Gordon A. Viere started his career in public accounting in 1975 right out of college at Minneapolis-based LarsonAllen. He joined the firm's partnership in 1982 and rose through the ranks to become chief executive in 1989. Under his leadership, LarsonAllen has grown through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions to become one of the 20 largest firms in the nation, with revenues topping $90 million.
Here, Viere describes the firm's expansion strategy, his toughest challenges as CEO, and the impact of the regulatory changes in the profession.
Why did you choose this profession?
I became a CPA because of the influence of my brother-in-law, Dan Boeckermann, a CPA in Minneapolis.
Describe the firm's biggest challenge under your stewardship and how you met that challenge.
The biggest challenges have been: 1) maintaining a culture that we think is unique, as the firm grew in people, locations and different specialty groups, and 2) managing the continuous changes in our organizational and management structure as we've grown from a $10 million to a $100 million firm. Our commitment to elevate culture and organizational planning to be as important to our firm as strategic planning has been successful for us in meeting these challenges.
LarsonAllen completed three mergers during 2003 (Corbett Lueckhoff & Co. in January; Stienessen, Schlegel & Co. in November; and Biebl Ranweiler in December). Describe the firm's expansion strategy.
Our firm has a growth philosophy that includes organic growth and acquisitions. Our acquisitions have never been in excess of 10 percent of our revenue on an annual basis. We believe a controlled acquisition strategy is best in building a firm that maintains its culture. We strive each year for at least 50 percent of our annual growth to be organic. Organic growth is what provides opportunity for our people and cements strong building blocks as the firm continues to grow. Growth is important because it allows us to invest in resources to better serve our clients.
What do you look for in a potential merger or acquisition candidate? What are the keys to successfully integrating a firm into your practice?
The two most important things we look for in acquisition targets are people resources and a client base that fits our industry specialization strategy. The two most important elements of successfully integrating a firm are picking the right firm and communication.
What practice areas does the firm plan to focus on in 2004?
The primary motivation for our firm is industry specialization. Another focus in 2004 is on financial services. Our growth in financial services has been exceptional. We anticipate doubling the revenue of these services every two or three years for the foreseeable future.
How have the regulatory changes in the accounting profession impacted LarsonAllen?
While the regulatory changes have certainly impacted our firm, the impact has not been as significant for us as some firms because we chose to focus on non-public entities for all services, including audit, and public entities for non-audit services. Our approach of providing non-audit services to public companies has been successful for us.
The very best outcome of the difficult times our profession has recently experienced is the profound recognition that integrity is the cornerstone on which our profession was built. We have a saying at our firm -- "Quality and integrity count." As long as that remains in the forefront (which I'm confident it will) we will remain a successful firm.
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