The 2012 MP Elite

In its inaugural edition, this new annual report highlights 10 outstanding accounting firm leaders.

In our first-ever collection of the Managing Partner, we've brought together a selection of the country's best firm leaders, from firms of all sizes, to highlight the skills and strategies it takes to lead an organization to success in the 21st century.

Vision and execution Vision and execution

When Allen took the helm of the firm he had worked at since leaving college, he brought a strong vision of its future, one that would see the Great Lakes-area Crowe Chizek grow to become the national (and global) Crowe Horwath. He officially laid out the vision in a formal strategic plan, built a team of professional managers to execute it, made a series of savvy mergers to spread from coast to coast, and coordinated the rebranding of his firm with the rebranding of its international network to emphasize the reach of both.

A united team A united team

Becker’s firm may be small, but he runs it like the best of the big firms: with formal strategic and succession plans, regular expansion into new practice areas, the adoption of critical technology initiatives, and HR policies that represent best practices for the profession. Most important, he is constantly thinking of the firm as a whole, and has welded a diverse partner group into a team united around a common vision and mission, yielding growth rates in revenues and staff that would be the envy of much larger firms.

Setting the pace Setting the pace

One of the most widely admired managing partners in the country, Christen has spent the past decade taking his firm national through a breakneck series of mergers — but while the M&A made headlines, a careful internal focus on people and technology has made them pay off, even as well-thought-out forays into new and occasionally non-traditional practice areas have given it the capability to punch above even its newly augmented weight.

Strategy and tactics Strategy and tactics

A former Marine, Ciaruffoli knows that success requires a mix of strategy and tactics — and a strong team of motivated people, including a cadre of talented leaders in operations and other back-office functions. Even as he expanded his firm from local player to major regional powerhouse through a campaign of carefully planned assaults on a series of metropolitan areas, he was an early exponent of the kind of leadership training and development that most firms are only now realizing are necessary.

Managing change Managing change

Graling finds himself at a pivotal moment for his firm: He is managing the transition of its founding generation to retirement, even as he prepares for his own succession, and positions GR&F for future success. But he has laid careful plans in all three areas to make sure that both transitions go smoothly, and that the firm can continue to grow in its chosen niche of serving international nongovernmental organizations, wherever they may operate.

A focus on people A focus on people

Since Guidry and his fellow co-founders launched PKF Texas in 1992, they have managed both the firm and its staff professionally, with a cutting-edge succession plan and HR policies worthy of a Fortune 500 company, as proven by its long list of workplace awards. Guidry works hard to keep his team motivated, inspired and informed (he even teaches internal courses on “Managing Conflict” and “How to Be a Successful Manager”), but his strengths aren’t just internal — he has also fully exploited Houston’s rising international ties to give his firm global reach.

Future-focused Future-focused

In a conservative professional, Long stands out for looking forward, equipping his small firm of just 22 people with practices, policies and technologies that even the biggest firms are only just starting to adopt. From integrating iPads, portals and videoconferencing to launching a formal training and learning program, he’s keeping his firm on the cutting edge. On its Web site, the firm offers this bold prediction: “Baldwin will be a major regional firm.” With Long at the helm, we expect it will come true.

The gold standard The gold standard

Shamis is the very model of the modern managing partner, and this list is more or less unimaginable without him. In the course of building a small Ohio firm into one of the Top 100, he invented, codified or popularized most of the strategies and best practices that are now taken for granted, in areas ranging from succession planning, HR policies and employee ownership to geographic expansion, M&A and managing technology. And the growth he’s supported hasn’t been restricted to his firm — he has constantly shared his knowledge with accountants across the country, boosting the profession as a whole.

Beyond tech-savvy Beyond tech-savvy

A great MP must recognize the value of technology, but few take it as far as Templeton: Not only did he launch a tech consulting division when he realized that his clients needed help with their accounting software, but his firm developed its own sophisticated practice management solution, which it now sells to other accounting firms. Beyond technology, Templeton is a hands-on manager who is deeply engaged in training his staff — and listening to them.

A national drive A national drive

The numbers tell the story: When Weiner became MP, Marcum had one office; now it has 20. It used to have 20 employees; now it has 950. It had revenues of $3 million; now they stand at $274 million. Few managing partners can boast growth like that, and even fewer could successfully manage the resulting complexity: Weiner’s discipline and vision make all the difference.

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