IPA Spotlight On … Jodi Ann Ray, Texas Society of CPAs

Name: Jodi Ann Ray

Jodi Ann Ray

Jodi Ann Ray

Association: Texas Society of CPAs (TSCPA)

Title: Executive Director/CEO

Accomplishments:

  • Took over the top job Jan. 1 from John Sharbaugh, who ended a 17-year run as CEO and now serves as managing director of governmental affairs.
  • Leads one of the nation’s largest state accounting organizations, representing 28,000 CPAs in 20 chapters across the state.
  • Previously served as vice president of membership and volunteer experience with Meeting Professionals International, where she was the responsible for governance and community development, which encompassed membership and more than 90 chapters and clubs in 24 countries.
  • She also served as the CEO for chambers of commerce in Connecticut, North Carolina and Texas, where she oversaw all operations including membership, government affairs, economic development and finance.

Progressive firm leaders are focused on re-imagining their future to ensure they remain relevant to their clients. How does “remaining relevant” play a role in your strategic planning, and what are some examples from the past 12 months of new services/programs/approaches that you have instituted that addresses how the State Society will remain relevant to its members?

The Society is taking a hard look at its strategic plan now, with plans to launch an updated plan to the membership in the fall. We’re looking at our vision for the organization, how it should look five to 10 years from now, and how to inspire our members and future CPAs about the organization and their practice in the field. We’re asking members what keeps them up at night, and which areas the organization should focus on. We’re upgrading our website to help members cut through the clutter to get accurate, timely and relevant information. The society is also very active in advocacy at the federal and state level.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the profession?

We are in such a period of change, not simply in our profession but in all industries, and I think the transformation affecting so many companies will impact the role of CPAs. What we consider the core services of CPAs is going to expand and evolve. For example, for some of the larger firms we’ve seen a very clear trend toward more advisory services.How do you see the role of the accountant changing over the next few years?

CPAs will become more of a strategic business advisor in addition to reporting financial performance. In the association world where I come from, the business decision-making models have changed and companies are relying on better, faster data and that’s changing the emphasis on what’s being produced. CPAs will be producing trend information, dashboards and projections to provide information that can be used in new and valuable ways.

Which aspect of technology should firms be paying closer attention to?

We’ve added new programs into our spring lineup of CPE offerings on risk management and cybersecurity. Firms are concerned about ensuring that the transfer of client data is secure and that their liability is adequately addressed.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are big topics in the profession. Can you give me some examples of member firms that have done something innovative and proactive to help clients?

Firms are reinventing themselves and doing it quickly to help their clients think ahead and adapt to coming changes. While the core services won’t go away, they may be delivered differently. The same is true for the Texas Society of CPAs – the services we provide to support our members will evolve and adapt.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

IPA INSIDER: March 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of March. IPA Logo - with tag line

  1. Firm Using Andersen Name Denounces Andersen Tax Claims
  2. IPA Spotlight On … Jim Proppe, Plante Moran
  3. BDO USA Announces Addition of LBA Wealth Management
  4. Polk & Associates and Rogow & Loney Merge
  5. MPs: Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success
  6. Carr Riggs & Ingram Merges Atlanta Firm BNKJ
  7. UHY Advisors Returns to Texas with Union of Berkeley Research Group
  8. Yeager & Boyd Joins Aprio
  9. KPMG Names Thomas as Global Chairman
  10. Suggestions to Recruit and Retain the Future Leaders of Your Firm

IPA Spotlight On … Loretta Doon, California Society of CPAs

Name: Loretta Doon

Loretta Doon

Loretta Doon

Association: California Society of CPAs (CalCPA)

Title: CEO of CalCPA and California CPA Education Foundation

Accomplishments:

  • Leads the nation’s largest state accounting organization, representing 40,000 CPAs in 14 chapters across the state. Immediately prior to becoming CEO in 2006, she was the COO for both organizations.
  • Served for 25 years as associate executive director for the California Teachers Association, one of the most well-known and influential unions in the country with a budget of $130 million. Doon is a former teacher.
  • Named one of Accounting Today’s 2016 Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting, and has been named by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the most influential women in business.
  • Served as the AICPA’s CPA State Executives Association chair 2014-2015.

Progressive firm leaders are focused on re-imagining their future to ensure they remain relevant to their clients. How does “remaining relevant” play a role in your strategic planning, and what are some examples from the past 12 months of new services / programs / approaches that you have instituted that addresses how the State Society will remain relevant to its members?

Remaining relevant means providing services to members that help them advance their careers, improve their skill sets and find new markets for their services. It is essential to help accounting students learn about various career paths, and help them improve their chances of landing good jobs when they graduate. Our Campus Ambassador Program is active in more than 30 California universities and colleges, and we are starting a pilot program in high schools. For members, we are undertaking a communities initiative pilot program to provide resources, including white papers and information banks, to help them improve client services. We also have instituted a managing partner forum to share best practices. Our Education Foundation is exploring new ways to deliver content and become more mobile friendly, including nano courses and developing event apps for conferences. You’ll also find that we are increasingly incorporating social media into our programs and events.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the profession?

Increasingly, firms – even small ones – need to simultaneously generalize and specialize, including in such niche areas as valuation, wealth management and financial planning. Software and artificial intelligence are entering many accounting and auditing tasks. Most CPAs in the future will focus on consulting and advising rather than processing numbers. I believe that at some point in the future, the attest function will be broadened to include sustainability factors, including ethics, environmental conscientiousness and community contributions.

How do you see the role of the accountant changing over the next few years?

CPAs and firms will become more specialized, while at the same time expand their services and presence. They will focus more on particular kinds of services. As society becomes more complicated, accountants are going to have to focus on a particular segment, while being an overall business adviser, to be successful. Sounds like a dichotomy and it is. The professional needs to meet the needs of clients and the public –and these needs are not always one-dimensional.

Which aspect of technology should firms be paying closer attention to?

Mobile devices to capture and transmit information. Everything a firm does should be available on an app or two that clients can access on their phones. If a client has a question or needs some service immediately, the firm that can provide that service over a mobile phone within seconds. That added value will keep that client as a customer. If a firm can’t do that, then it likely won’t be around for long. Convenience and immediacy will be keys to success.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are big topics in the profession. Can you give me some examples of member firms that have done something innovative and proactive to help clients?

CalCPA represents many firms throughout California. An observation that I have is that major firms are creating community beyond their client base. These firms are using technology, as well as in-person events, to create community and facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and information to include more than just their clients. CalCPA, through its Education Foundation, provides its members and member firms with information and tools to also assist with improving business skills. The idea is to innovate and grow business by addressing and helping a broader community.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

IPA Spotlight On … Jim Proppe, Plante Moran

Name: Jim Proppe
Firm: Southfield, Mich.-based Plante Moran (FY16 net revenue of $480.7 million)
Title: Managing Partner-elect
Accomplishments:

  • Beginning July 1, will serve as the seventh MP in the firm’s 93-year history.
  • Served 13 years as Plante Moran Group MP, coordinating client service, growth, people development and risk management.
  • Assisted with the development and launch of several firm services, including Plante Moran Group Benefit Advisors, Enterprise Risk Management, Tax Solutions Group and ERP implementation services.
  • Helped launch firm offices in Shanghai, China, Monterrey, Mexico, and Mumbai, India.
  • Led the design of Plante Moran’s partner performance management process.

Your term starts July 1 – what work are you doing now to transition into the role?

Jim Proppe

Jim Proppe

After being elected as managing partner, my focus was on selecting our next management team. I wanted to surround myself with people who have a skill set that is complementary to mine and will bring strong diversity of thought. The six partners selected will begin their appointments July 1 when my term begins. A big part of preparing for my role is to help the new management team transition into theirs: preparing them to take on new responsibilities and transitioning their previous roles to their successors. This transition has created a lot of great opportunities for people across the firm – it’s a really exciting time.

You’ve said that you plan to place a strong focus on anticipating client needs – how can Plante Moran solve clients’ problems before they even know they have them?

We have deep knowledge in a variety of industries and services. Our staff can leverage that knowledge by collaborating and identifying disruptors in one industry that will eventually impact others. For example, the driverless car will impact more than the automotive industry. It will also impact retail auto dealers (what is the impact on vehicle sales?), design and construction of real estate (how much parking will you need?), insurance companies (will they have fewer claims?), local government (what changes in infrastructure will be required?) and the list goes on. Many times business owners aren’t aware of disruptors in other industries that could significantly impact their business. We help our clients stay in front of these issues.

What kinds of opportunities are available to the firm through technology?

Advancement in technology –  things like machine learning and data analytics – will significantly change our profession and create new opportunities to serve clients. We’re already working with clients to find better ways to analyze and use their data to develop strategies around creating new products, services and/or business models. Plante Moran is built for change, and we feel we’re well positioned to lead in this area.

Which practice areas at Plante Moran are ripe for growth?

While I think the changing economy creates opportunities for growth in all the industries we serve, as the world becomes more technology-dependent, we’re seeing a lot of growth in our technology consulting practice, particularly in cybersecurity. Plante Moran Wealth Management also continues to experience significant growth as we have uniquely integrated investment advisory, trust, life insurance, estate planning, tax and family office services. Also, with a new administration, there could be significant changes in tax reform, regulations and how organizations do business internationally. We’re prepared to help clients navigate those changes and adjust their business strategies accordingly.

Gordon Krater called you a “natural leader,” do you agree? Which aspects of leadership don’t come so naturally to you?

I’ve had the good fortune to spend my entire career at Plante Moran. From training opportunities to formal mentoring initiatives to a robust career development program, the firm’s first priority has always been developing staff to become incredible client servers – and it’s hard not to develop some pretty strong leadership skills along the way. For me, I am a compulsive helper and one of the most challenging parts of leadership is realizing you can’t do it all by yourself – especially at a firm with the breadth and depth of Plante Moran. Fortunately, there’s always a pool of qualified partners and staff ready to lead.

Final thoughts?

As Plante Moran’s seventh managing partner, I look forward to guiding the firm’s client service, growth, people development, risk management and strategic direction – all with the goal of being a good steward and working to leave the firm better than I found it, just as Gordon did.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

MPs: Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success

Without the support of the partner group, MPs can’t move their firms forward. The realities of gaining consensus among hard-driving professionals with different working styles, skills and drivers can be more challenging than even the most insightful firm leader could anticipate. One MP says, “It’s like herding cats, and it’s very difficult to get all partners on the same page because not everybody has the same value proposition and not everyone is motivated by the same metrics.”

No MP owns a how-to guidebook on juggling the multiple – and sometimes competing – priorities demanding their attention every day. INSIDE Public Accounting, therefore, asked more than 70 MPs to offer anonymous insights on the frustrations, challenges, joys and rewards of the top job. In a 12-question survey, they offered unfiltered, candid insights. Here are responses to just two of the questions.

What are two of your biggest frustrations with the partner group?
Two themes – egos and complacency – immediately emerged from MP responses to this question. Some MPs say partners think their way is the only way. They fail to see the benefit of trying a different approach, close themselves off from other points of view, second-guess decisions (after failing to participate in the discussion), and stay in their comfort zone of client service without committing to professional development, marketing, timely billing and collections.

Download the full article.

 

IPA INSIDER: February 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of February. IPA Logo - with tag line

  1. IPA Spotlight On … James Hickey, Alliott Group
  2. Brown Edwards Acquires Dixon Hughes Goodman in Roanoke
  3. Elliott Davis Decosimo Admits Ten New Shareholders
  4. Frazier & Deeter Joins PKF International
  5. Armanino Admits Five Partners
  6. HCVT Admits Takahashi as Audit Partner
  7. UHY LLP Grows International Tax Practice with Merger
  8. Two North Carolina Firms Combine
  9. Chapter Closes in Novelist’s Suit Against Anchin
  10. Lutz and McDermott & Miller Join Forces

IPA Spotlight On … James Hickey, Alliott Group

Name: James Hickey
Association: Alliott Group
Title: Chief Executive Officer

Accomplishments:

James Hickey

James Hickey

  • CEO of Alliott Group since 2010 (joined Alliott Group 2008)
  • 20 years’ experience in the management of international associations/alliances of independent, owner-managed professional firms
  • Specialist in advising owner-managed accounting and law firms on how to grow their client business organically into new markets through developing reputation and visibility
  • Recruited 100+ professional services firms into two leading international associations over the last two decades

Alliott Group is an international association of law and accounting firms. What are some commonalities among member firms, even though they do different things?

Member firms share similar goals and challenges. As independent, mid-market firms, they are focused on growth and reaching their next level – this requires the knowledge to effectively develop and retain their business. Another common denominator is culture, specifically the emphasis on high levels of service, flexible, tailored solutions and entrepreneurial creativity. It is incredible to see how many partners within our member firms have big firm training and backgrounds. They exited those environments to set up or work at mid-market firms where they can be more involved in and accountable for their clients’ business success – they are all genuine “business owners” not “branch managers,” who are unable to have any real influence on their business.

Alliott Group was one of the first international groups to adopt an interdisciplinary approach – what advantages does that scope provide?

Having both sets of professionals available in key commercial hubs around the world is viewed as strategically important because tax, accountancy and legal services are the key services needed by organizations (or high-net-worth individuals) entering or operating in locations where the rules and requirements are different.  Although independent, Alliott Group members work together to provide an integrated service approach for the client. A multidisciplinary offering also makes our ‘product’ attractive to any firm considering membership. Firms are restricted to providing either legal or accountancy-related services in the majority of counties, so there is a need to refer work to a professional with a complementary skillset. Members of one profession also benefit from exchanging information and perspectives with the other – tax is one big area where the professions intersect, as are challenges inherent in firm management, staffing and marketing.   What are some of the most pressing needs of Alliott Group member firms?

Probably the biggest need of Alliott Group member firms is differentiation – it is often difficult to tell one mid-market firm from another as it is a hugely competitive market and firms often lack the “(wo)men, money and minutes” that are available to the larger firms to build brand awareness and communicate their competitive advantage to clients and professional talent. On reaching a certain stage in their development, mid-market firms can hit a wall – they need a greater depth of resources to reach their next level – that’s where we can help.

One of Alliott Group’s goals is to cultivate greater creativity and innovation among member firms. How does Alliott Group assist in that effort?

A combination of technology and personal meeting opportunities give our members a high degree of access to each other. The association includes a large number of inspiring leaders, including some who are firm founders. We facilitate the discussions that result in ideas being shared, problems being solved and creativity and innovation being sparked. We also have a growing ecosystem of strategic partners that includes consulting businesses, technology companies, publishers and niche service providers who all contribute insights that will help a firm to think and act differently and to be mindful of trends that are impacting the macro environment and in some cases disrupting the way business is done.

Any long-term growth goals for the association that you can share?

  • To ensure Alliott Group is among the ‘evoked set’ for mid-market professional services firms looking to remain independent but develop the enhanced reputation and visibility that will enable them retain, win and service clients in different geographic markets
  • To ensure Alliott Group’s membership is a viable, alternative option to Big 4 / Magic Circle type firms for companies and high net worth individuals involved in multi-market business
  • To increase the credibility of the worldwide alliance and the scope of member to member referral opportunities by closing all major geographic gaps by 2025

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

IPA INSIDER: January 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of January. IPA Logo - with tag line

  1. Plante Moran Announces New Firm Management Team
  2. Banda Named Leader of Government and Public Sector Advisory at CohnReznick
  3. IPA Spotlight On … Bruce Zicari
  4. Armanino Admits Five Partners
  5. Elliott Davis Decosimo Admits Ten New Shareholders
  6. Main Amundson Joins CLA, Expanding Western Presence
  7. GE’s Tax Staff Deal With PwC: The Start of a Trend?
  8. Geier Becomes MP and CEO of Sikich
  9. Langenhorst & Self-Merritt to Join Eide Bailly
  10. HA&W Changes Names to Aprio

Platt’s Perspective: The Q&A That Just Might Save Your Firm $1 Million This Year

Any partner who brings in a new, million-dollar client would be considered a superhero – and rightly so – but MPs could save just as much money by paying closer attention to an investment they’ve already made.

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Consider the phrase, “We have great people.” It’s a statement I’ve heard hundreds of times from MPs describing why their firms are successful. And it’s true. People are any firm’s most valuable asset. Research shows if firm leaders nurture that investment just as intentionally as any client relationship, the payoff can be huge.

And here’s the good news: fostering a more engaged and empowered work force through improved communication costs absolutely nothing. But preventing these valuable assets from walking out the door can save thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

RTR imageUp-and-coming staff want to know the higher purpose of the firm, how the business of accounting works and their role in the firm’s success. INSIDE Public Accounting, in conjunction with ConvergenceCoaching, surveyed more than 700 CPA firm professionals aged 21-40, and repeatedly, they asked to be more involved and informed. Learn more in our research report, “Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young CPA Professionals.”

The report revealed seven fundamental questions young professionals are asking. Providing the answers can help shift the culture at your firm, and reduce unwanted turnover caused by a lack of communication.

What does the firm expect from me? – New hires are typically thrown into the deep end of the pool and told to swim, but they would benefit from a list of priorities from the firm. How should they focus their time every day? Client work? Business development? Give them guidance, they’re starving for it.

What is the path to partnership? – Define the building blocks to partnership, put it in writing and talk about it. Not everyone wants to become a partner, but those who do are not getting a lot of information on what it takes to get there.

How did the current partners ‘make it’? – Put your partners in front of your people, perhaps in a lunch and learn session, and have them talk about how they reached the level of success they’re enjoying now. Capture success stories and tout them. Hearing directly from the partners makes a big impression and can do a lot to inspire young staff with ownership ambitions.

How do I make more money? – Very few firms clearly define what it takes to get a promotion. Don’t make it a mystery. Outline what is required in terms of client work, staff mentoring, business development, etc. Make it clear, understandable and achievable.

Where is the firm going and why is the firm choosing this path? – Do your staff members know why the firm exists? And by this I don’t mean creating a vision statement that no one can remember; it should be something you feel in your gut. Answer this question: Why do we come to work every day? Powerfully communicating that message is the biggest thing you can do to help your firm in the next five years. Share with staff who the firm clients are, what they mean to the firm, and the clients’ visions, dreams and aspirations.

Are we growing? – Staff want to know that they’re on a winning team. Firm leaders are notoriously close-mouthed about financials, but even high-level numbers, on revenue, growth and new business development, would help educate and keep your team focused on the next milestone.

Are we on track for success? – Professionals want to know if the firm is meeting its goals and whether their department is on track. Only about half of firms in IPA’s annual Survey and Analysis of Firms share financial data with everyone in the firm. I believe more transparency, with context, empowers team members to work together to help the firm achieve its goals.

Every MP knows that it costs far more to replace a staff member than to keep the rising stars who are already on board. Help staff feel part of a team that is driving toward the same goal. Young professionals have told us that they’re craving answers to these seven questions. Give it to them, and you just might see turnover drop, morale increase and profits rise.

INSIDE Public Accounting Again Partners with Association for Accounting Marketing; Nominations Open For 2017 Marketer of the Year

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) is proud to announce that it is sponsoring the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) Marketer of the Year Award for the fourth year, and is soliciting nominations during the month of January.

The award, presented annually at AAM’s Summit, recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exemplary performance in the field of accounting marketing. To be eligible, all nominees must have held a senior-level marketing position in an accounting firm for at least three years, although not necessarily at the same firm.MOY 2014_Final Image

“We’re proud to once again sponsor the Marketer of the Year award in 2017,” says INSIDE Public Accounting Publisher Kelly Platt. “IPA views the sponsorship as an extension of our long-standing commitment to the accounting profession. We’ve been recognizing ‘Best of the Best’ firms in the nation for more than 20 years, and it’s a pleasure to also recognize the dedicated and creative marketing professionals who help their firms succeed.”

Past Marketer of the Year award winners include Rhonda Maraziti of Princeton, N.J.-based Withum in 2016, Eric Majchrzak, of Tucson, Ariz.-based BeachFleischman in 2015, and Randy Mowat of Calgary, Alberta-based MNP in 2014.

Nominations should be submitted online by Jan. 31, 2017. Nominations are not anonymous, and self-nominations are welcome. Previous nominees are encouraged to re-apply.

Nominees will be judged on their strategic importance to their firm and their impact on helping the firm achieve its goals. Financial results, communication skills, execution of initiatives and leadership will also be considered. Nominees will be asked to fill out online applications by Feb. 21.

The Marketer of the Year Award will be presented at the Association for Accounting Marketing’s 2017 Summit, held in partnership with the AICPA’s ENGAGE conference, set for June 12-15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Please contact Christina Camara at moy@plattgroupllc.com with questions about the award. For information about the Association for Accounting Marketing and its annual summit, call AAM at (856) 439-0500 or visit the Summit website.

The Platt Group publishes the award-winning INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter and IPA Annual National Benchmarking Report. IPA provides thought leaders across the nation with practical ideas, benchmarking data and information to help firms succeed. To learn more about The Platt Group and IPA, please call (317) 733-1920 or visit www.insidepublicaccounting.com.

The Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) promotes excellence, and elevates the professional stature of marketing, business development and other practice growth professionals to the accounting profession, directly impacting members’ professional development and careers through education, networking and thought leadership. Founded in 1989, AAM has more than 700 members, comprised of marketing professionals, business developers, CPAs, consultants, service providers, educators and students. To learn more about AAM, please call (856) 380-6860 or visit www.accountingmarketing.org.