23rd Annual Meeting Takeaways

This year’s annual meeting was in San Diego, California. We had over 35 members and prospects attend the meeting, including three members from our international affiliate, Auditrust. Below is a quick summary.

The merger and acquisition scene isn’t slowing down. Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory provided our members with a global update on activity and covered the 3 most common types of deals.

  • Straight purchase,
  • Merger with future buyouts, and
  • Two-stage deals.

He covered several scenarios on deal terms to illustrate the combination of factors you should consider when making an offer to sellers.

Top on everyone’s mind is succession planning. If your firm hasn’t gone through it recently or isn’t going through it right now, the time may come very shortly. We had multiple perspectives on this topic. Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory discussed the framework and structure firms should have to support an internal succession policy, including:

  • valuing the firm and the various methods available,
  • compensation approaches,
  • vesting,
  • payout terms,
  • death and disability, and
  • mandatory retirement.

He also provided a sample client transition policy. Dana Kittell of Kittell Branagan & Sargent also spoke at the meeting about their recent internal succession plan. Dana discussed their approach and how they have been working on their transition. Finally, Bill Ernst of GBQ (formally Ernst & Rabe) shared their firm’s experience in selling their practice to a larger firm as part of their succession strategy.

Stuart Friedman spoke on communication in the workplace. He discussed how people perceive and hear things differently and how we all process information. Each participant took part in the OAD assessment and was provided a summary of their results. He discussed how to identify different preferences in styles for communication and what that means as you communicate with others in your firms.

Consulting services
Consulting services have become an important part of CPA firm service offerings. Sarah Dobek opened the session with valuable information on the growth of consulting services in the profession. Then David Strothers of Darnell Sikes et al shared how they grew their wealth management practice. While the firms share referrals back and forth between the CPA firm and the wealth management firm, they market extensively beyond the CPA firm practice and have hired non CPAs that are solely dedicated to their firm.

Tina Tharp from Hamilton Tharp then spoke about how they grew their outsourced CFO services. Tina’s background is not as a CPA and she spent a good portion of her career in private accounting as a controller and CFO before moving into public accounting. She equates that background to a good portion of her success. Successfully building out this practice line doesn’t require a CPA. In fact, in-house private experience will provide more relevant experience to potential clients. The demand on time and the expectation for the service response time are very different than in traditional accounting.

Anytime Anywhere Work
Sarah Dobek shared what firms are doing with virtual working and anytime anywhere work options. She referenced different types of programs and data on the number of CPA firms utilizing these programs. She also facilitated a discussion among the member firms around the various practices they are using. Policy samples can be requested through our offices. 

Marketing – Proposals
Katie Monti shared proposal best practices. This primarily focused on the key elements every firm should have in their proposal including visual presentations. A copy of an SS&G proposal was discussed and can be requested through the CPAsNET offices. Rob Barbacane of Barbacane, Thornton & Company also shared his firm’s experience with proposals. He talked about their proposal process and the use of an outlook calendar to manage their RFP submissions. Both Katie and Rob also spoke to how member firms can leverage CPAsNET in their proposals.

Tax Update
Dean Zerbe of alliantgroup spoke to the current and future happenings in congress regarding taxes. He addressed the changes that accompanied last year’s big bill. Dean anticipates neither good nor bad coming out of Washington this year. Looking forward, there is uncertainty after the election with a great deal of potential changes.

Getting Back to Why
Tony Batman of 1st Global presented on the importance of ‘getting back to why’. The premise of Tony’s session was that all organizations, including CPA Firms, must express a purpose beyond profitability. It is important to instill a moral foundation that drives staff. Tony stresses the three common desires people seek: joy, significance and meaning. When there is a higher purpose within the organization, it will fundamentally change for the good.

Stay tuned for more. We have several video recaps that will be available in late July for download.

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