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

ConvergenceCoaching LLC
Jennifer Wilson

Crosley Company
Gale Crosley

Koltin Consulting Group
Allan Koltin

Steve Erickson LLC
Steve Erickson

Succession Institute
Bill Reeb

The Rosenberg Associates
Marc Rosenberg

Upstream Academy
Sam Allred

Whitman Business Advisors
Philip Whitman

Roman Kepczyk

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.

Four Professionals Honored with “Bridging the Gap Awards”

Four accounting thought leaders were selected as this year’s “Bridging the Gap” awards by Boomer Consulting, Inc. during the recent Boomer Technology Circles Summit in Kansas City.

Three of the awards honor firms and individuals within the accounting profession that excel in aligning technology and firm management while the fourth award recognizes an outstanding emerging leader.

Rachel Godwin

Rachel Godwin

Rachel Godwin, principal, Alabama-based Hartmann, Blackmon, & Kilgore, was presented with the 2015 Bridging the Gap as an Emerging Leader award.

Godwin was promoted to principal in January 2014 and has been a major part of several initiatives. As chair of the firm’s technology committee she led the group in initiatives to improve technology by migrating to a third party hosted environment, evaluating major software applications for implementation, and updating hardware replacement programs. As director of accounting and auditing services, she, along with the firm’s Lean Six Sigma staff, championed the audit team through a Lean Six Sigma analysis of the firm’s audit processes leading to higher efficiency, enhanced communications and a consistent culture.

Jim Bourke

Jim Bourke

Jim Bourke, PIC of firm technology at Princeton, N.J.-based WithumSmith + Brown (FY15 net revenue of $113.5 million), was presented with the 2015 Bridging the Gap in Firm Management award. According to presenter Jim Boomer, Bourke was nominated because “he continuously challenges others to lead with new technology initiatives…and many individuals consider him to be a great mentor who has helped them achieve success within their firm.” Bourke won the same award in 2013.

Don Logan

Don Logan

, director of technology at Livingston, N.J.-based Wiss & Company (FY15 net revenue of $35.4 million) was presented with the 2015 Bridging the Gap in Technology award. Logan has been a key player in evolving his firm’s technology from its core internal technology services to offering advisory services to clients. Since migrating its internal systems to private/public cloud and applying best practices for efficiencies, autonomy and aligning technology with the business goals and plan, the technology group has taken what they have learned and applied that to its clients.

Peter Henley

Peter Henley

Peter Henley, senior director at Clark Nuber of Bellevue. Wash. (FY14 net revenue of $33.3 million), was presented with the 2015 Bridging the Gap award for Technology and Firm Management Project, an award that recognizes a firm’s project to leverage technology to accelerate the achievement of the firm’s vision and goals. With their project, IRS Form 990 Board Questionnaire, Clark Nuber was able to streamline firm operations, give their clients a better tool for collecting data, and help their client relationships with some of their own constituency.

“These awards are meant to showcase the amazing passion and talent we have working in our profession,” said Jim Boomer, CIO of Boomer Consulting, Inc. “It’s naturally an honor and a privilege to have these individuals participating in our programs so that we can network with, and learn from some of the brightest and most influential people in accounting.”

The winners were chosen from nominations submitted by around 100 eligible firms that are either members of the Boomer Technology Circles™ or participants in the P3 Leadership Academy.

National Organization Selects Atlanta Firm as Marketing Book Authors

Bonnie Buol Ruszczsyk

Bonnie Buol Ruszczsyk

bbr marketing, an Atlanta-based firm specializing in marketing strategy and tactical implementation for professional services organizations, has written and released their first book, Take Your Marketing Online: Proven Ways to Grow Your Firm in the Digital Age. This book, published through the AICPA, describes a variety of strategies and methods CPAs can use to make the most of their online marketing.

“I was honored when the AICPA approached me about writing this book,” says Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, founder and owner of bbr marketing. “I have great respect for the AICPA and the education they provide to accountants and the industry as a whole. Our firm was only too happy to contribute to their overall body of knowledge and help accountants take their marketing online more effectively.” Some of the key topics covered include building a marketing plan, improving websites, blogging, content marketing, social media, search engine optimization, analytics and more.

Ruszczyk, with contributions from Kelly Lucas, bbr marketing’s client marketing director, and Sarah Warlick, the firm’s content director, created a comprehensive book that educates accountants about their digital marketing options, providing advice, strategy and tactics for implementation. “Given that the audience has varying levels of digital marketing understanding, it was important to write content that would be approachable for those new to the concepts, but also provide insight and sophisticated strategies for those who are already immersed in the digital world,” says Bonnie.

When searching for an author on this subject, the AICPA wanted someone who could provide marketing expertise that wasn’t an all-or-nothing approach, so that each firm could customize their strategies around the advice based on current needs and expand their efforts as their firm grows. “Following a speaking engagement at a conference, where I presented on topics related to the book, the AICPA began talking with me about writing this book, explaining they were impressed with the way I grabbed the attention of the audience,” says Ruszczyk. “They said they liked that I explained concepts that were new to many audience members in a way that was meaningful, sending them home with practical tips that they could use immediately.” The AICPA seemed equally impressed with bbr marketing’s own firm growth. “They could appreciate that in just a few years of being in operation we’ve managed to build a name for ourselves. We’ve become known for our ability to make sometimes intimidating marketing concepts more readily understandable for accountants and can explain ideas and strategies to them in a way that resonates.” bbr marketing is honored to have partnered with the AICPA to write and publish a book that is sure to help CPAs at any digital marketing level properly position and grow their firms.

To learn more about Take Your Marketing Online and to order your copy, visit www.bbrmarketing.com/tymo.

Tolin Forms CPA Growth Guides to Help CPAs with Growth & Profitability Strategies

Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin has founded CPA Growth Guides, a consulting firm focused on helping CPA firms across the country identify their best path to top-line revenue growth and to help develop strategies and tactics that produce measurable results.

“Just like a guide leads and directs people on a journey, I want to show accounting firms how to achieve profitable growth,” says Tolin, chief growth guide. “Accounting firms implement many marketing tactics, yet have no idea what, if any, results they are producing. I want to help them connect the dots between strategy and action.”

Tolin will use her nearly 20 years of marketing experience at regional, super regional and national accounting firms to help CPAs develop and implement strategic marketing plans. Focusing upon data-driven marketing strategies, she will use data obtained from revenue segmentation, market analysis and competitive analysis to help firms identify their true strengths and future market potential.

A recognized accounting marketer in the profession, Tolin has been named an Accounting Marketer of the Year, one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Public Accounting and one of the Most Powerful Women in Accounting. She is currently the immediate past president of the Association for Accounting Marketing, where she spearheaded organizational change that resulted in the hiring of the organization’s first executive director, initiated an apples-to-apples comparison of marketing budgets in the industry and launched an environmental scanning council to help AAM keep its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry.

“Marketing and growth are not interchangeable,” says Tolin. “Marketing is one aspect of growth; the others are business development support, product management and communications. The key is understanding how each of these areas are interconnected. That’s the foundation needed to produce optimal growth.”

Tolin will also help firms analyze their marketing structure, hire and coach marketing staff, implement pipelines, develop winning sales collateral and proposals and utilize inbound marketing strategies.