The Perfect Partner

By: Joe Tarasco

Joe Tarasco

Joe Tarasco

Does the perfect partner exist? Probably not. I was asked at a retreat to define the attributes that the perfect partner should possess and came up with the following list:

  • Loves servicing clients and understands what clients need and deserve. Clients seek out the partner’s advice and counsel and is truly considered a trusted advisor in all aspects of their major business and personal financial decisions. Generates additional revenue from clients.
  • Respects other partners and employees of the firm. Is a mentor and counselor, who is fair and objective. The firm comes first before personal gain. Is both client and staff centric.
  • Is entrepreneurial and takes calculated risks to grow and improve the firm. Willing to invest personal capital into the firm.
  • Has a strong network of relationships with professionals outside of the firm such as attorneys, bankers, high-net- worth individuals and corporate executives. Has excellent practice development skills and engages a large volume of new business each year. Receives referrals from clients.
  • Recognized by partners and staff as a trusted leader and manager of the firm. Is a role model to young and aspiring partners. Willing to make tough business decision for the firm. Has the ability to remain calm in times of crisis. Doesn’t make emotional decisions.
  • Has a vision for the firm’s future and works towards achieving personal and firm goals and objectives. Is a team player. Prioritizes the needs of the firm and takes the initiative to complete needed tasks and projects on a timely basis.
  • Is willing to delegate interesting and challenging work and transition clients to up and coming partners. Understands the benefits of continuously upgrading the client base and the value of succession planning.
  • Is willing to be held accountable for performance. Makes no excuses for underachieving. Continuously stays current and upgrades technical skills.
  • Communication skills are clear, concise, and confident whether dealing with clients, staff, or prospects.
  • Has enthusiasm and a positive attitude for the profession, the firm, and clients.
  • Understands the business of public accounting and the importance of increasing profitability each year. Has a history of timely billing and collections, along with high realization clients.
  • Is willing to assist in resolving conflict between partners and the staff by acting as a liaison between people in the firm.

No one is perfect, but this is a good list to aspire toward. We can all benefit in periodically taking stock of these attributes and developing a game plan to improve.

Consultant Releases New Edition of ‘Quantum of Paperless’

Kepczyk_Roman_Xcentric_2015

Roman Kepczyk

Roman Kepczyk, director of consulting for Xcentric, has released a 2016 update of his book, Quantum of Paperless: Partner’s Guide to Accounting Firm Optimization.

In the seventh edition of the book, Kepczyk includes 2016 IT survey results from the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). The survey provides actionable information on hardware, software, staffing and IT trends and allows accounting firm leaders to compare data with their peers. In addition, the 2015 Benchmarking Paperless Best Practices survey information is included.

Quantum Paperless discusses how every accounting firm is unique yet similar. Firms are unique in the production processes they have developed over time to service clients, produce tax returns, complete audits, enter time and produce billing. However, the transition from traditional manual processes to today’s digital solutions is remarkably similar and it is primarily a matter of identifying where the firm is today and implementing the next proven process that firm personnel are sufficiently capable and willing to adopt.

This guide is broken into 32 mission-critical quantum leaps where your firm production can be optimized. In each section, proven solutions that accounting firms are successfully implementing and using today is listed.

The book answers tough tech questions firms face:

  • Multiple monitors – beyond 3?
  • The Cloud?
  • Hardware selection and replacement?
  • Document management?
  • Managing and retaining data?
  • Digital tax workflow systems?
  • Audit field equipment?
  • Delivering client reports digitally?
  • Client portals?
  • Security issues?
  • Remote access technology?

Kepzyk helps firms throughout North America effectively use information technology by implementing digital best practices. He has spent the past 17 years consulting with CPA firms.

Purchase Quantum of Paperless: Partner’s Guide to Accounting Firm Optimization

Anevski Selected as a 2016 Leading Woman Entrepreneur Finalist

Rachel Anevski

Rachel Anevski

Rachel Anevski, founder and CEO of Matters of Management (M2), a consulting, growth strategy and executive placement firm, was nominated and selected as a Leading Woman Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur of New Jersey by Leading Women Entrepreneurs.

With receiving close to 700 nominations, judgment criteria for all nominees included innovation, market potential, community involvement and advocacy for women. Leading Women Entrepreneurs is a media and events company that recognizes outstanding women business owners.

“I am humbled to be considered among these 150 esteemed finalists,” says Anevski. “It is ironic that this honor comes on the heels of Matters of Managements’ own Phenomenal Mom Award Contest, where we recognize a mother who goes above and beyond her own call of duty. These contests are a wonderful opportunity to distinguish and empower women with incredible success stories. Both organizations advocate for women to establish goals, and achieve their dreams in a career they are passionate about. Being a finalist really speaks to the heart of what I have worked hard to accomplish as a business owner.”

Prior to starting her own business, Anevski worked for Citrin Cooperman and Smolin Lupin & Company.

A listing of the Phase One finalists will be published in the October 2016 New Jersey Monthly, which will reach over 750,000 households. The Phase One list of 150 nominees will be narrowed to the Top 25 and awarded at a recognition event set for Nov. 14 at The Liberty House in Jersey City. For more information on Leading Women Entrepreneurs, please visit http://www.lweworld.com/.

Whitman Business Advisors Adds Cooperman to Consulting Team

Martin Cooperman

Martin Cooperman

Whitman Business Advisors LLC (WBA) announced that Martin Cooperman, a former senior partner at Chicago-based Grant Thornton, is the newest addition to the consulting firm’s team of CPA industry experts.

The addition of Cooperman allows Whitman Business Advisors’ clients to access and benefit from the strategic and operational capabilities that he has been bringing to his clients for 40 years.

Since retiring in 2010, Cooperman has consulted with accounting firms and other organizations. While he has a particular focus on the linkage between delivering outstanding client service and improving realization and profitability, he has helped clients in areas of overall strategy development and execution, driving growth, new business development, client loyalty and retention, and partner compensation.

David Wolfskehl, director of operations at WBA says, “A consistent theme we hear from managing partners is their desire to increase utilization and realization – and now we have one of the foremost experts in the country on this topic as part of our team and that’s exciting.”

“It is an honor to be part of the Whitman team,” says Cooperman. “Phil and his colleagues have built a business that is a highly respected national consulting firm dedicated to helping CPA firms grow. The WBA team of professionals value client service above all, a commitment that I share. I look forward to working with WBA to help our clients achieve their personal and business goals while navigating the challenges that they and all CPA firms are facing.”

“The depth and breadth of knowledge that Marty brings after being in a top leadership role at a national firm elevates the Whitman offering to a new level,” says Philip Whitman, president and CEO of WBA. “When it comes to increasing realization and the client experience, there’s no one out there like Martin Cooperman.”

Innovation: How Great Firms Excel

By Gary Boomer, Boomer Consulting

Gary Boomer

Gary Boomer

Accounting firms generally are not who you think of when you mention “innovation,” yet many firms excel at innovation and there is a pattern to their success. Innovation is directly linked to growth and not an epiphany like many think; but rather a process that combines hindsight, vision and insight. The accounting profession is going through significant changes and I am often told by firm leaders they just don’t have the next generation of leaders in their firms.

In many cases there is validity to their statement and a better understanding of innovation and how firms get into this situation can help firms take the necessary steps to balance between “discovery” and “delivery” skills. Discovery skills focus on new opportunities, trends and creativity while delivery focuses on execution. You need both, but the tendency is to focus on delivery.

Mature and typically declining firms are dominated by people with excellent delivery skills, but often lack the proper balance of discovery skills. Typically, one or more firm founders were entrepreneurial and tended to hire people for their delivery skills and not their discovery skills. As a result, many partners and managers don’t know how to think about discovery or give enough value to the importance of innovation.

Accounting programs teach people delivery skills while most experiences and on-the-job training also focuses on delivery and execution. In fact, many of the discovery skills are viewed as nonproductive – more about that later. I believe innovation or lack thereof can explain some of the frustration and what firms must do in order to develop the next generation of innovative leaders.

Directional Versus Intersectional

Let’s look at two different types of innovation and then how the most successful firms are modernizing their practices to meet the needs and wants of their clients. Accounting majors are taught the rules and regulations of the profession in school and throughout their careers. This is not a negative, but rather a fact as their perception is often different than those with different training and aptitudes. Upon graduation, most accountants going into public practice start in audit and/or tax. This has been the traditional approach and is the primary reason most innovation in firms is directional innovation.

Directional innovation tends to improve a service in fairly predictable steps with a well-defined dimension or goal. The majority of innovation is directional and is accomplished through increasing levels of expertise and specialization (delivery skills). This is a low-risk approach and one with which many CPAs are comfortable. There is nothing wrong with directional innovation, yet it is limiting due to the fact most of the participants are looking at the problem from the same perspective.

Darwin John, former CIO at the FBI, once said, “If two of you have the same opinion, then we don’t need one of you.” This may be a bit extreme, but the point is that for real innovation (discovery) to occur it requires multiple perspectives. This is often called intersectional innovation, where multiple disciplines meet in the attempt to solve a problem or improve a solution. From my experience in the CPA profession, two areas within firms that have been responsible for innovation over the past 20 years are firm administration and technology. Leaders in these areas have been attempting to bring the silos together and improve performance through improved communications, efficiency and effectiveness.

One step in entrepreneurial innovation and the one leading firms are focusing on is intersectional or client-centric innovation. It not only involves the client, but his multidiscipline advisors. This can be difficult due to egos and personalities, but the CPA is the most trusted business advisor and should take his or her role seriously by acting as the quarterback when it comes to innovation and improved client services.

While many CPAs were trained to be rugged individualists (with an intense focus on delivery) and solve the clients’ problems on their own or with a small team, that approach no longer meets the needs of a majority of clients today.

Services Commoditized

Today, clients are looking for faster, better, cheaper and easier solutions forcing firms to be innovative and sensitive to clients’ wants and needs. The capturing of transactions is becoming a commodity with new technology and the ability to aggregate and integrate information via cloud-based solutions. In the past, tax return preparation has involved a significant amount of time (fee) in aggregating data while technology has automated the calculation and processing of the return. In other words, the CPA is now caught in a situation where the services they are offering are diminishing in value (commoditization). Part of this is due to technological innovation and part is due to the pricing strategies used by the majority of firms (hours times dollars, labor theory of value).

We are living in a connected world and someone is making those connections. As the trusted business advisor it should be you, the CPA, and your firm. The people making these connections tend to be professionals who excelled in one field, but learned from others. This describes many CPAs and why they are the most trusted business advisor. Formal education increases the probability of attaining creative success to a point and then actually reduces the odds. A key to prolonged success throughout one’s career is lifelong learning and multiple experiences. It makes sense to spend time on a variety of projects if you wish to develop fresh and groundbreaking ideas. The value comes from being able to spot trends and then integrate what you already know. This requires curiosity and an interest in a variety of things. Innovators don’t produce because they are successful, but they are successful because they produce.

Grouping Innovation

Diversity promotes innovation while too much expertise can create barriers to innovation. Innovation requires a balance. More good ideas come when working in a group than when working independently. The big question becomes: What can and should firms do to promote innovation at the intersection? As I said earlier in the article, innovation occurs with vision, hindsight and insight. By looking at the current generation of great firm leaders we see several characteristics that allowed them to be innovative. Let’s look at a list of the most important discovery characteristics.

  1. The ability to connect and associate different perspectives (clients, multiple advisors, trends, technology and etc.)
  2. The ability to question the status quo.
  3. The ability to hold self and others accountable.
  4. The willingness to participate in “safe haven” meetings with peer leaders.
  5. The ability to manage, not avoid risk. The quantity of new ideas improves the quality. Create the environment to promote, not stifle, innovation.

This list may not seem important to those who focus only on the delivery side. Firms must be cautious not to swing the pendulum too far toward the delivery or discovery skills. Both skills are required, important and cannot be ignored. Success today requires a team. The team should involve younger members who are capable and expected to challenge the status quo or strategy, which has often been developed and implemented by senior leadership.

The fact is most large organizations generally fail at disruptive innovation because top management has been selected for their delivery skills. While it is the role of the managing partner or CEO to lead the innovation, it is an extremely difficult assignment. Delivery executives do not like having the strategy constantly challenged, nor do they appreciate change. Does your firm reward and promote discovery skills? If the answer is no, you have your answer as to why you don’t have the innovative leaders for the future. Now is the time to identify and develop leaders with the skills and willingness to focus on intersectional innovation. The future success of your firm depends upon innovation.

An Innovation Checklist

Here are five areas where innovation will produce significant results. Granted they may not fit every firm, but most firms will find three or more of these innovative ideas profitable.

  1. Billing and collection policies – Use technology to improve cash flow (ACH payments and credit cards). This requires different thinking and change management. Too many firms are allowing clients to treat them as interest free or “cheap” banks. You can turn this around with improved engagement letters that specify payment terms leveraging monthly bank drafts.
  2. Tax return preparations processes – Avoid loops and focus on one-way workflow. There are better ways to train than sending work back to the preparer. You can use technology to grade performance and report errors. Current workflow software has its roots with outsourcing companies. If Federal Express can track packages electronically, firms should be able to track work in an efficient manner reducing cycle time.
  3. Client accounting in the cloud – Firms can provide transactional as well as value-added services such as bill payment, payroll, controller, human resources, IT and CFO-related services on a monthly basis. Private labeled software that can be centrally updated and supported will allow firms to take back control of accounting. It will also allow your firm to become hardware agnostic. It works the same on Mac as on a Windows-based PC via a browser.
  4. Use portals to aggregate client data for auditing and accounting as well as tax return preparation. Avoid false starts and wasted time. Portals provide security, are inexpensive and clients like them. Most of the resistance I see is within the firm.
  5. Conduct client focus groups with marketing, tax and technology expertise present. This will provide innovation at the intersection from multiple perspectives. Listen to the client and provide the services they want. Utilize firm leaders with discovery skills.

Innovation and Leadership

Innovation is part of a firm’s culture and DNA. It requires leadership and the willingness to manage risk. Not every idea is a great idea, but the quantity of ideas determines quality. Successful firms balance discovery and delivery skills. Does your firm have the discovery skills necessary to meet your clients’ demands in a rapidly changing world? Provide your people with the time and resources to innovate. Based upon recent studies, most firms are less than 50% chargeable. What better use of the non-chargeable time than innovation, training and new business development?

View the original article.

Gary Boomer is the president of Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.

CPA Practice Advisor Accounting Hall of Fame Inducts Koltin

Allan Koltin

Allan Koltin

Consultant Allan Koltin has been inducted into the CPA Practice Advisor Accounting Hall of Fame.

As CEO of Chicago-based Koltin Consulting, he specializes in helping professional and financial services firms with practice growth, management, human capital and mergers and acquisitions. He was added to the Hall of Fame during a recent ceremony at the Sixth Annual Accounting Thought Leader Symposium in Dallas.

Koltin is a well-known speaker at events around the world, and has also provided industry commentary and analysis to various media.

“We are excited that the thought leaders have chosen to add Allan to the Hall of Fame,” says Barry Strobel, publisher of CPA Practice Advisor. “He continues to have a deep impact on the profession, particularly in the areas of practice transitions and mergers.” Koltin was named a 2015 “Most Recommended Consultant” by INSIDE Public Accounting.

Koltin has authored three books for professional accounting firms: CPA Firm Merger Strategies That Work, CPAs That Sell and the AICPA’s Marketing a Consulting Niche. He has served on the advisory boards of CPA Practice Advisor, CPA Practice Management Forum, the Journal of Accountancy, Accounting Today, Public Accounting Report and Law Firm Management.

“Allan is a very humble and nice guy who exudes a lot of confidence,” says M. Darren Root, CEO of Rootworks. “They could not have picked a better guy to represent the profession.”

Koltin previously served as the president and CEO of PDI Global Inc., which was the largest publisher of marketing newsletters for professional services firms. He sold PDI Global to H&R Block in 1998, bought it back in 2008, then re-sold it to Thomson Reuters in 2011. Prior experience includes serving as a senior partner in the Chicago-based accounting and consulting firm of FERS, where he served as the leader of the investment banking group, as well as the law firm consulting group.

Members of the Accounting Hall of Fame include Greg LaFollete, Randy Johnston, Gary Boomer, Rick Richardson, Chris Frederiksen and Tom Hood.

Bissett Joins Whitman Business Advisors

Whitman Business Advisors LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in succession planning, announces that international author, consultant and speaker Martin Bissett of The Upward Spiral Partnership has joined Whitman as an expert in the CPA profession.

Martin Bissett

Martin Bissett

This partnership with the U.K. consulting firm allows firms to benefit from the high-level fee growth and the leadership development content developed by Martin, which is new to North America. The Upward Spiral Partnership focuses on sales and leadership development for senior managers.

David Wolfskehl is director of operations for Whitman who spearheads the training and coaching team of consultants. “Martin brings a fresh perspective to fee growth, business development and emerging leader development,” he says. “He is an industry thought leader and we are excited to introduce him as part of the Whitman team of CPA firm experts.”

Bissett adds, “I am delighted to be a part of the ever-growing Whitman team and I am looking forward to working closely together with WBA to deliver unrivaled content for CPA firms throughout North America.”

Philip Whitman, president and CEO of Whitman Business Advisors adds, “When we first started talking with Martin about joining forces with us, I immediately saw that having him as part of the Whitman offering would be adding a powerhouse of talent.”

IPA INSIDER: October 2015 News

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

  1. IPA Spotlight On … Frank Longobardi, CohnReznick
  2. The 2015 IPA Best of the Best Firms to Watch
  3. The 2015 Nationwide Fastest-Growing Firms
  4. Grant Thornton Names New OMP of Atlanta
  5. Grant Thornton to Offer Unlimited Vacations
  6. The 2015 IPA Most Recommended Consultants
  7. Rehmann to Combine With Florida Firm
  8. How Does Your CPA Firm Measure Profitability?
  9. LaPorte Announces Plans to Merge with Beyer Stagni
  10. MACPA Honors Four Leaders as 2015 ‘Women to Watch’; Plus One Man ‘Who Gets It’

The 2015 IPA Most Recommended Consultants

We are proud to announce the 2015 IPA Most Recommended Consultants, listed in alphabetical order, and their firms. The full list will be highlighted in the October issue of INSIDE Public Accounting.

Each year INSIDE Public Accounting asks firms from across the nation 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.

2015_IPA_Most Recommended Consultants_Artwork

Boomer Consulting Inc.
Gary Boomer
www.boomer.com

ConvergenceCoaching LLC
Jennifer Wilson
www.convergencecoaching.com

Crosley Company
Gale Crosley
www.crosleycompany.com

Koltin Consulting Group
Allan Koltin
www.koltin.com

Steve Erickson LLC
Steve Erickson
www.steveericksonllc.com

Succession Institute
Bill Reeb
www.successioninstitute.com

The Rosenberg Associates
Marc Rosenberg
rosenbergassoc.com

Upstream Academy
Sam Allred
www.upstreamacademy.com

Whitman Business Advisors
Philip Whitman
www.whitmanbiz.com/

Xcentric
Roman Kepczyk
xcentric.com

IPA Spotlight on . . . Rachel Anevski, Matters of Management

rachel-hsName: Rachel Anevski

Firm: Matters of Management of Wayne, N.J.

Title: CEO

Q: What attracted you to starting your own firm?

A: Most of my career was spent with MPs and executive boards. I listened to them talk of ownership, accountability, responsibility, who’s on the bus, succession benches and so forth. One of my earliest presentations to an executive group was on the topic of entrepreneurship – a process that I knew well thanks to careful planning and patient understanding of the client’s need for innovative and quality service. Through the years I would watch consultants speak to crowds who listened intently, then went back to their firms charged with ideas to implement. It sparked a deep desire to teach, to coach and to help firms lead change. I founded the firm in 2013.

Q: Whats the best business advice youve ever received?

A: To listen. Not just to listen, but to listen actively without anticipating responses.

Q: Whats the best thing you ever did to improve your leadership skills?

A: A few years ago, I was nominated to participate in a year-long state leadership fellowship. I had the privilege to find myself among the wisest and boldest 40 or so leaders in my home state, tackling issues as varied as the floundering education system, health care, recidivism and diversity. I developed a keen understanding of group dynamics and leadership on both a small and large scale. Most important, I established life-long business friendships.

imageQ: Can you provide an example of an innovative way an accounting firm is addressing one of its biggest challenges?

A: One firm helped their future leaders learn how to sustain growth. The firm committed to an innovative leadership program for all upcoming junior partners, directors and management. The first component was education (foundation), the second component was executive coaching (accountability), and the third component was competition (practice). Each part worked together in lock step, and the likelihood of success skyrocketed.

Q: How would you like your business to grow and change?

A: Matters of Management (M2) offers several services such as growth strategy, executive talent acquisition, M&A support, human resources outsourcing, interim operations and executive coaching. Each one of these services has detailed programs within them that support firm initiatives. I see M2 taking on additional partners and support staff and collaborating with other consultants to move the profession forward. Change is a constant. Sometimes it’s fast and unexpected, and sometimes it’s planned. The way we intend on changing is by listening to the needs of our clients and responding without hesitation.

Q: Any ideas on how accounting firms can ‘wowtheir clients with their services?

A: The best way to “wow” clients is to anticipate their needs. We are all really good at identifying problems once they have occurred, but our main objective is to alleviate problems before they arise and prevent future complications.

Q: Any other thoughts youd like to share?

A: Public accounting firms haven’t figured out a way to get personal. That’s why they continue to lose accountants to private industry. One size does not fit all when it comes to dealing with our future leaders. If you can get inside the minds of the people, you will solve the puzzle. Everyone likes to be heard. Love what you do, the rest is easy.

IPA has started a new feature called “Spotlight,” which highlights the good work being done by accounting firm MPs and partners, association leaders, consultants, vendors, state CPA association directors and other big thinkers in the profession. Know someone who should be featured? Contact Christina Camara.