IPA Spotlight On … Jodi Ann Ray, Texas Society of CPAs

Name: Jodi Ann Ray

Jodi Ann Ray

Jodi Ann Ray

Association: Texas Society of CPAs (TSCPA)

Title: Executive Director/CEO

Accomplishments:

  • Took over the top job Jan. 1 from John Sharbaugh, who ended a 17-year run as CEO and now serves as managing director of governmental affairs.
  • Leads one of the nation’s largest state accounting organizations, representing 28,000 CPAs in 20 chapters across the state.
  • Previously served as vice president of membership and volunteer experience with Meeting Professionals International, where she was the responsible for governance and community development, which encompassed membership and more than 90 chapters and clubs in 24 countries.
  • She also served as the CEO for chambers of commerce in Connecticut, North Carolina and Texas, where she oversaw all operations including membership, government affairs, economic development and finance.

Progressive firm leaders are focused on re-imagining their future to ensure they remain relevant to their clients. How does “remaining relevant” play a role in your strategic planning, and what are some examples from the past 12 months of new services/programs/approaches that you have instituted that addresses how the State Society will remain relevant to its members?

The Society is taking a hard look at its strategic plan now, with plans to launch an updated plan to the membership in the fall. We’re looking at our vision for the organization, how it should look five to 10 years from now, and how to inspire our members and future CPAs about the organization and their practice in the field. We’re asking members what keeps them up at night, and which areas the organization should focus on. We’re upgrading our website to help members cut through the clutter to get accurate, timely and relevant information. The society is also very active in advocacy at the federal and state level.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the profession?

We are in such a period of change, not simply in our profession but in all industries, and I think the transformation affecting so many companies will impact the role of CPAs. What we consider the core services of CPAs is going to expand and evolve. For example, for some of the larger firms we’ve seen a very clear trend toward more advisory services.How do you see the role of the accountant changing over the next few years?

CPAs will become more of a strategic business advisor in addition to reporting financial performance. In the association world where I come from, the business decision-making models have changed and companies are relying on better, faster data and that’s changing the emphasis on what’s being produced. CPAs will be producing trend information, dashboards and projections to provide information that can be used in new and valuable ways.

Which aspect of technology should firms be paying closer attention to?

We’ve added new programs into our spring lineup of CPE offerings on risk management and cybersecurity. Firms are concerned about ensuring that the transfer of client data is secure and that their liability is adequately addressed.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are big topics in the profession. Can you give me some examples of member firms that have done something innovative and proactive to help clients?

Firms are reinventing themselves and doing it quickly to help their clients think ahead and adapt to coming changes. While the core services won’t go away, they may be delivered differently. The same is true for the Texas Society of CPAs – the services we provide to support our members will evolve and adapt.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Loretta Doon, California Society of CPAs

Name: Loretta Doon

Loretta Doon

Loretta Doon

Association: California Society of CPAs (CalCPA)

Title: CEO of CalCPA and California CPA Education Foundation

Accomplishments:

  • Leads the nation’s largest state accounting organization, representing 40,000 CPAs in 14 chapters across the state. Immediately prior to becoming CEO in 2006, she was the COO for both organizations.
  • Served for 25 years as associate executive director for the California Teachers Association, one of the most well-known and influential unions in the country with a budget of $130 million. Doon is a former teacher.
  • Named one of Accounting Today’s 2016 Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting, and has been named by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the most influential women in business.
  • Served as the AICPA’s CPA State Executives Association chair 2014-2015.

Progressive firm leaders are focused on re-imagining their future to ensure they remain relevant to their clients. How does “remaining relevant” play a role in your strategic planning, and what are some examples from the past 12 months of new services / programs / approaches that you have instituted that addresses how the State Society will remain relevant to its members?

Remaining relevant means providing services to members that help them advance their careers, improve their skill sets and find new markets for their services. It is essential to help accounting students learn about various career paths, and help them improve their chances of landing good jobs when they graduate. Our Campus Ambassador Program is active in more than 30 California universities and colleges, and we are starting a pilot program in high schools. For members, we are undertaking a communities initiative pilot program to provide resources, including white papers and information banks, to help them improve client services. We also have instituted a managing partner forum to share best practices. Our Education Foundation is exploring new ways to deliver content and become more mobile friendly, including nano courses and developing event apps for conferences. You’ll also find that we are increasingly incorporating social media into our programs and events.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the profession?

Increasingly, firms – even small ones – need to simultaneously generalize and specialize, including in such niche areas as valuation, wealth management and financial planning. Software and artificial intelligence are entering many accounting and auditing tasks. Most CPAs in the future will focus on consulting and advising rather than processing numbers. I believe that at some point in the future, the attest function will be broadened to include sustainability factors, including ethics, environmental conscientiousness and community contributions.

How do you see the role of the accountant changing over the next few years?

CPAs and firms will become more specialized, while at the same time expand their services and presence. They will focus more on particular kinds of services. As society becomes more complicated, accountants are going to have to focus on a particular segment, while being an overall business adviser, to be successful. Sounds like a dichotomy and it is. The professional needs to meet the needs of clients and the public –and these needs are not always one-dimensional.

Which aspect of technology should firms be paying closer attention to?

Mobile devices to capture and transmit information. Everything a firm does should be available on an app or two that clients can access on their phones. If a client has a question or needs some service immediately, the firm that can provide that service over a mobile phone within seconds. That added value will keep that client as a customer. If a firm can’t do that, then it likely won’t be around for long. Convenience and immediacy will be keys to success.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are big topics in the profession. Can you give me some examples of member firms that have done something innovative and proactive to help clients?

CalCPA represents many firms throughout California. An observation that I have is that major firms are creating community beyond their client base. These firms are using technology, as well as in-person events, to create community and facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and information to include more than just their clients. CalCPA, through its Education Foundation, provides its members and member firms with information and tools to also assist with improving business skills. The idea is to innovate and grow business by addressing and helping a broader community.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Jim Proppe, Plante Moran

Name: Jim Proppe
Firm: Southfield, Mich.-based Plante Moran (FY16 net revenue of $480.7 million)
Title: Managing Partner-elect
Accomplishments:

  • Beginning July 1, will serve as the seventh MP in the firm’s 93-year history.
  • Served 13 years as Plante Moran Group MP, coordinating client service, growth, people development and risk management.
  • Assisted with the development and launch of several firm services, including Plante Moran Group Benefit Advisors, Enterprise Risk Management, Tax Solutions Group and ERP implementation services.
  • Helped launch firm offices in Shanghai, China, Monterrey, Mexico, and Mumbai, India.
  • Led the design of Plante Moran’s partner performance management process.

Your term starts July 1 – what work are you doing now to transition into the role?

Jim Proppe

Jim Proppe

After being elected as managing partner, my focus was on selecting our next management team. I wanted to surround myself with people who have a skill set that is complementary to mine and will bring strong diversity of thought. The six partners selected will begin their appointments July 1 when my term begins. A big part of preparing for my role is to help the new management team transition into theirs: preparing them to take on new responsibilities and transitioning their previous roles to their successors. This transition has created a lot of great opportunities for people across the firm – it’s a really exciting time.

You’ve said that you plan to place a strong focus on anticipating client needs – how can Plante Moran solve clients’ problems before they even know they have them?

We have deep knowledge in a variety of industries and services. Our staff can leverage that knowledge by collaborating and identifying disruptors in one industry that will eventually impact others. For example, the driverless car will impact more than the automotive industry. It will also impact retail auto dealers (what is the impact on vehicle sales?), design and construction of real estate (how much parking will you need?), insurance companies (will they have fewer claims?), local government (what changes in infrastructure will be required?) and the list goes on. Many times business owners aren’t aware of disruptors in other industries that could significantly impact their business. We help our clients stay in front of these issues.

What kinds of opportunities are available to the firm through technology?

Advancement in technology –  things like machine learning and data analytics – will significantly change our profession and create new opportunities to serve clients. We’re already working with clients to find better ways to analyze and use their data to develop strategies around creating new products, services and/or business models. Plante Moran is built for change, and we feel we’re well positioned to lead in this area.

Which practice areas at Plante Moran are ripe for growth?

While I think the changing economy creates opportunities for growth in all the industries we serve, as the world becomes more technology-dependent, we’re seeing a lot of growth in our technology consulting practice, particularly in cybersecurity. Plante Moran Wealth Management also continues to experience significant growth as we have uniquely integrated investment advisory, trust, life insurance, estate planning, tax and family office services. Also, with a new administration, there could be significant changes in tax reform, regulations and how organizations do business internationally. We’re prepared to help clients navigate those changes and adjust their business strategies accordingly.

Gordon Krater called you a “natural leader,” do you agree? Which aspects of leadership don’t come so naturally to you?

I’ve had the good fortune to spend my entire career at Plante Moran. From training opportunities to formal mentoring initiatives to a robust career development program, the firm’s first priority has always been developing staff to become incredible client servers – and it’s hard not to develop some pretty strong leadership skills along the way. For me, I am a compulsive helper and one of the most challenging parts of leadership is realizing you can’t do it all by yourself – especially at a firm with the breadth and depth of Plante Moran. Fortunately, there’s always a pool of qualified partners and staff ready to lead.

Final thoughts?

As Plante Moran’s seventh managing partner, I look forward to guiding the firm’s client service, growth, people development, risk management and strategic direction – all with the goal of being a good steward and working to leave the firm better than I found it, just as Gordon did.

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

IPA Spotlight On … James Hickey, Alliott Group

Name: James Hickey
Association: Alliott Group
Title: Chief Executive Officer

Accomplishments:

James Hickey

James Hickey

  • CEO of Alliott Group since 2010 (joined Alliott Group 2008)
  • 20 years’ experience in the management of international associations/alliances of independent, owner-managed professional firms
  • Specialist in advising owner-managed accounting and law firms on how to grow their client business organically into new markets through developing reputation and visibility
  • Recruited 100+ professional services firms into two leading international associations over the last two decades

Alliott Group is an international association of law and accounting firms. What are some commonalities among member firms, even though they do different things?

Member firms share similar goals and challenges. As independent, mid-market firms, they are focused on growth and reaching their next level – this requires the knowledge to effectively develop and retain their business. Another common denominator is culture, specifically the emphasis on high levels of service, flexible, tailored solutions and entrepreneurial creativity. It is incredible to see how many partners within our member firms have big firm training and backgrounds. They exited those environments to set up or work at mid-market firms where they can be more involved in and accountable for their clients’ business success – they are all genuine “business owners” not “branch managers,” who are unable to have any real influence on their business.

Alliott Group was one of the first international groups to adopt an interdisciplinary approach – what advantages does that scope provide?

Having both sets of professionals available in key commercial hubs around the world is viewed as strategically important because tax, accountancy and legal services are the key services needed by organizations (or high-net-worth individuals) entering or operating in locations where the rules and requirements are different.  Although independent, Alliott Group members work together to provide an integrated service approach for the client. A multidisciplinary offering also makes our ‘product’ attractive to any firm considering membership. Firms are restricted to providing either legal or accountancy-related services in the majority of counties, so there is a need to refer work to a professional with a complementary skillset. Members of one profession also benefit from exchanging information and perspectives with the other – tax is one big area where the professions intersect, as are challenges inherent in firm management, staffing and marketing.   What are some of the most pressing needs of Alliott Group member firms?

Probably the biggest need of Alliott Group member firms is differentiation – it is often difficult to tell one mid-market firm from another as it is a hugely competitive market and firms often lack the “(wo)men, money and minutes” that are available to the larger firms to build brand awareness and communicate their competitive advantage to clients and professional talent. On reaching a certain stage in their development, mid-market firms can hit a wall – they need a greater depth of resources to reach their next level – that’s where we can help.

One of Alliott Group’s goals is to cultivate greater creativity and innovation among member firms. How does Alliott Group assist in that effort?

A combination of technology and personal meeting opportunities give our members a high degree of access to each other. The association includes a large number of inspiring leaders, including some who are firm founders. We facilitate the discussions that result in ideas being shared, problems being solved and creativity and innovation being sparked. We also have a growing ecosystem of strategic partners that includes consulting businesses, technology companies, publishers and niche service providers who all contribute insights that will help a firm to think and act differently and to be mindful of trends that are impacting the macro environment and in some cases disrupting the way business is done.

Any long-term growth goals for the association that you can share?

  • To ensure Alliott Group is among the ‘evoked set’ for mid-market professional services firms looking to remain independent but develop the enhanced reputation and visibility that will enable them retain, win and service clients in different geographic markets
  • To ensure Alliott Group’s membership is a viable, alternative option to Big 4 / Magic Circle type firms for companies and high net worth individuals involved in multi-market business
  • To increase the credibility of the worldwide alliance and the scope of member to member referral opportunities by closing all major geographic gaps by 2025

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

IPA Spotlight On … Bruce Zicari

Name: Bruce Zicari

Firm: The Bonadio Group

Title: OMP, Rochester, N.Y., Small Business Advisory Practice Leader, Management Committee Member, Board of Directors Member, CEO-Elect

Accomplishments:

Bruce Zicari

Bruce Zicari

  • Specialist in special project consulting, strategic planning, financing, mergers and acquisitions, and business valuations
  • Past Chair, Wilmot Cancer Institute; Past President, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council; President, Nancy & Friends Fighting Cancer Inc.; Board Member, Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
  • Rochester Business Journal Forty Under 40 Honoree
  • Bachelor of Science in accounting, Syracuse University
  • Harvard University Executive Education Program—Leading Professional Service Firms

You’ve been elected to serve as CEO, but not until 2019. Why was the leadership transition announced so far in advance, and what role will you be playing over the next few years?

Advance planning is one of the hallmarks of our firm. Preparation is critical in a transition such as this one – especially when we’re talking about replacing a founding partner of 40 years. We know that people inside and outside the firm take comfort in knowing that we have a well thought-out plan. My role until May 2019 will be to maintain my leadership roles in the firm while Tom continues to transition more of his responsibilities to me.

What goals have you set for yourself during the transition, and what is the biggest challenge you think you might face during this period?

It’s a balancing act of three challenges. While I will continue to maintain several key client relationships, I need to continue to move the majority of my client relationships to others in the firm, and that’s difficult at times because some clients I’ve had my whole career, and they’ve become close friends. I need to spend time with my partners across the firm to understand their goals, challenges and opportunities, while our CEO Tom Bonadio and I work together with our management committee to run the firm and ease the transition along. It’s also important that I put in some time to think strategically about the three- to five-year horizon for our firm and the profession.

Taking over for a founding partner is no easy task, especially since Tom Bonadio will not be retiring. How do your leadership styles differ?

Tom has done a masterful job building this firm, and he is extremely well respected here and throughout the profession. He is very outgoing and gregarious, and I’m a bit more reserved, but even though our personalities may differ, our leadership styles and views of the future are similar. We both believe that we must continue to grow, innovate and provide opportunities for the many great people that make up the Bonadio team.

Tom Bonadio has already said he envisions you remaining as CEO for 15 or 20 years. Can you make any predictions on what the accounting profession will look like at that time?

The accounting profession will change more in the next five to 10 years than it has in the past 30. It’s all about how technology will be applied to what we do – from tax and audit to consulting. How we and our clients use big data will change our capabilities, and a wide range of technology advancements will alter how we deliver services to clients. It’s definitely an exciting time to be in this business, no matter where you are in your career.

Final thoughts?

I look at the situation that I’m inheriting over the next couple of years, and I realize that I need to work hard every day to earn the trust of our partners, employees and clients. There is constant change and innovation that is required in our business, which makes things very challenging and exciting. I love this business and our firm and wouldn’t have it any other way. I suppose for a while I will be the new CEO, but I want to quickly get to be the leader who productively builds on the great firm and foundation that Tom Bonadio started, and along with so many people, worked so hard to build.

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

Spotlight On … Mark Duren

Name: Mark Duren
Firm Name: Lutz
Title: Managing Shareholder
Accomplishments: 

Mark Duren

Mark Duren

  • Elected in 2015 as managing shareholder of Lutz of Omaha, Neb., (FY16 net revenue of $32.6 million).
  • Served as department head for audit and tax departments over the course of 25 years with the firm.
  • Active in faith-based organizations in a variety of capacities.

As an IPA 2016 Best of the Best firm, Lutz has demonstrated exemplary financial and operational success. What’s the most important differentiator that ensures success for the firm?

We have been able to assemble an outstanding ownership group that continually strives for improvement. At Lutz our professionals demonstrate “Mind What Matters” through expert accounting and business solutions offered to our clients. We manage to everyone’s strengths to allow us to serve our clients and provide opportunities for personal growth and in turn a rewarding career. Lutz relies on our leadership team as they set the tone for the rest of the firm. Management’s attention to detail and desire for unique and efficient service offerings as well as process improvements has resulted in a competitive advantage for Lutz. We continue to hold weekly meetings with the partner, director and manager group to discuss firm matters as well as business development. Our size has made this challenging, but worth the effort.

Your firm recently expanded to Lincoln. What potential do you see in that marketplace for clients and staff?

Although Lincoln is relatively close to Omaha, the culture and business environment is significantly different. To be successful we believe the firm must invest in Lincoln with Lutz members residing there and giving back to the Lincoln community. The business community, city of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska continue to invest in infrastructure to attract and retain entrepreneurs and professionals. We felt Lutz needed to be part of the investment to assist in Lincoln’s future growth. In addition, we consider Lincoln as a gateway to central Nebraska, which gives us the opportunity to expand our market as well as provide local service to our clients in many communities throughout Nebraska.

lutz_tag_vert_rgb-2016With services such as Lutz Financial, Lutz Tech, Lutz Talent and Lutz M&A, the firm has greatly expanded its offerings. Do you still consider Lutz a traditional CPA firm? 

Absolutely. Lutz has and will continue to be a traditional CPA firm. Over the years we have developed complementary services to meet the demands of our clients. We strive to be a business-solution firm with offerings beyond customary tax and financial statement services. We will continue to innovate new products and services based on the needs of our client base, but we also understand the importance of a growing our core accounting and tax services.

Lutz has been named a Best Place to Work for Millennials. You’ve been quoted as saying that Millennial employees challenge your processes there to gain efficiency. Can you tell us how Millennials are encouraged to offer ideas to improve the firm?

Lutz has developed our own customized leadership program for senior- and manager-level firm members. Program participants are selected from applications and each class consists of a cross-section of our firm, including members from Talent, Tech, Financial, Admin and the CPA firm. A major requirement of the leadership class includes group projects addressing current firm processes or the development of a solution to a problem. The creativity and practicality of many of the projects has been amazing and many have been immediately implemented. We have been thrilled with the enthusiasm of our younger professionals and their desire to make a difference.

You were elected managing shareholder in May 2015. What was your biggest surprise in taking over the top job?

Two words – challenge and change. Lutz has assembled a terrific group of team members with a goal of offering business solutions to our clients. Managing the process has been a challenge, as we are constantly reviewing and refining our offerings to ensure successful implementation for our clients. A traditional CPA service model varies significantly from wealth management, recruitment and delivery of technology services. Managing the various business lines is a challenge as the sales cycle, delivery model and employee management differ from one another. Simultaneously, our culture must be nurtured and protected as we strive to meet individual and firm goals. I have learned to rely on my board and key members of management, as a collective effort is needed to manage all of our business lines.

Final thoughts?

Despite our growth over the years, Lutz continues to be known for our flexible and family-oriented culture and our ability to infuse fun into work. Whether meeting to play cards on Friday afternoons during busy season, competing in our bi-annual Lutz Olympics or hanging out in our game room, we believe in keeping things lighthearted. Culture is something Lutz has never lost sight of over the years and it will continue to be a top priority for us.

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

Spotlight On … Gavin Gillison

Name: Gavin Gillison

Gavin Gillison

Gavin Gillison

Firm: Warren Averett

Title: Financial Planning Associate

Accomplishments:

  • Completed Entrepreneurial Leadership Program
  • Selected as one of the 2016 Rising Stars of Money by the Birmingham Business Journal
  • Serve on the Young Advisory Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham

You work within the Asset Management group at your firm. What is the advantage of working at an accounting firm that offers multiple services?

Clients’ lives are busier than ever and their needs are multi-faceted and increasingly complex. Our firm offers clients the ability to have all of their needs coordinated at one place. Our firm recognizes that in order to provide superior service and to truly help clients thrive, we must have a talent-sharing mindset because it is not possible for one professional to be an expert in each area that is needed to serve a client effectively. A talent-sharing mindset allows our clients access to experts throughout our firm who are able to advise and help clients reach their goals.

What changes do you see in financial planning in the future? Do you envision new ways to help clients?warren-averett-assett-management

As wealth transfers to second and third generations, client relationships will take place as much or possibly more through digital communication than through interface. We want to be effective at both while still deeply understanding clients’ needs, wants and desires. Solid relationships are the foundation of our firm and cannot be replaced by technology. Rather, technology can be utilized in such a manner that enhances relationships and allows us to provide the highest value to our clients.

What is the best advice you have been given that you would pass on to an entry-level associate?

Embrace an innovative mindset and don’t settle for the way things have always been done. Innovation starts with an entrepreneurial mindset and the willingness to take wise risks. The reality is that you are going to fail sometimes, but when you do, fail fast and continue to move forward. Innovation is necessary because we must continue to improve how we serve our clients so that they can thrive and accomplish more of the things that are important to them.

You’re active in recruiting at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. What is most important to college students when they’re evaluating various accounting firms?

They want to know that they will fit the company culture and how they will be able to contribute to that culture. In addition, they want to know how the culture can contribute to their personal growth. Warren Averett has made deep commitments in both the talent development and innovation initiatives in order to continually recruit top talent to serve and provide exceptional service to our clients. It is just further evidence of Warren Averett building a firm for the future.

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

IPA Spotlight On . . . John Herber

Name: John Herber
Firm: RubinBrown
Title: Chairman and Managing Partner

John Herber

John Herber

Accomplishments:
  • Completed Harvard Business School’s Leading Professional Service Firms Program
  • Awarded the Innovation Award for Accounting by the St. Louis Business Journal
  • Named one of the Most Influential St. Louisans by the St. Louis Business Journal in 2011 and 2012
  • Serves as board member, Mercy Health Foundation, St. Louis, and United Way of Greater St. Louis de Tocqueville Society

As chair of RubinBrown, you’re responsible for leading growth. How do you uncover areas of growth? Are you looking at organic growth, growth through acquisitions or both?

RubinBrown is intensely committed to growth both organically and through mergers. Through our visioning and business planning process, we have ambitious, but achievable goals to grow organically through our specialized industry groups, as well as through expansion of RubinBrown’s Wealth Advisory Services. With regard to geographic expansion, RubinBrown is actively working to expand our regional footprint, focusing on locations across the Midwest.  We focus on developing relationships with firms that match our people-centric and entrepreneurial culture.

You’ve described the culture at the firm as entrepreneurial – how is that spirit encouraged and nurtured at RubinBrown?

Leadership, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurism are fostered throughout the firm. We encourage and listen to suggestions to improve. Risks undertaken for the long-term growth and benefit of the firm are willingly accepted, and weaknesses identified are appropriately eliminated with a sense of urgency. One example of our firm’s entrepreneurial spirit came from a team member with a business plan to set up a satellite office in a start-up, innovation center in St. Louis where we are headquartered. He felt we could help these emerging businesses. We supported him and over the past two years, he and his team have become an integral part of the community.

You’ve said that RubinBrown has become a Top 50 firm through its superior client service. What’s different about how your firm serves clients?

RubinBrown’s reputation for superior quality and service is one of our most valuable assets, along with our people. This asset is entrusted with each team member and is fiercely protected and enhanced without compromise. Growth, continuity and financial success of the firm and team members result from superior service provided by a cooperative team that promotes the mission and core values of the firm. RubinBrown’s differentiator is simple. We are committed to totally satisfied clients and inspired team members and earn our clients loyalty each and every day with likeable, responsive and technically superior team members.

RubinBrownThe firm lists “having fun” as one of its core values? Why?

Our culture inspires our team members to do great work and to build personal relationships with one another. While RubinBrown has enjoyed growth over the years, we have successfully increased the loyalty, intimacy and sense of belonging that have long contributed to our success. We expect all team members to have positive attitudes, have enthusiasm and, absolutely, have fun. One way we encourage fun is by bringing all of our team members once a year for an all-firm meeting. The RubinBrown Team Member Update is a mix of socializing, entertainment, learning and motivation. Our team members cite the event as one of their favorite meetings of the year.

Final thoughts?

RubinBrown has an employment brand to help communicate the unique people-centric and service culture of our firm. “Be Your Best For Others” demonstrates RubinBrown’s commitment to its team members, high-caliber performance and giving to others. Whether it’s for clients, the community, or each other, the 500+ team members of RubinBrown work hard every day to “be their best for others.” Team members are at their best when they are giving to others.

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

IPA Spotlight On … Tom Hood

Tom Hood

Tom Hood

Name: Tom Hood
Organization: Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA)
Title: President and CEO, MACPA and CEO and founder of Business Learning Institute, the learning and innovation center of the MACPA

Accomplishments:

  • LinkedIn Top 150 Influencer
  • Accounting Today Second Most Influential Person in Accounting (2015, 2013)
  • CPA Practice Advisor Hall of Fame and Top 25 Thought Leader
  • HR Advisor Top 25 Thought Leaders in Talent Management
  • AICPA Special Recognition Award for CPA Vision Project

You say you’re passionate about four things: technology, collaboration, learning and leadership. Why?

We have been tracking the future of the profession for the past 15 years and find that these four things will be accelerators of success in this rapidly changing world. Technology continues to be the biggest “hard trend” driving change in the CPA profession and the business environment. Collaboration is quickly replacing the “experience curve” and a critical competency for working with clients and internal teams. Learning will be the only competitive advantage (L>C2) for individuals and organizations in the future. Leadership is the catalyst to make all of that happen faster.

You’re a well-known “early adopter” of social media and an advocate for using technology to streamline accounting firm processes and procedures. What’s one area of technology that is under-utilized by accounting firms today?

Social media and cloud technologies in general are the two biggest and underutilized opportunities for firms. Social media is the single best thing I have done. Period. Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing, connecting to customers and most importantly, learning and keeping up with change. Cloud technologies supporting practice management and client access allow firms to create higher levels of engagement with both clients and staff and support flexible work environments, which are critical to supporting today’s overwhelmed employees.
MACPA_Logo_2016
There are so many opportunities, changes, challenges, innovations and disruptions happening in the profession, that it’s easy for managing partners to get distracted and not know where to focus their energy. In your opinion, when considering all the “noise” out there, what are the top three things that MPs need to focus their attention on?

The three biggest areas MPs should be focusing on are culture, people and technology. Culture is about engaging your people in your vision, purpose and values and making that your firm’s operating system. This continues to be one of the top ways to create a happy and engaged workforce. The focus on our people falls into two areas – succession planning and talent development. Succession planning is about creating a planned, sustainable future with the retiring boomer partners. Talent development is about creating a strategic and systematic career development process that includes “success skills” like leadership, strategic thinking, anticipation and other critical competencies. Technology is about creating capacity by implementing smart technology applications, including workflow and other cloud applications.

You’ve led strategic planning sessions for CPA firms all over the U.S. What have you taken away from that experience about the future-readiness of accounting firms?

We are seeing an increased readiness and elevation of firm strategies in the last few years. We define future-readiness as the capacity to be anticipatory (aware, predictive and adaptive) of emerging trends in business, technology, demographics and the social environment impacting your organization and industry. Leading firms are developing strategic plans to leverage the opportunities and minimize predictable problems by carefully looking at these future trends and co-creating the future with their partners and staff.

Final thoughts?

We are living in “exponential times” where the size, scale and scope of change is incredible. That means there are incredible opportunities for those who can see through the fog of uncertainty and anticipate what’s next. The biggest opportunity is to harness the wisdom of our older generations with the fresh perspectives of the tech-savvy younger generations. The next generation of leaders is enthusiastically ready to have a seat at the table. The future is not created; the future is co-created. Let’s get to work!

IPA Spotlight On … Alan Whitman

Whitman_Alan_BakerTilly_2016

Alan Whitman

Name: Alan Whitman

Firm: Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP (Baker Tilly)

Title: CEO and Chairman

Accomplishments:

  • Founded Baker Tilly’s international services platform and is chair of its International Steering Committee
  • Founding member of the Baker Tilly International network’s Knowledge Sharing Group
  • Executive sponsor of the firm’s GROW (Growth and Retention of Women) and SOAR (Supporting Opportunity, Advancement and Recognition for All) initiatives, which institutionalize diversity and inclusiveness
  • Instrumental in Baker Tilly’s recognition as a best-in-class workplace, guiding the firm to winning numerous workplace excellence awards
  • Active member of the AICPA and the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA)

As the newly appointed CEO, you’ve said you plan to focus on “managing for continued growth.” What are your plans in this area?

Both acquisitive and organic growth will be the focus of my plans for Baker Tilly’s growth. We have created a strategic growth function to drive growth in several areas – including health care and consulting services – in which we feel we have a performance and market advantage. We will also continue to look for strategic mergers to build our national geographic presence. Whether we are reviewing a traditional accounting firm or a boutique specialty firm, culture is a paramount consideration as well as a “capabilities” fit. We look for alignment to our values of integrity, passion and stewardship, and we expect our merger partners to provide shared leadership and a diversity of perspective and experience.

What does the CEO transition mean for Baker Tilly?

Baker Tilly’s vision is to become America’s finest professional services Firm. We will continue providing exceptional client service and achieving recognition as a leading firm within our chosen specialties. I’m going to emphasize execution and work to accelerate our strategy to produce measureable results. My focus as CEO is building Baker Tilly for the future. That includes driving strategy, growing our national presence and leveraging our international experience. Our growth – including our work in developing our international platform – has enabled us to pursue client relationships we’ve never been able to go after and have conversations we were never able to have, until now. Over the next several years, I see our international platform as another major component of our firm’s growth.

You are being intentional about creating a more Millennial-friendly firm. What do you have in mind?

So much of the so-called “Millennial-friendly” workplace benefits are now employment table stakes. Baker Tilly is working to create an environment in which our associates can be challenged and enriched and enabled to pursue the career path that is uniquely fulfilling to them. Our growth, which creates all kinds of opportunities, is central in those efforts. That includes allowing our team members to have meaningful client interaction, to grow with their clients and to be rewarded at every stage of their career. We also have our GROW and SOAR diversity initiatives and policies such as Dress for Your Day that are intended to make Baker Tilly a richer and more rewarding place to work.

What will it take to succeed in the complex, fast-changing professional services market?

We need to always be creating value for our clients, which will mean focusing on those services that are not sensitized to commoditization, delivered by a workforce that is performing at the top consultative levels. My leadership strategy combines three elements – collaborating for innovation, celebrating our people and building a revered brand – designed to energize our talent base to deliver better, faster, more strategic services and to become deeply embedded, trusted advisors to our clients.

Final thoughts?

The professional services market is one of the most dynamic, change-sensitive industries in the world today. The successful firm will be measured by its ability to harness new business science and technologies in the service of a highly intelligent, agile and motivated team of accounting and advisory professionals who can build a globally respected brand.