Kirk Named Lead of Elliott Davis’ Cybersecurity Practice

Brian Kirk

Brian Kirk

Greenville, S.C.-based Elliott Davis (FY17 net revenue of $118.1 million) announced that Brian Kirk has been named practice lead of the firm’s growing cybersecurity division. He is based in the company’s Greenville headquarters.

“The need for solutions that mitigate the risk of cyber threats has never been greater,” says Jimmy Buddenberg, director of Elliott Davis’ risk advisory and cybersecurity practice. “Brian brings more than two decades of experience building, implementing and overseeing cyber security programs for companies in a variety of industries. He’ll use this knowledge to help clients identify vulnerabilities and create strategies to protect their enterprise.”

As the lead for Elliott Davis’ cybersecurity team, Kirk, who has more than 25 years of IT experience, the last 10 of which were in cybersecurity, will partner with organizations to develop and implement comprehensive cybersecurity solutions to safeguard their businesses, as well as their customers’ critical assets and data. He will work with clients to assess and improve their security posture through areas such as security and vulnerability assessments, IT budget and staffing reviews, and advisory services associated with technology and sourcing solutions.

“Competition aside, cyber-attacks are now one of the most formidable challenges facing today’s businesses,” says Kirk. “The impact of even a single data breach can be devastating, both to a company’s finances and its reputation. We’ll work with clients to develop tools, policies and procedures that minimize exposure and, enabling them to focus on running their business rather than worrying about a potential cyber-attack.”

Prior to joining Elliott Davis, Kirk most recently served as Chief Information Security Officer for CH2M, a Fortune 500 engineering firm that provides consulting, design, construction and operations services for corporations and federal, state and local governments. In this role, he led the establishment and growth of the company’s Information Security practice and directed all day-to-day information security operational activities for the global organization.

Blue & Co. Welcomes New Human Resources Officer

Nancy Rife

Carmel, Ind.-based Blue & Co. (FY16 net revenue of $77.5 million) welcomed Nancy Rife as the firm’s new human resources officer. Rife has nearly 20 years of experience in human resources along with a background in accounting and finance.

“Nancy’s expertise and broad experience will serve her well as she leads the recruiting and human resources efforts for our firm,” says Chris Olson, chief operations officer.

Over the past 13 years, Rife has served as director of human resources with MJ Insurance. Prior to accepting that role, she worked for Oak Street Mortgage and Banc One Mortgage Corporation.

Mazars USA Welcomes Schneider as National Tax Practice Leader

New York-based Mazars USA (FY16 net revenue of $187 million) welcomed Charles Schneider as the national tax practice leader.

“Charles’s extensive track record of effective leadership, in the U.S. and internationally, makes us confident that he will be a significant asset as head of the Mazars USA tax practice, contributing to the firm’s strategic plan as we continue expanding both nationally and globally,” says chairman and CEO, Victor Wahba.

Schneider spent the majority of his career with a Big 4 firm and, more recently, with a large regional firm. He has experience in domestic and international tax and business planning, working with large multinational corporations, as well as middle market businesses across various industries.

“I am confident our teams can leverage our experience to continue the firm’s expansion, both domestically and internationally. Ongoing development of our integrated global platform will help position Mazars to better serve our clients both locally and around the world,” says Schneider.

Postlethwaite & Netterville Names Gardiner CEO

Dan Gardiner

Dan Gardiner

Baton Rouge, La.-based Postlethwaite & Netterville (FY17 net revenue of $58.3 million) named Dan Gardiner CEO and managing director, effective May 1.

Bill Balhoff has been our CEO for the past decade, during which time our firm has experienced tremendous growth. I’m very honored to serve as the fifth managing director of one of the top 100 accounting and consulting firms in the country, and am looking forward to building upon the strong foundation of quality client services that P&N offers,” says Gardiner.

Balhoff, who joined P&N in 1976, will remain in a leadership position within the firm.

IPA Spotlight On … Daniel Young, Schenck

Name: Daniel Young

Title: President

Firm: Appleton, Wis.-based Schenck (FY16 net revenue of $80.5 million)

Daniel Young


  • Managing shareholder of the Green Bay, Wis., office for 10 years before being elected president in 2018
  • Completed four three-year terms on Schenck’s board of directors and was named vice chair in 2015
  • Named director of industry teams in 2013, providing leadership and strategic direction for the firm’s nine industry teams
  • 2016 recipient of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Distinguished Alumni Award

With a few months under your belt as president, what’s the one thing that’s surprised you the most about the role? 

As a longtime Schenck board member, and with experience as board vice chair and partner-in-charge in the Green Bay office, I was aware of most opportunities within the firm and the direction we were going. I also knew the people in the firm, which is an advantage an external candidate wouldn’t have had. However, what I hadn’t given much thought to was how my day-to-day relationships would change as I transitioned most of the clients for which I had lead responsibility to other Schenck team members. While I miss the client interaction, I am finding it really rewarding to further grow relationships with our internal team. I look forward to meeting more clients in all our markets and hearing how we can continue to support their growth and success and deliver on our Schenck Way for client service.

You’ve said one of your goals is to work on people initiatives. How does the firm work to prepare the next generation of leaders?

Our firm has wildly important goals (WIGs) and one is to build team member expertise using the 70:20:10 model. This guides how people learn: 70% percent on the job, 20% in structured coaching and 10% in formal training. Each WIG contains leading activities that we measure to ensure we are achieving the goal. In addition, we listen to our people. We survey our team members to monitor internal engagement and identify areas of opportunity. We share what we’ve learned in local meetings and communicate action plans.

We also offer programs that support our team members. Our Total Rewards Guiding Principles help us make consistent decisions related to compensation, benefits and creating a life-friendly work environment. Schenck’s Growth & Development program helps team members create a career plan that allows them opportunities to build their skills.

What are your growth goals for Schenck, and do those goals involve organic growth, merging in smaller firms, or both? Any plans to expand beyond Wisconsin?

Our first WIG is about firm growth, and we’re looking to increase our organic growth by a certain percentage by Sept. 30, 2019. As with our other WIGs, we have battles and leading activities that are monitored using scorecards. Under our growth WIG, we have a goal related to targeted acquisitions, which helps us identify and pursue good targets. As far as plans, we’ve always intended to expand our reach, possibly in the Madison market within Wisconsin and the northern Illinois and Twin Cities markets outside the state.

When your first year is over, how will you measure your own success?

One of the things I was asked to do as president was to execute our firm-wide strategies. I will first look to the scorecards to see how well we’ve done. In addition, I have a detailed accountability plan that was created in conjunction with our board of directors. It provides a framework of support that allows me to focus on certain activities that help uphold the vision and strategy of the firm, and I will measure my success against that. When these are done well, success will be found in the value we bring our clients and the growth of team members that builds the future of the firm.

Final thoughts?

At Schenck, we’re committed to making a difference for our clients, people and communities. Our own growth has better positioned us to support our clients. We believe that doing things right and doing them well is what will create opportunities that drive success for our people, our clients, our communities and ultimately our firm. I’m excited to be on this journey and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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

Marcum Launches Quarterly CEO Survey, Middle-Market CEOs Optimistic

New York-based Marcum (FY16 net revenue of $449 million) launched a new quarterly survey of middle-market company chief executives, in collaboration with the Chief Executive Group, publisher of the CEO Confidence Index. The new Marcum survey gauges CEOs’ outlook on the current business environment and their priorities for the next 12 months.

The first quarterly Marcum CEO survey found that chief executives are strongly optimistic, with 99% of CEOs rating their business outlook between five (positive) and 10 (very positive), and 8% selecting the top rating.

Talent recruitment was the first priority among CEOs, with 36% saying their biggest investment will be in human capital. Technology was a distant second with 15%, and workforce training was third with 12%.

The most important influence for business planning over the next 12 months is availability of talent (31%). The urgent need for access to talent is industry-agnostic, with CEOs in 14 of 16 categories saying this is the most important influence on their companies’ near-term future.

“Clearly, human capital is the overriding concern of CEOs in virtually all industries, ahead of even technology as a driving force in how companies are preparing for the future,” says Jeffrey Weiner, Marcum’s chairman and CEO. “Our findings in the inaugural Marcum CEO survey are a barometer of market conditions, and it comes as no surprise that this population of entrepreneurial CEOs is remarkably optimistic about the current and near-future business environment. It’s the nature of entrepreneurs to confront and overcome challenges. It will be very interesting to see how things might change over time as prevailing business conditions respond to economic shifts, political winds and world events.”

Johnson Goff & Company Names Johnson as New MP

Thomas Johnson

Thomas Johnson

Johnson Goff & Company (FY16 net revenue of $3 million) of Scottsdale, Ariz., named Thomas Johnson as its new MP. Johnson succeeds Robert Johnson, founding member and MP since 1977.

Johnson has been a partner at the firm for 16 years and was a staff accountant at Johnson Goff & Company for 13 years prior to that. His areas of expertise include business tax planning, consulting and preparation as well as succession planning.

Johnson has played a part in the recent expansion of the firm which has doubled in both staff and client base within the last five years. He has also worked in expanding the firm into areas of both audit and research, and development tax credit studies.

PwC Canada Names Marcoux as New CEO

Nicolas Marcoux

Nicolas Marcoux

PwC Canada named Nicolas Marcoux as CEO, effective July 1. He will succeed Bill McFarland, who has served as CEO since 2011.

“I’m very honored to have been elected as CEO of PwC Canada. Our foundation is strong and we have endless opportunities to continue to build trust and help our clients solve important problems in today’s disruptive and evolving business environment,” says Marcoux.

Marcoux has served a wide range of clients and industries as a corporate finance partner and the lead relationship partner on many of the firm’s key clients. He is currently a member of the Canadian executive team as the national MP of consulting and deals, and is the Montreal MP.

“Nicolas is an exceptional leader who has the passion and vision to lead our clients and firm into the future. He has a track record of engaging and inspiring teams to seize opportunities and innovate, and is passionate about the success of our clients, people and communities,” says McFarland.

The Link Between Strategy and Winning on Value

Domenick Esposito

Domenick Esposito

By Domenick Esposito

There is a wide chasm between talking about value and making your firm a value-based-firm (VBF). The first step in transforming your firm from just another accounting firm to a VBF is to develop the strategic framework that will consistently deliver value to your clients.

There have been tons of articles written about strategy, its importance and multiple “how-to” models. In many articles, the discussion focuses on creating that “killer” strategy that will propel your firm to stardom and unlimited profits.

Strategy is presented as the driver of top performers and although important, strategy is a STEP to the true driver of firm performance – value. The bottom line is that you win on value – not on strategy.

Let’s begin by understanding the strategy model that firms should use to develop their strategic initiatives for the next few years.

An explanation of each bucket and the logic of the flow:

  • Growth – what is your top line goal and the key strategies to achieve the goal?
  • Organization – what changes are necessary in your organization (processes, systems, etc.) to support the successful achievement of your growth goal?
  • People – what talent do you have and/or need to achieve the growth and organizational goals?
  • Profit – what is your profit goal given the above and what are the key performance metrics that need to be achieved?
  • Leadership – what structure of leadership and management team is necessary to drive the successful achievement of all the above initiatives?

Another way to look at it is the model presented above creates the framework to deliver on your firm’s value model (VM) – what you have chosen to set your firm apart from your competitors and to win new clients on value and not price.

Building your strategies within this model connects and aligns all the important pieces of the firm and ensures that all aspects of the firm are working in unison toward the common vision and strategy – fully supporting the VM that is critical to sustainable success.

How does this strategic planning model relate to value? Whatever your decision is relating to your firm’s VM, to differentiate your firm from all others, it must be grounded in and supported by the strategic model that drives the organization and its people. Any VM not linked to and supported by the firm’s strategy and organization is just another slogan that quickly ends up in the graveyard of useless slogans that so many firms have created.

Why? In simple terms, the VM has to be the living, breathing culture of the firm – engrained in every employee, supported by every system and process, consistently and visibly delivered in every interaction with clients, prospects and anyone else who matters to the success of the firm. It is an attitude, the mojo of the firm.

Your VM has to be based on what your clients and prospects value and not on what you value, not on what you do and clearly not on promising quality and service. In order to make your VM a reality and something that not only resonates with your clients and prospects but that also is part of your firm’s DNA, the strategic model outlined above is the planning framework to create that reality.

Let’s think about why. Many strategic planning models are based on some form of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. While important, it too often results in the focus of planning on opportunities and threats without any real linkage back to how the firm actually operates. All planning needs to look at some variation of SWOT in order to create a strong baseline regarding the current “as is” of the firm. However, planning based on just opportunities and risks without a clear and strong linkage to how the firm actually operates will fail to achieve the desired outcome – every time.

Most strategic plans include a vision and mission statement component. Although necessary, the third and most important component is missing – the VM.

  • Vision is about who you are as a firm.
  • Mission is about what you do as a firm.
  • Value is about what you deliver as a firm.

All three are essential to a closed-loop structure for strategic planning. To ensure that your firm’s VM is real and that it delivers the promised value to your clients every time, complete these five steps to value planning and see your wins as well as client retention soar:

  1. SCOTA – start with an objective understanding of the “as is” of the firm – what are your strengths, challenges, real opportunities and finally “targeted actions” or what initiatives will be necessary to capitalize on the opportunities.
  2. Vision statement – develop a clear and convincing value statement about who your firm is, what it stands for and what you are striving to become.
  3. Mission statement – develop a clear definition of what your firm does – what is its ultimate mission or why you exist,
  4. Value model – what is the value that you will deliver to your clients and prospects – the value that they want and that clearly differentiates your firm from the pack.
  5. Strategic planning model – finally, prepare your 18-month to two-year plan using the model presented above. For each strategy within each bucket, develop the initiatives to be completed to successfully implement each strategy. For each strategy and initiative, define the deliverable and the metric of success.

Completion of each of the five steps, each with the VM at its core, will successfully transform your firm to a successful VBF that can dramatically improve its organic growth and profitability.

Now the most challenging task lies ahead – implementation, keeping everyone’s focus on the implementation of the plan and transformation into a VBF.

Platt’s Perspective: Don’t Like Disruption? ‘Expect An Earthquake Every Three Years’ Says McKinsey CEO

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Disciplined. Compliant. Orderly. Methodical. Those are the driving personality characteristics of most left-brained accountants that I know. Doing things the right way. Debits equal credits. There is a natural order to accounting, and that has tended to attract many similar-thinking people to the profession.

It also has created a profession filled with practitioners who are, at their core, fundamentally resistant to change. Any leader who has undertaken a change effort has encountered this group – not on board at best, actively resistant at worst. “Why do we need to change, everything has been going well so far, so why fool with success,” is the cry most often heard from the group.

In the past, shaking up the status quo even once a decade was a painful process for this group. Dominic Barton, CEO of global consulting giant McKinsey, recently told The Australian Financial Review in an interview that large companies will need to massively restructure to the point that they will “expect an earthquake every three years.”

With high partner compensation numbers, there’s a tangible lifestyle measurement at risk. After all, there have been calls for change before, the profession has made small, incremental adjustments to its trajectory, and “we’re doing just fine as we are, thank you.”

But this time it’s different. This time, the pace is lightning fast. The image that comes to mind is my own experience of skydiving for the first time. Door open, a white-knuckled grip on the doorframe, feet firmly on a small step. As the instructor encouraged me to “climb out,” I warily slid one hand on to the wing strut. “Keep going” the instructor urged…“Keep going – I’ll talk you through it.” As I finally lifted my feet off the step, the realization that I was no longer tethered to the safety of the plane, hit me. “LET GO!” the instructor bellowed, and I let go.

As I watched the plane fly away, my heart stopped for a moment until I heard the whoosh of a parachute opening above my head. And then silence. Beauty all around me. A feeling of genuine exhilaration. As I glided down to Earth, I felt an accomplishment and satisfaction. My final thought was “I jumped out of a plane and landed safely on the ground.”

For those leading the change, recognize that you are flying the plane filled with some white-knuckled staff and partners who are perfectly comfortable inside the safety of the plane. Never underestimate the significance of encouragement to get your group to sit in an open doorway with feet hanging out at 10,000 feet above the ground; to be the voice of “keep going,” “keep going,” “keep going.”

Understand how critical it is to them to hear your calm and confident instructions to “now LET GO!” As you talk them through their maiden flight and land them safely, they will gain the courage and the confidence to go back up in the plane again – if McKinsey is right – another three years from now as you continue to create an organization whose core competency is the ability to adapt to change.