IPA Spotlight On . . . John Herber

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

John Herber

John Herber

  • 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


  • 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.
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


Alan Whitman

Name: Alan Whitman

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

Title: CEO and Chairman


  • 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.

IPA Spotlight On . . . Sandra Wiley

Sandra Wiley

Sandra Wiley

Name: Sandra Wiley

Firm: Boomer Consulting

Title: President


  • Accounting Today top 100 Most Influential People
  • CPA Practice Advisor Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting
  • CPA Practice Advisor Top 25 Thought Leaders
  • Leading Edge Alliance “On the Edge” Innovation Award

As host of regional trainings around the country, what are emerging leaders telling you about what they need to learn to be effective managers?

I see next generation leaders every day that are smart, motivated and truly care about the future of their firm and the profession.  They are excited about what they are hearing about, including Advisory Services, deeper relationships with their clients and team, and less compliance work.  However, a reverse effect is happening that makes them very frustrated.  The lack of change they are seeing in their firm in all of these areas is demotivating.  They want to move forward, but they feel stuck.

You’ve said Boomer Consulting’s client base is “future-focused.” Can you give us an example of a firm that’s implemented a future-focused initiative and seen positive ROI?

We have been working with the firm of Bold Carlisle and Smith for the past 4 years.  They started as a foundationally good firm with challenges in leadership, process development, technology struggles and a lack of overall direction.  Today, they are seeing positive change in all of these areas.  Through the process of strategic planning, coaching, the Boomer Technology Circles Community and a new focus on process improvement they are a new and improved firm – and are certainly future focused!  Oh, and they reduced the number of hours spent on business entity tax clients significantly this year.

You’ve done quite a bit of work around employee engagement as an HR expert in the profession. If you could wave a magic wand, what’s the one thing accounting firms should do to better engage their employees?

Make time to truly manage their team.  Continuous and ongoing feedback, mentoring and reverse mentoring and including them in the strategic planning process are just a few ways to truly engage the team that surrounds you.  This is less generational than it is relational.  People will engage when they feel valued, and you can’t feel valued if you don’t really know the people that you are working with.  It sounds simple, but it is hard work.  Hard work does lead to amazing results in the area of retention, attraction and motivation!

You were recently named president of Boomer Consulting, Inc. as part of its long-term growth and succession plan. What do you hope the firm will look like in five years?

In 5 years Boomer Consulting, Inc. will continue to be a leader in the profession transforming firms in the areas of Leadership, Talent, Technology, Process and Growth initiatives.  We will use The Boomer AdvantageTM to ensure that our clients are growing in each of these areas and are connecting the dots between each of them. This will enable firms to be future ready.  We will continue to build a unique team of professionals that are consistently innovating and creating new services and new successes for our clients.

Final thoughts?

I am excited about the change that is occurring in the profession today.  It’s truly an exciting time. The firms that are ready to face the future with innovation and a positive attitude will be winners.  Helping firms transform and actually create a practice that will sustain them for the future is what gets me excited.  My passion – helping firms that are feeling stuck and even a little demotivated get excited about their future!

IPA Spotlight On . . . Ed Bysiek

Ed Bysiek

Ed Bysiek

Name: Ed Bysiek

Firm: Bysiek CPA

Title: Founder of Bysiek CPA, Adjunct Accounting Professor, St. Bonaventure University

How has the profession changed during your tenure as a CPA, if at all? In my 13 years as a CPA, work has become much more e-based. I remember spending hours just making copies of checklists and setting up bulky workpaper files, not to mention carrying large portable printers with us to client locations. Now all I carry is a laptop.

What was the biggest professional challenge you faced? By far my biggest professional challenge was exiting the firm I began my career with and starting my own practice. All of us place a certain amount of value on the economic stability that a regular paycheck provides in our lives. To give that up, and suddenly be faced with a prospect that looked exciting on paper, but promised nothing, was daunting. I succeeded with a well-developed and unique business model that has capitalized on up-and-coming technologies, fixed-fee billing arrangements, and by developing real expertise in a limited number of service offerings.

What advice can you give up-and-coming staff? To soak up as much as you can. Understand how your task fits in the bigger picture of any job you’re working on. When you are able to take ownership of your work, it is much easier to stay motivated and do your very best, even when the hours begin to add up.

What’s the biggest misconception that you believe older partners across the profession have about younger staff that you wish could be better understood? The biggest misconception is just how capable young staff can be. Since we are a service profession, maintaining good client relations plays a huge role. The downside of this can be a fear that giving younger staff too much responsibility and too much access to the client has too much risk associated with it. Young people who have put in to the time to earn a degree, are working toward a CPA, and have been vetted through an interview process have the capability of handling themselves in a professional manner and I believe, are ready for significant responsibility very early on in their careers.

Comments like these can be found in a new report, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Accounting Professionals. INSIDE Public Accounting, in partnership with ConvergenceCoaching, gathered survey responses from 722 young professionals aged 21-40. Order your copy today.

IPA Vendor Spotlight On … Heidi Henderson, Engineered Tax Services

Name: Heidi Henderson

Heidi Henderson

Heidi Henderson

Firm: Engineered Tax Services

Title: Executive Vice President


  • Published author in Accounting Today
  • Public speaker at national events
  • Rapid rise from director to executive vice president of Engineered Tax Services

Your firm’s tagline is, “Where engineering and accounting come together.” What does that mean?”

We are often asked if we are an accounting firm or an engineering firm. For practical purposes, we are a licensed engineering firm with a very heavy tax background. We do not prepare tax returns, but rather perform very specialized engineering analysis to capture federal tax incentives and apply complex tax methodologies as recognized and accepted by the IRS. Our engineers perform detailed studies relating to real property or activities relating to the development of new products and processes. These studies are then reviewed by our internal CPAs and our tax attorney for accuracy and compliance with IRS guidance before being utilized by the taxpayer.Engineered Tax Services

Your role is executive vice president, but you came up through the ranks from marketing. Can you tell us about your rise through the company?

My education and work history are in private accounting and entrepreneurship. After 12 years in accounting for numerous real estate development companies, I chose an alternate path in search of something more satisfying and collaborative, and settled on marketing. In 2011, I was approached by ETS and was offered a position in sales and project management. After a short time, I identified the need for marketing improvements and was given the responsibility of growing and managing the marketing team, which included rebranding, logo design, website creation, content and publishing. I was then promoted to the executive team in early 2014. Now I’m responsible for account management, corporate marketing and events, and the collective management of ETS’ growing sales staff alongside our other two executive team members.

How would you like Engineered Tax Services to grow and change?

Engineered Tax Services has grown significantly over the past three years, and has invested greatly in growing our team to be the most knowledgeable, service-oriented company in the industry. We strive to set ourselves apart as a resource, and valuable asset to our clients and partners through education, consulting, published guidance and resources to aid CPAs and businesses to capture valuable incentives to insuring full tax efficiency for optimized profitability.

What’s the biggest opportunity for CPA firms that Engineered Tax Services can help them with?

The recently passed PATH Act and continuing guidance for Tangible Property Regulation compliance are complex and tedious issues for the CPA community. We provide monthly webinars to review the most recent changes, and how these changes will impact CPAs and their clients.

We have also developed software to aid in capturing annual deductions that we provide free of charge to our clients. By understanding the services and resources we offer, CPAs and their teams can rest assured that they can advise taxpayers of every opportunity available to them, increase client retention and hold on to their competitive advantage. These services are all complementary additions to our core services such as cost segregation, repair evaluations, energy-efficient building incentives and R&D tax credits.

Final thoughts?

Our greatest focus is in serving our clients and providing the best service and expertise available on complex issues. We shy away from commonly used sales tactics, and believe that if we bring value and offer tools for the success of all, our efforts will, and have, set the bar for specialty tax services.

Know someone else who’d make a good spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

IPA Spotlight On … Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

Name: Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

Firm: bbr marketing

Title: President


  • One of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2012 and 2013
  • Received prestigious Volunteer of the Year from the Association for Accounting Marketing in 2014
  • One of CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women in Accounting in 2015
  • Created and grew bbr marketing from an idea with no clients in 2009 to a firm with clients in over 25 states and two Canadian provinces, double-digit revenue growth year over year and a pretty great place to work.

You’ve owned a sauce company, worked for a health and fitness startup and helped launch the Cartoon Network in Asia. How did you get into professional services marketing? 

I sort of stumbled into it. I was working for a manufacturing software company that was bought out by a larger one located in Santa Barbara. When it looked like my job was going to move to California, I started looking for a new one in Atlanta since I was about to get married and had no desire to move. My dear friend Betsy mentioned that her accounting firm was looking for their first marketing director (after 50 years in business) and thus began my journey in professional services marketing.

You’re known as a giver in the profession – someone who’s very willing to donate time to fellow marketers and to the community. What’s your ROI?

First of all, I’m touched that I have that reputation. I’m a big believer in creating a culture of giving in both my personal and professional life. I have been fortunate to have received so much help and advice over the years, and I want to pay that forward as much as I can. I get true joy from helping others and sincerely believe that the more we do it the better place we create. I guess I could be charging for some of the help I give away, but instead I create relationships with others that may eventually lead to business down the road. And even if it doesn’t, hopefully those I help will help others one day and so the cycle continues.

After seven years in business, what’s the best business advice you ever received?BBR_logo_2016

“Do what you do best and outsource the rest,” is definitely one of the best pieces of advice. Like most startups, I tried to do everything myself to “save money” in the beginning, including bookkeeping and tax prep. While I understand how both work, it takes me so much more time to do it myself than to pay someone to do it for me. When I was able to offload some of these tasks that aren’t my highest and best use, I had a lot more time to focus on client work and business development.

Can you offer one tip for how accounting firms, in an increasingly commoditized profession, can differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace?

At bbr marketing, we spend a great deal of time helping clients differentiate themselves in the market. If you’ve ever heard me speak, I’m sure you heard it at least once, regardless of the topic. It is absolutely vital! It’s also quite frequently difficult too. We recommend firms ask everyone at the firm, and clients as well, what sets them apart. And it is not client service or good people – everyone says that and it is simply the price of entry. It can be your industry focus, your way of delivering work, your pricing structure, any number of things, but make sure it is truly unique from the firm down the street. Finally, it often helps to have an outsider who knows the industry come in and help with this process and offer guidance.

What marketing innovations are you seeing that are under-utilized by accounting firms?

The marketing tactics you should use depend greatly on the market you are trying to reach. Once you have a firm grasp on that, the world is your oyster. More firms are starting to embrace social media as a brand awareness tool, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. Video is becoming more popular and a great way to communicate a message to potential clients. I’d like to see firms spend more time updating their websites from online brochures to interactive tools and include more case studies and testimonials where their clients sing their praises. And don’t forget about direct mail either. When we are all inundated with emails, a clever piece of mail gets much more attention.

Final thoughts?

My biggest piece of advice for firms is to find a niche, identify your differentiators and stick to both. You can never be all things to all people, and those that try wind up competing on price. Those that are truly unique have a smaller market to reach yet much more value to share. And once you’ve figured this out, take advantage of all the great ways to market your firm. You can be the best firm out there, but if no one knows about it, you will quickly run out of referrals and wonder why your revenues are flat. And remember, different people like to receive their information in different ways. Just because you automatically delete e-newsletters doesn’t mean that your next best client won’t see yours and decide to make a call.

IPA Spotlight On … LeighAnn Costley, Frazier & Deeter

LeighAnn Costley

LeighAnn Costley

Name: LeighAnn Costley

Title: Partner

Firm Name: Frazier & Deeter

No. of offices: 4

No. of employees: 300+

Accomplishments: Leadership Atlanta class of 2013, Atlanta Business Chronicle “Up and Comers” award, Philanthropic Leader of Tomorrow award, Executive Women of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business “Guiding Star” award; Leader, Frazier & Deeter’s Women’s Business Leadership Initiative.

Tell me about a few of the initiatives that have made a difference on the growth of women-led businesses?

Frazier & Deeter’s Women’s Initiative just marked its fifth anniversary in 2015. One of the programs that is very popular is a series of panel events that feature women business owners and senior executives of large companies discussing topics like growing the business or leadership lessons they’ve learned.

We’ve found there is a tremendous positive response from women business owners. They are energized by hearing ideas for taking their business to a new level and making connections with people who can help them accelerate growth. The insight from other women, combined with the new business connections, is a powerful, meaningful combination.

Another high-impact initiative Frazier & Deeter has helped to grow is a three-day executive learning program designed for women entrepreneurs called LaunchPad2X. The three days cover a variety of topics that entrepreneurs need to understand – everything from entity structure to intellectual property law to working with investors. It’s a wonderful program that we teach in conjunction with an angel investment group. It’s especially exciting because the program has produced strong statistics about the economic impact of the participants’ companies.

FinalWorksheetWhy do you think it’s so important for your firm to support and nurture women-owned businesses?

Women-owned businesses are an important part of the growth of the U.S. economy. Our offices are in states with especially high rates for growth of women-led businesses and we feel that helping those businesses grow will have a positive impact on the economy. Statistics about small businesses show that although more women than men are starting businesses, women-led businesses are less likely to reach the $1 million mark. If we can help more of them surpass that milestone, and then surpass the $10 million mark, it will create jobs and have an impact on the economy. Of course, it’s also great for Frazier & Deeter because we will have a very strong relationship as business advisors with the company’s founder.

Frazier & Deeter has also been recognized as a top firm for women CPAs. Which leadership qualities best ensure success in public accounting and how can women develop those skills?

I think success in building a book of business is largely built on soft skills of connecting with people on a personal level, listening to their needs and then bringing them financial insight. Women have all these qualities.

Within the firm, women need to remember to take the time to participate in activities that will raise their visibility both inside the firm and in the community. This can be a challenge, especially if you have family obligations, but it can be done.

Of course one of the obvious moves a woman can make is to join a firm with a track record of nurturing female partners. If the firm doesn’t offer flexibility that would help you advance, maybe you should find a firm that does.

Advice for new CPAs joining the profession?

Be involved. Don’t fall into the trap of being “heads down” so much that you aren’t making connections in the community. Remember also that it takes years to build your reputation and nurture relationships; don’t wait until you are on the precipice of making partner and expected to generate revenue to begin that process.

Final thoughts?

Public accounting provides a fabulous platform for a unique and varied career – you can be a generalist or a specialist, a deep technical expert or a rainmaker, you can advise individuals or Fortune 500 companies, you can “off-ramp” if you choose to have children and “lean in” whenever you choose. Most of us initially chose this career because we liked numbers, but it’s the relationships you build with clients and colleagues that keep us here.

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

IPA Spotlight on…Peggy Dzierzawski, Michigan Association of CPAs

Peggy Dzierzawski

Peggy Dzierzawski

Name: Peggy A. Dzierzawski

Title: President and CEO

Association Name: Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA)

What is your association’s No. 1 challenge and how are you tackling it?

Our biggest challenge is recruitment, especially among young professionals. We know they are not as apt to join associations, but we have a vision and are taking action. We know young people need to feel a sense of community involvement, and we have to show them the many opportunities membership provides. We are also working with our Emerging Leaders Task Force to better understand what is relevant to young professionals and how we can help them achieve their goals. For example, we know it’s important to get new members involved right away in association activities. Through these efforts, we are growing our ranks of CPA candidates and new CPAs, which is especially important with so many baby boomers retiring.

How are you attracting young people to join the state society?

We connect with young people through our annual statewide high school leaders conferences. These events show hundreds of students, including a significant number of minorities, what it’s really like to be a CPA and how many incredible opportunities exist within the field. Then we stay with them through their college years, offering free membership and access to special events where they learn from working professionals and get updates on the profession. We have strong relationships with accounting professors and often make presentations on campuses across the state. This helps us promote the CPA credential and show students how the MICPA can help them throughout their career. We also offer an annual career fair that brings together small and mid-size firms with students from across the state to discuss internships and full-time positions. Threaded through all our activities is a deep commitment to promoting diversity within the profession. Led by our diversity task force, these efforts center on attracting underrepresented minorities to the profession.

Just MICPA blue and blackWhat are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about how well positioned we are for the future. Our executive committee, our board, our members and our staff always have an eye on the future. They have the vision and passion to ensure we will be successful in finding new ways to enhance the image of CPAs and their value to society. I’m so proud of their strength and commitment.

How are you changing your trainings to fit the needs of your membership?

There’s no doubt educational needs are changing, and we are listening and taking action. We have created a chief knowledge officer position dedicated to understanding the changing educational needs of our members. We partner with other providers to offer thousands of on-demand and webinar courses. In-person offerings have more case studies and interactivity to promote engagement and better learning. We talk with our members via focus groups and surveys to determine what information they are interested in and how they want to learn. We know one size does not fit all, and we are tailoring our offerings to those in industry, public accounting, non-profit, government and education. We also tailor learning for different age groups and levels of experience from new CPAs to seasoned veterans.

We offer professionals a CPE tracker that can be used to electronically submit educational requirements to the state of Michigan and renew their licenses. MICPA courses are guaranteed to qualify and are automatically entered into registrants’ personalized trackers.

As we look to the future, we may have opportunities to provide education to non-CPAs, so we are considering what that might look like. All these actions take strong leadership and a commitment to enhancing our own skill sets.

Which leadership qualities best ensure success in accounting?

Success in accounting goes far beyond technical skills. Today’s leaders are highly educated, critical thinkers and can offer guidance across all areas of business. They need to be analytical, flexible, consultative and of course ethical. CPAs exemplify these qualities, which makes them leaders not only in their businesses but in their communities.

Final thoughts?

I never in a million years would have thought I’d be working at the MICPA for 40-plus years, but I couldn’t feel luckier. I always say if you work for an association, you’ve truly done something right in your life.

Know someone else who’d make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.

IPA Spotlight On … Steven Sacks, Moore Stephens North America


Steven Sacks

Name: Steven Sacks

Title: Executive Director

Association Name: Moore Stephens North America

Number of Member Firms: 44

What do Moore Stephens North America member firms have in common?

The willingness to share information and provide responsive and competent assistance. This is because our members – though independently owned and operated – think of our association as a monolith but in a positive way. Our members treat clients referred to them by other members as if they were their own clients. Our members have strong desire to grow; to anticipate and evaluate marketplace shifts and operate accordingly.

Moore Stephens North America calls itself a progressive accounting firm association. How so?

Our organization looks at markets and trends, both domestically and globally, and transforms them into opportunities, such as to penetrate certain markets in order to remain competitive against the Big 4 and super regional firms. For example, we have created teams of firms to collaborate on proposing on work in various industry sectors. We also have very active special interest groups that serve as conduits for information dissemination and practice and technical assistance between our members. On a regular basis our firms make presentations to other member firms on a service or process that can be beneficial in running a practice or growing the business.

Have you found that as the world gets smaller, and accounting firms become more specialized, that the need for a strong accounting association increases?

The main driver is the global nature of today’s business. This is driving the accounting profession to become more hands-on with clients and potential clients that need value-added services beyond the traditional compliance work. A firm cannot be an expert in all areas; so as client needs evolve, specialized knowledge is required. The natural alternative to buying talent or building a practice from the ground up, is to work seamlessly with other member firms that possess the necessary knowledge. It makes perfect sense for a firm that is experiencing this to evaluate the existing associations and assess their overall intellectual capital base, as well as the membership “attitude.”

Moore Stephens Logo - Black MS- cyan line-white background 49mm jpegWhat kinds of assistance are member firms seeking most often from their association?

It runs very wide gamut. What we have been seeing from our firms is the secret sauce in hiring and keeping the top talent in a very competitive market. So learning and development initiatives and leadership guidance are ranked very highly. Other areas our firms are interested in include employee benefits, software that results in greater productivity and lower costs, discount buying power from vendors and identifying experts in needed areas. They also look for guidance on how to increase their brand identity in their marketplace.

Can you share your thoughts on how U.S. firms will grow over the next 5 years and how their accounting association can assist in that process?

The next few years will see a wave of leadership succession in firms. As such, the skills, philosophies and tools combined with a more global economy will require that the services and resources we provide are in alignment with firm cultures – because the next generation of professionals will expect that their own firms offer an environment that is state of the art; an environment that values their contributions and demonstrates this clearly; is keen on developing leaders; and does more than pay lip service to work-life balance.

Like firms that will need to replenish their bench strength, associations can serve as a magnet for attracting young talent and enabling them to participate in any way that is practical in association activities, whether through training workshops, temporary overseas assignments and special interest groups. Because, social media is the main tool, firms must recognize that the young talent needs to stay connected. And this year Millennials overtook the Gen Xers as the largest cohort in the workplace and by 2020 they will represent about 53% of the work force. So firms in conjunction with associations will need to develop leadership programs and create a pathway for expansion of responsibility, risk-taking and innovation.

Being part of an association provides firms, irrespective of size, with a competitive advantage; strength in numbers; access to thought leaders; and the ability to increase revenue from synergies created through collaboration.