The Evolving Employee DNA

By: Tom Barry, Managing Partner, Green Hasson Janks

Tom Barry

DNA is the genetic code of organisms. The dictionary defines it as “the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something.”

What does this have to do with accounting? Is this article about science? Not exactly. It is about the science – and art – of identifying and understanding an accounting firm’s evolving “DNA,” or culture, as the foundation for a successful organization and thriving employees. We are exploring how the future of the industry is requiring us to examine how we hire, develop and nurture our talent.

The Future of Accounting

An accounting firm’s DNA had typically been based on a historical legacy, carried over from an era where the profession looked far different than today – and certainly not reflecting where the profession is headed. Accountants were essentially historians, who were paid to look back at books and records and identify issues and errors. Fast forward, the role of accountant has evolved to that of a trusted advisor, one who can accurately provide clients with insights to illuminate good decisions. But with the advancements of technology, big data and the pace of technology commerce, accountants need to be trusted futurists. As my predecessor, Leon Janks, stated well:

“It’s now our job as advisors to sort through this data, analyze and determine the best practices to help our clients reach their potential and grow their business. Businesses exist in a very dynamic environment and management needs to be agile in order to make changes and anticipate the future.”

There are three main factors related to the evolution of accounting firms: technology, generational differences and diversity of thought.

Accounting Firms and Technology DNA

The accounting profession is 7,000 years old. The AICPA was founded in 1887. We can rest assured that change and evolution of the profession has occurred more times that we can imagine. So how is today different? In a word: technology. Technology is considered to be an evolutionary process in that it evolves exponentially, known as Moore’s Law. Each generation of technology speeds up the subsequent generations’ advancements, which causes accelerating change. It does not just feel like the rate technology changes is accelerating, it actually is. Therefore the DNA of tomorrow requires accountants to be well versed in their “toolbox”: the computer, and the impact of technology.

The Generational Impact on DNA

Now that a majority of a firm’s employees are in different generations from its leaders, old rules do not apply. Your business, your clients and your talent continue to evolve, so staying ahead means keeping vigilant on evolving trends, client needs and talent needs. One trend to watch is generational differences. Younger workers want a reason to come to work. They want to feel that they matter, that their work matters and that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.

In 2017, millennials (born 1981-1996) made up 38% of the nation’s workforce, more than any other generation.[1] Going forward, millennials will dominate the accounting industry, comprising 75% of employees by 2025.[2] Generation Z (born 1996-present) will continue the evolution. We hear some older generations complain about the needs of younger workers, but their needs are now the business’s needs, and leadership has an opportunity to create an environment in which employees understand their generational differences and work together effectively.

The DNA of the Diversity of Thought

Our industry’s client experience is evolving from compliance to an advisory mindset. This is a change that involves aligning ourselves with the client’s needs and helping them reach the right solutions. Making this change takes a new skill set, and recruiting the right talent becomes even more important.

Creating teams that bring diversity of thought increases the opportunity to deepen the client experience and cross-pollinate internal learning across different backgrounds and levels of business acumen.

We are in a war for talent, and the need for people with a consultative mentality makes it even more difficult. We can look at this as an opportunity rather than a challenge, however. Defining your firm’s DNA includes defining what type of employee you need and want.

Having a diverse team is key for creating a consultative approach and developing the ability to ask the right questions. When employees asks questions that come from understanding the client’s culture, strengths, challenges, best practices and industry sector, they are more effective as consultants and advisors and provide a more meaningful client experience.

At Green Hasson Janks, we seek people who are genuinely curious and ask insightful questions. Our candidates are collaborative and like working as part of a team. They are problem-solvers. Candidates who match our DNA are not always easy to find through traditional means, and a broader perspective makes sense.

One reason for the smaller candidate pool is that the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors was 2.0% in the second quarter of 2018, much lower than the 4.0% national unemployment rate, according to the latest quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).[3]

To find alternative talent pools that match a firm’s DNA, some are looking to individuals with disabilities, older workers, veterans, freelancers, apprenticeship programs, former employees or customers. Bringing in new types of employees adds diversity of thought and also can add new cultural or regional perspectives that can speed innovation.

Making talent acquisition changes based on your firm’s DNA also adds more roads to tomorrow’s success. For example, it has the potential for adding creativity and innovation to your business and the client experience. It has been proven that more diverse teams increase innovation and business outcomes. Innovative approaches and solutions may emerge through idea generation, teaming and collaboration. A wider range of people and thought may also lead to new product and service offerings that differentiate your firm and the client experience.

Where We Go From Here

To attract, develop and retain employees that are the right fit, a firm must be able to articulate its culture. Most can define somewhat random keywords (e.g., friendly, businesslike, conservative, liberal, technical, and specialized, etc.) but may not have an overarching definition that touches all aspects of the business. Agreeing on a definition is core to redefining a firm’s DNA. A culture is unique to every firm, and one size does not fit all.

We went through a yearlong process at Green Hasson Janks to define our culture in a way that reflected our values and could take us well into the future. We embraced the principles of Simon Sinek, who asks organizations to define “What is our Why?” The Why is our DNA. Each firm is different, with values that roll into their own unique Why. When those values are applied to behavior, the result is culture. Each individual also has their own Why, which is a filter through which they make choices, at work and at home, that lead to fulfillment.

With this in mind, we have been able to create a much more specific profile of the person that fits our DNA, our Why, our culture. A strong definition of the person we want in our organization streamlines the hiring process and aids in retaining and developing our talent as their careers unfold. That reduces HR cost and supports the employee’s happiness in working at our firm.

Employee DNA will continue to change, and accounting firm culture will continue to adapt and change to meet new worker and client needs. Firms that frequently define and redefine their DNA have an advantage.

Tom Barry is a CPA and Managing Partner at Green Hasson Janks, a Los Angeles accounting and consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit, food and beverage, health and wellness, and entertainment and media companies. Barry’s role is a combination of entrepreneur, partner, consultant, mentor and business advisor. He provides audit and accounting, tax and general business consulting services to clients in a variety of industries including waste management and recycling, manufacturing, distribution and the restaurant industry. He can be reached at tbarry@greenhassonjanks.com.

 

[1] https://www.accountingweb.com/practice/growth/millennials-now-make-up-largest-workforce-generation-in-us

[2] https://karbonhq.com/accountant-resources/articles/8-traits-of-millennials-that-will-benefit-your-accounting-firm

[3] https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/job-market/a-look-at-the-quarterly-accountant-unemployment-rate

Dean Dorton Launches Wealth Management Practice

Lexington, Ky.-based Dean Dorton Allen Ford (FY17 net revenue of $30.8 million) has launched Dean Dorton Wealth Management.

Dean Dorton has provided public accounting services regionally, nationally and internationally for decades and now desires to serve their clients in an even more holistic manner by incorporating integrated wealth management services.

“Each of our clients’ personal and professional aspirations may be unique to them, but when it comes to their financial objectives, our clients share the same desire: to build and manage wealth throughout their lifetimes in order to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves and their families,” says David Bundy, Dean Dorton President and CEO. “We are proud to bring wealth management expertise and resources to our current and future clients in order to bring clarity to their financial situations and to help them define their goals, make smart investment choices, plan for the future and, ultimately, pursue their most fulfilling life.”

As an independent, registered investment advisor based in Kentucky, Dean Dorton Wealth Management will offer a broad range of services including retirement planning, investment consulting, portfolio management and a host of other holistic financial planning services. In addition, the firm will deliver a tax-efficient approach to all of their services through collaboration with parent company Dean Dorton.

Dean Dorton Wealth Management will be led by David Parks, who has a long history with Dean Dorton. As a CPA, who is also accredited in business valuation, he has more than 30 years of experience in providing tax, business valuation and other financial consulting services to individuals and businesses in the region. Bundy, who manages Dean Dorton, will also serve as a senior advisor in the wealth management practice. Together, they will be responsible for serving clients and managing all aspects of operations, including support staff.

Anglin CPAs Merges in Bloomer Geri

Anglin Reichmann Snellgrove & Armstrong (FY17 net revenue of $7.3 million) of Huntsville, Ala., has merged in Bloomer Geri & Company of Pensacola, Fla. The combined firms will operate under the name Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, the firms announced.

The merger will provide expansion opportunities in the Pensacola market while retaining the leadership and boutique tax consulting services of Bloomer Geri & Company. Anglin CPAs will maintain the office in Pensacola, which will offer tax services, audit and assurance, business solutions and IT solutions.

For the past four years, practice advisor Gary Adamson consulted with Bloomer Geri & Company on a transition plan. This included research and recommendations for the firm to explore several potential sale or merger options. Ultimately, they determined that Anglin CPAs matched their transition goals the best.

“Anglin offers the expanded services our clients were asking for. Their culture and fee structure are very similar to ours. We are also on the same page regarding transition of clients and my role in the upcoming years,” says MP Donna Bloomer.

Bloomer will stay in her position as MP through the transition. She anticipates retiring with the option of a part-time consulting position within the next five to 10 years. Owner and operations executive manager Jeanette Geri will likely retire earlier than Bloomer while Steve Schickel will remain a partner in Pensacola.

The Pensacola area is an emerging growth market, according to Anglin CPAs MP Gary Anglin. “We see many opportunities for a presence in Pensacola, in particular expanding our services in government contracting,” he says. “We also respect the depth of tax consulting and knowledge that Bloomer Geri & Company have developed among their professionals, specifically estate and gift tax consulting.”

Syracuse Firm Admits Two to Partnership, Names PIC of Tax Services

Brian J. Potter

Dannible & McKee of Syracuse, N.Y., announced it has promoted two senior managers to partner and named a PIC of tax services.

Brian J. Potter has been admitted as a tax partner. He started with the firm in 2006, has experience in all areas of income taxation, and specializes in working with manufacturing, construction, multi-state corporations and high-net-worth individuals.

Benjamin Sumner

Benjamin Sumner has been admitted as an audit partner. He started with the firm in 2010 and has experience providing auditing, accounting and consulting services to a wide variety of privately held businesses. Sumner specializes in working with manufacturing, construction and nonprofit industries, as well as in audits of employee benefit plans.

Karl Jacob

Karl Jacob has been appointed as PIC of tax services. Joining the firm in 1987, he has extensive experience overseeing tax and consulting services to a wide range of clients, including individuals, corporations and privately held companies. Jacob is adept in income and estate taxation, with a high concentration in individual and corporate tax planning and financial planning, the firm said. He specializes in the retail automotive, not-for-profit and manufacturing industries. Jacob succeeds Michael J. Reilly, who has been named the new MP of Dannible & McKee.

Leone McDonnell & Roberts Partner Named NHSCPA Board President

Evan Stowell

Leone McDonnell & Roberts partner Evan Stowell has been installed as president of the New Hampshire Society of CPAs (NHSCPA).

Stowell joined the NHSCPA in 2010 and has served in various roles throughout the organization. Stowell announced new initiatives for the membership association, including a new smartphone app, which provides easier access to society information, event listings and the ability to search over 1,000 live and web-based CPE programs.

Stowell also launched the NHSCPA’s new volunteer initiative, Credits for Community. The NHSCPA has partnered with Volunteer NH and Granite United Way to offer members the opportunity to earn credits toward in-house continuing education by volunteering through Volunteer NH’s volunteer hub. The NHSCPA plans to give members one free hour of CPE for every two hours they volunteer, up to eight hours per year.

“Evan has been a tireless advocate for the accounting profession. His experience, vision and ties to the local community will serve the NHSCPA organization well,” says MP Jack Callahan at Leone, McDonnell & Roberts.

Stowell joined Leone McDonnell & Roberts in 2002. The firm has five offices in New Hampshire.  He specializes in audit engagements and provides a variety of taxation and accounting services to individuals and businesses.

HHM CPAs Names New Chief Operating Officer

Pam Morris

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based HHM CPAs (FY17 net revenue of $24.4 million) announces the appointment of Pam Morris as chief operating officer, a new position within the firm.

Morris began her career at HHM in 2013 as partner and served in her role until 2015 when her passion for small businesses led her to co-found Freight Depot Accounting, an affiliate company of HHM. FDA launched in 2015 to provide startups, small to medium-size businesses, and nonprofits with professional accounting services.

As HHM’s COO, Morris will oversee daily operations and administrative processes of all departments including recruiting and service organization.

Donnie Hutcherson

Morris will set comprehensive goals to drive growth and continue improving client experiences while encouraging high performance and retention. Morris will continue her involvement with FDA, leaving the operations manager to oversee day-to-day processes.

“Pam has been a key member of HHM’s management team for many years,” says Donnie Hutcherson, HHM MP. “She has been vital in the success of the firm and will execute operations as we continue to grow. When I decided to fill the COO position, I realized the person who knew our firm well and had the qualifications we needed was already in the building.”

 

Canadian Firm Moving to ‘Dream Space’ in Toronto

Segal LLP of Toronto is moving Aug. 23 from its office of 17 years at 2005 Sheppard East to 4101 Yonge St.

“We wanted to be conveniently central for clients and staff and no more than 20 minutes from Bay Street. We wanted an open-concept space to suit the modern working world. And we wanted a brighter, more collaborative environment,” the firm says on its website.

The firm’s goal was to grow big enough to justify moving into a new office and then making the move. The new office is close to major highways, bus and subway access points, is surrounded by green space and offers underground guest parking.

“You’ll love being here and we’ll love having you, just like we always dreamed,” the firm says in a message to clients.

Islam Joins Friedman as International Tax Partner

New York-based Friedman LLP announces that Adnan Islam has joined the firm’s New York office as an international tax partner and co-practice leader.

Adnan Islam

Islam has more than 15 years of public accounting experience as a licensed tax attorney. He specializes in cross-border strategies, comprehensive inbound tax services, global information reporting and outbound U.S. tax incentives and credits to optimize international operations and transactions. He has advised U.S.-based and inbound companies within the technology, pharmaceutical / life sciences, alternative investments, manufacturing and distribution and professional services sectors.

Most recently, Adnan was the Los Angeles area international tax practice leader at RSM US, a global public accounting firm.

 

Berkowitz Pollack Brant Announces Addition of Director of Tax Services

Miami-based Berkowitz Pollack Brant announced that Lewis Taub has joined the firm as director of tax services in the New York City office.

Lewis Taub

Most recently, Taub was a managing director and tax partner for CBIZ MHN, offering tax and business advice to multi-national business owners. Earlier in his career, he led his own practice in New York.

“Lewis has a broad range of experience helping corporate, partnership and S-Corp clients on tax compliance, planning and structuring deals,” said Berkowitz Pollack Brant CEO Joseph L. Saka. “We look forward to integrating him into existing and new client relationships and expanding our footprint in New York City.”

Taub has spent nearly 30 years helping multi-national and multi-state clients meet their business and financial goals. He provides compliance and planning services to entrepreneurs.

 

Baker Tilly, RGL Forensics Are Merging

Alan Whitman

Chicago-based Baker Tilly Virchow Krause (FY18 net revenue of $578.4 million), ranked No. 13 on the 2018 IPA 100 list, and Englewood, Colo.-based RGL Forensics are combining, the firms announced.

The merger represents an opportunity for expansion in several markets, especially in New York where both companies already have a presence.

“The combination of RGL and Baker Tilly deepens our firm’s expertise in forensic accounting services and gives RGL greater resources and capacity to serve clients on a larger scale,” Baker Tilly CEO Alan Whitman said in an emailed statement. “This merger represents strategic growth for both firms nationally and globally.”

The merger will be in full effect by the end of the year. Meanwhile, RGL will continue to operate under its current brand.

RGL CEO Angela MacPhee also issued a statement: “We are proud of our lasting relationships with our clients around the world and our reputation for providing financial clarity to our clients. Combining our full team with Baker Tilly gives us a wider platform and more delivery channels to better serve our clients.”

RGL is an international firm of accounting, valuation and technology professionals specializing in the quantification of economic damages, financial analysis, fraud investigation and expert witness services.

The combination of RGL and Baker Tilly expands both firms and gives Baker Tilly an international presence.