Deloitte: Pace of Innovation Gives Birth to the Kinetic Enterprise

Deloitte, in its eighth annual technology report, Tech Trends 2017: The Kinetic Enterprise, says companies must sift through the hyperbole surrounding emerging technologies to find solutions offering real potential.

To do so, they should become “kinetic” organizations – “companies with the dexterity and vision required to thrive amid ongoing technology-fueled disruption.”

Tech Trends 2017 examines seven key trends that will likely revolutionize enterprise technology in the next 18 to 24 months. Among the trends discussed are machine intelligence, dark analytics and mixed reality, which is a blend of augmented reality, Internet of Things and virtual reality. The report also covers innovations in analytics, digital and cloud that are transforming the way organizations engage with customers and citizens; and reimagine products, services and business models.

“Kinetic enterprises are fluid and their leaders understand that to remain relevant, they will need to develop a deliberate innovation response to these disruptive forces,” says Bill Briggs, chief technology officer and managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “It’s not about chasing every shiny new object; it’s about translating the raw potential of emerging technology into a focused set of priorities with measurable, tangible business impact.”

According to the report, some of the key trends that will transform the business landscape in 2017 and beyond include:

  • Dark Analytics: Advances in computer vision and pattern recognition allow companies to plumb the recesses of unstructured data, which may include images, audio, video and information residing in the “deep web.” These tools can unlock powerful strategic and operational insights for businesses in the next level of technology-driven enlightenment.
  • Everything-as-a-Service: Services-based ecosystems are becoming increasingly common in business. This model requires open and agile systems, which could provide a business rationale for modernizing legacy core systems. From next-generation ERP to “replatforming” custom back-office applications, everything-as-a-service (XaaS) can help information technology achieve greater efficiencies and lay a foundation for business innovation and growth.
  • Machine Intelligence: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are doing more than providing insights and recommendations. Increasingly they are augmenting and automating more complex, mission-critical tasks. This continuum covers cognitive and predictive analytics, bots and robotics process automation – related but distinct disciplines delivering on the broader promise of machine intelligence.

“This goes beyond the CIOs and IT department. There are factors changing every element of business,” says Briggs. “Machine intelligence, blockchain and other technologies will have huge implications for talent, operations, and for the enterprise as a whole. Developing a strategy for prioritizing investments and harnessing these emerging technologies has become a boardroom directive.”

Guest Blogger: Predictions for 2017 and Beyond

By: Joe Tarasco

The firms that will take full advantage of the huge opportunities for the accounting profession in 2017 and beyond will be those that attract and retain the best staff, offer more formal advisory and solutions-oriented services, and control their direct labor costs through process improvements and financial management of engagements.

As we close out 2016, the accounting profession landscape and marketplace is changing rapidly. Here are some predictions and trends that you may wish to consider in your strategic planning for 2017 and beyond.

Joe Tarasco

Joe Tarasco

  • Fee pressures, rising staff labor costs, increased regulations and client demands will force firms to carefully examine their mix of services, industry concentrations and niches. Client engagement profitability will be more scrutinized and evaluated while making partners more accountable to increase realizations. The future holds tremendous opportunities for accounting firms who are highly leveraged, with well trained professional staff, using state of the art technology and efficiency methods. To take full advantage of this favorable marketplace for accounting firm services, partners need to be highly effective client relationship-trusted advisors and rainmakers, not grinders.
  • Firms will continue to acquire consulting and advisory companies that complement their traditional services to provide integrated solutions services to their clients.
  • Career development and leadership training will be further expanded into firm CPE curriculums as succession planning evolves into a crisis mode. Progressive firms will significantly increase their training budgets. Firms will have no choice but to invest heavily in their best and brightest in all stages of their careers to remain competitive and avoid merging into a larger firm.
  • The firms who have grown through consolidation of aging practices will begin to deal with intensified succession issues in terms of transitioning clients to qualified partners who can play the trusted advisor role.
  • Consolidation of firms in the country will continue at a faster pace. There will be more mergers of mega firms into larger firms. More firms will merge as a competitive strategy to gain more resources and services rather than for near term succession problems. There will be more mergers of accounting associations and networks.
  • Managing Partners and Executive Committee members will be held more accountable by their partners in their ability to lead and manage successfully and to achieve the goals and objectives as documented in their strategic plans.
  • There will be an increase in the number of firms hiring professional lead generators to supplement the practice development efforts of the partners. In addition, firms below the Top 200 will outsource their marketing and practice development programs to marketing consulting companies as the need for diversified multi-faceted marketing professionals becomes necessary to maintain a competitive edge.
  • The partnership structure will continue to fade away and be replaced by a more corporate type structure. More firms will hire professional COO’s from outside of the CPA profession to assist them in managing their organizations.
  • Partner compensation will be more geared toward higher levels of profitability and results driven contributions to the future success of the firm. Aligning the firm’s goals and vision with partner performance criteria and accountability will be a key objective for progressive firms.
  • 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 future is bright for accounting firms that can quickly implement initiatives and strategies to adapt to the changing marketplace and the needs of quality clients. All of us at Accountants Advisory Group wish you a healthy and prosperous 2017.

Joseph A. Tarasco is founder and CEO of Accountants Advisory Group, a consulting firm focusing on practice management, marketing and human capital strategies to help CPA firms achieve long-term success and profitability.

AICPA Outlines Tax Reform Priorities

The AICPA has identified several priorities that it would like to see incorporated in any tax reform proposal that advances through the legislative process. These include repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax, harmonization of education-related tax provisions and consolidation and reform of the multiple retirement savings provisions in the tax code.

“We commend lawmakers for signaling that tax reform will be a top priority in the next Congress,” says Annette Nellen, chair of the AICPA tax executive committee. “The CPA profession prides itself on providing objective analysis of potential changes to our tax code and we again welcome the opportunity to lend expert input as the House and Senate consider tax reform.”

The committee, the most senior committee of the AICPA’s tax division, recently outlined key issues it believes should be considered as part of any major overhaul of the tax code:

  • Follow principles of good tax policy including equity, simplicity, minimum tax gap, transparency and economic growth and efficiency
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax for simplicity and transparency
  • Harmonize and simplify education-related tax provisions
  • Make adjustments via the tax rate schedule (and avoid phase-ins and phase-outs wherever possible) to promote transparency
  • Eliminate temporary provisions that cause tremendous uncertainty for taxpayers
  • Simplify retirement savings for both individual plans, employer-provided plans and those plans for self-employed individuals
  • Simplify or repeal the “kiddie tax” provisions for calculating the tax on unearned income of a child
  • Reduce tax rates for businesses operating in the corporate form as well as a rate reduction for other forms of business
  • Preserve the current availability of the cash method of accounting for tax purposes
  • Focus on IRS improvement of the taxpayer and tax preparer experience by utilizing modern and secure technology, hiring and training knowledgeable employees, and seeking and utilizing stakeholder engagement

“The AICPA has long advocated for simplification to the tax system because we are convinced such actions will reduce taxpayers’ compliance costs, encourage voluntary compliance through an understanding of the rules and greater respect for the system, and improve enforcement actions,” says Edward Karl, AICPA vice president of taxation. “All of these recommendations are in the public interest and are worthy of serious consideration by the House and Senate.”

Recruiting and Retaining Young CPA Professionals

Attracting and retaining talented staff is top of mind for firms across the country. Join Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), who will offer ideas on keeping under-40 CPA professionals involved, engaged and excited about their work.

IPA is sponsoring a webinar for the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) at 1 to 2:15 p.m. EST Nov. 29. The AAM High webinar is free for members. Register for the webinar.

Retaining this critical demographic has never been more important. IPA’s annual survey of more than 540 accounting firms shows average turnover among all non-Big 4 firms is nearly 14%. At firms of $75 million or more, it’s even higher, at 17%. While some turnover is healthy, extra emphasis needs to be focused on making sure the right people stay.

Platt will discuss results of an extensive survey/study of more than 700 professionals aged 21-40 on their key motivators and “stay factors.” IPA partnered with ConvergenceCoaching to conduct the research survey, which uncovered what young professionals like (and don’t like) about their jobs, and how the firm can position itself to appeal to this key demographic of future leaders.

This webinar will offer analysis from the research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.” Attendees will learn:

The best and worst parts of working in public accounting, according to Millennials (21-33) and Gen X professionals (34-40).

  • The top reasons they would make public accounting a long-term career.
  • The types of financial information they would like leaders to share with them.
  • How often they prefer feedback about their performance.
  • Their ideas on how different generations can work together more successfully.
  • Their top firm weaknesses and strengths.

After attending, listeners can get a better understanding of what role they can personally play within their firm to retain young professionals, encourage a culture of openness and transparency, and involve young staff in firm initiatives. New and experienced marketers alike can benefit.

Crowe Horwath Eliminates Annual Performance Evaluations

Chicago-based Crowe Horwath (FY16 net revenue of $745.2 million) has thrown out its traditional evaluation program.

“Mainstays of the professional services culture, such as cascading goals, formal annual evaluations and traditional ratings for individuals, are out. ‘Measuring What Matters’ is in,” the firm announced recently.

“One of our themes for the past year has been to measure what matters,” says Julie Wood, Crowe chief people officer. “But our performance evaluation program was focused on compliance and looking backward rather than focusing on career development and looking forward.” The program was implemented June 1.

Features of the “Measure What Matters” program will include:

  • Measuring accomplishments against plans by progress indicators rather than a traditional rating scale;
  • Engaging in regular check-ins between individuals and their leaders to build relationships and focus on progress;
  • Focusing on career growth and leadership development;
  • Integrating feedback and coaching into day-to-day interactions through a simple feedback process;
  • Increasing the skills and capabilities of performance managers, including required training through the firm’s virtual Crowe Horwath University; and
  • Driving conversations about key strategic priorities, including mobility, time off, travel preferences and continued learning.

“It was time to move away from the traditional rating scale used to assign a formal ‘rating’ to each person,” Wood adds. “This new program is a work in progress, so we will be refining it and asking our people for their feedback as we move forward, similar to a crowdsourcing approach. This new process will then be adjusted and improved throughout the year. We are excited to start this journey and to focus on higher quality coaching conversations rather than being bogged down in administrative and compliance-related performance activities.”

This is one more change Crowe is making to attract and retain professionals. In December, the firm implemented a new mobility strategy, allowing personnel to work where they’ll be most productive. The firm has also implemented a more casual approach to dress, in line with the nature of work that needs to be completed on a given day.

INSIDE Public Accounting and ConvergenceCoaching Study Young Public Accounting Professionals; Release The Road to Retention

Given the importance of Millennials and Generation X to the future of the CPA profession, INSIDE Public Accounting and ConvergenceCoaching have analyzed input from more than 700 young professionals at CPA firms across the country, providing a focused look at what it takes to engage and retain these key team members.FrontCOVER_

You may download the Road to Retention Report.

An extensive survey was sent to young accounting professionals aged 21-40 in October, and the results have been analyzed to help firm leaders develop strategies to attract and retain this crucial demographic given that baby boomers are retiring in record numbers.

“We are excited by the insights gained by surveying young professionals in the profession. Some of the biggest insights gained include the continued pressure on the work hours expected and the young professionals’ desire for flexibility and work/life balance and the differences in motivators and engagement by gender and age,” says Kelly Platt, principal and managing editor at INSIDE Public Accounting.

“Firm leaders must continue to study the motivators and desires of their younger professionals,” says Jennifer Wilson, co-founder and partner at ConvergenceCoaching, LLC.  “This report will provide important insights into the things professionals most appreciate about their work – and leaders – in public accounting, and also highlight areas where they are less content,” continued Wilson.  “And, the report provides ideas for change that firm leaders should consider based on the feedback.”

HERE’S WHAT YOU WILL FIND INSIDE THE REPORT

  • 80% of respondents were from the all-important Millennial generation, aged 21-33, with 20% coming from the 34-40 age group. Male and female respondents were about evenly split at 51% and 49%, respectively.
  • 18% of respondents were from IPA Best of the Best firms. Their aggregate responses were broken out separately.
  • Key differences are outlined for CPAs and non-CPAs; men and women; younger and older professionals; and for respondents with varying levels of experience.

FINDINGS INCLUDE:

  • The most important factors that respondents say will determine whether they stay in public accounting
  • The most and least enjoyable aspects of work
  • What young professionals admire about mature professionals
  • Unique challenges encountered by young professionals
  • Information young professionals would like to be more exposed to
  • Biggest misconceptions about younger professionals (from their perspective)
  • Young professionals’ ideas to help different generations work better together

Learn what young professionals like and dislike most about their work, how they would change the workplace, their feelings about becoming a partner and the “stay factors” that would keep them in public accounting.

More than just numbers and graphs, the report also contains dozens of productive comments from young professionals about performance feedback, open communication and obstacles they face.

The report provides specific ideas on what firm management can do with this information to improve their firms and retain these future leaders. Some of these suggestions are inexpensive and easy to implement.

You may download the Road to Retention Report.

About INSIDE Public Accounting

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), founded in 1987, is published by The Platt Group. The Platt Group publishes both the award-winning INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter and the award-winning National Benchmarking Report. The Platt Group also consults with firms to help them become more successful. The Platt Group works with managing partners, CFOs and thought leaders across the nation to provide practical ideas, benchmarking data and information to take firms to the next level of improvement. For more information, to schedule an interview, or to inquire about presentations at meetings or retreats, please contact Chelsea Page at (317) 733-1920; info@plattgroupllc.com.

About ConvergenceCoaching

ConvergenceCoaching LLC is a national consulting firm dedicated to developing leaders and transforming teams through coaching and practice consulting – including retreats, strategic planning, and training. For over 16 years, ConvergenceCoaching has worked tirelessly to help develop CPA leaders build better practices, manage higher performance teams and achieve success. ConvergenceCoaching helps firms prepare for and manage change including those related to generational impacts as baby boomers transition out of leadership positions and the workplace, and as the Millennial generation transitions in. ConvergenceCoaching is helping to shape the conversation around anytime, anywhere work programs to address the increasing demand for flexibility and autonomy in the way professionals conduct their work. ConvergenceCoaching is committed to pioneering ways to support and embrace the next generation firm.

IPA Vendor Spotlight On … Heidi Henderson, Engineered Tax Services

Name: Heidi Henderson

Heidi Henderson

Heidi Henderson

Firm: Engineered Tax Services

Title: Executive Vice President

Accomplishments:

  • Published author in Accounting Today
  • Public speaker at national events
  • Rapid rise from director to executive vice president of Engineered Tax Services

Your firm’s tagline is, “Where engineering and accounting come together.” What does that mean?”

We are often asked if we are an accounting firm or an engineering firm. For practical purposes, we are a licensed engineering firm with a very heavy tax background. We do not prepare tax returns, but rather perform very specialized engineering analysis to capture federal tax incentives and apply complex tax methodologies as recognized and accepted by the IRS. Our engineers perform detailed studies relating to real property or activities relating to the development of new products and processes. These studies are then reviewed by our internal CPAs and our tax attorney for accuracy and compliance with IRS guidance before being utilized by the taxpayer.Engineered Tax Services

Your role is executive vice president, but you came up through the ranks from marketing. Can you tell us about your rise through the company?

My education and work history are in private accounting and entrepreneurship. After 12 years in accounting for numerous real estate development companies, I chose an alternate path in search of something more satisfying and collaborative, and settled on marketing. In 2011, I was approached by ETS and was offered a position in sales and project management. After a short time, I identified the need for marketing improvements and was given the responsibility of growing and managing the marketing team, which included rebranding, logo design, website creation, content and publishing. I was then promoted to the executive team in early 2014. Now I’m responsible for account management, corporate marketing and events, and the collective management of ETS’ growing sales staff alongside our other two executive team members.

How would you like Engineered Tax Services to grow and change?

Engineered Tax Services has grown significantly over the past three years, and has invested greatly in growing our team to be the most knowledgeable, service-oriented company in the industry. We strive to set ourselves apart as a resource, and valuable asset to our clients and partners through education, consulting, published guidance and resources to aid CPAs and businesses to capture valuable incentives to insuring full tax efficiency for optimized profitability.

What’s the biggest opportunity for CPA firms that Engineered Tax Services can help them with?

The recently passed PATH Act and continuing guidance for Tangible Property Regulation compliance are complex and tedious issues for the CPA community. We provide monthly webinars to review the most recent changes, and how these changes will impact CPAs and their clients.

We have also developed software to aid in capturing annual deductions that we provide free of charge to our clients. By understanding the services and resources we offer, CPAs and their teams can rest assured that they can advise taxpayers of every opportunity available to them, increase client retention and hold on to their competitive advantage. These services are all complementary additions to our core services such as cost segregation, repair evaluations, energy-efficient building incentives and R&D tax credits.

Final thoughts?

Our greatest focus is in serving our clients and providing the best service and expertise available on complex issues. We shy away from commonly used sales tactics, and believe that if we bring value and offer tools for the success of all, our efforts will, and have, set the bar for specialty tax services.

Know someone else who’d make a good spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

Back to the Future: Thoughts on the 1991 Debut of the Bowman 100 – Part 3

IPA asked several consultants, thought leaders and influential members of the accounting profession their thoughts on the 1991 debut of the Bowman 100. As part of our 30th anniversary celebration, we will be highlighting some of the responses.

Domenick Esposito, Esposito CEO2CEO

Domenick Esposito

Domenick Esposito

IPA: What are your initial impressions are when looking at the 1991 Bowman 100? What stands out, what’s of most interest to you, what do you see in that listing that reveals something about where we are today? What was behind the consolidations of the ’90s?

Esposito: When I read the Bowman 100 (1991) and compare the compilation to the IPA 100 (2015) one data point is striking to me:

  • The high, median and low revenue for the 100 firms are staggeringly different when comparing 1991 to 2015:
Revenues 1991 2015 ~% Change
High $2.3B $14.9B ~600%
Median $10.3M $71.3M ~700%
Low $6.0M $32.4M ~500%

On top of this explosive growth, it is important to note that there are only 24 firm names that appear on both the Bowman 100 (1991) and on the IPA 100 (2015). To me, this data screams out:

  • Size matters, and
  • Brand recognition is critical

While a good portion of the growth at these 100 firms during the period 1991 to 2015 was organic, a healthy portion was also achieved through mergers and acquisitions. Organic growth in 2016 and the immediate future is going to be very difficult and, as a result, we will see more and more mergers.

In January 2016 alone, there have already been announcements of 22 mergers and acquisitions, including 13 at the Top 100 firms. If this pace continues, we can expect to see over 260 CPA firm mergers and acquisitions in 2016 with about 150 being with the 100 largest firms. That’s more than twice that of 2015! My conclusion is that the largest firms will continue to get bigger, stronger and more profitable.

My observation is that more than one out of every two CPA firms of any significant size is either discussing a merger combination, acquisition or sale or is planning to do so in the near future. Why?

  • The economy is not robust. Clients aren’t growing. Margins are thin.
  • Partner demographics are an inverse pyramid; top heavy with baby boomers and lean with “under 40” partners.
  • Firms do not have enough rainmakers and business people.
  • Partner lead talent, particularly tax talent, is nearly impossible to find.

So if now isn’t the time for firms to consider an alternative path to a go-it-alone strategy, when is? Firms should not wait until the last inning when key partners are nearing retirement. As long as the economy stays anemic and clients aren’t in need of special services (i.e. higher margins), CPA firm valuations aren’t going to get better soon.

If you have any feedback, comments or observations, contact us at editor@plattgroupllc.com.

After 46 years in the public accounting profession, including CEO of Grant Thornton, Dom Esposito launched ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC, a boutique advisory firm, to consult to small and mid-sized CPA firms with strategy including mergers and acquisitions.

View Part 1 – August Aquila

View Part 2 – Allan Koltin

Back to the Future: Thoughts on the 1991 Debut of the Bowman 100 – Part 2

IPA asked several consultants, thought leaders and influential members of the accounting profession their thoughts on the 1991 debut of the Bowman 100. As part of our 30th anniversary celebration, we will be highlighting some of the responses.

Allan Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group

IPA: What are your initial impressions are when looking at the 1991 Bowman 100? What stands out, what’s of most interest to you, what do you see in that listing that reveals something about where we are today? What was behind the consolidations of the ’90s?

Koltin: What’s most interesting to me when I review this list are the following:

Allan Koltin

Allan Koltin

  1. Over 90% (maybe even 95%) of the Top 100 firms went through a major transformation of which the end result was that they no longer resemble anything remotely to what looked like in 1991. Interestingly, this transformation took place whether the firm merged upstream or remained independent. It is apparent that when it comes to future success, change is inevitable and fortunately for many of these firms, their journey took them to a better place.
  2. When you look at the firms that remained independent, whether it was geography, product/service line, governance (running more like a business), or partner compensation (Firms are making a lot more money today!), many firms seem to thrive throughout this 25-year period. Local firms became regional firms, regional firms became mega-regional firms, mega-regional firms became national firms and national firms became truly global firms. To some degree, CPA firms rewrote the “record books” when it came to growth.
  3. What’s also interesting to me is that in 2000, the 100th largest firm was approximately $6 million in revenue and that same firm today trades at over $34 million in revenue. One could say some of this is inflation, but the reality is the last decade has been the single biggest transformation of firms in the history of the profession.
  4. Another thing that is of interest to me is what I will refer to as “naming rights.” Firms that used to have four or more names in the title reduced to three and then reduced to two and then reduced to one. It wasn’t enough, though, that many firms stopped at one name. Some of the other firms took a different path and instead of reducing from four to three to two to one names, they simple went to letters and today a significant number of firms have a number of letters as their sole name and brand.
  5. Speaking of names, I also think that branding means much more today than it has ever meant in the past. Accordingly, firms are spending significant dollars on protecting and growing their brand.
  6. Other things that I found interesting is that having lived through the consolidation phase of 1995 through the present, CBIZ is the last soldier standing. Groups, such as American Express and H&R Block, ultimately sold their interest in the accounting firm space and since that time there have been very few new players entering the profession. What’s mind-boggling to me is that private equity has remained on the sidelines, despite the fact that the accounting profession is well over a $100 billion industry. I sure wouldn’t be surprised to see private equity enter the space over the next decade, but I also thought that there would have been other public companies entering the arena as well, and that hasn’t taken place.
  7. On a positive side, very few firms have closed their doors because of a bad audit. Outside of Arthur Andersen and maybe one or two others, quality has really held high within the profession. It should be noted that one or two other firms closed their doors, not so much because of quality issues, but simply because they strategically could no longer exist or had overextended themselves financially and were ineffective in essentially running a business. Today, firms seem so much better run and better managed that I would guess we won’t see implosions of firms going forward like some of the ones we’ve seen over the last two decades.
  8. One final item bears mentioning, which is the merger of equals. For many years, this was viewed as an oxymoron and, in fact, we are seeing great examples today of large firms coming together and doing quite well, such as CohnReznick, EisnerAmper and CliftonLarsonAllen.

If you have any feedback, comments or observations, contact us at editor@plattgroupllc.com.

Allan Koltin is the CEO of Koltin Consulting Group. Koltin Consulting Group Inc. is a Chicago-based consulting firm that specializes in working with professional and financial services firms in the areas of practice growth, practice management, human capital, and mergers and acquisitions.

View Part 1 – August Aquila

View Part 3 – Domenick Esposito

Back to the Future: Thoughts on the 1991 Debut of the Bowman 100 – Part 1

IPA asked several consultants, thought-leaders and influential members of the accounting profession their thoughts on the 1991 debut of the Bowman 100. As part of our 30th anniversary celebration, we will be highlighting some of the responses.

August Aquila, CEO of AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC

IPA: What are your initial impressions are when looking at the 1991 Bowman 100? What stands out, what’s of most interest to you, what do you see in that listing that reveals something about where we are today? What was behind the consolidations of the 90’s?

August Aquila

August Aquila

August Aquila: The driving force behind the consolidation of the 90’s was the realization that firms could be sold. American Express Tax & Business Services created a new paradigm in the accounting market by beginning to acquire accounting firms from 1988 until 2000.  Firms from $100,000 to $55,000,000 were acquired by TBS. When an individual left American Express and went to H&R Block, he started the process again and this was the birth of the consolidation movement in the US. Consolidation was also common in other markets, think of stationery stores (Staples, Office Depot, etc.), medical practices. The timing was right for these “roll ups” because those accountants who were born in the 1930 were looking at retirement. Twenty years later, we have the baby boomers doing the same thing. It was the right time for the consolidation to happen.

When I look at this list what strikes is that not too many things have really changes other than a lot of the firms have gotten larger. Firms are still lacking strong strategic leaders, the very largest of the firms continue to burn out people who then leave the profession, firms talk about hiring the smartest and the best but then have no real program for keeping them or creating an open environment that lets these people shine.

Those firms, such as Moss Adams and Larson Allen, that are still on the list had leaders who realized that it does take many different types to build a successful firm and were more patient in executing their strategic plan.  These firms live their values.

IPA: How would you complete the sentence, “What’s most interesting to me when I review this list is . . .”

August Aquila: “The main thing that strikes me when I look at the firms that are no longer there is the common elements of (1) very dominant managing partners who kept the firms together or not, based solely on their personalities. They weren’t necessarily good or great leaders, they simply ran the firm like a benevolent or not so benevolent dictator. (2) As a consequence of number 1, these firms did not build a firm but rather fiefdoms. Partners who would bring in business were rewarded to the detriment of client relationship and production partners. (3) Many of these firms were forced to sell to a consolidators (American Express Tax & Business Services, H&R Block, CBIZ, etc.) because the majority owners did not believe their partners would and want to pay them the large deferred compensation amounts they had coming to them.

In part two of this series, we will hear from Allan Koltin, Koltin Consulting Group.

If you have any feedback, comments or observations, contact us at editor@plattgroupllc.com.

August Aquila was the Vice President of M&A at American Express Tax & Business Services in the 1990s. He is currently CEO of AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC and continues to advise firms in the areas of M&A, compensation design and partnership issues.

View Part 2 – Allan Koltin

View Part 3 – Domenick Esposito