[IMGCAP(1)]My partner, Frank Boutillette, just completed his term as president of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. I was asked for some reflections and want to share them with you. I think there are interesting things here that could add insights in how we ran our practice.
I met Frank through the N.J. Society of CPAs, where he and my partner Peter Weitsen were active in the Middlesex/Somerset Chapter. When the firm Frank worked at for 10 years went out of business, he called Peter looking for a position and was hired. This is but one example of the value of Society participation.
Frank joined us Dec. 1, 1994 and he started immediately working on the clients of a practice we had just arranged to acquire as of Jan. 1, 1995. That practice had three pretty decent-sized business clients and we still have two of them (one went out of business). Last year the fees of one of them were almost double the fees of the entire practice we acquired. Frank still is the relationship partner but has a manager handling mostly everything there. Buying a practice is an effective way to grow; great service has its rewards.
When Frank joined us we had two partners with two professional staff—he was number three—and two administrative staff. Frank’s start date coincided with our hiring of a full-time salesman who brought in 35 business clients the following year. Frank was put in charge of those clients (many, but not all, were pretty small; however, they all required some sort of monthly services). In addition to the new clients, he took over managing and doing much of the work I was doing on the larger clients we had. Needless to say he got very busy very quickly. After 20+ years we still have some of the clients the salesman brought in. Acquiring practices and using a salesman paid off very well for us.
One great thing about Frank is that he has very broad shoulders. He sought and took on more and more responsibility and always did what he said he would do, and on time. He became someone who could be counted on and was extremely reliable. And he grew, as did the firm.
When Frank had to do something new, he learned from Peter and me, read what he could, learned on his own, and took whatever CPE or industry courses were necessary for him to grow.
He also became more active in the N.J. Society of CPAs and has just now finished his term as Society President.
As I got involved in new things, they moved over to Frank. I was a Team Captain and did peer reviews. As soon as Frank was able, these transitioned to Frank. He still does them, traveling to firms all over the country. This is also an excellent way for Frank to meet other CPAs and get referrals. After I got my Accreditation for Business Valuations, Frank assisted me on valuations. He then studied and passed the ABV exam. However, he doesn’t do this work anymore—our firm has 35 people specializing in valuations and forensic investigations.
One time we had to audit a mutual fund, which none of us had any experience doing. Frank found an accountant in Pennsylvania who agreed to “teach” him what to do. He worked his ass off and got the job done. We still have that client more than 15 years later. It became the first of many funds, hedge funds and financial service firms we now audit.
Frank was involved in every facet of services our clients needed, and he worked closely with Peter to coordinate the tax plans for the clients. Frank also became and is the confidant of many of the clients he works with.
One of Frank’s no-no’s was public speaking and he refused to give any speeches. One day I told Frank he had to present an A&A update at our annual Partners’ Network CPE program, which he adamantly fought against. He lost the fight and prepared the handout and rehearsed the speech. However, he figured out how to avoid the presentation. He got such a bad case of poison ivy that weekend that he ended up in the hospital and I had to make the presentation. The next time we organized a CPE program Frank was told that he was going to give the speech, even if we had to drag him out of the hospital to do it. Well, he gave it. He said he was a basket case before and during the speech, and that he would never give another speech. Today he is a popular and sought after speaker and even gets higher ratings than me or Peter!
After Frank was with us seven years he was made a partner. He did not ask to be a partner, nor was it ever discussed. When it was time to do his annual evaluation, he was asked if he would join us as a partner. Three years later we merged into Withum.
Frank was the exception to our practice of hiring people out of school. He worked out because he was with a good firm for 10 years, where there was a consistency to his training. Once he joined us it did not take long to figure out where he stood in our training progression and to pick up from there. He was the exception, partly because he was also exceptional.
Energy, reliability, desire to learn new things, and meeting his responsibilities. That sums up Frank—a great person, professional, employee, partner and friend.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by www.CPATrendlines.com and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.