BDO USA has re-elected Wayne Berson to a second term as CEO of the firm.
Berson will begin serving his second four-year term Nov. 1, 2016. During his first term, BDO achieved a 70 percent increase in cumulative revenue over the past three years, surpassing $1 billion in annual revenue this year.
The firm has also executed 13 different M&A transactions during Berson’s first term. Berson plans to expand the firm even further in his second term.
“We’ve got to continue the execution of our expansion strategy,” he told Accounting Today. “Over the past three years, we’ve entered 20 new markets and expanded our presence in 10 existing markets. Now, with over a billion in revenue, we’ve got to consider additional expansion that will meet one or all of our strategic criteria.”
Those three criteria include entering a desirable market, adding critical mass in existing markets, and adding resources to BDO’s industry or service strengths. Along with M&A deals, Berson also plans to continue organic growth at the firm.
“We will continue to invest resources in our industry and our public company programs,” he said. “They have played an important role in the organic growth of the firm. The growth of our SEC practice is really strong evidence of the organic growth.”
For two years in a row (2013-2014), BDO USA has gained more SEC audit clients (97) than any other accounting firm. Through the first three quarters of 2015, BDO continues to lead all firms in net SEC client gains, according to figures from Audit Analytics published in Accounting Today on Monday (see BDO, Stevenson Lead in Q3).
“The more businesses that associate you with their industry sector, the more likely they will consider changing to you when they’re contemplating a change,” said Berson. “Our increased visibility nationally translates into an increased number of invitations to propose, and we want to continue that momentum.”
Berson would like to build the firm’s presence on the West Coast and the Northeast. “We haven’t done any deals on the West Coast,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be talking soon on one, but that’s an area where we haven’t grown. Certainly, the Northeast is an area where we haven’t done a big deal yet.”
BDO’s goal is to be in the top seven in any market in which it practices. “For the majority we’re able to do that, but we still need to grow in some of the markets,” said Berson.
He noted that BDO works closely with firms in its BDO Alliance to take advantage of any geographies where it doesn’t have a BDO office. “We’ll work with them to help grow out a market,” he said.
In addition to domestic expansion for BDO USA, BDO’s international network has been growing.
“We need to grow internationally,” said Berson. “We’ve got to have the talent inside the firm to be able to reach other countries. My role as chairman of the global board of the BDO network puts me in a position to interact with a lot of the other member firms, which will then help drive referrals between our countries. That’s also in the best interests of the U.S. firm. All in all, those are the things that I’m probably going to be focused on going forward.”
Although BDO recently surpassed the $1 billion mark in revenue, Berson doesn’t anticipate it will cross the $2 billion mark by the end of his second term. “We don’t want to be big just for big’s sake,” he said. “We want to grow where it makes sense to grow. I do believe it was important to cross the $1 billion threshold. There are only seven firms in America that are over $1 billion.”
He said it doesn’t matter if the firm manages to become the fifth or sixth largest in terms of revenue, as long as it’s number one in the eyes of its clients. Berson pointed out that last year BDO grew 26 percent, with 13.1 percent coming from organic growth and 12.9 percent through expansions.
Another way the firm has been expanding is by building awareness of the BDO brand, with a TV advertising campaign built around the slogan, “People who know, know BDO.”
“We spent a lot of our resources in terms of our branding,” said Berson. “You’ve probably seen the television commercial. It’s paying dividends in terms of these successes. Our name recognition has increased dramatically over the last few years. As a result of that, we’ve picked up a lot of new business.”
BDO recently advertised during the World Series and the presidential debates.
“We did both the Democrats and the Republicans,” said Berson. “It was funny. The thought process was that as long as Trump is in the race the viewers are going to be there.”
Recruitment and Retention
Berson also plans to continue making the firm an appealing place to work. “You cannot succeed like we have in recent years without buy-in at all levels of the firm,” he said. “We have our Flex strategy. We have our Women’s Initiative. We have our Exceptional Workplace strategy where we continually seek input from staff, and we are working hard to be the employer of choice in our industry. We will continue to excel in this area because you’re only as good as your people, and we are committed to staying at the forefront of work/life balance.”
The firm’s strategy regarding flex time has attracted people from other national firms. “They compliment us on our flex strategy,” he said.
BDO’s Women’s Initiative has led to a proportion of 20 percent female partners today. “That’s something that has grown over the last three or four years from about 14 percent to 20,” said Berson. “I believe the industry average for national firms is 19 percent, so it’s slightly above. The Women’s Initiative is near and dear to my heart. I want to make sure we give opportunities to all members of our workforce.”
He plans to make his second term about the people in his firm. “We started off the first term and developed our strategic plan,” he said. “We worked and refined our core values, and now we’re going to take the firm to the next level. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in terms of size, but it’s going to be in terms of success for our people.”
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