In our second collection of the Managing Partner Elite, we've brought together a selection of the country's best firm leaders, from firms of all sizes, to highlight the skills and strategies it takes to lead an organization to success in the 21st century.(Want to see the first-ever class of the MP Elite?)
Brian Amann / TaxOps
Brian Amann is a perfect example of a leader who knows how to focus: His Colorado firm, which reported 359 percent growth in revenue in the three years to the end of 2012, is all about tax and nothing else. When he adds a new service line, it’s tax-related; when he hires a new employee, you can be sure they’re a tax expert. Just as important as being able to maintain a tight focus is knowing what not to focus on: Amann has ditched a number of policies that are common in the profession because they “can slow a firm down” – like rigid office hours, a dress code, or time sheets.
Andy Armanino / Armanino
As his firm grows larger — it will report around $115 million in revenue for 2013, and is among the top 30 nationwide — Armanino says his biggest challenge is maintaining the entrepreneurial feeling that it had in its early days. And that makes sense, because it was Armanino’s willingness to think outside the box and pursue change that helped drive his firm’s success.
John Bly / LB&A CPA
John Bly moves fast. How fast? How about growth of 4,000 percent since he founded his firm fast? How about 10 mergers and acquisitions in the same period fast? That’s fast — and one of the reasons Bly is able to move so fast is because he knows where he’s going. Not so much geographically, though he does have plans for continuing expansion throughout North Carolina, but chronologically. Specifically, Bly is headed for 2017, and the vision of his firm in that year that he has posted on his Web site.
Tom Bonadio / The Bonadio Group
Knowing where you’re going is important for managing partners, which is why so many of them develop strategic plans for their firms. And Tom Bonadio is no exception: The Bonadio Group has a detailed plan that it periodically revisits and updates. But Bonadio doesn’t just know where he’s going — he has a strong sense of where he’s been. Knowing that the Top 100 Firm than now blankets upstate New York and Vermont was once no bigger than his kitchen table, and that it’s $54 million in annual revenue was once no more than $100,000, and that he has built it all step by step no doubt brings a valuable perspective.
Tracey Early / Untracht Early
We’ll try not to make too much of this pioneering MP’s last name being Early, but it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that she’s done an awful lot of things long before anyone else. Start with her co-founding and running her own firm years before the accounting profession even realized that it didn’t have enough female leaders. And she has led them into new service areas early on, creating a financial services/alternative investment practice area in 1994, and a family office practice in 2003, both before the profession at large had fully realized the opportunities both offered.
Ed Guttenplan / Wilkin & Guttenplan
We strongly suspect that Guttenplan’s has something to do with a deeply ingrained planning habit, and an equally deep-seated concern for his employees. Wilkin & Guttenplan has had a formal strategic plan for over 20 years (most firms still don’t have one), and has had a succession plan in place for 15 years (ditto). Guttenplan himself leads the firm’s annual partner retreat, which is heavy on strategic planning. That kind of foresight and long-term thinking allows Guttenplan to focus on developing his staff.
Jim Kaufman / Kaufman Rossin
When Jim Kaufman co-founded his Top 100 Firm in Miami 50 years ago, he and the firm’s management quickly implemented an unusual model: “Employees first, clients second, and shareholders third.” Even more unusual, they made “Joy at Work” one of their core values, which may explain why Kaufman Rossin has been named the No. 1 Large Firm to Work For several times by Accounting Today.
Victoria Martin / Martin Starnes & Associates
Martin is a model managing partner. Planning? Check – the firm has been pursuing a regularly updated strategic plan for years, and has a growth and attrition plan in place to stay ahead of the staffing curve. Staying on the cutting edge of technology? Check — Martin has had staff working remotely since the 1990s. Innovating in services? Check – in addition to a broad range of services, the firm offers clients “premium time,” during which no smaller enagements are scheduled, and premium clients’ engagements take precedence. Looking after employees? Check — “Happy staff make for happy clients,” she says.
Maria Montie / ShindelRock
The firm Maria Montie joined in 1994, she says, was really three separate practices that shared overhead. If that sounds familiar, it may be because it’s a fairly common predicament for many small firms. What makes Montie stand out is that she did something about it: working with the partners to create a truly combined practice and a management structure and a succession plan that will last when she and they have moved on. And once she had a single firm, she worked with her team on implementing every best practice you’ve ever heard of.
Greg Skoda / Skoda Minotti
Greg Skoda is no stranger to expansion and innovation, or to both at the same time; after all an earlier firm of his was the foundation of Century Business Services (now CBIZ) in the late 1990s, and he spent several years helping lead the consolidator as it pioneered a new firm model and rolled up practices across the country. With that background, it’s hardly surprising that when Skoda emerged from what had become CBIZ to form Skoda Minotti, one of his major avenues to growth would be M&A. The firm has completed 14 deals since its inception, boosting its revenue by over 1,800 percent and its staff by 1,400 percent.
This article originally appeared in Accounting Today.