Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success

Without the support of the partner group, MPs can’t move their firms forward. The realities of gaining consensus among hard-driving professionals with different working styles, skills and drivers can be more challenging than even the most insightful firm leader could anticipate. One MP says, “It’s like herding cats, and it’s very difficult to get all partners on the same page because not everybody has the same value proposition and not everyone is motivated by the same metrics.”

No MP owns a how-to guidebook on juggling the multiple – and sometimes competing – priorities demanding their attention every day. INSIDE Public Accounting, therefore, asked more than 70 MPs to offer anonymous insights on the frustrations, challenges, joys and rewards of the top job. In a 12-question survey, they offered unfiltered, candid insights. Here are responses to just a few of the questions.

What are two of your biggest frustrations with the partner group? Two themes – egos and complacency – immediately emerged from MP responses to this question. Some MPs say partners think their way is the only way. They fail to see the benefit of trying a different approach, close themselves off from other points of view, second-guess decisions (after failing to participate in the discussion), and stay in their comfort zone of client service without committing to professional development, marketing, timely billing and collections.

One MP said two or three partners are so negative “they’re like a cancer.” Some partners think they’re “too busy or too important to follow the rules,” says another.

However, with the success of the partners goes the success of the firm, and MPs are quick to acknowledge the massive amounts of work they handle, the numerous clients they serve admirably and the demands they address without fail.

Frustrations With Partners IncludeLack of Participation “They don’t speak up. When we need them to vote it’s like pulling teeth to get them to respond on time.”

Lack of Accountability “Partners like to measure others but don’t like to be measured.” Another MP says, “Too many of our partners are cruisers. Some of these, though, think they are dynamos and they aren’t.”

Self-Centered Thinking One MP is frustrated by “getting them to work together as a team, and not be so concerned about themselves.” Another says, “Partners think they are suited for all jobs because they are successful in one or two areas.” Another disappointment? “Partners who occasionally want to be MP, but only when they don’t like something specific but don’t want any part of the running of the firm on a daily basis.”

Hanging on When it’s Time to Retire “They seem to want to continue to come to the office, take up a large office, and distract staff and have no desire to step away. This can hold back some of the younger partners and potential partners.”

Failure to Use Time Wisely – A top-notch partner, one MP says, should “discuss issues with other partners when they arise and not behind their back, seek to interact more with fellow partners, be joyful in what you do and how you carry yourself, and help others at all times when asked.” Another MP comments that partners often complain about being overloaded with work. “As a result, they can’t hit their goals, or do this or that. What I find is that they’re not looking inside and prioritizing, pushing down or making good choices.”

“What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would share with an MP?…Don’t try to be popular, say many MPs who responded to this question. “You have to make what you feel is the best decision for the firm and don’t take unhappy partners or staff personally,” one MP says. “They will get over it.”

MPs, in various ways, advised new executives to make the tough decisions, but be respectful. Communicate clearly and often, and put the long-term best interest of the firm above selfish or short-term gains. Always.

More advice from the trenches…

  • Don’t Rush – “Be patient. Making changes is like moving a battleship so take it slow and do it right.” Another MP says, “Think more. Do less.”
  • Be Direct – “Establish up front that you’re not going to put up with negativity, complaining, etc., or they’ll be brought up before the executive committee.”
  • Think ‘Big Picture’ – “Communicate, communicate, communicate. There has to be someone in charge that creates the vision and rallies the employees behind it.”
  • Get Support – “Find four or five other managing partners or consultants that they admire and respect and build close relationships with them. That gives them a sounding board outside his or her own partner group. Other MPs are also great sources of new ideas that can be implemented.”
  • Learn the Role Before Taking It – “Just because you’re a good accountant doesn’t mean you know how to run a business.”
  • Watch the WIP – “If you don’t bill, you don’t collect money. If you don’t collect money, you can’t pay the bills.”
  • Manage Your Time – “Block off chunks of time to work on administrative duties and client duties. Constantly switching back and forth is difficult and draining.”
  • Stay Focused – “Work hard, never lose the trust of the partners who are willing to trust, and don’t let the naysayers distract you.”
  • Be Open – “Understand you need to learn as much as you can about how to work with different types of people.” Another MP agrees. “Get to know all your partners, and determine what really motivates them, and what is it that they care most about at the firm. Do not play favorites, and don’t allow little partner groups to form and break down the vision of the firm. Rather, bring their concerns to the table, and resolve them.”

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K. James Hunt New CEO of Arnett Carbis Toothman

K. James Hunt & Steven Robey

K. James Hunt has been named CEO of Charleston, W.Va.-based Arnett Carbis Toothman (FY18 net revenue of $37.4 million).

Hunt succeeds Steven Robey who served as CEO for the last 10 years. “Hunt and Robey have worked together, hand-in-hand, over the last several years to make ACT what it is today,” the firm announced.

The transition is part of the firm’s succession plan, which has been in the works the last three years.

“Transitioning out of the CEO role is bittersweet,” says Robey, who will continue working full time serving clients. “I love what I do, and loved what I did as chief executive officer, but I recognize when it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders. With the dedication and leadership that James has exhibited in all of the years I’ve known him, under his direction, ACT has a bright and exciting future ahead.”

Hunt, who has been in public accounting for nearly 30 years, specializing in health care, will oversee day-to-day operations, and guide firm strategy, growth, innovation and culture. He will lead the executive committee and serve as the firm’s health care services coordinator.

“Steve led ACT for 10 years with consistent passion, dedication and thoughtfulness. The positive impact he had on ACT is undeniable,” Hunt says.

ACT has nearly 300 team members, 32 partners and eight offices in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Restivo Monacelli Appoints Kevin Hundley as MP

Kevin Hundley

Kevin Hundley

Providence, R.I.-based Restivo Monacelli (FY18 net revenue of $7.2 million) has announced that Kevin Hundley has been appointed MP, succeeding Edmund Restivo Jr., who remains with the firm as a founding partner and will continue to service clients.

Hundley joined Restivo Monacelli in 2003 as a manager in the audit and accounting department, and was admitted as a partner in 2008. In that role, he oversaw the firm’s largest practice group and managed a growing team of professionals.

As MP, he will be responsible for the firm’s strategic direction and providing leadership on overall firm matters. Among his priorities are advancing exceptional client advisory service and building a strong culture so that the entire firm is engaged in Restivo Monacelli’s progress.

“Kevin will be an excellent steward as we evolve into a second-generation firm,” Restivo says. “His skills, leadership style and focus on promoting a client-focused and entrepreneurial environment will make him an exceptional managing partner who champions our vision for future growth.”

Hundley has more than 20 years of experience in public accounting. Prior to joining Restivo Monacelli, he began his career and was a manager in the Columbus, Ohio, office of Crowe.

LGSH LLP Joins Citrin Cooperman

New York-based Citrin Cooperman (FY18 net revenue of $277 million) has acquired LGSH of Encino, Calif., marking the continuation of the firm’s expansion into Southern California.

As one of the largest CPA firms in the San Fernando Valley, the deal provides Citrin Cooperman with 10 additional partners and 55 staff. Steve Lacher and Daniel Howard will join as co-MPs of the Encino office and Howard will join the firm’s executive committee.

LGSH provides tax, audit, litigation support, business management and consulting services to clients in a variety of industries including, but not limited to, real estate, entertainment, manufacturing, distribution, technology, professional services and agriculture. Their clients consist of global companies, attorneys, doctors, entertainment executives, established companies and emerging businesses.

“We look forward to continuing LGSH’s long history of providing innovative, strategic client service,” says Citrin Cooperman CEO Joel Cooperman in a statement. “We have completed three deals in this market in 2019 and added over 100 professionals with over $25 million in annual revenue. We can now provide clients in this market will a full menu of accounting, tax and business management services as well as a full suite of complementary consulting services.”

“Like LGSH, Citrin Cooperman is known for their commitment to their clients and investment in their people, and we know our core values are aligned,” Lacher and Howard say in a joint statement. “Joining Citrin Cooperman was a decision we made not only because of similar cultures and philosophy but also because we wanted to expand the resources we collectively can offer for the benefit of our clients and our people.”

Allan D. Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group, who advised both firms on the deal, says, “For years, LGSH has been recognized in Southern California for being accomplished, creative and most importantly, trusted by their clients and peers. With their established reputation and experience, combined with Joel and his team, Citrin Cooperman is positioned to become an undisputed leader in the West Coast market.”

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Former Grant Thornton CEO Mike McGuire to Retire

Mike McGuire

Chicago-based Grant Thornton (FY18 net revenue of $1.87 billion) has announced that the former CEO, Mike McGuire, will retire in February.

McGuire served as Grant Thornton’s CEO from 2014 to 2019, transitioning to the role of CEO emeritus last August. He was succeeded in the CEO post by Bradley J. Preber.

One of his accomplishments during his tenure was improving firm culture and investing in a brand development program. Under his leadership, the firm added large clients, recorded record revenues and produced audit-quality results that are some of the best in the accounting profession, the firm says.

“Participating in this work as a teammate, partner and leader has been the greatest honor of my professional life,” McGuire says in a statement.

Preber adds, “Mike has been an outstanding colleague and leader for our firm – and a good friend to all of us – for the past 17 years. Without his leadership, we would not be the firm we are today, with a clear opportunity to compete and win at the highest levels of our profession.”

Before taking the helm at Grant Thornton, McGuire served in several leadership posts, including national MP of markets, industry, people and culture. He joined Grant Thornton in 2002 after 20 years at Arthur Andersen.

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TJS Deemer Dana Elects New Leadership

Kenneth Wood

Dublin, Ga.-based TJS Deemer Dana LLP (FY18 net revenue of $17.1 million) announces that the firm has a new MP and tax partner. 

Kenneth Wood has moved into the role of MP, succeeding MP Tracy Sharke, who calls Wood a passionate advocate for the firm. Wood has more than 28 years of experience in public accounting, focusing on attestation engagements including audits, reviews, compilations and agreed-upon procedures for clients of varying sizes and industries, as well as both private and public institutions of higher learning.  

“I am honored that my fellow partners have placed their trust in my leadership capabilities, and I look forward to leading this organization,” says Wood. 

Additionally, R. Chad Reese, who has been an instrumental member of the firm since 2011, was recently promoted from a tax director to the role of tax partner. He has significant experience in the areas of business consolidations, multi-state tax issues and advanced tax planning for businesses and individuals.   

The firm has been recognized as an INSIDE Public Accounting Top 300 Firm, and is a member of the RSM US LLP Alliance.  

Vrakas CPAs + Advisors Appoints New Managing Shareholder

Bradley J. Weckwerth

Bradley J. Weckwerth

Brookfield, Wis.-based Vrakas CPAs + Advisors announces that Bradley J. Weckwerth will be the firm’s next president and managing shareholder.

“It’s with great enthusiasm that we begin this transition. Brad has the full support of our shareholder group and is more than ready to take on this leadership role,” states James Holmes, the firm’s president and managing shareholder since 2006.

Beckwerth says he is humbled to be selected as Holmes’ successor. “The relationships I’ve built throughout my time here are truly special. This announcement is part of the firm’s long-term strategic plan, which keeps us on a path to remain as one of southeastern Wisconsin’s largest locally owned public accounting firms. We are fiercely independent and feel our unique culture and service philosophies set us apart in the marketplace.”

Holmes and Beckwerth will work as co-managing shareholders through June 2020 to ensure a seamless transition. Going forward, Holmes will remain as one of the firm’s full-time tax shareholders.

Vrakas, with over 70 professionals, focuses on privately held, for-profit companies, including private equity and ESOP-owned companies, in southeastern Wisconsin and surrounding areas across a variety of industries including manufacturing/distribution, construction, dealerships, real estate, service and retail.

Abbott Stringham & Lynch Announces New MP, Carol Wagner

Carol Wagner

Carol Wagner

Abbott Stringham & Lynch of San Jose, Calif., announces that Carol Wagner took on the managing partner role on Jan. 1.

She succeeds Ray Scheaffer, who served in the role for 15 years. Wagner is ASL’s sixth MP since the firm’s inception in 1977, and the second woman to serve in the role.

Scheaffer will continue at the firm as a tax principal. He says of Wagner, “Her strategic thinking and exceptional leadership will guide the firm’s growth, shape the culture and continue to provide our clients with unparalleled service.”

Wagner has over 20 years of audit and accounting experience and serves privately held companies in various industries including software, manufacturing and construction companies with domestic and international operations. She most recently served as the firm’s CFO, and previously was the PIC of the audit and accounting group.

Founded in 1977, ASL is a firm of 90 employees including 14 principals, of whom six are women. ASL works with privately held businesses and high-net-worth individuals.

HW&Co. Names New CEO and Merges In Finkler & Company

Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller

Cleveland-based HW&Co. (FY18 net revenue of $19.2 million) merged in Finkler & Company CPAs of Middleburg Heights, Ohio, on Jan. 1 – the same day that a new CEO took the reins.

Brandon Miller, president and CEO, succeeds John P. Fleischer, who has served in that role since 2014. Fleischer will stay on as a principal in the firm’s health care practice.

Miller started at HW&Co. as an intern in 1996 while a student at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. Prior to being appointed CEO, he served in various leadership positions at the firm.

Commenting on the merger, Miller says, “Finkler & Co. provides HW&Co. the opportunity to expand our presence in Cleveland and adds to our expansive list of manufacturing and distribution, construction and real estate, and health care clientele. Gregg Finkler and his staff have exceptional talent and we look forward to integrating their staff into our team.”

The Finkler team joins more than 110 HW&Co. professionals serving clients across Ohio and the United States.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to partner with an organization with the resources and reputation of HW&Co.,” says Finkler, who founded the firm in 1988. Finkler will serve as MP of the Middleburg Heights location.

In addition to the Cleveland office, HW&C also operates from Beachwood, Westerville and Mentor, Ohio.

McKonly & Asbury Goes From One MP to Two

Michael Hoffner

Camp Hill, Pa.-based McKonly & Asbury (FY18 net revenue of $9.6 million) announced that Michael Hoffner has been sharing the MP role with Kurt Trimarchi as of Jan. 1.

Trimarchi joined McKonly & Asbury in 2003 and became MP in 2015. Hoffner has been with the firm for nearly 15 years and has served on its executive committee.

The decision to create a co-MP arrangement stems from rapid growth in 2019, both internally and within the firm’s affiliated companies, the firm announced. Trimarchi and Hoffner will be responsible for firm strategy and growth, client engagement, team development, corporate culture and community presence.

Trimarchi says of Hoffner: “He has been a key leader since the day he joined the firm and instrumental in assisting my role in leading the firm, even before I was named managing partner. This announcement is a mere formality of the role he has already been performing. More importantly, what it means to our firm and our clients, is that we will continue to focus on controlled growth and exceptional client service.”

Kurt Trimarchi

Hoffner says the arrangement will allow the pair to leverage their strengths. “Bifurcating the role will allow us to collectively meet the administrative needs of the firm, invest further in the development of our team, serve our dynamic and growing client base, and seek out additional opportunities for growth.”

Growth last year included acquisition of a third office in Bloomsburg, Pa., and an ownership stake in Dale Carnegie Mid-Atlantic so the firm can offer leadership, team building and staff development to clients while expanding their presence into the Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Also in 2019, McKonly & Asbury’s affiliate, Bridgeford Trust Company – an independent, full service trust company with South Dakota Trust powers – has seen exponential growth providing fiduciary services to domestic and international families.

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