Name: Steven Sacks
Title: Executive Director
Association Name: Moore Stephens North America
Number of Member Firms: 44
What do Moore Stephens North America member firms have in common?
The willingness to share information and provide responsive and competent assistance. This is because our members – though independently owned and operated – think of our association as a monolith but in a positive way. Our members treat clients referred to them by other members as if they were their own clients. Our members have strong desire to grow; to anticipate and evaluate marketplace shifts and operate accordingly.
Moore Stephens North America calls itself a progressive accounting firm association. How so?
Our organization looks at markets and trends, both domestically and globally, and transforms them into opportunities, such as to penetrate certain markets in order to remain competitive against the Big 4 and super regional firms. For example, we have created teams of firms to collaborate on proposing on work in various industry sectors. We also have very active special interest groups that serve as conduits for information dissemination and practice and technical assistance between our members. On a regular basis our firms make presentations to other member firms on a service or process that can be beneficial in running a practice or growing the business.
Have you found that as the world gets smaller, and accounting firms become more specialized, that the need for a strong accounting association increases?
The main driver is the global nature of today’s business. This is driving the accounting profession to become more hands-on with clients and potential clients that need value-added services beyond the traditional compliance work. A firm cannot be an expert in all areas; so as client needs evolve, specialized knowledge is required. The natural alternative to buying talent or building a practice from the ground up, is to work seamlessly with other member firms that possess the necessary knowledge. It makes perfect sense for a firm that is experiencing this to evaluate the existing associations and assess their overall intellectual capital base, as well as the membership “attitude.”
It runs very wide gamut. What we have been seeing from our firms is the secret sauce in hiring and keeping the top talent in a very competitive market. So learning and development initiatives and leadership guidance are ranked very highly. Other areas our firms are interested in include employee benefits, software that results in greater productivity and lower costs, discount buying power from vendors and identifying experts in needed areas. They also look for guidance on how to increase their brand identity in their marketplace.
Can you share your thoughts on how U.S. firms will grow over the next 5 years and how their accounting association can assist in that process?
The next few years will see a wave of leadership succession in firms. As such, the skills, philosophies and tools combined with a more global economy will require that the services and resources we provide are in alignment with firm cultures – because the next generation of professionals will expect that their own firms offer an environment that is state of the art; an environment that values their contributions and demonstrates this clearly; is keen on developing leaders; and does more than pay lip service to work-life balance.
Like firms that will need to replenish their bench strength, associations can serve as a magnet for attracting young talent and enabling them to participate in any way that is practical in association activities, whether through training workshops, temporary overseas assignments and special interest groups. Because, social media is the main tool, firms must recognize that the young talent needs to stay connected. And this year Millennials overtook the Gen Xers as the largest cohort in the workplace and by 2020 they will represent about 53% of the work force. So firms in conjunction with associations will need to develop leadership programs and create a pathway for expansion of responsibility, risk-taking and innovation.
Being part of an association provides firms, irrespective of size, with a competitive advantage; strength in numbers; access to thought leaders; and the ability to increase revenue from synergies created through collaboration.