Search Results for: Apple Growth

Apple Growth Partners Adds to Leadership Team

Susan Burnoski

Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners, an IPA 300 firm, has appointed Susan Burnoski and Christine Waltjen to its executive team.

Christine Waltjen

Burnoski has been with the firm for 13 years and is a principal and director of audit and assurance. Waltjen is a tax manager and director of tax, overseeing the management, scheduling and onboarding of the tax team.

“Susan and Christine each chair a major department within the firm, and they both exemplify the word ‘leader’ in every way,” says Chuck Mullen, chairman of Apple Growth Partners. “Susan and Christine have been shining examples of determined effort and professionalism, true role models to anyone building a career in public accounting.”

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Apple Growth Partners Creates New Leadership Role

Jeff Stinson

Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners (FY18 net revenue of $17.1 million) has announced a newly created leadership role in response to the firm’s rapid growth over the past three years. Jeff Stinson will join the firm as the director of strategic core services.

Apple Growth Partners’ growth has come about as a result of two consecutive mergers and opening a new office in Canton, Ohio, as well as its marketing efforts and technology investments, the firm announced.

Recognizing that accelerated growth can put pressure on internal processes if not adequately managed, the executive committee developed a role solely dedicated to advancing the firm’s strategic plan through comprehensive management and processes.

Stinson, a chartered financial analyst, brings a wealth of experience to the recently established position. For 12 years, Stinson served as the founder of the investment research firm, the Cleveland Research Company, and as COO from 2015 to 2018.

The new role of director of strategic core services will work closely with the department leaders for the firm’s tax, audit and business valuation teams to lead client services professionals in executing, delivering and growing client offerings. Stinson will join the firm’s executive committee.

“Our firm’s sights are set on continuing our growth trajectory, specifically becoming a $100 million revenue/Top 50 USA firm within the next decade,” states chairman Chuck Mullen. “To do so without straining our employees and existing processes, Jeff’s expertise will help align our inner workflows to accommodate expansion.”

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Apple Growth Partners Announces New Leaders

Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners (FY18 net revenue of $17 million) has announced recent appointments to the leadership team.

Audit and assurance services director Susan Burnoski has been admitted as a principal. Burnoski joined the firm more than 12 years ago as an audit associate. Burnoski leads the firm’s auditing team and is an expert in assurance compliance requirements to improve internal processes. She is also actively involved in community organizations.

Along with the newest principal appointment, the executive committee welcomed four new principals to the firm’s guiding board.

  • Bob Nemeth, who leads the firm’s forensic accounting specialty.
  • Jeff Brooks, who specializes in tax and advisory solutions for privately held businesses, including mergers and acquisitions.
  • Mark Lapikas, who specializes in tax and advisory services for manufacturers.
  • John Valle, who specializes in construction, real estate and transportation

“With Susan’s appointment to principal and the addition of Bob, Jeff, Mark and John to the executive committee, our firm is poised for continued growth and success,” says Chuck Mullen, chairman. “Expanding our leadership team to include the diverse backgrounds of these leaders impacts not only our client service offerings but also our internal culture.”

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Apple Growth Partners Consolidates Cleveland Workforce

Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners (FY17 net revenue of $13.1 million) has been operating two locations in the Cleveland area since 2004, with offices and staff located in Independence, Ohio, and Beachwood, Ohio.

Effective Nov. 5, approximately 35 employees from both offices will be consolidating into a new office, also located in Beachwood.

The recent combination for the accounting and business advisory firm is part of a larger 2020 plan, beginning with the merger of Beachwood-based CPA firm KPFF in 2017.

“Welcoming the staff of KPFF to AGP has been a wonderful process,” states chairman Chuck Mullen. “After the transition was complete, we recognized the need for a joint, collaborative space for all of our Cleveland employees.”

While the Beachwood consolidation is one component of the firm’s 2020 strategic plan, future Cleveland office space hasn’t been ruled out. “We hope to have a downtown office in the future, and we’d welcome the opportunity to discuss a merger with any firms in the area,” says Mullen.

Apple Growth Partners Opens New Ohio Office

Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners (FY16 net revenue of $11.5 million) will open a new office in Canton, Ohio, in May.

“We would like to have that office staffed with 12 people within a three-year period,” says chairman Charles Mullen. “We want to outgrow that office and hopefully be up to 20 people there after five years.”

“That middle market, small to midsize business market we serve so well, it’s not becoming more competitive,” says Mullen. “I think it is because a lot of competitors are going upstream for bigger clients. We are still hungry to pair up with any local firm that does not want to sell out to an out-of-state firm, who wants to stay local but is struggling perhaps with their succession plan.”

Apple Growth Partners Acquiring Schlabig & Associates

Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners (FY15 net revenue of $10.9 million) is buying another accounting firm, Schlabig & Associates Ltd., with offices in Akron and Kent, Ohio.

The deal marks AGP’s second acquisition in six months. Its goal is to double in size by 2020. With the addition of Schlabig, revenue will grow to $17 million and staff will grow to 100, Apple Growth says.

Apple Growth also has offices in Cleveland and Beachwood, Ohio. The move expands Apple Growth into Portage and southern Geauga counties.

Schneider Downs Announces Applegarth as New Leader for Assurance and Advisory Services

Donald Applegarth

Donald Applegarth

Pittsburgh-based Schneider Downs (FY17 net revenue of $76 million) named Donald Applegarth chairperson of the firm’s assurance and advisory services practice.

Applegarth will transition to the position with the assistance of Brian O’Brien, who held the audit practice unit leader position for the past 15 years. O’Brien will continue to serve clients and play a critical role in the firm’s client acquisition efforts.

“Schneider Downs has enjoyed the good fortune of steady growth for more than 60 years, and that includes the ongoing expansion of our shareholder group and leadership team. That places us in a position to create a smooth leadership transition in our audit and assurance practice. Don and Brian have worked together for more than 16 years, and Don can continue to leverage Brian’s experience as he assumes new responsibilities,” says Steven Thompson, co-CEO.

Applegarth entered public accounting in 1992 and joined Schneider Downs in 2001. He will continue to serve as a leader on the assurance technical advisory committee, the governance body of the audit practice. His expertise includes working with public companies as well as large, privately-held corporations. He also leads the firm’s growing retail services group.

As chair of the audit and assurance group, Applegarth will be responsible for overseeing the audit practice’s core services by providing technical guidance and oversight, as well as developing programs for education, team mentoring and day-to-day department administration. He will continue to serve clients of the firm.

“I am humbled and honored to be named to this position, particularly given the opportunity to follow Brian O’Brien, who has been an incredible mentor and friend throughout my tenure at Schneider Downs,” says Applegarth. “We will continue to be a practice with a commitment to providing our clients with the highest level of service coupled with a personal focus. We have tremendous opportunity to continue fueling the growth of our assurance and risk advisory services by attracting, retaining and developing talented professionals with a passion for what they do.”

Tolin Forms CPA Growth Guides to Help CPAs with Growth & Profitability Strategies

Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin has founded CPA Growth Guides, a consulting firm focused on helping CPA firms across the country identify their best path to top-line revenue growth and to help develop strategies and tactics that produce measurable results.

“Just like a guide leads and directs people on a journey, I want to show accounting firms how to achieve profitable growth,” says Tolin, chief growth guide. “Accounting firms implement many marketing tactics, yet have no idea what, if any, results they are producing. I want to help them connect the dots between strategy and action.”

Tolin will use her nearly 20 years of marketing experience at regional, super regional and national accounting firms to help CPAs develop and implement strategic marketing plans. Focusing upon data-driven marketing strategies, she will use data obtained from revenue segmentation, market analysis and competitive analysis to help firms identify their true strengths and future market potential.

A recognized accounting marketer in the profession, Tolin has been named an Accounting Marketer of the Year, one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Public Accounting and one of the Most Powerful Women in Accounting. She is currently the immediate past president of the Association for Accounting Marketing, where she spearheaded organizational change that resulted in the hiring of the organization’s first executive director, initiated an apples-to-apples comparison of marketing budgets in the industry and launched an environmental scanning council to help AAM keep its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry.

“Marketing and growth are not interchangeable,” says Tolin. “Marketing is one aspect of growth; the others are business development support, product management and communications. The key is understanding how each of these areas are interconnected. That’s the foundation needed to produce optimal growth.”

Tolin will also help firms analyze their marketing structure, hire and coach marketing staff, implement pipelines, develop winning sales collateral and proposals and utilize inbound marketing strategies.

Growth Strategies, Cyber Security, Risk Management and Pay Disparity Among Top Issues at 2015 Shareholder Meetings According to BDO USA LLP

With the stock market reaching all-time highs, dropping unemployment, increased hiring and a strong IPO market, the initial weeks of 2015 have been full of positive indicators for the U.S. economy. At the same time, the constant threat of cyber attacks, concerns with possible deflation and economic challenges in Europe and South America represent cause for potential concern. This unsettled climate should make for an interesting annual meeting season this spring, says Chicago-based BDO USA (FY14 net revenue of $833 million.

BDO has compiled the following list of topics that corporate management and boards of directors should be prepared to address in connection with 2015 annual meetings:

  • Cyber Security. Highly publicized data breaches at Sony Pictures, Anthem Insurance and other major businesses continue to put cyber security at the top of the agenda for shareholders. Weaknesses in networks and data security can expose businesses to significant losses in brand and market value. Shareholders may want to know if the board is actively involved in cyber security planning, whether the company has a chief of cyber security in place and how the company is taking a proactive and preemptive approach to improve data security.
  • Global Economic Concerns. Investors have become well educated on how inter-related the world’s economies have become and are concerned how the financial crisis in Greece, unstable economic conditions in Venezuela and other markets will impact the global recovery. Sovereign debt holders or any companies with exposure (facilities or sales operations) in these countries should be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Investors will ask about contingency plans the company has in place should there be a major collapse.
  • Risk Committees. Only a small minority of companies have stand-alone risk committees. Most assign any risks to the audit committee, which has seen its responsibilities expand considerably beyond the oversight of the company’s financial reporting. Audit committees now grapple with issues ranging from cyber-security to foreign corrupt practices to whistleblower claims. Shareholders may inquire whether the current audit committee has the appropriate experience for all of these increased responsibilities. They may also inquire whether the company should have a separate risk committee composed of the proper expertise to provide oversight of these varied areas.
  • M&A Opportunities/Takeover Defenses. Large cash reserves could lead to many businesses pursuing growth through mergers and acquisitions. Shareholders will want to know if management is seeking out opportunities and that potential targets are properly vetted to avoid any buyer’s remorse. By the same token, boards should have contingency takeover defenses in place to enable them to respond quickly to fend off attacks or maximize shareholder value should a transaction be accepted.
  • Spinoffs. There was a record 64 spinoffs in 2014 and activist shareholders will continue to campaign for more in 2015. Management should be prepared to respond to these well-funded investors who argue that businesses perform better when they aren’t part of a large conglomerate.
  • Mid-Year Rate Hike? With Fed watchers predicting the long anticipated rate hikes to begin sometime this summer, investors may be interested whether management is planning to access the debt market to fund strategies prior to a rate hike.
  • Accessing Public Equity Markets. Over the past two years, initial public offerings (IPOs) in the U.S. have experienced a renaissance with both total offerings and proceeds raised reaching the highest levels since 2000. With IPO activity expected to remain strong in 2015, shareholders may want to know if the favorable IPO market will translate to new securities offerings from existing public companies and whether management is considering any such offerings in the foreseeable future.
  • Pay Disparity. Although the SEC has continued to delay the implementation of new Dodd-Frank regulations requiring disclosure of the ratio of the CEO’s pay to the median pay of employees of the company, media reports of high ratios – such as Walmart’s CEO being paid better than 1,000 times more than the median Walmart worker – are sure to keep pay disparity a focus of shareholders at 2015 annual meetings. Companies should be aware of these concerns and communicate clearly to shareholders how their performance focused executive compensation models benefit the company and shareholders.
  • Related Parties and Significant Unusual Transactions. A new rule (PCAOB Auditing Standard 18), focused on related parties and unusual transactions, takes effect in 2015. The new standard, in part, requires auditors to more closely scrutinize executive pay and identify inherent risks, such as incentives that have the potential to reward management for decisions that could prove detrimental to shareholders’ interests. Investors will want to know that the board is on top of these relationships and transactions, and whether disclosures properly reflect the associated risks.
  • Proxy Access. General Electric recently became one of the few companies to allow groups of shareholders to put forth nominees to the company’s board, provided the candidates’ backers have at least 3% of GE shares for at least three years. Hewlett Packard and Verizon Communications have adopted similar measures in recent years. Shareholders may ask whether the company will be adopting similar proxy access plans.
  • Sustainability. Once the province of leading “green” businesses, sustainability reporting is becoming increasingly more common among businesses in general. Companies gather information about processes to help avoid or mitigate any environmental or social risks that could materially impact the business. Beyond managing their social and environmental impacts, companies that practice sustainability report benefits in improved operational efficiencies and an enhanced reputation with employees, shareholders and customers. Investors may be interested in knowing whether the company is planning on making sustainability disclosures.
  • Succession Planning. As the economy continues to improve, executive movement should start to increase – including CEO turnover. Succession planning is one of the board’s most important responsibilities. Shareholders will want to know that the board has a succession plan in place and candidates identified, if needed, for all C-level positions and board members.
  • Disaster Planning. Severe storms have wreaked havoc with much of the U.S. this winter, as extreme weather and other natural disasters seem to be on the rise in recent years. These events are a powerful demonstration of supply chain risks in a global economy. Any single failure in a business’s supply chain can cause problems throughout the company. Boards should be prepared to articulate what they have done to prepare for low probability, but high impact events such as natural disasters.
  • Internal Controls. The SEC and the PCAOB have been vocal about increased scrutiny related to internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR), even where there is no required audit of ICFR. Boards may be asked questions related to ICFR, whether the disclosure of any identified material weaknesses is sufficient and appropriate, and whether any significant deficiencies identified by management or the auditors have been properly addressed. Investors may also inquire if the company is in compliance with the new COSO framework for internal controls.

Same-Old Professional Development Costing Firms In Talent War, Succession Progress

One of the ongoing challenges firms face is bringing in the right people with the right skills and keeping them engaged, rewarded and prepared to become partner. At the same time, firms need to ramp up technology – and fast – bringing even greater urgency to planning for the future.

Firms are taking various approaches. Some are hiring outside technology experts; some are merging in smaller tech, cybersecurity or consulting firms and some are stealing partners from other firms or seeking out free agents. The biggest firms have the resources to do all of these things while making sizable investments in up-and-coming technologies, but they are the exception not the rule.

Some observers fear the profession is too slow and too reliant on outside experts to shake up professional development. The result could be firms without the necessary next-generation skills and future partners.

Technology transformation is a huge challenge, says consultant Kris McMasters, formerly the co-CEO of CliftonLarsonAllen. While many firms are focusing on technology tools, and hiring tech talent into the firm, it’s critical that firms create a thoughtful strategy around upscaling the skills of the existing professionals. And that means more than improving technology skills, but analytical thinking and creativity as well. Lower-level tasks will be transformed by automation, she says, and the accounting firms of tomorrow will look far different than those of today.

The Choice: Buy Versus Build: Dom Esposito, who consults with small and mid-size CPA firms, says the No. 1 shortcoming of these firms is buying the next generation of partners instead of building them from within. Because some firms are only paying lip service to professional development, they look for lateral hires to fill the gaps.

For example, a firm may hire a professional with 10 or 12 years of experience in technology with the intention of making that person an important part of the firm’s growth as a partner. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t,” says Esposito, CEO of Esposito CEO2CEO LLC. “Often it doesn’t.”

Lateral hires are necessary sometimes, but they’re also risky. Do these hires come from a firm with a similar culture, work ethic and workload? Was the same level of quality expected? Ambitious professionals can view a lateral hire as “cutting in line” and taking a partner position that could have been theirs. Esposito says that in his experience, laterals often don’t make the impact anticipated, exit after a short time and leave the firm with morale problems, disruption, dissatisfied clients and an expensive lesson learned.

Small and mid-sized firms often fail to take care of their own, he says. “They don’t spend enough time developing that talent into a real client executive. They let them linger and pump out work every day but they’re not looking beyond the immediate benefits,” says Esposito. Slow and steady wins the race, and rigorous leadership development academies smooth out professionals’ weaknesses, strengthen their confidence, increase their ability to sell and create lasting business relationships, he says.

Finding the Right Fit: It’s not easy to find the right kind of professional development program, but Chuck Mullen says you start by asking for help rather than trying to figure it out on your own. “I think firms get pretty stale year after year conducting training the same way. It can very much become a pattern. All you have to do is listen to your staff and they’ll tell you if it’s any good or not.”

Mullen is chairman of Akron, Ohio-based Apple Growth Partners. He went through an MP boot camp about a year after taking the top spot at the firm. The experience taught him how to be innovative, how to think in the long term and how to question the status quo when it comes to training.

Director of Operations Erin McCafferty says that in 2019 and 2020 Apple Growth Partners will undergo a full assessment of the professional development offered now and where it should go in the future.

In the meantime, the firm has made a significant investment in the concept of intentional coaching, which takes the whole person into account and is championed by Erica Ishida, the new CEO of LEA Global. “If you focus solely on someone’s career and their performance, you never get to true growth and development,” she said in a recent podcast.

McCafferty says the firm works with three coaches, all with different styles, who work with firm professionals confidentially on professional or personal issues. It’s not counseling, it’s coaching, and the guidance helps professionals sort out where they stand on that blurry line between professional and personal.

“If people can bring their best self to work every day and work through challenges at home or at the office, it’ll make all the difference,” Mullen says. “Even a little improvement will have a ripple effect.”

What’s Our Purpose? Why Do I Work Here? Ishida says intentional development is a new way to think about coaching in the profession, and she is receiving inquiries from multiple firms on the topic. To start, each professional needs a sense of purpose, or a good answer to the question, “Why do I work here?” Organizations that operate at their best communicate a clear intention of purpose and make sure they have the culture and strategy to support it.

“Lots of CEOs think they have that,” Ishida says. “They have it in their heads, but if you ask people in the halls, they can’t answer. They have no idea.” Going through a holistic coaching process helps professionals define their core values and prioritize their activities.

A clear purpose, strong culture, an openness to new ideas and a forward-looking approach to professional development are some of the elements that keep professionals involved and interested in advancement.

Mullen recognizes that technology will be a bigger part of the firm’s future. “I just don’t think it’s going to be as fast and drastic a change as some of the fear mongers say it’s going to be.” A CIO was brought in about four months ago, and together with the IT director and a technology committee, the firm is evaluating what types of artificial intelligence and data analytics would make the best investments. Meanwhile, the firm is hiring the most tech-savvy professionals it can find.

Mullen says many firms have it backwards. Rather than focus internally, their “grow, grow, grow” mentality can result in a disgruntled workforce and a loss of clients who sense professionals don’t want to work there. Recruitment and retention are easy if you create a top-notch workplace, or a “workers’ paradise,” as Mullen puts it.

“This is an inside job. I’m not looking at the market all the time. I’m looking inside.”