A few years ago, aggregators rolled through the country buying up CPA firms and building national practices. So we thought. But these organizations are only just now getting around to making a whole from the parts.
Many thought buyers like American Express Tax & Business Services, Century Business Services, and Centerprise Advisors would dominate the market. But in technology consulting and reselling, they are just now moving towards cohesive messages and organizations.
In January, Centerprise, simplifying a confusing message, sold Centerprise Information Services, the reseller arm headed by Doug Weintraub. It will now use its other tech arm, headed by Jerry Grady at the former Follmer Rudzewicz in Michigan, to build a unified practice with common products. Grady will be directing this along with Jeff Zalusky of Centerprises’ UKW Technologies in Washington.
The fact that these units still use the old CPA names, such as Urbach Kahn & Werlin Advisors, a Centerprise Company, symbolizes the integration problem. Grady’s operation only recently started using the name Centerprise instead of FR Group.
American Express is similarly scattered. The central Web site for American Express Tax and Business Services is apparently down while being retooled. Meanwhile, finding this unit through the American Express page is difficult. Moreover, individual offices have their own Web sites. A Google search brings up some, but not all, and in no particular order. The Chicago and Baltimore offices have a similar look and feel, but the New York office differs. All three describe technology services in different words. Accounting software lines are mentioned, but not by product names, perhaps reflecting the CPA obsession with independence. But this is not very good for customers looking for information.
CBIZ has similar issues. Its Web page does not name the back-office products it carries. Its front-office offering has a link for Microsoft Great Plains, a name that company has not used for nearly two years, while its front-office product is listed as the Great Plains Siebel Edition, an outdated name from a failed initiative.
You can say this is just nitpicking, minor stuff. But I think not. Qualify firms execute on all fronts and firms with a knowledge of their mission communicate that to the world in press releases, advertising, and Web pages. Focused organizations take care of these things. They act like one organization, not like a collection.
A few weeks ago, I talked with Dan Fine, CEO of In2G8, a relatively new reselling firm. He says that most organizations that acquire don’t know how to integrate. Boy is he right.
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