The 2017 IPA Most Recommended Consultants

We are proud to announce the 2017 IPA Most Recommended Consultants, listed in alphabetical order, and their firms. The full list was highlighted in the October issue of INSIDE Public Accounting.

Each year INSIDE Public Accounting asks firms from across the nation in the IPA Annual Survey and Analysis of Firms to name one consultant, whom they have used during the past year.

Congratulations to this group and IPA thanks this group for their hard work and dedication to the profession.

Click on the consultants names to view their answers a few questions on the state of the accounting industry.

Accountants Advisory Group
Joseph Tarasco
www.accountantsadvisory.com

Boomer Consulting Inc.
Gary Boomer
www.boomer.com

Carl George Advisory
Carl George
www.carlgeorgeadvisory.com

ConvergenceCoaching LLC
Jennifer Wilson
www.convergencecoaching.com

Crosley Company
Gale Crosley
www.crosleycompany.com

Koltin Consulting Group
Allan Koltin
www.koltin.com

The Rosenberg Associates
Marc Rosenberg
rosenbergassoc.com

Succession Institute
Bill Reeb
www.successioninstitute.com

Upstream Academy
Sam Allred, Tim Bartz
www.upstreamacademy.com

Xcentric
Roman Kepczyk
xcentric.com

Golden Launches Consulting Firm, Fore

Michelle Golden

Michelle Golden launched a new venture, Fore LLC. Applying original techniques for up-front pricing, Fore provides education and implementation consulting to CPA firms committed to converting from a time-based billing model to pricing their work in advance.

“Demand from larger firms for this type of pricing help rose sharply this year, no doubt because of heightened talk of impending industry impacts. One driver is time savers like artificial intelligence and blockchain. Another is the growing need to become anticipatory organizations that innovate to replace compliance work with higher-value service offerings,” says Golden.

“Advantages also include much richer conversations between the CPA and the customer,” Golden continues. “When CPAs become more attuned to what’s most valuable in buyers’ eyes, they do more of it – it becomes a terrific cycle. Among CPA firms who want to augment compliance by becoming stronger business advisors, managing partners say they see a pricing-model change as a crucial next step.”

Roman Kepczyk, Xcentric – Most Recommended Consultant

Xcentric
Roman Kepczyk
xcentric.com

Roman Kepczyk

Roman Kepczyk

What is the most common technology mistake being made in the profession today and how can it be addressed? 

Minimally adopting a “paperless” technology/tool with management believing they are done after the initial install. We partner directly with 30 firms per year and often hear from firm management they have implemented digital technology solutions but have not received the benefits they expected. In many cases we find that the firm did a bare minimum or rushed installation and have not followed up with adequate training or re-evaluation of new system capabilities. Surprisingly often they are asking for features that either already existed in their application or have been added to it since they first implemented it. This is particularly true of digital workflow tools, practice management projects, portals, and scanning production processes. We suggest firms send the actual users/administrators of these applications to industry conferences with the express intent of learning about new features and existing capabilities as well as networking with other successful users.

What would you recommend firms do over the next two to three years to keep ahead of the game?

While I believe that firms can improve their tax and administrative processes significantly by optimizing the applications that are already available and applying “Lean” methodologies, I believe assurance services will be going through a significant transition towards the end of your three-year time frame. Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence/Cognitive Computing concepts are evolving rapidly towards financial/corporate adoption at a pace we have not seen since the Internet/World Wide Web transition. I believe Blockchain adoption will be driven by banks/lenders to retain their hold on financial transactions/commerce and that CPAs will have to adopt more advanced, real time tools integrating AI and Big Data Analysis if they want to continue to own the audit franchise and grow their consulting opportunities. We suggest all our firms assign the responsibility of monitoring assurance technologies to a technologically astute manager who would educate owners so the firm is not left out in the cold.

What questions should firms be asking themselves as they are implementing new technologies?

  1. How does this technology actually improve our internal production processes and the way we service clients? Firms should document new practices/processes, so team members can be taught and be held accountable to them as a firm standard, as well as communicating to firm members and clients why this technology or process serves them better.
  2. Do we have the right people involved in the evaluation, selection, and implementation of this application, tool and/or process? By this we mean you need to have end users and administrative personnel involved, as well as an implementation champion with a vested interest in a successful outcome. Also, having access to independent knowledge and validation through CPA firm association peers or hiring industry consultants specializing in the specific area reduces the risk of the firm making a bad or incomplete decision.

 

Marc Rosenberg, The Rosenberg Associates – Most Recommended Consultant

The Rosenberg Associates
Marc Rosenberg
rosenbergassoc.com

What mindset would you like to see more or less of in the profession?

Marc Rosenberg

Marc Rosenberg

More:  It’s in vogue today for firms to “say” their staff is just as important as their clients. But many don’t walk the talk. I would like to see partners ratchet up their focus on mentoring staff. To do this, they will have to change the traditional model of what a CPA firm partner is: fewer billable hours and accountability for helping staff learn and grow, the latter of which will have to include a strong link with partner compensation.

Less:  Many firms cling to an operational model of high work volume /low price, which produces a time management conundrum that results in their neglect of important partner duties. I would to see this model flipped – higher price/lower volume. Firms will make more money and equally as important, partners’ time will be freed up to manage their firms, mentor staff and do practice development.

What would you recommend firms do over the next two to three years to keep ahead of the game?

  1. Truly walk the talk regarding making their staff just as important as their clients.
  2. Get off the dime and finally tap into the potential that consulting offers. Small and mid-sized firms have been sitting on – and ignoring – a goldmine for decades, opting to focus on compliance work to the neglect of consulting opportunities to those same compliance clients.
  3. Embrace the disruptive force that impending technology changes will cause.

What is the most common mistake being made in the profession today and how can it be addressed?

The most common mistake is time mismanagement. Though partners complain about being too busy, I think they pride themselves on it in a perverse way. The new model of a partner calls for dramatically fewer billable hours and delegation of all lower level work to staff coupled with an increased focus on firm management, staff mentoring and consulting. One way to shake the “busy” mode is to charge higher rates (CPAs have been under-billing their services for decades), thereby maintaining present revenue levels while freeing up partners’ valuable time. Effective goal setting and optimal use of technology will also improve time management.

Joe Tarasco, Accountants Advisory Group – Most Recommended Consultant

Accountants Advisory Group
Joseph Tarasco
www.accountantsadvisory.com

What mindset would you like to see more or less of in the profession?

Joe Tarasco

Joe Tarasco

More of… Creating a Sense of Urgency — One of the most challenging problems of leading a CPA firm in this very competitive environment is the ability to implement organizational strategy and initiatives with a “sense of urgency.” When leaders fail to manage with a sense of urgency then complacency, entitlement and comfort-zoners dominate the firm’s culture. In fact, implementing progressive business decisions and strategic implementation without a sense of urgency is one of the primary causes for the fast-paced consolidation in the public accounting industry.

What questions should firms be asking themselves if they want to grow as it relates to revenue?

  • Is the firm “carrying” too many underachieving revenue-generating partners and managers?
  • Should the firm hire a professional lead generator?
  • Is the current partner compensation program motivating the partners to delegate to junior partners or managers? Are partners being held accountable for new business generation and delegating work?
  • Are we providing the partners with the appropriate amount of marketing and lead generation support whether in-house or outsourced?
  • Is the firm properly positioning itself in the marketplace and targeting the right types of clients with in-demand services? Should we be offering more formal advisory services?

What is the most common succession mistake being made in the profession today and how can it be addressed?

Succession planning should be a daily routine. Succession planning is not a program that should take place a few years before client service partners and/or leaders are about to retire. It should be an ongoing daily occurrence that considers partner governance and compensation, marketing, recruiting and retention at all levels, and staff performance management. Succession planning needs to start at the top with a true sense of urgency. Holding partners accountable for implementing the firm’s succession plan, and compensating them accordingly, is key to the success of the plan.

 

Jennifer Wilson, ConvergenceCoaching – Most Recommended Consultant

ConvergenceCoaching LLC
Jennifer Wilson
www.convergencecoaching.com

What advice would you give to partners/MPs to help them coach younger staff?

Jennifer Wilson

Ask more than tell. Find out what the younger staff like most, like least, want more of, want less of, and why BEFORE advising them. Be open to receiving feedback as well as giving it – younger staff have opinions and ideas for change and want to be able to share them.

What do you think is the biggest blind spot in firms today, and how do they rectify this?

The biggest blind spot is that most firm leaders feel they have plenty of time to make the “big” changes – the move to advisory, the implementation of technology in almost every aspect of service delivery and firm operations, the shift to more virtual service, the changes needed to serve Next Gen clients and talent – when the changes will happen faster than they can conceive of. Waiting for a few more retirements, or to get more buy-in, before acting could be a mortal mistake.

What has surprised you most in the client interactions / questions / engagements you’ve had this past year?

There are a few surprises. First, the denial, which stems from complacency, that continues to handicap so many firms. Second, in higher functioning firms, how quickly they gain traction with significant change initiatives once they establish a clear vision and task leaders with implementing their plans. The first surprise is so disheartening to me, but the second gives me hope for the future of the profession.

Gary Boomer, Boomer Consulting Inc. – Most Recommended Consultant

Boomer Consulting Inc.
Gary Boomer
www.boomer.com

What is the most common technology mistake being made in the profession today, and how can it be addressed?

Gary Boomer

Gary Boomer

Lack of leadership and a technology roadmap that focuses on The Business Capability Model. Most firms are spending their IT budget in products and services, and financial reporting while ignoring operations, marketing, sales, talent development, legal and compliance and the experience – client and users.) Develop a vision, strategic plan and IT Road Map, then hold everyone accountable, especially the partners. Don’t forget to evaluate your processes in order to leverage the technology.

What mindset would you like to see more or less of in the profession?

Collaboration and a team culture where those who are not CPAs are respected and rewarded for their unique abilities (IT, HR, Marketing, Sales, Project Management, Talent Development and Data Analytics). A mindset of lifelong learning (acceptance of change) and growth (desire to be a game changer) are also important.

What questions should firms be asking themselves as they are implementing new technologies?

Will this allow us to scale 10X? Exponential and global rather than local and linear thinking result in better solutions. You get your answers when you ask, what would the firm do differently if they were 10 times larger? What would you do differently, if the firm were 10 times larger? You need to think like the firm you vision, not like the firm of the past. Exponential thinking attracts better talent and clients. What impact will this have on the client and user experience? Think mobile. Finally, what will it cost if we don’t make the investment?

Gale Crosley, Crosley Company – Most Recommended Consultant

Crosley Company
Gale Crosley
www.crosleycompany.com

What advice would you give to partners/MP’s to help them coach younger staff?

Gale Crosley

Gale Crosley

If the person is deemed high potential, then let them know it and purposefully invest in them, giving them more exposure. Example – take them to managing partner conferences, ask them to lead a special interest group at their association, encourage them to develop their communication skills through groups like Toastmasters or a communications coach, encourage them to develop their leadership skills at outside organizations.

What do you think is the biggest blind spot in firms today, and how do they rectify this?

Continuing to hire only CPAs rather than college hires and experienced consultants who have skill sets needed for audit and tax of the future. Everyone has gotten the memo that our world is changing dramatically, but I don’t see enough action yet following the talk. This shift in resources is requiring our leaders to get out of their comfort zone and go exploring. There are parallel universes that we’ve barely touched, such as consultants who are experts in industry-specific data analytics, and college degree programs which focus on data sciences and cutting edge technologies.

In addition, our auditors and tax people have always thought of their career in a certain somewhat predictable trajectory. However, it would be unfortunate to go hire people with the skills we need, and leave our current talent behind. One practical initiative is to expose our up and comers to the future as we see it, and give them an opportunity to rethink their career path. For example, it’s clear tax and wealth management are coming together, creating a broader service suite in the market. Are certain tax people prepared to reconsider where they have been headed? Are there auditors in your firm prepared to pivot into operational data analytics?

What has surprised you most in the client interactions / questions / engagements you’ve had this past year?

Nothing comes to mind. Each client has their own set of issues and opportunities.  Although there are common themes, each situation has nuances, keeping problem-solving fresh and exciting with each assignment.

Allan Koltin, Koltin Consulting Group – Most Recommended Consultant

Koltin Consulting Group
Allan Koltin
www.koltin.com

What has surprised you most in the client interactions / questions / engagements you’ve had this past year?

Allan Koltin

Allan Koltin

I’m not sure I would call it a surprise, but rather more of a reaction to the changing landscape within the profession, as it relates to the audit side of the practice. All of the discussion over artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the fact that both audit fees and college recruitment of talent could decline by as much as 30%-50% over the next three to five years, has clearly generated a lot of concern. I think once the dust settles on this issue and firms take a step back, many of them will realize that there is a great opportunity here, provided they can figure out the appropriate technology platform to serve audit clients going forward. I would not be surprised to see a couple of the very large firms license an audit methodology for smaller firms to help them reengineer as it relates to artificial intelligence and the use of robotics for the auditing side of their practice.

What do you think the biggest blind spot in firms regarding M&A is and how can that be rectified?

Safe to say, there are many blind spots that both the acquirer and acquiree deal with before and after the merger. Smart thinking is to put as many of those on the table as possible prior to the merger. I think one of the biggest blind spots that still remains is what I’ll refer to as the “human factor.” Some could call this the giving up of control or the loss of autonomy. Others might possibly call it an increase in accountability. I truly believe that the smaller firms overestimate how much their lives will change after the merger and the larger firms overestimate how quickly they can successfully integrate a firm into their practice. These, to me, would be the two biggest blind spots that I observe in working with both the larger and smaller firms.

What would you recommend firms do over the next two to three years to keep ahead of the game – other than M&A?

I think the silver bullet on this one is to create the best mousetrap in their market for recruiting experienced talent away from competing firms. Obviously this is easier said than done and requires that the firm first builds a very successful practice and then goes out and attracts great talent away from other firms. Too many firms are blind to the fact that their firm has issues and obstacles that first need to be dealt with before they can go about attracting “best in breed” talent into their firm. It’s almost as if they want to look the other way and pretend that certain problems or issues don’t exist.

Number 2 on my list would be going to the rainmakers of the firm and pulling away as much of their book of business and billable hours as possible to free up their time. That being said, we all know if these partners believe that book of business and billable hours equate to partner compensation, trying to take these things away is darn near impossible.

Right Networks Acquires Xcentric

Hudson, N.H.-based Right Networks, a provider of cloud-based accounting and business solutions for CPA firms, accounting professionals and small-businesses, has acquired Atlanta-based Xcentric, a provider in managed IT solutions for accounting firms.

“Everything from Xcentric’s core business to their company culture and values are complementary to those of Right Networks. Our combined offerings will bring our customers an unparalleled set of solutions to choose from as they move along their cloud journey,” says John Farrer, CEO and founder of Right Networks. “The Right Networks cloud combined with Xcentric’s complete cloud offer gives the market a wide range of offerings to choose from.”

The company will continue to offer Xcentric’s complete cloud solution and plans to accelerate the growth of this customer base, while continuing to provide exceptional customer experiences.

“Our team was seeking the right partnership with a company that shared our mission, market focus and core values so we could offer our customers even more value and accelerate our opportunity for growth,” says Trey James, CEO and co-founder of Xcentric. “Right Networks has consistently demonstrated their leadership position in cloud-based accounting and business solutions by providing laser beam focus on the needs of accounting professionals.”