IPA Spotlight On … Sheila Enriquez

Sheila Enriquez

Sheila Enriquez

Name: Sheila Enriquez

Title: Managing Shareholder-Elect

Firm: Houston-based Briggs & Veselka Co. (FY17 net revenue of $36.2 million)

Accomplishments:

  • Elected managing shareholder of Houston’s largest independent CPA firm and will assume the role from John Flatowicz on July 1.
  • Leads the firm’s forensic, valuation and litigation support services, and its consulting practices.
  • Named one of the “Women Who Mean Business 2017: Outstanding Leaders in Banking and Finance” by the Houston Business Journal. 
  • Serves on AICPA Governing Council and the Texas Society of CPAs Board of Directors.

The AICPA says that in 2016, only 2% of CPA partners were Asian/Pacific Islander. Also, according to IPA’s data from 2017, of all IPA 100 firms, no Asian/Pacific Islander was MP and only one held the top job outside the Big 4. Do you feel any special responsibility, as a first-generation American, to increase diversity within the profession?

In our firm, over 20% of shareholders are of Asian descent and we have professionals who speak 17 different languages. I am a first-generation immigrant, who came to the U.S. on a scholarship to pursue a college education, and have now lived in Houston for over a decade. According to census data, it is the most diverse city in America. The 2017 AICPA trends report says the pipeline of CPAs in 2016 reflect a greater percentage of non-whites, with 37% graduates and 41% enrollees in undergraduate programs. This increasing pipeline is encouraging, and I am very passionate about promoting the CPA profession and increasing its visibility to students below college. I believe this will naturally increase the diversity within the profession.

You said you’d like Briggs & Veselka to become a top 50 firm in the nation. How do you plan to achieve this goal, through acquisitions, organic growth or both?

The short answer is “all of the above.” We are committed to remaining a legacy firm, which means we will remain independent. We understand that this requires investment in people, processes and technology, which we are ready, willing and able to do. Our organic growth will be focused in strengthening our core services of tax and audit, while thoughtfully expanding into related advisory services to provide better value to our clients and opportunities for our staff. Acquisitions are also part of our growth strategy, and we will continue to look for the right fit for acquisitions in new or expanded niche services and/or geographic markets in the region.

How do you envision the audit of the future at your firm?

One thing my firm is good at is embracing innovation. In fact, we have a firm-wide Technology and Innovation Committee made up of partners, managers and administrative staff that keeps a pulse on new technology and innovation, and makes recommendations and implements new solutions. In audit, we are transforming how we deliver our services, supported by the adoption of new software to better access client data, and building data analytics into our work programs. The buzzwords in the profession are AI, robotics and RPA, and we are actively exploring the best ways to implement these to make our audits more efficient and effective, and allow our audit staff to focus on more value-added activities for our clients.

Which areas of advisory services at the firm are ripe for expansion?

We’re basically integrating consulting in all aspects of our traditional core services, such as SALT, international tax and tax provision services in our tax group, and internal audit, outsourced accounting, pre-audit and technical implementation of new accounting standards consulting in our audit group. We are also building specific consulting niches, such as forensics, valuation, litigation support, transaction advisory services and IT consulting. IT consulting is an area of growth given the cybersecurity risks our clients are facing, and the opportunities for process improvement. While the skills to deliver these advisory services emanate from our core competencies, we believe that pivoting these skills to the new economy are vital to creating value and relevancy with our clients. At the same time, we are creating new opportunities for our people to expand their scope and career trajectories.

Final thoughts?

I’m honored to assume the leadership of a firm that has created such a market presence in Texas, and I am committed to being a good steward to continue its success. Our firm has grown throughout our 45-year history, thanks to the leadership of Johnny Veselka, our founding shareholder, who led the firm in its first 37 years, and followed by John Flatowicz, who grew the firm three-fold during his tenure. Both of them epitomize our core values of excellence, dedication and compassion. I have been blessed to have John as a mentor during my 11+ years at the firm, and I’m blessed that he will help guide and shape our future.

IPA Spotlight On … Jennifer Briggs, Indiana CPA Society

Name: Jennifer B. Briggs

Jennifer B. Briggs

Jennifer B. Briggs

Title: President and CEO

Association: Indiana CPA Society

Accomplishments:

  • 25 years of association management experience, with state and national organizations and at an association management and lobbying firm
  • Chair of Interchange 2018, a conference for the AICPA and State CPA Societies and one of my all-time favorite educational events
  • Not my accomplishment, but a team accomplishment this year was managing the launch of a new logo and improved website, all while preparing to move our office this summer and developing two new leadership programs.

As only the fifth CEO in the Indiana CPA Society’s 103-year history who replaced a 33-year veteran, do you feel a special responsibility in taking on the top job?

Absolutely! It’s a great privilege to work in an organization with a long history, and it involves a balancing act of honoring the past, delivering value in the present and leading the organization to the best possible future. My predecessors were all with the Society for a long time and developed extensive relationships. Having already been here for 16 years I feel fortunate to continue that tradition and am grateful for the many members I’ve known who have helped inspire my work over the years.

You’ve held numerous positions at the society, beginning in 2002 as a special projects manager. Has the variety of experiences within the society helped you in preparing for your new role as CEO?

No question. Having served in membership, communications and professional development positions here, I have a broad view of the Society and a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges the leaders in those areas face. Having said that, I tend to be the type of person who is very open to new things, so I try not to rely on past experience – even here at the Society – as a gauge for what will work in the future, it’s simply nice to have reference points.

Progressive leaders are focused on re-imagining and challenging the status quo. How does “remaining relevant” play a role in your planning for your 8,000+ members of the Indiana CPA Society?

We think about it every day. With INCPAS 2025 we have set “4 Bold Challenges” to ensure our relevance and to maintain the CPA brand. Our bold challenges encompass diversity, both in the profession and among our members, and ensuring our members are trusted business resources and advocates. We also are focusing on competency-based education through the Society and our subsidiary organization the CPA Center of Excellence®. Bringing the latest information to our members and engaging them in meaningful ways related to innovation and technology is paramount to our continued relevance. The changes coming to the profession due to AI, robotics and machine learning are real – it’s an exciting time.

Can you give me some examples of firms that have done something innovative and proactive to help clients?

Kruggel Lawton has done incredible work on their internal teams using CPA Center of Excellence® courses on core skills like communication and leadership and our insight assessment tool. This has translated into better internal relationships, improved goal-setting and stronger client relationships. Summit CPA Group is changing the traditional business model with an entirely virtual team offering outsourced CFO services. We recently created an INCPAS Innovation Award so we can recognize those firms and companies that are doing great things – Summit CPA Group won the award last year.

Final thoughts?

As automation advances, CPAs will need to consider next-level services they can provide. There is a huge opportunity here. People skills will never be obsolete (in conjunction with understanding the technical issues behind the automation) and I’m a firm believer that core competencies can be taught and improved upon. Not everyone will have the same strengths, but we also can’t wait to find the ‘born leaders’ – the profession can do a better job developing them.

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 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 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.

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.

IPA Spotlight On … Eric Hansen, Chair, AICPA

Name: Eric Hansen

Title: Chair

Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen

Firm: AICPA

Accomplishments:

  • COO of BKD CPAs & Advisors, oversees firmwide operations and acts as liaison between BKD’s national office and its four regions.
  •  Became AICPA chair Feb. 1 and will serve in that capacity until May 2019.
  • An Eagle Scout, he extolled the virtues of preparation and anticipation in his acceptance speech following his election as chair.
  • Was part of the leadership team responsible for the launch the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (Association), which represents 650,000 members and students worldwide.

What are your top goals as chair?

The way I see it, there are three actions we must take today to be ready for tomorrow. First, we must harness technology to create more value for clients and businesses by elevating quality in existing services and taking the lead in emerging areas. This includes a focus on auditing in the future, and new and emerging attest services. Second, we must embrace our role in a hyper-connected, global society, extending our influence to protect the public interest amid increasing complexity. Creating the Association was a huge step toward a platform that helps us pursue this goal. And third, we must invest in our most important asset – our people – by evolving skills and competencies, advancing learning opportunities and cultivating future leaders.

What more should be done to advance CPAs’ understanding and implementation of AI, blockchain and data analytics?

One area of focus for the Association is integrating data analytics into the auditing process to enhance quality and maintain the relevance of this foundational CPA service. The AICPA and Rutgers Business School are partnering on a research initiative to demonstrate how this integration of data analytics can lead to auditing advancements. We also must focus on developing the higher-order competencies. To that end, we launched a new version of the Uniform CPA Exam last year that places a greater emphasis on cognitive skills such as critical thinking and analytical ability. My advice here is simple. Every member of our profession needs to take personal responsibility for the development of the skills they need to succeed in the future. Don’t wait for it to come your way.

As a former member of AICPA Task Force on the Future of Learning, what changes do you foresee in the AICPA’s educational offerings?

Through the Future of Learning initiative, we are transforming the way learning is delivered with innovative technologies that blend text, audio, graphics, video, 3-D animation and interactivity to enhance learning. Social learning, virtual group study and interactive exercises increase engagement with hands-on application. We’re also making use of new learning models, launching a new bite-sized learning series called Human Intelligence, which is focused on the skills and competencies needed for success in the future. And then there is our leadership development. The AICPA Leadership Academy was established to address succession planning and to increase diversity and inclusion in leadership. Beyond that, we are expanding access to competency-enhancing tools and resources through the Association. Our research on the future of finance will be used to update the competency framework and syllabus for CGMA.

How do you envision the scope and reach of professional accountancy expanding in an increasingly connected world?

It is essential for today’s leaders to look beyond definitions, demographics and geographic dimensions that once constrained the scope and reach of professional accountancy. I’m a CGMA, as well as a CPA, so I’m aware of the need to serve clients and the public interest with a holistic, global focus. Public accounting’s focus on auditing and taxes remains a critical part of the business world. And the value management accounting brings to the corporate finance function is equally important. Both disciplines are likely to grow in importance as our global society becomes both more immediate and more complex. Our new Association, formed with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, is all about meeting the challenges of our increasingly hyper-connected world.

Final thoughts?

You and I see the rapid pace of change – in the world of accounting and all around us. What’s needed to meet the challenge such change brings is a bias for action and the courage to be bold. As my fellow Missourian, and former U.S. President Harry Truman said, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” At the AICPA, I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many skilled, courageous leaders who share that bias for action. Working together, we’ll make the CPA profession even more relevant in the future than it is today.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Michelle Thompson

Name: Michelle Thompson

Michelle Thompson

Michelle Thompson

Title: MP and CEO

Firm: Richmond, Va.-based Cherry Bekaert (FY17 net revenue of $173.8 million)

Accomplishments:

  • Election by my partners to be the fifth MP and CEO of our 70-year-old firm.
  • Selection as the managing partner of audit and assurance in 2011.
  • Admission to the Cherry Bekaert Partnership in 2001 after nine years of public accounting experience.
  • Establishing the firm’s risk advisory services group in 2001.

You’ve said your vision is to be successful “through transformation and innovation.” How is innovation encouraged at Cherry Bekaert?

Cherry Bekaert fosters a culture of innovation by supporting new ideas and projects proposed by our people – from receptionist to partner. Our goal is to harness the diverse talent, experiences and ideas that live in the culture of our firm. Through our funded innovation committee, we collect, evaluate and select projects for testing, execution and implementation.  We encourage solutions that deliver efficiency in our processes, growth in our product/service capabilities and loyalty in our clients

You’ve also spoken of forming a close partnership with technology to lead the firm into the future. How is the firm using the latest technologies, such as AI, blockchain etc., to improve services to clients?

Building the best toolbox for the future requires investment and a willingness to try new things, some of which might not work. We will test new technologies that apply artificial intelligence, data analytics or blockchain capabilities and put some of them into full production. These technologies allow us to change how we work and give us greater insights into our clients more quickly and frequently than ever before. They increase our horsepower. But in the end, people trust people. Our goal is to create a partnership with technology where our people are the interface and technology is the engine.

Do you face any special challenges as one of only three female MPs in the top 30 firms in the nation?

I face the same challenges that every other MP faces – how to care for your people, create value for your clients and rapidly and responsibly respond to external and internal forces to create a sustainable and thriving firm. However, I do realize that people are paying attention to that difference. Rather than seeing it as a challenge, I view it as an opportunity. More women enter this profession than men, yet very few women hold top leadership positions. So, I carry an additional responsibility of being a positive role model for other women in our firm and in the profession. I take that responsibility very seriously.

What are your growth plans for the firm over the next five years?

Our mission is to make a difference for our people and our clients. Growth creates opportunities for our people – whether it’s expansion into new markets or the addition of new service offerings. Growth in our service offerings and capabilities is driven by the needs of our clients in this fast-paced, ever-changing world. Through this lens we will continue to pursue our growth strategy of building critical mass in existing locations, strategically evaluating and entering new geographic locations and enhancing our stable of service offerings.

Final thoughts?

These are exciting times in our profession. Over the next five years, the profession is likely to change more than it did in the previous 20 (or more) years. Our CPA designation will continue to differentiate us from other professions but we will need to learn new skills, embrace new technologies and change in a way we never have before. I can’t wait!

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

IPA Spotlight On … Karen Love, PKF Texas

Name: Karen Love

Karen Love

Karen Love

Title: Director/Ambassador

Firm: PKF Texas (FY16 net revenue of $24.2 million) of Houston

Accomplishments:

  • Blazing the trail for marketers in and out of the accounting industry.
  • Succession on the Association for Accounting Marketing Board with two of my team members, Raissa Evans and Jen Lemanski, serving terms after me.
  • Set a model example in the industry, winning over 180 marketing awards including most recently the Leading Edge Alliance On the Edge Innovation award and Houston Business Journal’s C-Suite Award: Outstanding Chief Marketing Officer.
  • Using an inside out approach to integrate accounting firm culture with community culture, creating programs like FastTech 50 and Houston Young Professionals Endeavor.

As one of the first marketers (and a non-CPA) to be admitted as a partner in the country, can you give us your perspective on how the role of accounting marketing has changed over the years and where you see it going?

As one of the first non-CPA owners in the accounting industry, I consistently take pulses of the marketplace and strive to fill gaps. The accounting industry is becoming more consultative, therefore as marketers we have to match traditional needs with futuristic and digital technology support. Setting a stage for consultative thinking in a sea of compliance is a magical thing that has to be mastered. One trend, which will continue, is engaging younger team members earlier and embracing reverse mentoring. Also, corporate social responsibility that builds on the culture of the firm becomes a magnet for future clients. The use of data to make decisions is a happier journey with a lot less guesswork.

You’ve said one of your greatest professional joys is mentoring young professionals. Why?

Positioning others for success makes me happy and is always mutually beneficial. Lessons yielded from being a team leader are some of the most valuable to be had when mentoring young professionals. Who wouldn’t want to see someone they’ve mentored achieve great success?

I’d love to hear about your work with MAKERS, a storytelling platform for women, and your award. Why is it so important for women to tell their stories?

One quote I live by is, “One woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.” And it rings true for me. MAKERS is a platform out of New York City from a filmmaker named Dylan McGee. This woman is building a well-known brand that demands attention for all of us. MAKERS allows us to share stories that not only engage, but help other women in navigating their own path.

PKF Texas operates in the extremely competitive Houston market – how can your firm continue to differentiate itself in the marketplace and attract the best talent?

Culture is really the only thing that differentiates a professional services firm. In the fourth-largest city in the country, our culture is displayed as a differentiator through our internal university, 30+ languages spoken and our corporate social responsibility in our community, which helps us showcase our brand. Prospects and clients want to work with a firm with such a culture. Our early talent pipeline process of working with key universities to attract the right accounting/consulting professionals to our firm is key to the culture and differentiation.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Stacie Kwaiser

Name: Stacie Kwaiser

Stacie Kwaiser

Stacie Kwaiser

Title: Chief Operating Officer (COO)

Firm: Troy, Mich.-based Rehmann (FY16 net revenue of $115 million)

Accomplishments:

  • Oversees the firm’s client service operations and internal corporate services including finance, human resources, information technology and marketing teams as first female COO of Rehmann.
  • Received the Rehmann’s annual firm-wide award, recognizing her as an associate who has gone above and beyond in support of women’s career advocacy in the firm.
  • Named to DBusiness’s 2016 Powered by Women list, which recognized Detroit-area women who hold leading positions in their organizations.

You’ve said that it can be “incredibly frustrating” for women to work in a male-dominated field. How so?

Women are facing inflexible policies and unwritten expectations that were established many years ago when the workforce was male-dominated and work-life balance was not a priority. While women represent 50% of candidates entering the work force in accounting, only 25% make it to principals in the profession. Organizations that don’t make a concerted effort to provide equal opportunities for women are quickly pushing some of their most talented employees out the door. The accounting profession as a whole must actively work to combat this.

As Rehmann’s first female COO, how do you help empower women at the firm?

I am honored to be involved in helping women thrive in our firm, and, ultimately, see themselves here for the long haul. Empowering female employees means providing opportunities for their development at every point in their career. It also means ensuring employees are aware of unconscious biases that impact their interactions with the women they work with every day. I am proud to work for a company that recognizes its female leaders and makes a place for them at every table. At the same time, we won’t be fully satisfied until there is complete parity for women in our organization.

Can you tell our readers about Rehmann’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) Council?

The WIN, established 10 years ago, acts as an advisory council for our firm, is one of the primary ways in which we work to develop our female employees. WIN advocates for women and provides ideas on how to keep trending in the right direction. WIN also provides educational opportunities, including keynote speakers and networking events for female employees. We have also created what we call our STEP and Emerging Leaders initiatives – programs that focus on employees who are within reach of leadership positions to ensure they have the mentorship and tools needed to achieve those ranks.

Do you have any advice for firms looking to implement women’s initiatives?

A key to being successful in any profession is to build relationships and identify sponsors. Women in Rehmann’s programs receive additional coaching and a counselor helps them navigate their career path. The programs also provide time for both men and women to talk about issues that affect them, such as networking, professional development and work-life balance. Firms can build the confidence of women in their ranks by encouraging them to ask for help and pursue opportunities that may seem out of reach.

Final thoughts?

With programs and plans in place to help women thrive, the barrier to break into a male-dominated field slowly starts to fade away. To create these opportunities, all organizations should start with a clear understanding of the issue at hand and a willingness to work toward a better, equal opportunity future for all employees.

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