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.

Spotlight On … Thomas Bonney, CBIZ CMF

Name: Thomas Bonney

Title: Senior Managing Director

Thomas Bonney

Thomas Bonney

Firm: CBIZ CMF

Accomplishments:

  • Started and grew private equity-focused consulting firm from $0 in 2002 to $19.2 million in annual sales in 2016. Sold to CBIZ in June 2017.
  • Winner of the 2016 M&A Advisor Financial and Professional Services Award for CMF’s post-transaction FORWARD™ Program.
  • Winner of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2013 Outstanding Director Award for spirits company, Leblon, that Tom founded with two others in 2005 and sold to Bacardi in 2015.
  • While running CMF Associates, received master’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, the firm you founded – CMF Associates – sold itself to CBIZ. Can you talk about why you made that decision?

I started the firm in 2002, and around 2003 committed to growing an advisory firm dedicated to meeting the needs of national middle market private equity-backed companies. Three years ago, we saw the growth in private equity especially, but also in advisory services generally, and began looking for a platform to grow faster and develop a broader service offering. In 2017, clients are interested in one-stop shopping. We see this happening in professional services and have a shared vision with CBIZ in taking advantage of this market opportunity.

You are a recognized expert in working with middle-market private equity companies. What are the chief issues facing these companies nowadays?

In today’s world, technology is upending the business models of most industries. Leaders of these firms are challenged with understanding and reacting positively to the nature, timing and extent of these dynamics. They also need to plan for the impact on their near- and medium-term revenue and bottom line. Private equity is using their capital and expertise in helping middle market companies navigate through these issues. The shortage of “A” level talent within the middle market across all disciplines and functions further complicates the odds for success.

What is the biggest mistake accountants make when preparing for a public offering?

The biggest mistakes in this area are related to having the right people with public company experience at the helm in critical functions at the time of an initial offering. Second, companies consistently underestimate the rigor with which their finance and accounting operation needs to be upgraded from their current state of people, process and technology. Last, as a public company, leadership needs to up their game on the comprehensiveness, granularity and timeliness of its forecasting and FP&A capabilities.

Your firm does some executive recruiting. What are the qualities of an A+ CFO?

The bar for an A+ CFO is perpetually rising. Furthermore, there is a three-dimensional aspect to today’s best-in-class CFOs: 1. They need to have deep, broad experience that spans all aspects of finance, administration, technology and analytics. 2. The job requires one foot firmly placed in the company’s operations – CFOs can no longer hide out in their office, and 3. Macroeconomic trends, competition and overall business dynamics require CFOs to be deep thinkers and leaders, helping to set and course correct the company and its business model for the next five years.

Final thoughts?

To quote the famous quarterback Joe Namath, “When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”

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

IPA Spotlight On … Chad Anschuetz, Doeren Mayhew

Name: Chad Anschuetz

Title: Managing shareholder and chair

Firm: Troy, Mich.-based Doeren Mayhew (FY16 net revenue of $73.7 million)

Accomplishments:

Chad Anschuetz

Chad Anschuetz

  • Recently elected as managing shareholder and chair of the firm, ranked No. 58 on the 2017 IPA 100 list.
  • Instrumental in developing the firm’s culture, infrastructure and growth strategies as a member of the firm’s management committee and chair of the human resources committee.
  • Guided more than 50 clients in successfully buying or selling their companies.
  • Assisted in the collaborative development of the firm’s community outreach program, “Difference,” which fosters giving back to our local communities through volunteering efforts.

You’ve just started your term as managing shareholder on Oct. 1, replacing Mark Crawford, who’s been in the top job since 1995. Are there any special challenges in replacing someone who has been with the firm for four decades?

As with any leadership change, overcoming employee and client uncertainty is always a big challenge. Yet, when you’re replacing someone who has been doing it for two-plus decades it’s much more intensified. Over the next year, a main agenda item will be reassuring our employees and clients that the firm’s founding principles, culture and service model won’t change, but by constantly improving, it will get better. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked closely with Mark throughout my 26-year career with Doeren Mayhew. As part of our firm’s succession plan, my active role in the firm’s management committee and continued mentorship from Mark will help create a smooth transition.

Doeren Mayhew has locations in four states and Zürich. Does the firm have plans to expand its footprint, either in the U.S. or internationally?

Doeren Mayhew’s long-term vision has always been to create a triangle effect linking our efforts in the Midwest, Southwest and the Southeast. Both acquisitive and organic growth is always in the plans for Doeren Mayhew, especially if the right opportunity presents itself, at the right time — like Zürich. Our international arm, Moore Stephens Doeren Mayhew, had been working diligently overseas to continue to find ways to better service our global clients. The merger with Emerson & Partner U.S. Tax GmbH allowed us to do just that by providing key leadership roles locally for our growing European client base. Our strategic plan includes expansion focused on service and industry resources in our existing markets, and less emphasis on geographic expansion.

You’ve said that the firm’s client service model has helped it become a great firm. Can you tell us what that looks like, and how can the firm work at developing innovative ways to add value for clients?

Doeren Mayhew’s most valuable asset – its clients – is the driving factor of our firm’s success. Our firm places an immense amount of focus on fostering their success. We go beyond what clients might expect, leveraging our entrepreneurial mindset to provide insightful solutions while introducing opportunities for growth. Delivering on our promise of providing insight, oversight and foresight requires the firm to continuously evaluate where we are able to add value to our clients. Whether that’s through the use of artificial intelligence in engagements or expanding service line expertise, I’m confident that our firm’s talented professionals have what it takes to bring about the change and continue to add value to our clients and thrive as a firm.

Firms named IPA ‘Best of the Best’ firms are successful, financially and operationally. How is the firm preparing to stay ahead of the technological changes (AI etc.) that may transform the profession?

Continued innovation will be key for Doeren Mayhew to stay ahead of the technology-induced paradigm shift happening in the accounting industry and remain a ‘Best of the Best’ firm. Doeren Mayhew has formed a committee dedicated to developing and implementing changes into our firm’s engagement processes. We are looking at the use of artificial intelligence in our audit, tax, forensic and litigation support engagements as an opportunity to increase efficiencies and drive new value to our clients, which is always our goal. More important, we are closely tracking how regulatory standards will modify current guidance and monitoring mechanisms for this new technology to allow us to continue delivering our service offerings with integrity.

Final thoughts?

Technology is dramatically reshaping our industry. Artificial intelligence is hardly a fad. A successful firm will embrace the opportunity to streamline operations and redeploy staff’s efforts on delivering creative, value-added client services. The firm I started with back in 1991 is not the same firm today. And, to continue this progression we will need to keep imagining what the firm will look like in five, 10 and even 15 years from now to prosper long term.

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)

Accomplishments:

  • 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.

IPA Spotlight On … Mary Elliott

Mary Elliott

Mary Elliott

Name: Mary Elliott

Title: Elliott is currently the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, but will transition to Chief Executive Officer in January 2018.

Firm: Birmingham, Ala.-based Warren Averett (FY16 net revenue of $124.4 million)

Accomplishments:

  • First female CEO in Warren Averett’s history.
  • Appointed as Warren Averett’s Chief Operations Officer in 2012.
  • Developed operations board for the firm, and served as chair for six years.
  • Started Warren Averett’s health care consulting division more than 30 years ago. Drove it from a startup to one of the top service areas in the firm.

The firm announced that you’ve been named CEO, but you don’t take over until the end of this year. How will you prepare over the next several months?

I will spend the next few months meeting with our leadership, reviewing new responsibilities that fall under the role of CEO and taking opportunities to engage with our employees to ensure that my transition is a smooth process.

You’ve served as both COO and the PIC of the health care consulting group – at the same time. Will partners continue to take on administrative functions like this, or do you envision a different structure in the future?

Our firm is built on opportunity, and our structure will continue in that mindset under my leadership. We will continue to look for ways provide A+ service to our clients, while providing employees the opportunity to grow, innovate and thrive.

You say you have a passion for women’s opportunities and issues in the work force. Do you feel any special responsibility as a woman in this role, considering you are one of only two women leaders within the Top 100, outside the Big 4?

I’ve never felt that being a female at Warren Averett has been a hindrance or a catalyst for my growth within the company. However, I am a woman, and I’m proud of who I am and the path that I’ve been able to take. I see this as an opportunity to reach out with and for other women – how can we make our workforce better? I’m not alone though. We have a strong group of talented females coming up within the firm today. In fact, our leadership team also includes a female CFO and firm administrator.

With the advent of artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, Big Data and the rest, how can you help make Warren Averett future-ready?

Innovation is key. We will embrace change, continue to look for opportunities to stay ahead of the curve and make strides in these areas through our specialty groups and experts.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Dan Gardiner, P&N

Name: Dan Gardiner
Firm: Postlethwaite & Netterville (P&N)
Title: CEO and Managing Director-Elect

Accomplishments:

Dan Gardiner

Dan Gardiner

  • Selected as incoming Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of one of the largest CPA and consulting firms in the Gulf Coast and the only IPA 100 firm based in Louisiana
  • Leads P&N’s tax and consulting services groups to provide innovative business consulting services for clients throughout Louisiana
  • Serves as president of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Society of Louisiana CPAs.
  • Served as corporate controller for a regional consumer packaged goods and distributions company and as corporate controller and financial reporting manager for a publicly traded international leasing company

It will be one year until you take over the top role at the firm. How are you preparing now?

Our firm has a well-defined succession process, which began over a year ago. In this last year of the transition, I will continue to work alongside P&N’s current CEO, Bill Balhoff, and the executive team on the strategic initiatives of our firm. Our firm was founded on the principle of providing the highest quality client service and that principle has been the hallmark of our growth and success over the years. A good portion of my time this year will be spent ensuring that our team knows that our culture and our foundation will not change with this transition.

P&N is a fast-growing firm and the largest based in Louisiana. With one office outside the state, in Houston, is the firm planning to expand in that area?

While we’ve had a Houston office for just over two years, we have had a strong client base for much longer, and are continuing our plans for growth in that market. Our main focus is ensuring our clients receive the highest in quality service. We have very talented resources in Houston and expect to continue our expansion of all service areas, assurance, tax, consulting and technology, in the greater Houston area. While we have growth goals for each our markets, we are more focused as a practice on having the right talent in place to ensure healthy growth that will lead to long-term relationships. Fortunately, given the close ties between Louisiana and Houston, we already have strong brand recognition, which is helping attract great talent.

You took an eight-year hiatus from the firm to work in industry. What did that experience teach you that you brought back to the firm?

I’ve always enjoyed the accounting profession, but in industry I did not feel the same level of passion about my work as in public accounting and consulting. For me the relationships you build with clients, the diversity of the engagements, and the focus on continual improvement are what drew me back to professional services. P&N’s consulting practice was the perfect fit for me and my experience, as it allowed me to leverage many of the experiences I had in industry. Additionally, being on the client side of the equation has reinforced to me the client service values our firm lives. I have plenty of real world experiences to share with our team members as they learn how to become trusted advisors.

As tax leader for the firm, are you concerned about automation changing the way you do business? Excited? Both?

Cognitive computing is predicted to automate or eliminate up to 40% of basic accounting work by 2020, according to Accenture. I believe that technology is going to be one of our greatest opportunities in the years to come. Automation can benefit our teams and clients by providing efficient and consistent delivery of service. In our own practice, we focus on integrating technology into business and accounting processes, which has helped many of our clients overcome significant challenges. However, I am certain that now more than ever we must have more personal relationships with our clients. Clients still want someone who can sit across the table and give them confidence that they have the professional team that can solve their challenges.

Final thoughts?

Our industry is going through tremendous change. We are doing things differently than ever before and thinking of things in different ways. And it is going to take our talented professionals to bring about the change that we need to continue to thrive as a firm. With innovation and a focus on our clients’ needs, we will be able to compete now and into the future.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Rob Nixon

Name: Rob Nixon
Title: Founder, PANALITIX
Accomplishments:

Rob Nixon

Rob Nixon

  • Educated in excess of 170,000 accountants over 23 years.
  • Coached 800 accountants to success. Average profit increase in year one is 93%.
  • Authored three best-selling books on the accounting profession.
  • Built four successful businesses that serve the accounting profession.

Your new book is called, The Perfect Firm, Your Playbook for Building A Perfect Accounting Business. Is “perfection” even achievable?

There is no perfect firm. I’ve met 170,000 accountants and not one of them is perfect. There is no one-size-fits-all for the perfect firm. It has to be your version of your perfect firm. I wrote the book as a blueprint or playbook on what a perfect firm would look like if the reader did everything in the book. The book is full of strategies that have worked for thousands of firms around the world.

What’s the one area MPs should focus on to get started on the path to the perfect firm?

There are five sequential steps to creating your version of your perfect firm. It starts with a belief system that it is the owner’s business and no one else’s and should be designed your way. This is business by design, not by default. Step 1: What business life do the partners want to live? Step 2: What numbers do you want to achieve? Step 3: What services do you want to deliver? Step 4: What culture do you want to have? Step 5: Who are the ideal clients to fit steps 1-4? Business by design follows steps 1 to 5 in order. Business by default follows steps 5 to 1 in order.

How can accountants best get ahead of digital disruption to the profession?

Accountants need to brace digital disruption – not fear it. It is inevitable that machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain will fundamentally change the business model of accountants. It is an amazing opportunity to embrace the technology. The first step is to migrate all clients to cloud accounting. Then with real-time data they can offer predictive analytical services and proper numbers-based advice. Helping clients improve their systems dramatically reduces the time at the accountant’s office to do the client work.

You are an advocate for value pricing. Why?

The traditional model of time-based billing in arrears does not value the intellectual property (experience) of an accountant. Not only that, but it is highly unethical to bill in arrears. If you are adding value to the client’s condition then you should be rewarded based on your contribution, not on how much time it took to do the work. Accountants do not sell time – they sell what they know. What you know should be priced accordingly.  

Accountants like numbers, but you say some numbers are more important than others. Which numbers are firm leaders paying too much attention to?

There is a crazy culture of more billable time in the profession. I’ll give you more billable time says Johnny – I’ll just go slower and make mistakes – you’ve got your billable time. What a stupid focus. The focus on utilization hours promotes the wrong behavior. The other number accountants seem obsessed with is realization margin – we realized 88%, for example. Actually, no, you wrote off 12% and wasted $50,000 last month. When you price up front and drive time down by being more efficient you get positive realization and your average hourly rate increases dramatically. The magic number of an accounting firm is average hourly rate.

Final thoughts?

Accountants can change the world for the better if they are proactive and add value. Nearly every business in the world is connected to an accountant. Accountants can make a massive difference if they leverage off their trusted advisor status and help their clients with numbers-based advice.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Henry Koziol, Freed Maxick CPAs

Name: Henry Koziol

Firm: Buffalo, N.Y.-based Freed Maxick CPAs (FY16 net revenue of $45.2 million)

Title: Managing Director, Chairman, Board of Directors

Accomplishments:

Henry Koziol Jr.

Henry Koziol Jr.

  • Joined Freed Maxick in 1983 and elected managing director this year, responsible for directing the strategic growth of the firm.
  • Develops and institutes firm’s technology plan, and has served as a member of the peer review team and the development, construction and executive committees.
  • Past chairman, board of the Western New York Chapter of the American Diabetes Association; board of directors, Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

How are you preparing now to step into the top job at Freed Maxick July 1?

I have been on our executive committee for a number of years, and have been involved in most of the firm’s significant decisions. Therefore, the amount of time to get up to speed should not be too considerable. Lately, I have been spending a lot of time meeting with my partners and our clients – trying to listen more and talk less.

You’ve said that what differentiates Freed Maxick is its people and depth of knowledge. How do you hope to enhance both as managing director?

We are constantly looking for individuals with unique talents and skills, in anticipation of the rapid changes in the industry and to deliver the type of services we provide. However, that’s not all we look for in potential candidates. We recently created our purpose statement, which highlights our beliefs in making a difference in people’s lives through our passion for helping others and inspiring those around us. It’s important to us that our people and processes live this every day.

The firm now has four offices in New York. Do you plan to expand beyond the state? Are you looking to merge in smaller firms?

Our strategic plan includes expansion in two areas – our geographic footprint and services offered. Conversely, many of our services such as asset-based lending have a national scope, so the physical office is not necessarily a factor. We are constantly evaluating merger candidates both in and outside of our current markets, but our requirements are very high. The candidate must have a similar culture in addition to fitting into our strategic plan. We won’t do a merger just to increase the top line.

Looking ahead, how do you see AI and automation changing the way Freed Maxick does business?

We have already invested in business intelligence as a client service, and will continue to do so. We know there will be rapid changes in how accounting firms service clients, and we remain committed to providing world-class service.

Final thoughts?

It is an exciting time to be in the industry. I have been heavily involved in our firm’s technology platform, which gives me a unique perspective of the rapid technological changes that continue to happen. I believe that there will be wonderful opportunities ahead for our firm, our clients and our people as we utilize these technologies to deliver highly valued and desired services.

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

IPA Vendor Spotlight On … Chandra Bhansali, AccountantsWorld

Name: Chandra Bhansali
Company: AccountantsWorld
Title: Co-founder (with wife Sharada) and CEO

Accomplishments:

Chandra Bhansali

Chandra Bhansali

  • Introduced the first Windows-based based professional tax system in the 1990s.
  • Created the first payroll processing solution exclusively for accountants.
  • Used cloud technology to create Accounting Power for firms to offer client accounting services, countering the impact of do-it-yourself accounting systems on accounting practices.
  • Named one of the “100 Most influential People in Accounting” by Accounting Today for over 10 years.

You’ve been “in the cloud” for much longer than most and seem to have a knack for identifying emerging technologies. Can you offer any practical advice on how accounting firms can be more ‘future-ready’?

I’d tell them, “You are your clients’ most trusted advisor. What makes you their most trusted advisor? Your ability to analyze all the facts and help your clients make informed decisions based on those facts. To be future-ready, you need to use this important trait. It’s a fact that migration to the cloud is inevitable. Given that fact, when will you benefit the most from the migration? Should you wait until you are pushed to the wall, or move to the cloud sooner, in a more strategic way, to make the most of the migration?” It’s ironic that many of the same accountants who are their clients’ best advisors falter when making some of the most important decisions about their own practices.

Client accounting services seems to be a growing niche. Are accountants taking better advantage of the power of technology to help their clients?

Very few accountants are taking full advantage of technology to help their clients. Part of the problem is that most accountants don’t realize the capabilities of professional cloud solutions like Accounting Power. Given the choice, a large percentage of small businesses would not want to do their accounting in-house. They consider accounting to be a hassle and would love to offload it to their accountants, but most accountants don’t offer client accounting services (CAS), because functions like bill payment have traditionally been low-margin services. But with programs like Accounting Power, an accountant’s staff can now do everything their client’s staff did, only much faster and more accurately – all without leaving the office. Because of advances like this, many accountants are currently offering highly profitable CAS, which will ultimately become a major growth area.

What’s the biggest mistake firms typically make when making the move to the cloud?

The biggest mistake firms typically make when migrating to the cloud is to make a lateral move in which they move from desktop to cloud, yet their practices realize only marginal gains. That happens primarily for two reasons. First, these accountants don’t do their homework and learn about all the available solutions. Second, they are stuck in their current processes. To take full advantage of the cloud, you need to change your processes. If you keep an open mind and align your processes for optimal performance, then you will be able to take your practice to new heights that were never before possible.

There’s been lots of talk about the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on the accounting profession. What’s your view?

My view about Artificial Intelligence is very simple – accountants with “Predictive Intelligence” will actually benefit a lot from AI. I’ll give you a simple example. AI will certainly minimize mundane tasks like data entry. If you let your clients offload their accounting work to you today, your fees will be based on what they currently spend on their bookkeeper or in-house accountant. When some of the capabilities of AI kick in to virtually eliminate data entry, that will greatly reduce your staff’s work and you will reap the benefits of that productivity gain. That’s “Predictive Intelligence.”

Final thoughts?

You know you have tremendous influence with your clients. Until now, accounting software vendors and payroll service providers have used your client relationships to make themselves billions of dollars. Would you like to continue doing that, or would you rather use your client relationships do what is in your, and your clients’, best interest? If you prefer the latter option, then download and read my whitepaper, “Forget Value Billing. Think Value Building.”  It will show you how you can use the cloud to greatly raise your bottom line, better serve your clients and feel the pride of being an accountant. Please visit www.AccountantsWorld.com/value to download the whitepaper.

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