The 2014 MP Elite

The third edition of our annual report highlights 10 outstanding accounting firm leaders.

In our third collection of the Managing Partner Elite, 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.

(Want to see last year’s class of the MP Elite?)

Louis Grassi / Grassi & Co. Louis Grassi / Grassi & Co.

Lou Grassi was entrepreneurial long before the current vogue for moving beyond the traditional accounting services to focus on helping clients build their businesses. He calls his staffers “success consultants,” and has instilled in them an intense dedication to client service, which has been critical for the firm as it offers higher-value-added advice and expertise to an expanding range of industries.

William Hagaman / WithumSmith+Brown PC William Hagaman / WithumSmith+Brown PC

Hagaman is famous for his performances in his firm’s viral videos, but while his lip-synching skills have helped make WS+B the single coolest firm in the profession, it’s more important that they exemplify the “Withum Way” that Hagaman has assiduously nurtured -- a culture that works hard and plays hard, that’s nimble, flexible and innovative in the service of its clients, embracing the latest technologies without losing sight of the firm’s original principles.

Benjamin Hamrick / Johnson Price Sprinkle PA Benjamin Hamrick / Johnson Price Sprinkle PA

Hamrick says, “Growth is not only about knowing what to do, but also what not to do,” and since he took the helm at his firm in 2006, it has been fairly ruthless in culling clients and “very significant lines of business” that weren’t a match for its core competencies. The result? An average billing rate that has skyrocketed from $89 in 2005 to $135 so far this year, and overall revenue growth of 35 percent in the same period.

Steven Kelly / Rehmann Steven Kelly / Rehmann

In the three decades since Kelly became one of the youngest chief executives at any major firm, he’s led Rehmann to growth and innovation by figuring out what’s coming down the pike, and then getting there first. From crowdsourcing his firm’s strategic plan to developing a cutting-edge client service model, to making sure his firm is more welcoming to women, he’s always been ahead of the curve.

Elizabeth Mercier / Summit Consultancy Group LLC Elizabeth Mercier / Summit Consultancy Group LLC

In learning about Mercier’s firm, it’s easy to forget that it’s only seven years old and has only 15 employees, because many of the elements of its success sound like those that are usually reserved for much larger firms. It’s a serial acquirer of other firms, with large-firm style HR policies and its own cloud offering – and a client footprint that spans 13 states and 10 other countries.

John Milligan / Milligan & Co. John Milligan / Milligan & Co.

Racial barriers didn’t stop John Milligan from launching his own firm 28 years ago, and in the three decades since, he has carved out a very successful niche in not-for-profit auditing and government compliance services and made the firm a beacon for the underrepresented, and a model for firms that want to become more diverse.

Mark Radetic / MarksNelson LLC Mark Radetic / MarksNelson LLC

A model for working “on” your firm, as opposed to “in” it, Radetic has led his firm in a number of bold steps to solve issues other firms have ignored, from tackling partner retirements head-on to taking the lead on talent management and staff development, marketing, and diversity.

G. Brint Ryan / Ryan LLC G. Brint Ryan / Ryan LLC

Ryan built a $390 million corporate tax practice on a handful of personal credit cards and the willingness to change his tactics to suit his strategy, adjusting as necessary as he achieved each set of goals, from being a top practice in Texas to being a top practice in the U.S. – and now as he aims to make it an international giant.

Kathy Ryan / RoseRyan Inc. Kathy Ryan / RoseRyan Inc.

From the start, Ryan was determined to build a new model focused on attracting and retaining top talent, and assembled a package of benefits, bonuses and flexible work practices to prove it. All of this has paid off with employee satisfaction numbers (measured by an independent HR firm) that are stratospheric.

John Sensiba / Sensiba San Filippo LLP John Sensiba / Sensiba San Filippo LLP

When Sensiba started as MP, he proposed changes that meant turning over a third of the firm’s ownership group and a third of its clients – and replacing over $5 million in fees – but the result is a firm that’s tightly focused on its strategy, and growing by leaps and bounds as it expands both geographically and in terms of the niches it serves.

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