Wipfli details M&A strategy, teams with Microsoft, Packers

Wipfli LLP, a Top 100 Firm based in Milwaukee, is looking ahead to future expansion, with growth partner Brian Blaha setting his sights on geographic areas and industries to target.

In June, the firm named a new managing partner, Kurt Gresens, who took the reins from longtime leader Rick Dreher (see Wipfli names new managing partner). Gresens told Accounting Today at the time about his plans for continuing the expansion strategy he inherited from Dreher, and Blaha recently provided an update.

“We’ve been on a significant merger and acquisition streak,” he said. “We’ve got a couple more in the pipeline, both industry and geographic expansions. It’s an exciting time as we sync our growth strategy with our merger and acquisition strategy.”

Wipfli has done mergers and acquisitions in different parts of the U.S. but is focusing on particular locales now. “We have our eyes set on certain areas of the country as far as our expansion strategy,” said Blaha in a recent interview. “If you look at our footprint, we’re coast to coast. We look at parts of the country that have strong growth potential, like Texas, California, as well as the New England market.”

Wipfli already did two acquisitions in a little over a year in New England: Howe, Riley & Howe, in Bedford, New Hampshire, and Macpage, in South Portland, Maine.

Wipfli's offices in Wausau, Wisconsin
Wipfli's offices in Wausau, Wisconsin

“We look for firms in existing markets, or tuck-ins or boutique firms, in industry and sub-industry groups,” said Blaha. “We focus on industry expertise in the small and medium-size space, and make sure to align with their specific needs. We believe the needs of those groups are as significant as large enterprise companies. We can tailor those same broad services to the small and medium-size entity. From an evolutionary standpoint, we know the business model of how we engage with those clients has to change. What’s the value of the services that we’re bringing? That’s being driven by technology services and the changing economics of the industry.”

Wipfli recently launched a new technology industry group to target tech startups. “There weren’t a lot of firms focused on technology in the Midwest,” said Blaha.

Wipfli is also in the process of making a deal with Titletown Tech, a joint venture between Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers football team to encourage economic expansion in Wisconsin.

“It’s an opportunity to launch and promote entrepreneurism in Wisconsin, “ said Blaha. “That’s a really exciting deal. It’s our vision of creating lasting positive impact, by promoting entrepreneurism and startup activity, creating a strong ecosystem for those communities.”

The Packers and Microsoft have set up a $25 million seed fund with other investors to finance companies with ties to Northeastern Wisconsin. “They were looking for a professional services partner to provide accounting, tax, and business and technology consulting,” said Blaha.

To help with its own expansion, Wipfli is able to draw on local talent from the University of Wisconsin and other schools. The lower cost of living in the Midwest provides an incentive to recruit talent from the East and West Coasts as well. “There’s a need for disruption in our strong core industries, like manufacturing, health care, construction and real estate,” said Blaha. “Technology is starting to attack the Rust Belt economy.”

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