INSIDE Public Accounting Unveils The 2017 Pyramid Awards

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) announced that three 2017 Best of the Best Accounting Firms were recognized with Pyramid Awards this year at the seventh annual PRIME Symposium, Nov. 7-9, in Indianapolis.

The award recipients this year were: Moore Colson of Atlanta, Pasadena, Calif.-based KROST CPAs and Consultants and San Ramon, Calif.-based Armanino LLP.

Moore Colson was the recipient of IPA’s “Pyramid of Excellence” award. This high-performing firm ranked No. 1 among the elite 50 Best of the Best Firms selected by IPA. The rankings are based on data from the 27th annual IPA Survey and Analysis of Firms, which covers finances and operations in dozens of areas. This $21.7 million firm, with 16 partners and 83 staff, has been named a Best of the Best firm nine times, the last five consecutively. Moore Colson was one of the Fastest-Growing Best of the Best firms this year.

KROST CPAs and Consultants, once again, received the IPA Best of the Best “Fastest-Growing Pyramid Award.” With a 25.0% growth rate, this firm has demonstrated impressive results with no mergers to enhance that number. This is KROST’s second consecutive year as an IPA Best of the Best firm and Fastest-Growing firm, as the firm posted an extraordinary 66.3% organic growth rate in 2016. The $25.6 million firm ranked No. 137 on the IPA 200 list.

Armanino LLP received the IPA Best of the Best “Pyramid Award.” The $195 million firm, ranked No. 24 on the IPA 100 list, first appeared as a Best of the Best firm in 2001. Since then, IPA has named Armanino a Best of the Best firm 16 times, seven consecutively. Armanino sustains financial and operational excellence year after year.

View a complete listing of the 2017 IPA Best of the Best.

Subscribe to the INSIDE Public Accounting Newsletter.

Order the 2017 Benchmarking Report.

2017 IPA Best of the Best Firm Profile: Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt

Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt (HCVT) has been named an IPA Best of the Best firm for 13 years in a row. It also jumped five spots up the IPA 100 list this year, with 15% growth, and is now ranked the 31st largest accounting firm in the nation. INSIDE Public Accounting asked MP Phil Holthouse to offer his insights into his firm’s success, growth goals, top clients and predictions on how the accounting profession may change over the next 10 years. Congratulations to the entire HCVT team.


To what do you attribute 13 consecutive years on IPA’s Best of the Best list?

We are committed to providing our clients with technical excellence and a client first attitude. When Jim Carlin, John Van Trigt and I came together 26 years ago, we wanted to create a firm that was different for our clients and employees – a firm based on technical excellence, and a business model built on partner access and accountability, where the focus is on needs of the client. I think we have achieved that goal, among many others, but we always remain a work in process.

Tell us about the types of services you provide to your top three clients.

We provide comprehensive tax services to our top three clients that are complex global organizations with sophisticated structuring, planning and reporting needs.

What are your growth goals for the next five years? 

We expect that our organic growth will continue and we will continue to pursue opportunistic lateral hires. Growth for HCVT is all about adding the right clients with needs that are aligned with our services and areas of specialization.

Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP

What type of client is an ideal fit for your firm?

Ideal clients are businesses and high-net-worth individuals with complex issues that will benefit from the depth of our services, private businesses that require assurance services in specific industries and practice specialization, and individuals and organizations that are not looking for a low-cost provider. Tax services represent our largest service line. HCVT’s tax professionals assist our clients to navigate the challenges and risks associated with the complex and often overwhelming tax environment by providing innovative and fact-based solutions customized to their specific needs. Whether the need is a federal, state and local, international or estate and trust tax issues, our team has the experience and technical skills to help provide the right answers and strategies.

Can you predict how accounting firm services will change over the next 10 years?

Data analytics, automation and the leveraging of technology will change how we deliver our services. Odds are that government taxes and regulations will not ease, will remain messy and will not simplify our lives. Pricing pressure for tax compliance and audit services will not lessen. Societal and generational forces will prompt (or accelerate) changes in how we communicate, where we work and how we work, e.g., AI, blockchain.

IPA INSIDER: October 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of October.

  1. INSIDE Public Accounting Recognizes Firms With the Highest Percentage of Females in the Partnership Ranks
  2. The 2017 Most Admired Peers
  3. 2017 IPA 100 Fastest-Growing Firm Profile: Cohen & Company
  4. 2017 IPA 100 Fastest-Growing Firm Profile: Bennett Thrasher
  5. IPA Spotlight On … Annie Yoder
  6. Cohen & Company and Arthur Bell Investment Industry Merge
  7. Sax Acquires Hunter Group CPA
  8. Former MP of Hawaii Firm Receives 20-Year Prison Sentence
  9. Citrin Cooperman Expands Automotive Practice with the Joining of Kera & Company
  10. Bowman & Company Acquires The James Company

2017 IPA 100 Fastest-Growing Firm Profile: Prager Metis

Ranked No. 86 last year, New York-based Prager Metis jumped 18 spots up the IPA 100 list this year due to an impressive organic growth rate of 16%. INSIDE Public Accounting asked MPs Glenn Friedman and David Neste to offer insights into the firm’s success, growth goals, top clients and predictions on how the accounting profession may change over the next 10 years. Congratulations to the entire Prager Metis team.


To what do you attribute your ability to grow the firm so significantly?

Prager Metis has put a lot of time and resources into developing our vision and our strategic planning. We pride ourselves in our whole team effort and cohesiveness. Our ability to attract talented staff has helped the firm grow. Our growth and reputation for quality attracts more opportunities as well as the desire of smaller local and regional firms to want to join us.

Tell us about the types of services you provide to your top three clients.

Business management services, private wealth services, assurance services. We help create and implement proactive strategies that support clients and their assets around the world.

What are your growth goals for the next five years?

Our goal is a continuation of 20%+ year-over-year growth.

What type of client is an ideal fit for your firm?  

We service individuals and corporate clients of all sizes and industries. However, our ideal client would be a small to mid-market firm needing full services of tax, assurance and advisory.

Can you predict how accounting firm services will change over the next 10 years?

Advice will rule as compliance will become more and more automated.

2017 IPA 100 Fastest-Growing Firm Profile: Bennett Thrasher

With impressive organic growth of 14.5%, Bennett Thrasher of Atlanta jumped five spots up the IPA 100 list this year to reach No. 83, and is one of the fastest-growing firms among the largest accounting firms in the nation.

INSIDE Public Accounting asked MP Jeffrey Eischeid to offer his insights into his firm’s success, growth goals, top clients and predictions on how the accounting profession may change over the next 10 years. Congratulations to the entire Bennett Thrasher team.

To what do you attribute your ability to grow the firm so significantly?

Bennett Thrasher continues to grow through our investment in talent and new services offerings that deliver value to our clients. We embrace a culture of collaboration and commitment to client service and place a high value on our core values of integrity, family and clients. We constantly seek ways to innovate our benefits to attract and retain our professionals. By continuing to build and maintain our strong “people first” culture, our firm is able to attract great associates and clients.

Tell us about the types of services you provide to your top three clients.

In addition to traditional tax and assurance services, Bennett Thrasher offers a variety of specialty services such as international tax, transfer pricing, dispute resolution and forensics, transaction advisory, risk advisory, technology, wealth management and other consulting services. Our top clients are full-service assurance and tax clients that also use a mix of these specialty services.

What are your growth goals for the next five years?

Bennett Thrasher has a unique market approach that is led by our cross-functional industry segment teams. Each of those industry segment teams expects to continue their double-digit compound growth for the next five years.

What type of client is an ideal fit for your firm?

Ideal clients for Bennett Thrasher are middle market, privately held businesses that have complex business needs as well as the families or funds that own them.

Can you predict how accounting firm services will change over the next 10 years?

Accounting firms must continue to embrace technology. Firms need to understand how technology will impact our traditional compliance services as well as how technology will enable us to deliver value to our clients by helping them achieve success in accomplishing their objectives.

IPA Spotlight On … Annie Yoder

Name: Annie Yoder

Annie Yoder

Annie Yoder

Title: Principal, Director of Development

Firm: New Philadelphia, Ohio-based Rea & Associates (FY16 net revenue of $40.6 million)


  • Expert in risk assessment, occupational fraud and internal controls
  • Spotlight Awards Recipient, The Richard Rea Award for Service to the Client, 2013
  • National Academy of Public Accounting Professionals, Top 10 Rising Stars, 2015
  • Graduate of Rea’s NextGen Leadership Program, 2015

Why did the firm feel it was time to create a dedicated development director position?

Rea & Associates has always been and continues to be committed to the development of our people. The Rea Advantage, our firm’s strategic plan, consists of four primary cornerstones – people, clients, growth and firm. The first one, and arguably the most important one, is our “people” cornerstone. In creating these cornerstones, we really took the time to analyze our existing practices and refocus some of our priorities. The development director position is a direct result of this process. In creating this position, Rea is demonstrating its commitment to the ongoing professional success of our current and future employees. I hope to facilitate this continued success by streamlining the entire employee development cycle – recruiting, performance management, learning and development, and beyond.

IPA data shows that 59% of firms nationwide do not even have a written succession plan in place. How has Rea managed to overcome some of the common obstacles firms face in implementing succession plans?

Our shareholder group, and especially our CEO Don McIntosh, has made it a priority to have a written succession plan in place. Our business is centered on our people and the services our people provide to our clients. People change, they retire, they leave… we may not have a crystal ball but by having a written, up-to-date succession plan in place that addresses the need to develop and raise up the firm’s leaders, we can prepare the best we can for the future. After all, if we’re truly serious about growing and building a firm that will have a lasting impact our people, clients and community, then writing up and maintaining a succession plan must be an essential part of this strategy.

You will continue to serve clients as a CPA. How does being a practitioner help you in your new responsibilities developing leaders within the firm?

Continuing to service our clients and work directly with our teams gives me a unique perspective – one that will allow me to address some of the real challenges our practitioners face in the field every day. For our employee development program to work, our programs and initiatives must align with what is really happening in the field. What challenges are our clients facing and how can we best provide our team with the knowledge and skills they need to address those challenges? By providing our team with access to relevant resources and opportunities, they become more valuable to their clients and to the firm as a whole. As a practitioner, I will continue to see first-hand what those challenges are while gauging environmental changes and educational trends.

Talent wars are a reality for accounting firms today. How has Rea positioned itself not only to recruit top talent but to keep them happy and rewarded at the firm?

We’ve really tried to focus on the entire employee experience – from recruitment to retirement. Our internship program is a great example of this holistic approach. An internship at a CPA firm probably conjures up images of never-ending 1040 work. Not at Rea – we want them to be introduced to different elements of the industry. Then, when an employee joins the firm, they have opportunities to pursue practices or specialty services that truly excite them. I am committed to providing our team with the tools they need to be successful. In my experience, leadership and professional development programs coupled with self-accountability is truly the key to recruiting and retaining top talent.

Final thoughts?

Being able to align what I love and where I believe I have the most impact is extremely fulfilling. I’m thankful the firm has been willing to invest in this position and I am proud to have been entrusted with this vital responsibility.

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

INSIDE Public Accounting Recognizes Firms With the Highest Percentage of Females in the Partnership Ranks

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) has recognized 30 firms – 10 each in the IPA 100, 200 and 300 – that have the highest percentages of female owners among the largest accounting firms in the nation. These firms have made development, advancement and retention of women a priority. The percentages range from 27% female partners to a high of 71%.

The ranking was developed after studying more than 550 responses comprised in the 28th Annual National Benchmarking Report. The honor is noteworthy, as the profession has long struggled with increasing the number of women in its partnership ranks, despite the fact that more than half of the accounting labor pool is made up of women.

The percentage of female owners this reporting year is at 18.9%, up slightly from 17.5% in 2016. But among firms above $50 million, the average is 15.9%, a small percentage increase from 2016 at 15.7%.

“Investing in women pays off,” says Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting. “Not only are these firms doing a good job of developing future leaders, they are also building a partnership group that is more reflective of the clients they are serving. And with the intense battle for top talent, combined with an exodus of retiring partners, firm leaders cannot afford to make anything less than a concerted financial and cultural commitment to bringing more women into the partnership ranks.”

IPA extends its congratulations to the firms for making the development, advancement and retention of women a priority. View the full list and details in an excerpted copy of the IPA October Newsletter.

IPA INSIDER: September 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of September.

  1. Walthall CPAs and Rea & Associates to Merge
  2. INSIDE Public Accounting Unveils 2017 Best of the Best Accounting Firms
  3. INSIDE Public Accounting Releases Annual Ranking and Performance Metrics of the Nation’s Largest Public Accounting Firms
  4. Crowe Horwath Acquires Rowbotham International
  5. Moss Adams + Hein: A Strategy for Success in the West
  6. 2017 IPA 100 Firm Profile: Brown Edwards & Co.
  7. HoganTaylor Acquires JPMS Cox
  8. Eide Bailly Acquires Hawkins Advisors
  9. Deloitte Targeted by Cyberattack
  10. PCAOB Flags Increased Number of Audits at Crowe Horwath

Building a Successful Membership Association: Part Two

The following is a continuation of Building a Successful Membership Association: Part One

Steven E. Sacks

Assessing the Landscape

It goes without saying that knowing the competition will drive the direction of the strategies. This research can identify current service and industry gaps and membership demographics to frame out a definition of the association (e.g., advocacy, regulation, philanthropy, etc.).

While an association may not currently be equipped to serve the diverse needs of its firms in a global marketplace, it can choose to nibble away at this as a strategic objective over time through recruitment, training and education and talent acquisition. The result? An association can make the claim it is the natural alternative to a Big 4 firm: same breadth and depth of skills and knowledge.

Gone are the days of push marketing and selling what associations want their members to have (or think they need). Associations need to continuously know how to respond to members who ask “What’s in it for me?” or “Am I getting value from what it costs me?”

No association has members who value the same things. It’s just like staff in a CPA firm. For instance, younger recruits may voice concern about the lack of social media or the encouragement to get involved in business development opportunities. Associations need to spearhead the effort of managing change. Tone from the top is an overused term, but an underemployed approach.

For the more seasoned professionals, an association cannot simply argue that networking is its greatest contribution if there is a lack of cooperation and participation.

Monitor and Measure

Once values are identified, they must be communicated clearly. This not only helps to recruit new members, but retain existing members. Ultimately, an association’s members should be its advocates when it reaches out to prospects and positions its organization as unique.

Metrics are an important part of any membership recruitment and retention strategy. Methods are needed to track recruitment processes, stages of engagement and how (and when) members make the decision to commit.

Other measures include website traffic, social media engagement, click-through rates on e-newsletters, event attendance, etc. This information, evaluated during different times of the year relative to the types of content and communication the association employs, will offer insight into what’s working and what’s not in the way of membership recruitment – not to mention member participation.

Getting and Keeping Members

Getting new members is relatively easy when compared with retaining them. Once you’ve proved your success at recruiting new members, the hard part is proving the value proposition. Find a way to make it a habit for members to renew.

Current members are just as important, if not more so, than the prospects. Once you have them interested and hooked and they’ve paid their dues, then execute on your promises. Show them that what they signed up for is legitimate and real. Prove the association is true to its word about being the best cultural fit for them. Interact with members on a regular basis, through group events, discussion boards and conference calls. Just as important, determine how to convey appreciation to your members. This will ultimately lead to happy(ier) members.

Of course, you need to give members an opportunity to provide feedback. Having a finger on the pulse of member attitudes is vital to a smooth-running and relevant association. This can be achieved through the use of member surveys to collect quantifiable and qualifiable data. It is important that the surveys be well defined and easy and relatively quick to complete. This is an easy way to uncover why firms are affiliated and whether there are warning signs that departures are imminent. Conduct regular surveys that allow for observations and constructive advice to the leadership and the board. You may not like what you hear, but you ignore it at your peril.

The one constant in membership organizations is the question: “What have you done for me lately?” This should be answered in a compelling fashion.

Effectiveness Through Two-Way Communication

Understanding why a member firm is affiliated and what it deems a priority creates a clear connection about where the value exists. This connection includes not just relevant collateral and resources but a communication channel to the individual(s) who can help a member firm expand its market. One way to collect this business intelligence is through face-to-face visits with member firms, and where it is not practical, regular conference calls with key firm representatives.

If your association is decentralized, each region’s executive committees should conduct regularly scheduled conference calls to ascertain what is going on in their respective markets. Talent acquisition and retention, succession plans and compensation issues are among the frequently visited topics. These calls also serve as a platform to voice any concerns regarding regional operations and any desire for additional initiatives.

Beyond Local to the Global

Accounting firms are finding it more important to look beyond their local economic base toward the global marketplace as their clients’ operations and customers are increasingly expanding into other countries. This trend has been evident over the last decade or more, and efforts must continue to target worldwide growth as not only a mission but a strategic priority. This enables an association to increase its global reputation and ability to deliver high-quality specialized and value-added services in a variety of industry sectors.

Clear and Consistent Messaging and Strategy

Having a global philosophy or message will go a long way toward building a vision and mission. This will also involve a set of values from which strategies can be identified and implemented. Why have values? Values are what binds an organization, keeps it focused and enables it to achieve success. But values are like strategic plans: simply placing a binder on the book shelf obviates the need to go through what is typically an onerous, yet important, exercise. I’m sure firms lament lost opportunities (e.g. billable hours) from off-site strategic retreats. It’s all in the attitude taken.

Once all these elements are in place and operating well, an association can effectively and aggressively pursue firms whose operations, image and track record will create synergies with member firms on both the national and international levels.

Bottom Line

The Achilles heel of any association is complacency. Members expect a return on their invested dollars and that initiatives taken are consistent with the overall vision of the association. Professional development and advancement, networking and business referrals are but a few of the reasons individuals and firms want to be part of a professional association.

A what’s-in-it-for-me curiosity can easily be answered by employing the appropriate methods and programs. My thinking has always been that it’s more important to do the right things than to do things right.

The result? A viable, relevant association with happy members who are committed to its long-term success.

Catch up on Building a Successful Membership Association: Part One.

About the author:

Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC is CEO and founder of Solutions to Results LLC. His firm assists professional service firms and organizations to solve the challenges of human capital development and culture, and develop effective internal and external communication strategies and techniques. He has been at the forefront of the accounting profession for nearly 30 years, serving professional service firms and membership associations through the deliverance of leading-edge conferences, presenting to colleges and universities on careers in accounting, and creating workshops, webinars and webcasts on a variety of accounting and consulting topics.

INSIDE Public Accounting Releases The 2017 Accounting Firm Internal Operational Reports

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) has released their sixth annual Internal Operational Reports, comprised of the Firm Administration Report, the Human Resources Report and the Information Technology Report. This release coincides with the release of IPA’s 2017 National Benchmarking Report.

These internal operational reports examine further the operations and best practices of hundreds of accounting firms across North America, offering information on compensation, business incentives, bonuses, turnover, recruiting, partner compensation, technologies used and dozens of other topics and metrics – broken out by revenue bands and regions of the country.

The IPA Internal Operational Reports are used by managing partners, firm leaders, marketers, attorneys, firm administrators and business development directors to compare their firm’s performance against others, and to uncover trends, ideas and techniques to improve operations.

Key highlights from the 2017 INSIDE Public Accounting Firm Administration Report:

  • Training directors are now employed by 23% of all firms. In firms above $30 million, that number jumps to 54%.
  • Firms above $30 million are employing more social media staff this year, with 48% of firms of this size reporting they have someone dedicated to this area. Overall, 19% of all firms have social media staff, up from 16% last year. The average salary of a social media staff member is $60,579.
  • Sixty-seven percent of firms charge interest on overdue accounts receivables, with the average charging 1.3% monthly.
  • One in 15 firms report outsourcing some portion of tax return processing work, with the majority of those coming from firms greater than $30 million in revenue.
  • Firms acknowledge that they want staff looking for new business opportunities, whether it comes in the form of new clients or additional services to existing clients. Sixty percent of firms offer incentives for bringing in new clients for 0- to 2-year staff and 3- to 5-year staff. More than half the firms offer these incentives for all experience levels.

Key highlights from the 2017 INSIDE Public Accounting Human Resources Report:

  • Professional staff turnover declined this year, to 12.4% nationwide from 13.9% for the 2016 reporting year.
  • Professional staff have an average tenure of 6.6 years, about 100 days longer than in 2016, and roughly one year longer than a decade ago. Over the last decade, the tenure of professional staff employed at the largest firms, those over $75 million, trailed the all-firm average by as little as six months in 2007 to as much as 1.4 years in 2011. At that time, the average tenure was 4.5 years for professional staff at firm of over $75 million.
  • Nearly 50% of firms offer telecommuting options to all staff and 28% offer it to professional staff only.
  • Seventy-seven percent of firms offer flexible work schedules to all staff, while 16% limit this benefit to professional staff only.
  • Just one in six firms report they have a diversity recruiting program. One in three firms above $50 million report a diversity program in place.
  • Seventy-eight percent of all participating firms indicate they have a mentoring program in place. Twenty-six percent of firms offer outside mentor / life coach to staff members. Only one in nine firms rate the effectiveness of their mentoring program as “excellent.” Four percent rate their program as fair or poor.

Key highlights from the 2017 INSIDE Public Accounting Information Technology Report:

  • Sixty-seven percent of participating firms have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) plan for cell phones, with nearly 14% implementing within the last year. This increase is mostly seen in firms below $20 million and those in the $30 million to $75 million revenue band.
  • IT maintenance of applications is easier when using the cloud, according to 74% of respondents.
  • Cloud-based applications are being used more frequently across the board, and continue to be dominated by research (81% of firms), client portals (75%) and payroll (54%).
  • Only 30% of all participating firms have instituted a formal procedure to ensure information technology projects / issues are effectively managed

For additional insight into the results of the 2017 IPA Internal Operational Reports, access complimentary copies of the executive summaries.