement. Volunteers are the force behind AAM and contribute far more than just their time.

Ruszczsyk leads the AAM Atlanta and has contributed to driving increased participation and quality programming for regional participants. She has worked in the profession and, as an entrepreneur in her company, has provided services to marketers in the profession for more than 15 years.


Lexi McWiggins Honored As 2014 Rookie of the Year

Lexi McWiggins

Lexi McWiggins

Demonstrating excellence in the field, the Rookie of the Year shows creativity and initiative with their firm. McWiggins provided valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of the firm’s marketing programs. She was named 2014 Rookie of the Year by AAM for going the “extra mile” to contribute to the firm’s success within the first two years of her marketing role.

McWiggins joined Postlethwaite & Netterville (P&N) and the world of accounting marketing in June 2012. As P&N’s chief event planner and strategist, Lexi uses internal and external events as a tool to help our professionals reach their personal and business development goals.


Clark Nuber Announces CEO Transition

Rob Wheeler has been elected to succeed Dave Katri as President and CEO of Clark Nuber of Bellevue, Wash. (FY13 net revenue of $31 million) effective October 1, 2014.

Rob Wheeler

Rob Wheeler

“This transition is the culmination of Clark Nuber’s CEO succession planning process and comes at a time of organizational strength and growth for the firm,” says Rob Fleming, Chairman of Clark Nuber’s management board.

Wheeler has been with the firm for 29 years and has been a shareholder for 14 years. During his tenure as a shareholder, he has headed the firm’s tax department, which has grown significantly under his leadership. He has also served on the firm’s management board and has been very active in community and professional activities. “Rob understands the Clark Nuber culture and is deeply committed to the success of the firm and its employees,” adds Mr. Fleming.

“I am deeply honored that the shareholders have selected me to succeed Dave as Clark Nuber’s next President and CEO,” Wheeler says. “Our firm is looked upon as a very progressive organization by our industry peers and our clients. I will devote my energy to build on our past successes and lead the organization to new levels of excellence. I believe we have the right strategy, the right team, and that our future is bright.”

Marketing Study Reveals Tactics of High-Growth Firms

New research on accounting firm marketing shows that overall marketing spending averages 2.2% of firm revenue, and that firms employed one full-time marketer for every 65 employees.

However, high-growth firms, or those in the fastest-growing 20%, had a higher ratio of marketing staff, at one per 48 employees, the survey said. In addition, they spend less on marketing at 1.04% of revenue than did low-growth firms. Low-growth firms are defined as the slowest-growing 20%. That group spends 2.08% of revenue on marketing.

AAM_logoThe research study, conducted by Hinge Research Institute for the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM), covers overall marketing spending, compensation for marketing staff and the top five spending categories. Budget details are broken down by firm size and location. Thirty firms, ranging from less than $4.9 million to $114 million, participated.

Overall, firms spend the most money on advertising, sponsorships, individual partner business development set-sides, non-educational firm events and tradeshows/networking events, the survey says.Hinge

High-growth firms spend less on advertising, sponsorships, non-educational firm events, individual partner business development set-asides and public relations. Rather, these high-growth firms choose to spend their money on marketing materials, content creation, networking/trade show displays, the website and search engine optimization, and educational events. Marketing materials are a particularly impactful way of increasing brand awareness. Printing company logos on promotional products such as mugs, keyrings, and even confectionary is a unique way to make a lasting impression on consumers. Furthermore, many businesses may have found that they have had a successful marketing campaign due to implementing some of these ideas, which has helped their business to receive more traffic. For example, some of these SEO case studies may prove just how efficient this marketing method can be to companies to help with their development. Businesses just need to find a method that has the best chance of helping their business’ popularity and they will spend any amount of money to make sure that this happens.

“AAM members want to understand how budgets are developed industry-wide, and how their firm’s planning and process measures up against successful growth strategies. There are data points in the study that are instrumental for marketing, growth and business development initiatives – not just for marketers but firm leadership industry-wide,” says AAM CEO Jayla Boire.

Hinge MP Lee Frederickson says, “High-growth firms showed consistent patterns in how they are managing their marketing. For companies looking to stay competitive and learn from their industry peers, these findings are extremely telling.”

AAM members get the first section, on overall marketing benchmarks, at no cost. The full report is $300 for members and $600 for nonmembers. ( The report includes a section designed to help marketing professionals prioritize tactics more effectively. A budget worksheet aids in establishing a basis for comparison to industry benchmarks.

CIOs Are from Mars; CMOs Are from Venus

CIOs Are from Mars; CMOs Are from Venus: Seven Ways to
Bridge the Great Divide (and Strengthen Your “Soft Edge” in the Process)

Infighting is nothing new in the corporate world, but in today’s marketplace it can be
especially damaging. And the rise of web commerce and social media has exacerbated the friction between two C-suite leaders in particular—CMOs and CIOs. Rich Karlgaard explains why their “Mars vs. Venus” rivalry matters and how companies can bridge the divide.

Behind closed doors, in the corner offices of companies throughout the nation, a heated C-suite battle rages on. On the surface it looks like a battle waged over the corporate budget—a tale as old as time—with both sides seeking to claim a bigger portion of the pie. But take a closer look at the classic fight between chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs), urges Rich Karlgaard. When you do, you’ll see that the contention is actually about much more than just money.

“The CMO-CIO divide is exacerbated by the rise of web commerce and social media,” says Karlgaard, author of the new book The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-82942-4, $28.00, “These new marketing channels mean CMOs command a growing share of their company’s investment in technology, and CIOs are none too happy about that. But still, it’s only part of the story.

The Soft Edge

The Soft Edge

“Dig deeper and you start to see stark differences between CMOs and CIOs,” he adds. “CMOs tend to be female while CIOs tend to be male, so you have a War of the Sexes going on. Then, you realize CMOs are liberal arts types while CIOs are technologists. As I learned from Forrester Research’s Sheryl Pattek, most CMOs think their CIOs are jargon-speaking nerds with no sense of market urgency, while CIOs think CMOs are ignorant fakers when it comes to technology more complex than a PowerPoint slide show.”

So Corporate America has a dogs vs. cats problem—or perhaps a “Mars vs. Venus” problem is more appropriate. And mutual disdain and squabbling prevent the collaboration needed to thrive in a tough global economy. But can anything be done about it?

Actually, yes, says Karlgaard. Invest in your company’s “soft edge,” and while CMOs and CIOs may not start holding hands and singing Kumbayah, at least they will have the language to discuss their differences and the values to bridge them.

First, what is the “soft edge”? To understand it, picture a triangle. Great strategy makes up the base. Masterful execution makes up one of the triangle’s two vertical sides. (Karlgaard calls this the “hard edge.”) It’s the third side of the triangle—the oft-neglected, misunderstood, and underfunded soft edge—that consumes Karlgaard’s book.

It’s much tougher to quantify but might be summed up as “the expression of your deepest values” or “the heart and soul of your company.” The author describes the soft edge culture in terms of five pillars—Trust, Smarts, Teamwork, Taste, and Story—and the book, packed with real-world examples, unfolds around them.

“Most C-suites and shareholders speak the language of the hard edge: metrics, analytics, logistics, strategies, and a well-defined and easy-to-see ROI,” says Karlgaard. “But today’s turbulent marketplace has taken much of the bite out of the hard edge. What can be measured and quantified can also be analyzed and copied by the competition.

“Look around and you’ll see the companies that have achieved soft edge excellence—the FedExes, Apples, and NetApps of the world—are thriving, while others flounder in our uneven and unforgiving recovery,” he adds. “A strong soft edge makes a company resilient and agile— even in the face of the occasional C-suite disagreement.”

One company that has figured out how to nurture its soft edge is NetApp, the $6.5 billion vendor of computer network storage solutions, which regularly makes Clayton Christensen’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies and a number of the best-places-to-work lists. Specifically, look at the relationship between NetApp’s CMO, Julie Parrish, and its CIO, Cynthia Stoddard—they’re the perfect example of how a strong focus on the soft edge improves relationships, eases internal strife, and makes for a healthier company.

Read on for some steps CMOs and CIOs can take right now to follow their lead:

Strive to understand each other’s challenges. (Soft Edge Pillar: TRUST) NetApp’s CMO, Julie Parrish, wisely empathizes with the company’s CIO, Cynthia Stoddard. She’ll tell you straightaway that she thinks Stoddard has one of the toughest jobs at NetApp. Parrish recognizes that Stoddard faces multiple challenges including: adapting to the cloud while assuring adequate security; betting on which technology platforms to go with; serving all functions at the company, not just marketing; and always doing more with less. Hers is a rapidly changing world.

And Stoddard recognizes that Parrish’s world is changing just as rapidly. After all, the share of marketing that goes through digital channels—through the web and social media, on smartphones and tablets—is growing like crazy. Social media in particular is always tossing up market opportunities that are fleeting in nature. These must be grabbed or they’re lost.

“Stoddard recognizes, as all CIOs must, that a CMO’s requests for greater technology budgets are not power grabs, but a reflection of reality,” notes Karlgaard. “Of course, to come to that understanding, there must be trust. And in these high-level relationships, trust comes from three places—first, showing that you have the other person’s best interests in mind; second, working hard to achieve common language and transparency; and finally, doing what you say you’ll do.”

Work together to ensure you’re mining the right data. (Soft Edge Pillar: SMARTS) To stay ahead of the curve, Parrish and Stoddard regularly meet to discuss trends in predictive analytics, sentiment analysis, and other valuable information. This requires a healthy CMO-CIO relationship. To stay smart, Parrish likes to put this question to their teams: What are the questions we should be asking?

That’s how NetApp gets the information it needs in order to build the right dashboards. If you don’t ask the right questions, Parrish explains, you build up a lot of technology in marketing without any coherence. As CMO, she uses Stoddard and her team of technologists to make sure marketing is using technology wisely and efficiently to get the data it needs. Parrish adds, “The key question for me is, where can I get data that will help NetApp be smarter? How do we mine data from the outside and pull it back into the organization? Those are the big questions.”

Don’t succumb to departmental tunnel vision. Keep the needs of the whole company in mind. (Soft Edge Pillar: SMARTS) This is an important reminder for any C-suite leader, but especially for CMOs and CIOs, who may feel the urge to dig in their heels for their own departments.

“No company survives solely based on its marketing, its technology, its operations, or any other factor,” says Karlgaard. “The company functions as a whole. In order to be successful, C-suite leaders cannot get bogged down in their own department’s issues. Every leader must recognize that the company’s overall needs matter more than an individual department’s.”

In The Soft Edge, Karlgaard tells of his conversations with Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest Labs. Fadell told Karlgaard about the importance of team meetings at Nest. Fadell brings everyone together—from user-experience people to management people to algorithms people—so that there are people there who can speak to every aspect of their product from design to marketing to user experience. Otherwise, Fadell says, the company’s thermostat algorithms might be written solely to satisfy the “code jockeys” at Nest.

And Stoddard notes that at NetApp they use proper governance to facilitate faster learning: “We use an enterprise executive architecture committee, with all the leaders of every NetApp function—marketing, sales, HR, operations, finance, and so on. That’s how we can come up with a roadmap for the whole company. We put on our NetApp hats and ask if this is the right thing to do for the company at this particular time.”

“My conversations with Fadell and my observations of how Parrish and Stoddard handle things at NetApp show just how vitally important it is to have analytical people and intuitive people in the room together on every major issue,” says Karlgaard. “You need the complementarities of the design people and execution people; the creative people and discipline people; the math people and salespeople. We have to be willing to learn from each other. We have to be humble enough to say, ‘I don’t know’ and then seek out the answers in each other.”

Regularly immerse yourself in the world of the “other side.” (Soft Edge Pillar: TEAMWORK) In a healthy CMO-CIO relationship, members of the marketing team and the IT team do regular “tours of duty” on the other side. “Embedded marketers get to learn from their IT counterparts about data and analytics; embedded IT people get to learn about key marketing programs and metrics,” explains Karlgaard. “These tours of duty help establish common ground that can help create unity and trust and helps lubricate collaboration.”

Be as transparent as possible. Invite scrutiny. (Soft Edge Pillar: TEAMWORK) At NetApp, both sides are open and honest about their cost structures. NetApp’s CMO Parrish established a foundation of good teamwork with CIO Stoddard when she admitted that marketing owned too many projects. “I raised my hand for an IT audit,” Parrish said. From that day, Stoddard knew Parrish wasn’t trying to build an empire.

“Collaboration and innovation are musts for survival in the global economy and that means great teamwork is vital,” says Karlgaard. “But you can’t have great teamwork if you aren’t strong in another Soft Edge Pillar as well: Trust. And you can’t have trust without transparency. That’s why Parrish’s IT audit request was so powerful. It was a way of saying, ‘Our information is your information. Help us see what we can do to make this company better.’ Transparency increases accountability, passion, and effort; it facilitates learning and catalyzes innovation.”

Don’t try to bury disagreement. (Soft Edge Pillar: TASTE) In a soft edge excellent company, CMOs teach CIOs how marketing platforms are crafted and how to fine-tune messages for any given audiences. CIOs show where complexity will slow down deployment, and therefore suggest areas to simplify the platform for maximum rapid deployment. Sometimes there is disagreement. Don’t bury it. Instead, use it to push everyone forward as you keep your eye on the prize. The truth is, taste evolves through disagreement. When opinions are shared, problems hashed out, arguments heard, the best possible products are born—products that look great and work great and that are somehow so compelling to customers that they must buy them.

“Recall how Nest Labs CEO Tony Fadell likes to put analytics people and marketing people in the same room to discuss which algorithms will create customer enchantment and loyalty in Nest’s products,” says Karlgaard. “Rest assured these meetings aren’t spent with everyone in agreement, congratulating each other on their perfect ideas. There’s disagreement, maybe even arguing. And what Fadell, and Parrish, and Stoddard, and other soft edge leaders understand is that that’s okay. Sometimes it’s just better to argue it out.

“Yes, there will be tension,” he adds. “It may be messy, and there will very likely be misunderstandings. It might even feel dysfunctional. But sometimes you just have to get people together, urge them to speak up, and convince them to face their disagreements. Encourage these difficult conversations. In the end, their differing opinions and interests will sharpen the company and result in better products and services.”

Let your story drive your behavior (and solve your disagreements). (Soft Edge Pillar: STORY) NetApp keeps really, really good company. (Excuse the pun!) Along with Google, Singapore Airlines, Starbucks, and very few others, it makes two annual lists: the world’s best places to work and the world’s most innovative companies. It takes huge pride in making both lists, and it should. But aside from pride, the real value of making both lists is that it creates a consistent story for employees, suppliers, and customers.

Whenever NetApp’s CMO Parrish and CIO Stoddard disagree on anything, they can call a time-out, step back, and ask: What would a top innovative company do? What would a best place to work company do? Thus NetApp’s story—its belief about itself—drives the right behavior and, more often than not, correct decisions at every turn. It’s a beautiful thing.

“Knowing the right story to tell combined with knowing how to deliver it effectively can inspire everything from understanding to action,” notes Karlgaard. “It can be used to connect employees to a strategy by providing understanding, belief, and motivation. Story can create legends that an entire workplace culture can build upon, grow with, and lean on. Stories capture and communicate knowledge, drive innovation, build community, strengthen organizational culture, and support individual growth.”

“Julie Parrish and Cynthia Stoddard realized long ago that greater things would happen for NetApp if they put their own departmental loyalties aside and worked together,” says Karlgaard. “They realized this would help them more easily respond to the challenges and changes constantly being thrown at NetApp. And it would let them optimize both departments’ functions, helping the company grow and innovate—one of the only roads to corporate survival these days. The confidence to do all of that comes from NetApp’s strong soft edge.

“The message to all C-suite leaders is clear,” he adds. “We are now working in a corporate environment where the soft edge dominates, where trust, teamwork, smarts, taste, and story matter as much as ROI, market share, and other hard metrics. Recognize this truth, and live by it, and you’ll thrive. Get caught up in infighting over hard edge principles and you may not even survive.”

# # #

The Five Pillars of the Soft Edge
By Rich Karlgaard, author of the new book The Soft Edge: Where Great
Companies Find Lasting Success
(Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2014,
SBN: 978-1-118-82942-4, $28.00,

Success in business has traditionally meant having a strategy and excelling at the hard skills. Controlling costs. Boosting speed. Effectively managing the supply chain. Superior number-crunching and analytics. Most of today’s CEOs, CFOs, chief operating officers, boards of directors, and shareholders speak the language of this hard edge. It’s their comfort zone: numbers, metrics, analytics, logistics, strategies, and a well-defined and easy-to-see ROI.

But today’s turbulent marketplace has taken much of the bite out of the hard edge. Its very appeal, the fact that it can be measured and quantified, also means it can be analyzed and copied by the competition. To really get ahead, and stay there, a company must also master its “soft edge”—a powerful competitive advantage that is made up of five pillars:

PILLAR 1: Trust. When it comes to trust, you must ask yourself two questions: 1) Does your external market, your customers and shareholders, trust you? And 2) Does your internal market, your employees and suppliers, trust you?

Customers must trust that your product or service is authentic and robust enough to withstand the immediacy of today’s media. And when things go wrong, they must believe you’ll do the right thing. Internally, trust underlies effective working relationships. It improves group effectiveness and organizational performance. Maybe most importantly, trust underpins innovation by facilitating learning and experimentation.

Trust may seem like a blurry concept in terms of ROI. But research and market results have proven that deep trust creates measurable real-world returns.

PILLAR 2: Smarts. Today, “smarts” is much more than what we conventionally think of as “intelligence.” In the age of Google, true smartness means the ability to see and recognize patterns—and constitutes the difference between forecasting a likely future and simply following the conventional wisdom.

Of course, we know that unlocking knowledge and supporting learning are pivotal to success. But there’s another dimension to being smart: one that relates to a few old-fashioned sounding concepts like grit, perseverance, and hard work. It also requires an ability to learn from others and from our own mistakes.

PILLAR 3: Teamwork. How does FedEx’s Fred Smith manage 290,000 worldwide employees, who move more than 3 trillion packages in a year? What balance of central authority and peripheral autonomy works in such a logistically complex organization? Or why, in an entirely different industry, did German software giant SAP blow up the management framework for its 20,000-person development department and replace it with small teams?

Since collaboration and innovation are a must in the global economy, effective teamwork is vital. Yes, we humans are imperfect. We have different needs, roles, and perspectives that we bring to every interaction or team effort. But when we work together, we make each other better. We increase accountability, passion, and effort. We facilitate learning and catalyze innovation.

For example, just consider that team-oriented selling and sales commissions outperform individually focused sales teams by 30 percent.

PILLAR 4: Taste. This is the word Steve Jobs used when he described Apple’s unique but universal aesthetic appeal. Jobs felt taste came from his own understanding of the yin-yang of science and humanity. The chief designer of Specialized Bicycles, Robert Egger, calls it “the elusive sweet spot between data truth and human truth.” Nest Labs founder Tony Fadell said, “If you don’t have an emotionally engaging design, no one will care.”

Clever product design and integration are proxies for intelligence—they make customers feel smart. If your product or service is seen as a badge of intelligence, you’re far along the road to lasting success. But taste is much more than just good design. It’s a universal sensibility, an emotional engagement, that appeals to the deepest part of ourselves. It’s wonderment and desire, power and control. And we see it in those magical products that not only show us at our best, but also make us feel and perform even better.

PILLAR 5: Story. In a world where outsiders can weigh in and have a greater voice on your brand, the ability to create an effective narrative is more important than ever. Used both internally and externally, stories create purpose and build brand. Purpose may be a soft attribute, but it’s what gives you steel in your spine, especially when cutting corners might temporarily boost the bottom line and delight shareholders.

Externally, stories are used to launch new brands and enhance the image of existing brands—a task made more difficult by today’s many new forms of communication.

Make no mistake, the hard edge does matter. Mastering it is “table stakes”—necessary to compete but not sufficient to win. Still, companies that can’t find the right balance between their hard and soft edges—those that neglect and underestimate the five pillars—will ultimately fall to those that can.

What many left-brained business titans have viewed as the realm of artists, idealists, hippies, poets, shrinks, and do-gooders, the soft edge is where innovation happens. It’s where brands are built. It’s how companies become agile. It’s where loyalty, passion, and commitment are born. It’s how today’s companies can differentiate themselves from the competition.

# # #

About the Author:
Rich Karlgaard is author of The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-82942-4, $28.00, He is also the publisher of Forbes magazine, where he writes a column, Innovation Rules, known for its witty assessment of business and leadership issues. He has been a regular panelist on television’s Forbes on FOX since the show’s inception in 2001. Karlgaard is also a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded Upside magazine, Garage Technology Partners, and Silicon Valley’s premier public business forum, the 7,500-member Churchill Club. He is a past winner of Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. Karlgaard’s 2004 book, Life 2.0, was a Wall Street Journal business bestseller. A graduate of Stanford University, Karlgaard and his family live in Silicon Valley.

About the Book:
The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-82942-4, $28.00, is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit the book’s page on

People in the News: May 28

O’Connor Davies LLP Announces New Tax Partner

Peter Baum

Peter Baum

Harrison, N.Y.-based O’Connor Davies LLP (FY12 net revenue of $84.5 million) announced Peter Baum as a tax partner at the firm.

Baum brings more than 30 years of industry experience working with multinational firms, high-net-worth individuals and privately held companies and will lead the firm’s international tax and tax accounting practices.

Baum specializes in tax planning, consulting and compliance for foreign and domestic corporations. He works with closely held corporations, large S corporations, nonprofits, family offices, partnerships and private equity funds.

On the international side, he is involved with expatriate planning, entry/exit strategies and related compliance. He has developed inbound/outbound tax structures utilizing tax-favored holding companies, blocker entities and transparent entities including “check the box” elections. He is very knowledgeable with transfer pricing, earnings stripping, foreign tax credits, treaties and withholding issues. He also provides an expertise on tax accruals from a FASB 109 perspective.


Sikich LLP Hires Frank Jakosz as New Partner of Not-for-Profit Services

Naperville, Ill.-based Sikich LLP (FY12 net revenue of $76.4 million) named Frank Jakosz as the firm’s newest partner for its not-for-profit services practice.

Frank Jakosz

Frank Jakosz

Jakosz has 29 years of not-for-profit accounting experience at two global professional services firms. In addition to providing a variety of consulting services, he conducts audits for civic and community organizations, colleges and universities, religious and cultural organizations, private foundations, trade and professional organizations and many voluntary health and welfare organizations. Jakosz will oversee business development for the practice and serve numerous new clients.

“Frank has a 42-year track record of excellence in public accounting along with proven leadership success in the not-for-profit sector. He embodies our firm’s commitment to collaboration, mentorship and community development,” says Jim Sikich, CEO of Sikich LLP.



ParenteBeard Appoints Three Principals

Philadelphia-based ParenteBeard (FY12 net revenue of $168.7 million) announced Rich Everhart, Ed Kollar and Theresa Racek have been appointed as principals.

With 25 years of experience in public accounting, Everhart provides business advisory, financial reporting, tax planning and tax compliance services to privately held businesses and individuals.

Kollar has over 30 years of professional accounting experience, including 14 in public accounting. A key player in the firm’s tax group, his primary focus is natural stone and gas and other extractive industries.

Racek has been a member of ParenteBeard’s small business group for 14 years and has over 30 years of experience in public and private accounting.


Marcum’s Jeffrey Weiner Named An Outstanding CEO Of 2014

Jeffrey Weiner

Jeffrey Weiner

Jeffrey Weiner, MP of New York-based Marcum LLP (FY12 net revenue of $275.5 million) has been named an Outstanding CEO of 2014 by Long Island Business News.

“Since being named managing partner in 1990, Weiner has expanded Marcum LLP from a one-office regional firm with 20 employees to being ranked among the top 20 in the United States,” the newspaper reported. “Weiner has led the company to substantial growth by diversifying its services to meet the evolving needs of clients. In addition to the core tax and accounting business, Weiner has built a multiservice organization, known as The Marcum Group, that provides a comprehensive range of professional services.”


CPA2Biz Changes Name to

CPA2Biz, a subsidiary of the AICPA, announced it has changed its company name to to more closely align with its mission of “empowering CPAs and businesses for the digital age.”

“ has been serving as a strong umbrella brand for us for the past 18 months,” says Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of “It’s a high-quality asset, so elevating it to our company name was always a consideration and more a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. The new name is strong, simple and clear and reflects a digital service offering that is growing to meet the needs of CPAs. The time is right to make this switch.”

While the new name is effective immediately, the company’s various properties will be rebranded gradually over the course of the year as uses the name change to take a fresh look at its brand identity. The existing URL for the AICPA Store site,, will remain active for the foreseeable future to eliminate any inconvenience for customers.

“For more than a decade, CPA2Biz has stayed true to its mission and become a valuable resource for AICPA and its members through services to firms,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA’s president and CEO. “What better way to serve the market through those firms than to leverage It is a win for the profession as we constantly strive to enhance the CPA brand and for as a company as it focuses on providing unique services to the AICPA membership.”

AICPA Voices “Deep Concerns” about Voluntary Program Proposed by IRS To Regulate Tax Return Preparers

The AICPA has expressed its opposition to a proposed voluntary tax return preparer regulation program in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The IRS was blocked from implementing a mandatory regulation program by court decisions in Loving v. IRS.

The AICPA has “deep concerns with regard to a voluntary system, and the speed with which the IRS is moving to implement such a system,” says AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon and Jeffrey Porter, chair of the AICPA tax executive committee. “We believe a voluntary program would create confusion regarding the relative proficiencies of the various types of preparers. In addition, the proposed voluntary system would undoubtedly leave the impression among most taxpayers that certain tax return preparers are endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service.”

Melancon and Porter called into question the proposal’s likely effectiveness. “As a practical matter, any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return preparers.”

They also criticized the process the IRS is using and how quickly it is proceeding.  “We are concerned that the IRS is rapidly moving forward without widely disseminating the proposal or seeking public comments.”

Instead of the proposed voluntary program, the AICPA recommended in the letter that “the IRS should focus its efforts on utilization of the current preparer tax identification number (PTIN) program and increased taxpayer education.” Melancon and Porter noted that the Loving court decisions kept in place mandatory registration of paid tax return preparers and the issuance of unique PTINs, which allows the accumulation of important data on activities of specific tax return preparers as well as classes of preparers in a way that allows the IRS to tailor compliance and education programs in the most efficient manner.

Furthermore, Melancon and Porter wrote that “we also believe the IRS should administer the penalties and sanctions for which it currently has authority to identify and hold accountable incompetent and unethical return preparers.”

Mergers: May 28

Eide Bailly Expands Into Washington State

McDirmid, Mikkelsen & Secrest P.S. (MMS) of Spokane, Wash., will be joining Fargo, N.D.-based Eide Bailly (FY13 net revenue of $171.2 million) on June 16. This union will bring Eide Bailly’s total staff to 1,350, including 202 partners.

“Moving into the state of Washington continues our strategy to expand west of the Mississippi River and into the Intermountain Region to fully serve mid-market clients,” says Dave Stende, Eide Bailly MP/CEO. “MMS has a strong assurance and tax practice, serving a wide variety of industries. We are excited to bring our national tax office capabilities, assurance services practice and portfolio of specialty services to Washington, which will bring additional value to clients in the region.”

Andrew McDirmid, MMS partner, will serve as the PIC of the Spokane office. “Combining our practice with Eide Bailly allows our clients to continue to work with the local professionals they have grown to trust but also gives them access to more than 1,300 talented professionals with deep industry knowledge and specialized service capabilities like cost segregation studies, international tax planning, forensic services and technology solutions—services comparable to the big firms.”


WeiserMazars LLP Expands Governance, Risk & Compliance Practice With Merger

New York-based WeiserMazars LLP (FY12 net revenue of $132.2 million) announced the completion of its merger with ICS Consulting Partners (ICS), a boutique internal audit, regulatory compliance and credit risk management consulting firm catering to the banking industry.

ICS’ co-founders, John White and John Palmer, have joined as principals to lead the banking internal audit practice and are accompanied nationally by their ICS professional team. “They significantly enhance and expand our bank consulting capabilities, providing our clients with the most comprehensive solutions available in an ever-changing regulatory climate and positioning us for further growth,” says WeiserMazars MP Douglas Phillip.

ICS creates, implements and maintains customized internal audit, regulatory compliance, and credit risk management programs for clients that range from large financial institutions to community banks.

“WeiserMazars’ stellar reputation and international reach were very appealing to us,” says ICS CEO John White. “Our expertise in delivering personalized, attentive services to banking institutions matches WeiserMazars’ client-driven culture.”

Cherry Bekaert Benefits Consulting Surveying Businesses on Affordable Care Act

Intended to gauge the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impact on employers around the country, Richmond, Va.-based Cherry Bekaert Benefits Consulting (CBBC) (FY13 net revenue of $125.9 million) is launching its Affordable Care Act Survey.

The survey questions cover topics such as hiring practices and insurance benefits, and the results will assist CBBC in understanding how companies are handling the uncertainty and ever-changing rules created by the ACA.

Questions and expected findings from the CBBC’s ACA survey include:

  • Will the ACA’s definition of a full-time employee (i.e. working 30 hours or more per week) impact hiring practices of your business?
  • Are businesses planning on hiring more part-time workers (less than 30 hours)?
  • Absent plan changes, did your most recent medical insurance renewal premiums/cost rise or fall?
  • At the most recent renewal, did your business modify the medical insurance plan benefits to affect costs?
  • At your last medical insurance plan renewal, did your business change employee contributions?
  • Will your organization continue to offer medical insurance benefits for two or more years?
  • Has the cost of medical insurance caused your company to reduce or eliminate other employer-sponsored plans such as dental, vision, life, 401(k), employer match?
  • If your medical plan is currently insured, are you considering changing to a self-insured (self-funded) arrangement to mitigate ACA taxes and/or lower plan costs?
  • Is your payroll/HRIS system set up to handle the new IRS reporting requirements?
  • Do business leaders think future medical insurance costs will have an impact on compensation, profits, competitiveness or hiring practices?
  • Do business leaders think the Affordable Care Act will have an impact on overall medical insurance costs?
  • Has your firm had an independent analysis on the impact of ACA and future options for your business?
  • Is your firm considering changing plan years to delay the impact of the ACA?

The survey will be available to participants until May 30, and takes an estimated five minutes to complete. Shortly thereafter, results and findings will be shared with all participants. To participate in CBBC’s ACA survey, click here.