Gantz Named AAM’s 2018 Marketer of the Year

Nicole Gantz

Nicole Gantz

Nicole Gantz, marketing partner at Dubuque, Iowa-based Honkamp Krueger & Co., has received the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) 2018 Marketer of the Year award, sponsored by INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA).

The winner was announced by IPA May 16 at AAM’s 2018 Summit in Portland, Ore.

Gantz leads strategic marketing, communications and client experience initiatives while also offering marketing consulting services to other CPA firms and businesses. Honkamp Krueger (HK), the largest Iowa-based CPA firm, is ranked No. 60 on the 2017 IPA 100 list of largest accounting firms in the country.

HK President and CEO Gregory Burbach praised Gantz’ vast experience and “ahead-of-the-curve” approach to social media, website upgrades, development of a client patronage app and a new marketing automation program.

The client patronage app, which received national attention, allows the firm’s 500 employees to purposefully shop at firm clients, find locations, get driving directions, submit spending amounts and win prizes. The app, which has tracked $14.2 million in spending and almost 57,000 receipts submitted since its launch in 2014, increases client retention and referrals, and attracts new clients who want to be part of the program. The marketing automation tool, Pardot, was implemented early last year, and in nine months produced 58 qualified leads to business developers, which resulted in five new clients.

“Nicole and her team are that nice balance of being creative and innovative, but not so over the top that they forget the end goal or ROI and effectiveness I want to see in our marketing investment,” Burbach says. “We believe so much in her that she became our first marketing partner Jan. 1, 2018.”

Gantz, who calls the recognition the “honor of a lifetime,” thanks IPA, AAM, her firm leaders and the talented accounting firm marketers from whom she has learned so much. “With the support and leadership of Greg Burbach and our business development partner, Ryan Hauber, Honkamp Krueger nurtures a strong marketing and growth culture. Our innovative and entrepreneurial partners are continuously supportive and value our talented marketing team’s efforts and role in our organization. Together, we have a deep passion for our clients’ successes, and I feel lucky to play a small part in that.”

Art Kuesel, president of the Kuesel Consulting, says, “It’s hard enough to earn a partner spot at a firm when you directly generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in billable time – but when you can earn that position via a combination of direct measurable contributions and indirect hard-to-measure contributions, you’ve truly achieved something special. And HK has someone very special in Nicole.”

Gantz also serves as director and marketing consultant for the HK Alliance, made up of nearly 30 member CPA firms that are wealth management affiliates of Honkamp Krueger Financial Services. She’s heavily involved in HK’s accounting association, CPAmerica International, and serves as a board member and volunteer for eight nonprofit organizations around Dubuque.

This is the fifth year that IPA has sponsored the Marketer of the Year award. A panel of independent judges, themselves leaders in the profession, were selected by IPA to review and score each of the nominees.

IPA Spotlight On … Jill Boyle, Sikich

Name: Jill Boyle

Title: Senior manager, not-for-profit tax

Firm: Sikich

Accomplishments:

Jill Boyle

Jill Boyle

  • Named to the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 2018 “40 Under 40” list.
  • Serves as a leader in Sikich’s not-for-profit tax practice.
  • Co-founded Momentum Milwaukee, a networking community for emerging women leaders.
  • Named a finalist for BizTimes Milwaukee’s 2016 Nonprofit Excellence Awards.

You’ve said you believe in blending your passion for volunteering around Milwaukee with your career specializing in nonprofits. Why is that so important to you and how does this weave into your practice and leadership?

Volunteering has always been an important part of my life, and when I moved to Milwaukee, I wanted to dive right in and do my part to make the city a better place. I did that by joining organizations such as Running Rebels, the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin Family Services and Momentum Milwaukee. At the same time, I have a passion for helping not-for-profit organizations with tax planning and compliance. My volunteer work provides me valuable exposure to the operations of not-for-profit organizations that allows me to bring added insight to my client engagements.

What are you most proud of relating to how you’ve served as a resource to client(s)? Share an example.

I am passionate about educating my not-for-profit clients on important accounting rules and regulations that may seem arcane and overwhelming to them. For example, I frequently guide clients on how to not only properly complete their Form 990s, but how to do it in a way that tells a positive story about their organizations. It is rewarding when I educate one board member, and that leads to additional follow-up meetings with other board members and committees. There’s a desire for financial knowledge at these organizations, and I’m happy to draw on my experience to meet that need.

Can you offer any solid advice for young professionals on ways to develop leadership skills early on in their career? What can they do?

Meet people by being proactive. It’s important to build a professional network so you can learn from others, and grow personally and professionally. Volunteering with local not-for-profit organizations is a great way to not only give back to the community but also expand your network and build additional leadership skills. Also, seek opportunities to join senior members of your organization at professional development and networking events. Often, senior managers don’t invite younger members of their teams to these events because they simply don’t think about it. So, young professionals should be assertive and ask to attend these events, when appropriate.

When you look ahead 10 years from now, how do you see the profession changing / morphing?

Technology is rapidly transforming the accounting profession. As it does, much of the compliance work we do today will likely be automated. This presents a challenge and opportunity for CPAs. We will need to become even better consultants as we guide clients on tax planning and strategy. And as the behind-the-scenes compliance work goes away, younger accountants will need to step into these client-facing consulting roles earlier than they do today. This will present a great opportunity for ambitious CPAs to become innovative, forward-looking consultants for organizations.

Final thoughts?

Not-for-profit accounting is an exciting and challenging field, and CPAs offer great value to these vital organizations. Sikich has a robust not-for-profit practice, and I’m proud to come to work each day and help not-for-profit organizations overcome challenges and improve their tax strategies.

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

IPA INSIDER: April 2018 News

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

  1. EY Faces Sexual Harassment Complaint
  2. IPA Spotlight On … Daniel Young, Schenck
  3. Moss Adams Acquires Transacction Partners
  4. PwC Invests $45M in Wellness Perks and New Parents’ Benefits
  5. Client Experience Impacts Firm Growth
  6. Grant Thornton Exits U.K. Audit Market
  7. Marketers Prepare to Act as Change Agents for their Firms in 2018
  8. CLA Joins the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance
  9. Apple Growth Partners Opens New Ohio Office
  10. New White Paper Identifies Potential Blockchain Implications for Audit and Assurance

Platt’s Perspective: Diving Into The World Of Big Data

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Last month, the IPA leadership team took the opportunity to attend the four-day Gartner Data Analytics Summit in Dallas. Nearly 4,000 data engineers, data scientists, chief data officers and other dedicated analytics professionals gathered to discuss the latest trends in predictive analytics, Big Data, blockchain, business intelligence platforms and artificial intelligence.

With thousands of the smartest people in the field sharing best practices and success stories, we were overwhelmed with where the technology is going and excited about the amazing possibilities for the future.

Identifying, capturing, storing, analyzing and harvesting massive amounts of consumer data is the holy grail for most companies. The majority of attendees came from Fortune 500 companies with multi-million-dollar budgets dedicated to leveraging and customizing services and products to individual customers. (As an example, think about how Amazon or Netflix “suggest” your next purchase based on past behaviors.)

It’s not surprising that the accounting profession is far behind corporate America in taking advantage of available data and harnessing it to build the enterprise. The bigger takeaway for me is that so few firms even recognize what kinds of data they have, never mind its value and potential.

Most firms don’t have the resources to hire data analytics professionals and implement new technologies at the scale discussed at the Summit. A handful of firms can capitalize on some of these opportunities, and are making strides to do just that. But where does this leave the other firms? What should they be doing right now to get on the bandwagon?

Leaders can:

  • Acknowledge that this trend of micro-experiences [Amazon- and Netflix-type recommendations] for customers is not going away.
  • Recognize that Fortune 500 companies are targeting your clients using these data analytics efforts, which are shaping their view of how business is conducted.
  • Understand that you can access much of the same kind of customer data today – the challenge is how to harvest it.
  • Stay up to date on the latest in analytics, artificial or augmented intelligence, blockchain and other new technologies, and play out scenarios among your leadership team as to what you could do with the new technology once you have access to it. Better yet, bring in your younger leaders to take control of that discussion.
  • Embrace the idea that your knowledge of clients, their challenges and their opportunities can be used to create a lot of the unique-to-each-customer experiences that larger companies are trying to deliver. You have an advantage over companies like Amazon or Disney because you are much closer to your customers and you understand the nuances of what they are looking for. Make sure you maximize this advantage.

What was the biggest lesson garnered at the Gartner Summit? The accounting profession needs – once and for all – an ‘all-in’ mental shift. Firm activities should not be viewed as a series of transactions (“we do tax returns and audits each year”) but as part of a continuous, trusted relationship with clients. Through these connections, firms can uncover issues specific to each client and help find solutions, even if the answers lie outside the world of accounting. Then – and only then – can your firm deliver personalized services on par with what your best customers are already receiving from the Fortune 500 companies that are spending millions of dollars to serve them today.

IPA Spotlight On … Daniel Young, Schenck

Name: Daniel Young

Title: President

Firm: Appleton, Wis.-based Schenck (FY16 net revenue of $80.5 million)

Daniel Young

Accomplishments:

  • Managing shareholder of the Green Bay, Wis., office for 10 years before being elected president in 2018
  • Completed four three-year terms on Schenck’s board of directors and was named vice chair in 2015
  • Named director of industry teams in 2013, providing leadership and strategic direction for the firm’s nine industry teams
  • 2016 recipient of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Distinguished Alumni Award

With a few months under your belt as president, what’s the one thing that’s surprised you the most about the role? 

As a longtime Schenck board member, and with experience as board vice chair and partner-in-charge in the Green Bay office, I was aware of most opportunities within the firm and the direction we were going. I also knew the people in the firm, which is an advantage an external candidate wouldn’t have had. However, what I hadn’t given much thought to was how my day-to-day relationships would change as I transitioned most of the clients for which I had lead responsibility to other Schenck team members. While I miss the client interaction, I am finding it really rewarding to further grow relationships with our internal team. I look forward to meeting more clients in all our markets and hearing how we can continue to support their growth and success and deliver on our Schenck Way for client service.

You’ve said one of your goals is to work on people initiatives. How does the firm work to prepare the next generation of leaders?

Our firm has wildly important goals (WIGs) and one is to build team member expertise using the 70:20:10 model. This guides how people learn: 70% percent on the job, 20% in structured coaching and 10% in formal training. Each WIG contains leading activities that we measure to ensure we are achieving the goal. In addition, we listen to our people. We survey our team members to monitor internal engagement and identify areas of opportunity. We share what we’ve learned in local meetings and communicate action plans.

We also offer programs that support our team members. Our Total Rewards Guiding Principles help us make consistent decisions related to compensation, benefits and creating a life-friendly work environment. Schenck’s Growth & Development program helps team members create a career plan that allows them opportunities to build their skills.

What are your growth goals for Schenck, and do those goals involve organic growth, merging in smaller firms, or both? Any plans to expand beyond Wisconsin?

Our first WIG is about firm growth, and we’re looking to increase our organic growth by a certain percentage by Sept. 30, 2019. As with our other WIGs, we have battles and leading activities that are monitored using scorecards. Under our growth WIG, we have a goal related to targeted acquisitions, which helps us identify and pursue good targets. As far as plans, we’ve always intended to expand our reach, possibly in the Madison market within Wisconsin and the northern Illinois and Twin Cities markets outside the state.

When your first year is over, how will you measure your own success?

One of the things I was asked to do as president was to execute our firm-wide strategies. I will first look to the scorecards to see how well we’ve done. In addition, I have a detailed accountability plan that was created in conjunction with our board of directors. It provides a framework of support that allows me to focus on certain activities that help uphold the vision and strategy of the firm, and I will measure my success against that. When these are done well, success will be found in the value we bring our clients and the growth of team members that builds the future of the firm.

Final thoughts?

At Schenck, we’re committed to making a difference for our clients, people and communities. Our own growth has better positioned us to support our clients. We believe that doing things right and doing them well is what will create opportunities that drive success for our people, our clients, our communities and ultimately our firm. I’m excited to be on this journey and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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

IPA INSIDER: March 2018 News

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

  1. CohnReznick Names Duffany MP of Tax Practice
  2. Global Recruitment Trends
  3. IPA Spotlight On … Colin Farmer, Alliott Group
  4. Marketers Prepare to Act as Change Agents for their Firms in 2018
  5. New White Paper Identifies Potential Blockchain Implications for Audit and Assurance
  6. Marcum Launches Robotic Process Automation Service for Clients
  7. Deloitte Publishes Equity Partner Gender Earnings Gap
  8. Briggs & Veselka Expands Houston Tax Practice with Acquisition
  9. Client Experience Impacts Firm Growth
  10. Why Accenture Has the Most Blockchain Job Openings in the World

 

IPA Spotlight On … Leah Gonzales, MaloneBailey

Name: Leah Gonzales

Firm: Houston-based MaloneBailey

Title: Audit Partner

Accomplishments:

Leah Gonzales

Leah Gonzales

  • Over 20 years of public accounting experience
  • Member of MaloneBailey’s management team for almost 10 years
  • Promoted to audit partner in April 2017
  • Key leader in MaloneBailey’s quality control initiatives as well as its in-house training and mentor programs

I understand that you came to MaloneBailey in 2008 from a Big 4 firm. Was a better work-life balance part of the reason for the move?

Work-life balance was a factor. I spent years at PwC, but managing family and work became tough because of my constant traveling and working late hours. I thought about leaving public accounting for industry and its better hours, but knew public accounting was my passion. A friend of mine introduced me to MaloneBailey and its unique opportunity intrigued me. MaloneBailey’s challenging work environment is complemented by initiatives like flexible workplace options and a business casual environment, as well as providing support (i.e. training and mentorship) its employees need to reach their full potential.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that females make up more than half of all accountants and auditors in the U.S., but only 22% of partners. At MaloneBailey, 33.3% of partners are female. Why the difference?

I believe our higher than average female partner percentage can be attributed in part to work-life balance initiatives. Flexibility and public accounting are two things that don’t always go hand in hand. Joining the two in a thoughtful, constructive and effective way is advantageous to women. Having the option to work from home once a week or not travel as much is something that I truly appreciate. MaloneBailey has had a women’s initiative in the past, but we are working on reinvigorating it in a new way. More to come on this initiative so stay tuned.

What’s the best way to retain female accounting/auditing professionals at mid-career – a time when many seem to leave the workforce?

It’s important that we show the women and mothers in the workforce that they are valued and important. Often times, women with young children feel a draw to be home with their children instead of returning to work. However, if we create understanding and flexible workplace options, I believe women will have the opportunity to spend more time with their families and do the work they love. Finding that middle ground where women feel like they can have both a family and career at MaloneBailey is critical to retention and something we strive to do and improve each year.

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence, professional observers are predicting that the audit process may undergo radical change in the near future. What’s your view?

I believe AI can help auditors work through and process greater volumes of information at a much faster pace. While the use of AI will likely streamline the audit process, the auditor’s judgment and evaluation of the resulting data is still a critical aspect of the audit. MaloneBailey has always embraced the use of technology where it makes sense and we are excited to see how AI will impact the profession in the near future.

Final thoughts?

My advice to young women entering into the accounting field would be to have passion for the work you do. Once you have that and truly enjoy what you do, the long hours and challenging times will be a little easier. It may not necessarily feel like work. I’ve stayed so long in my career because I truly love what I do. What I’ve found in MaloneBailey is a firm that understands the importance of my family time and one that has worked hard to implement initiatives that allow me to do the work I love while having a family.

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

Platt’s Perspective: Don’t Like Disruption? ‘Expect An Earthquake Every Three Years’ Says McKinsey CEO

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Disciplined. Compliant. Orderly. Methodical. Those are the driving personality characteristics of most left-brained accountants that I know. Doing things the right way. Debits equal credits. There is a natural order to accounting, and that has tended to attract many similar-thinking people to the profession.

It also has created a profession filled with practitioners who are, at their core, fundamentally resistant to change. Any leader who has undertaken a change effort has encountered this group – not on board at best, actively resistant at worst. “Why do we need to change, everything has been going well so far, so why fool with success,” is the cry most often heard from the group.

In the past, shaking up the status quo even once a decade was a painful process for this group. Dominic Barton, CEO of global consulting giant McKinsey, recently told The Australian Financial Review in an interview that large companies will need to massively restructure to the point that they will “expect an earthquake every three years.”

With high partner compensation numbers, there’s a tangible lifestyle measurement at risk. After all, there have been calls for change before, the profession has made small, incremental adjustments to its trajectory, and “we’re doing just fine as we are, thank you.”

But this time it’s different. This time, the pace is lightning fast. The image that comes to mind is my own experience of skydiving for the first time. Door open, a white-knuckled grip on the doorframe, feet firmly on a small step. As the instructor encouraged me to “climb out,” I warily slid one hand on to the wing strut. “Keep going” the instructor urged…“Keep going – I’ll talk you through it.” As I finally lifted my feet off the step, the realization that I was no longer tethered to the safety of the plane, hit me. “LET GO!” the instructor bellowed, and I let go.

As I watched the plane fly away, my heart stopped for a moment until I heard the whoosh of a parachute opening above my head. And then silence. Beauty all around me. A feeling of genuine exhilaration. As I glided down to Earth, I felt an accomplishment and satisfaction. My final thought was “I jumped out of a plane and landed safely on the ground.”

For those leading the change, recognize that you are flying the plane filled with some white-knuckled staff and partners who are perfectly comfortable inside the safety of the plane. Never underestimate the significance of encouragement to get your group to sit in an open doorway with feet hanging out at 10,000 feet above the ground; to be the voice of “keep going,” “keep going,” “keep going.”

Understand how critical it is to them to hear your calm and confident instructions to “now LET GO!” As you talk them through their maiden flight and land them safely, they will gain the courage and the confidence to go back up in the plane again – if McKinsey is right – another three years from now as you continue to create an organization whose core competency is the ability to adapt to change.

IPA Spotlight On … Colin Farmer, Alliott Group

Name: Colin Farmer

Title: Worldwide Chairman

Association: Alliott Group

Accomplishments:

Colin Farmer

Colin Farmer

  • MP at Alliotts, founded in 1869, an independent mid-tier firm of Chartered Accountants with offices in London and Guildford, England.
  • Played significant role in helping to develop Alliott Group over the last 20 years from a relatively small and informal grouping of firms into a commercially focused alliance with a foothold in many of the world’s commercial centers.

Alliott Group is an association of more than 170 independent accounting and law firms. Do you foresee competition emerging between the two groups as the Big 4 expand in the U.K. and PwC opens a firm in Washington, D.C.?

From what I can see, the Big 4 are more focused on selectively picking off areas of law that complement their existing services. Areas that are vulnerable include inter alia and immigration, which sit tidily with expat tax work, and employment law, which ties in nicely with HR consulting, compliance, commercial contracts and due diligence. It’s not difficult to imagine the Big 4 starting to offer a one-stop shop service. Competition is healthy, and for clients it makes sense – they can deal with a single vendor, realize greater efficiencies and be more confident that ‘the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.’ Alliott Group has been a multidisciplinary alliance since 2004, so we are firm believers in the benefits clients can enjoy as a result of independent firms of accountants and lawyers working together closely – they are natural partners and able to meet the total needs of the client.

You’ve been involved in Alliott Group for over 20 years. How has the organization evolved?

Alliott Group has been through much change in 20 years – we are now in over 60 countries and have 25 member firms in North America alone. There is now a very solid membership core. There have been the inevitable growing pains that any expanding business goes through, but the end result is that we have become a commercially focused organization that is aligned with the needs of growing professional firms and their clients. Just as important is our success in retaining and developing an underlying group culture that emphasizes the importance to business of strong interpersonal relationships between professional people at all levels of the firm.

What are your plans for expanding geographically?

I always watch with interest as some international associations of independent firms bring in new member firms nearly every month. You have to wonder how rigorous the due diligence process is behind some of these appointments. Organic, sustainable growth is of greater interest to us. While one of our objectives is to have an accounting and law firm member presence in every U.S. state and in every major market worldwide, there has to be a strong business case for expansion. Specific regions we are targeting for further growth include North and South America and Africa. However, firms have to understand from the start what it means to be an Alliott Group member firm. We will continue to hand-pick member firms based on the needs of our member firms’ clients.

Are emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI and data analytics an opportunity or a threat for the accounting profession?

The efficiencies generated by new technologies present threats to specific service lines provided by accounting (and law) firms – however, they will disrupt all industries. Most of these technologies, however, are not quite there yet. Technologies based on predictive analytics are impressive, but we are still some years away from computers being smarter than specialist (human) accountants! New technologies are going to be at the center of accountancy and law services in the future. Accountants need to embrace these changes and collaborate with technology businesses so that they can connect with tomorrow’s business leaders and the next generation of digital native accountants. Firms need to work out now how they fit into tomorrow’s client world, what their competitive differentiator is, and dare I say it, how they will add value rather than provide traditional services that look set to be commoditized.

How do you see Alliott Group changing 20 years from now?

We are in an unprecedented era of change – the ground is shifting under our feet on so many levels, with technology changing business models, people and the way professional services are procured. We feel that our vision, strong leadership and strategic plan means that we are well equipped to thrive in a market sector with a clear need for greater efficiency and cost effectiveness. Alliances such as ours will continue to provide an alternative, attractive model for sourcing high-caliber advisory services. In our view, too many associations are living on past glories and failing to learn from what is happening in the wider business world. Alliott Group and our members need to be bold in their thinking and to embrace wider opportunities to collaborate. We plan to disrupt rather than be disrupted.

Doing Business in Europe? New Privacy Rules Go into Effect May 25

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which replaces the 1998 Data Protection Act, is a new series of privacy regulations that apply to anyone who stores or processes personal information of European Union citizens or residents, regardless of a company’s physical presence in Europe. An implementation deadline of May 25, 2018 has been set by the European Union, and North American firms who deal with clients overseas need to be in compliance or face hefty fines.

The GDPR defines personal information as anything that can be used to identify a person – an identification number, bank account number, or simply a name and email address. If personal data is involved in a data breach then the individual must be notified within 72 hours of discovery. Under the GDPR, individuals have other enhanced rights including:

  • The right to erasure, also known as the right to be forgotten. An individual has the right to request their data be deleted, including any backups or cloud storage.
  • The right to be informed. Firms are obligated to provide fair processing information, typically through a privacy notice, which is written in clear language rather than legal jargon.
  • The right to object. Individuals can object to the processing of their data and to direct marketing.

Organizations that process personal data must have a lawful basis for doing so. GDPR outlines six bases, including fulfilling a necessary contractual obligation for clients or obtaining explicit (rather than implied) consent. Firms must determine the lawful basis, and document it, before processing.

If one thing is clear about the GDPR, it’s that whatever you do, it must be documented. This documentation could be the duty of a Data Protection Officer (DPO), which organizations are required to appoint in some circumstances, such as when information is processed on a large scale. The DPO has responsibility for data protection compliance and is the first point of contact for any data protection activities. The GDPR allows for this position to be an existing employee, as long as there is no conflict of interest and the professional duties are compatible.

Questions your firm should be asking: 1) Is your privacy notice written clearly? 2) Do your processes uphold privacy by design? 3) Do you have a breach notification plan? 4) Do you engage a third party to process any personal data?

Those found in violation of the GDPR could be fined up to 4% of their annual revenue, or €20 million, whichever is greater. However, according to the European Commission, the most important aspect of the GDPR is that it allows for client trust and confidence that their sensitive personal information is being handled with appropriate care. Only 15% of people feel they have complete control over the information they provide online, the commission says.

Helpful resources: