The complications of recent years have undoubtedly tested the leaders of accounting firms, but have also revealed those who are up to the challenge and can serve as role models for an evolving profession.
These leaders share several key characteristics, starting with very specific and well-communicated visions for their business. In fact, as Accounting Today’s MP Elite 2022, representing some of the top leaders in the profession, demonstrated, their goals are often very detailed, down to the dollar and date.
Joshua Lance, member of MP Elite and managing director of Lance CPA Group, for example, predicts that his Chicago-based company will be fully employee-owned by 2032.
And in Illinois-based PKF Mueller Cos.’s 2024 vision statement, CEO David Nissen and fellow MP Elite 2022 class member set a goal of $60 million in combined revenue from growth. organic and acquisitions.
Centri Business Consulting CEO and Managing Partner Michael Aiello, also a member of MP Elite, also has a clear vision in mind for the Philadelphia-based company: “We want to hit the $100 million revenue mark in the next five next few years, if not sooner. This growth will allow us to reinvest in our future team and its success.
Meanwhile, MP Elite winner Ken Wolfe, president and CEO of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz, has pivoted to a more agile strategic plan in the wake of the pandemic.
“Over the past few years, we have developed a one-year plan due to the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment,” he explained. “The goals of the plan are created by our Board of Directors and a committee…consisting of myself, a shareholder, our COO/CFO, our director of human resources and our director of marketing, all of whom create the plan and oversee its execution. “
Glenn Harper, MP Elite, owner and managing partner of Ohio-based Harper & Co. CPAs Plus, proves that there is no set process for conceptualizing a company’s strategic plan and that the most important part is having a plan in place.
“The first strategic plan was written on the back of a Southwest Airlines napkin in 2017,” he explained. “My chief of staff and I were on a flight to create it together. When we got back to the office, we made it official. I empowered him to implement the vision we had created, which meant that I had to go out of my own way and trust Him implicitly to execute meaningful change.
Delaware-based Barbican, Thornton & Co.’s strategic plan includes the successor to current Managing Partner and MP Elite member Pamela Baker.
When Baker retires in 2025, she will not only bring in a new MP, but also a corporate CEO in an innovative model that “will incorporate a strong (non-CPA) CEO and allow the next managing partner to continue to use their strong client and technical skills to support a smaller business portfolio,” she said.
Of course, to succeed in these strategies, leaders of accounting firms must be prepared. Top leaders were, based on their quick transitions to pandemic work.
All MP Elites were at least partially, and some entirely, remote prior to March 2020, making the change easier for their staff.
“We’ve always been an entirely virtual and remote practice and have always enabled a flexible work environment, which is why we’re able to hire and retain amazing people,” Lance said. “We have always used cloud-based technology, including implementing our own technology that we have developed in our business. This has allowed us to grow and scale quickly and have a customer base that extends across the United States and enables our team to provide excellent service to our customers.
And Avani Desai, an MP Elite member and CEO of Tampa, Florida-based Top 100 Firm Schellman, plans to incorporate this new way of working into the company’s future operations.
“I don’t know if this will really be a true return to normal, but we plan to create our own ‘new normal,’ either way,” she shared. “At the moment, we have in the works the adoption of a Work from Anywhere program which will allow all team members to choose where they want to live. We plan to continue remote audits where we can, and our conversations with regulators, encouraging them to keep the necessary security measures in place, continue as things evolve.
The best leaders are embracing the latest technologies to make this new way of working possible.
As Robert Minkler, Member of MP Elite and Managing Partner of Top 100 Firm Anders, based in St. Louis, explained: “I believe that technological curiosity and support is what continues to fuel the company’s vision. to use technology not just to run the business, but to help grow the business and drive strategic growth. »
Like his co-honourees MP Elite, Grassi Founder, CEO and Managing Partner Louis Grassi has also taken a phased approach with his New York-based company amid the pandemic.
“While other companies were downsizing and implementing hiring freezes and budget restrictions, I strategically chose to move forward by launching new service areas, hiring new talent and by investing in important marketing and technology initiatives,” he explained. “Increasing our talent, resources and market presence has not only helped us continue to grow stronger throughout the pandemic, but has also enabled us to help our customers do the same. “
Listen to them
And the best leaders don’t just prepare their employees for success in this new normal of work, but throughout their careers with the company – which is typically longer, judging by their retention rates among the best in the industry.
Putting their people first has helped the profession’s top MPs and CEOs navigate the big quit, from recruitment to leadership advancement.
It starts with listening to their needs, and the best leaders provide multiple forums, from company-wide meetings to regular staff surveys, to ensure their employees are heard.
Barbacane, Thornton & Co. has recently added to these communication channels, Baker explained, by having “revamped performance feedback tools, implemented semi-annual one-on-one interviews with all professional staff, implemented bi-weekly team meetings by staff level”.
Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz has also given a voice to its people. “We also continue to lean into a culture of continuous feedback by soliciting ideas from our team members to see how we can remove any doubt from their minds that BSSF is the right fit for them in their careers,” said explained Wolfe. “We conduct employee surveys and use other means to gather feedback, such as asking our young professionals to hold a town hall to discuss opportunities for improvement and report them to our leadership team.”
Schellman also prioritizes the individual career path of each staff member. “The idea of maintaining the highest return on the value of work for each team member will need to be consistent throughout their tenure in a position, which will mean regularly listening to our employees in a way that shows them that we care about while providing them with deserved validation that reassures them of their role as supported/important members of our organization,” Desai said. “But not only that, retaining top talent will require serious emphasis on industry-leading career development programs so that staff never stagnate and remain engaged in the work they do.”
In addition to their pro-personnel policies, Progressive MPs drive their companies into hot new areas of practice, which not only improves their bottom line, but attracts and retains modern accountants, who typically seek work in emerging industries. .
Overall, the most popular and fastest growing of these areas is client advisory services. The majority of MP Elite 2022 provide this service and have reaped the benefits.
Under the leadership of CEO and Managing Partner (and Honored MP Elite), New Jersey-based Joseph Damiano, Sax has added a host of new practice areas, including Sax Capital Advisors in 2021, a transaction advisory practice in 2020 and a cannabis and cryptocurrency practice last year. . These were all led by the innovation committee at the head of Damiano.
Centri has also been busy adding new verticals, Aiello explained. “Over the past 11 years, we have listened [the] needs of our customers and the solutions they needed. From there, we tested the concept of new offerings and when to market with services that would impact our customers. Over the past three years, Centri has added the following services: Powered by Centri (outsourced accounting), HR Consulting, CFO Consulting, ESG Consulting, IT/Cyber Consulting, SPAC Consulting, Business Advisory Consulting, equity and solvency. »
Of course, these new ventures only work with solid strategies in place, which goes back to the importance of a solid leadership vision.
And the best leaders know not to be too complacent or inwardly focused that they don’t seek inspiration from other sources, including their peers.
David Nissen does just that to continually develop his leadership skills. “I also regularly visit other accounting firms and share best practices,” he explained. “This learning through sharing has been invaluable to me in my career and has helped me become a better leader.”