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In case you were not able to attend our recent New Partner Reception, I’d like to share a few great announcements worth repeating regarding our firm and our people that you missed:

  • INSIDE Public Accounting released its Top 100 Accounting Firms list for 2014. The IPA independent rankings are among the longest-running, most accurate and up-to-date for the nation’s largest accounting firms. WithumSmith+Brown moved up two spots from 31st to the 29th largest firm in the nation, breaking the Top 30 list!  We attribute this move not only to a couple of recent mergers of competing firms, but also to our own organic growth.
  • Accounting Today released its “100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession” list and we again have TWO people from our firm being honored, the only firm on the list with more than one person.  Jim Bourke, partner and practice leader of our Technology Services Group, makes an appearance for a seventh year in a row.  Jim tirelessly travels around the country and the world, presenting and discussing all things tech, quoted and published in a variety of magazines, blogs and websites.  He truly is an influencer in our profession. The second person is Sarah Cirelli, interactive marketing manager, her second appearance on the list and most certainly the youngest person on the list!  Sarah has done extraordinary things to showcase our firm through our videos which contribute to our unbelievably great morale that defines and strengthens our culture.  The profession has taken notice of her work and has followed her trendsetting efforts.  Click here to view the list; Jim is on page 62 and Sarah is on page 64.
  • I also want to share the news that Chris DeMayo, our newly inducted partner, was listed as a 2014 honoree in the national 40 Under 40 program for CPA Advisor magazine.  Honorees are described as “trailblazers who are changing the accounting profession,” and that certainly befits Chris, who has spearheaded several firm initiatives to expand market share in various industries as well as continue to enhance the firm’s reputation as a regionally and nationally recognized provider of services to emerging growth companies. Click here for the official list of honorees from around the country.

Please join me in congratulating these talented professionals who are out there making a substantial impact on our profession… and making us all very proud.

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An important overarching decision managing partners of service firms must make when running their companies is how deeply engaged with technology they should become, knowing the use of technology can be a double edged sword.

 

Technology is appealing to clients. Using the latest technologies – mobile devices, laptops, software programs, ‘the cloud’ – implies our firms are on the leading edge and forward thinking. People generally perceive a firm using the latest and greatest technologies will also be cutting edge when it comes to giving advice, keeping up to date with the latest tax and audit literature. They might even expect that technology will assist us in improving our efficiencies in the delivery of services, therefore keeping fees competitive. So the best technology can help attract and retain the best clients. 

 

Technology is also appealing to staff. When was the last time you heard a staff person proudly exclaim they have the best erasers in the profession?  If we give staff the best tools available to our profession today, then they know they are working with a quality firm, one they can be proud of, and they can accomplish their jobs effectively and efficiently. The best technology can indeed help attract and retain the best staff.

 

So, all should be good, right?

 

The other side, however, are costs and the reality of loss of efficiency. I have many times seen clients try to employ cutting edge technology and wind up with systems that run over budget and don’t work effectively. One of my best clients has been trying to unravel a poorly planned and installed system for the past 15 years. It has become the proverbial black hole.

 

To effectively use technology, you need to have a plan. The plan needs to lay out the goals of the system, a time line for implementation and an analysis of true costs. There must be a stakeholder that takes the lead and has some affinity to the technology. It is important to get buy in from key users early on so you don’t implement a system that won’t get used, and you can reduce resistence by those in your organization who loathe change.

 

Most importantly, your company needs to be ready for the technology. As an example, for many years, we have been proud of the fact that our accountants have the best technology available in our profession. However, for the longest time we have delayed implementation of a CRM system, even though many other firms have been using them for years. Our thought process was that our key stakeholders wouldn’t update and utilize the system effectively, and we would be wasting both hard and soft dollars on implementing a system that would have low utilization. But over time, as our firm has grown and expanded and as the market has become more complex, it has become apparent we are ready for a CRM system and will begin implementation over the summer. This decision came easily because the market and our stakeholders were clamoring for a solution to a business problem. And I am sure success will be achievable.

 

We all need to embrace technology and use it to give ourselves the competive edge in the marketplace, but we also need to stay focused on what our clients and staff need. In this somewhat stagnant economy, our investment dollars are even more valuable and need to be spent expeditiously because mistakes will mean lost opportunities.

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