IPA Profile: William A. Taylor Jr.

IPA Profile: William A. Taylor Jr.

Managing Partner, Taylor CPA & Associates PC

Years in Business: 20

Location: Atlanta

Staff Size: 17

What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm currently? Understanding and leveraging technology to enhance our offerings and streamline our internal operations, as we work to ensure our processes are efficient and we’re providing a world-class client experience at every level.

If I had to pick more than one challenge, talent retention and recruiting would be up at the top.

Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years? We’re in the process of expanding our firm in terms of both services and people. In doing so, it makes good business sense to add new people, of course, but also to do everything we can to maintain staff members who already understand our unique culture and the history of the firm. Therefore, we’ll be focusing heavily on retaining and developing our staff members through quality-of-life enhancements, technology enhancements, growth opportunities and compensation.

For decades, the profession has encouraged a move toward  partners delivering advisory services beyond compliance. What has been your biggest success in this endeavor?  Our firm places a strong emphasis on acting as our client’s CFO in business and a collaborative wealth creation advisor in their personal affairs. This objective is encouraged at all levels of our firm, as we train staff members to add value by analyzing financial results and delivering additional information about opportunities.

We encourage clients to take three-year snapshots. During each of those periods, our goal is to ensure they see noticeable positive changes in their financial position.

What’s the best advice you have ever received from another leader? When I did my college internship, the MP of the firm called me into his office one day and told me that the average CPA started his or her own firm by 41 years of age or, if they were in a good firm, they were ‘uncomfortably’ settling into a meaningful partner role by the age of 41. Therefore, he said, I should set a goal to make sure that by the time I was 41, it wouldn’t look like I was just getting started in the profession or settling in as an ‘uncomfortable’ equity owner. I started this firm at 28, and every year I inched toward the age of 41 I wanted to make sure I was not viewed as if I were getting started or ‘uncomfortably’ settling in as an equity owner. I was constantly tweaking the firm to ensure the environment commanded the respect and admiration of clients and created a sense of pride for staff members. As our leadership team grew, the tweaks became even more effective and efficient for our organization.

What one piece of advice do you wish someone told you before you stepped into the MP role? Embrace technology. Initially, I was apprehensive about adopting new technology. Industry-leading technology is costly, after all, and adoption often requires a period of ‘disruption.’ The firm and its leaders are forced to abandon the familiar way of operating and must implement new processes and procedures. Facing the high implementation costs and adversity to change is daunting, but it is worth it.

Our firm completed a significant technology transformation and looking back I wish we would have done it sooner. Using our new technology, we have seen considerable benefits in managing workflow, client relationships, data storage and billing/collections.

What has been the biggest surprise in the role? My evolution as a mentor. My goal of developing a firm to exist beyond me, as opposed to simply hanging a shingle, has provided experiences that can never be fully explained to someone who has never taken this journey. My staff members often say that I always have a story; yes, I do, because the firm has been a constant evolution. As a mentor now, I’m able to give more credit to someone’s ideas because I can ‘extend’ their ideas with the real-world lessons I’ve learned as a CPA in a way that’s beneficial to both parties.

How has your role as MP changed over the past five years? When I started the firm, most of the advice I received was from mentors and peers outside of the firm. In recent years, we made a very concerted effort to recruit and retain people who are more talented, more well-rounded and entrepreneurial. As a result, I have gained the privilege of being able to seek input from leadership and staff inside the firm. I have learned to trust our team and more readily accept constructive criticism from all levels of the firm. This allows me to see the entire firm with better clarity and address matters from a point of ‘reason’ instead of personal emotion.

What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today? Soft skills are just as important as technical skills. There is an unfortunate stereotype that accountants are dull and do not like to socialize. Television series like “The Office” characterize accountants as bean counters who sit in a corner away from customers and away from the management team. In real life, though, accountants are client-facing professionals and are a critical part of management’s planning and decision-making.  Thus, students entering the profession need to be prepared with excellent communication skills (verbal and written).

How do you stay on top of the profession? Focus. We have a vision that has not varied much in the firm’s 20+ years of existence. We want to inspire our clients to build wealth by creating long-term business relationships with them and encourage them to make good business and personal decisions through consistent compliance efforts and always being in position to take advantage of the various strategies to which we introduce them.

Where do you see the accounting profession in five years? How do you see it changing/developing and/or how would you like it to change? The profession typically lags in terms of adapting to technological opportunities. Most firms are just starting to move to the cloud. We see data entry, and other low-level services, outsourced to low-cost regions on a regular basis. As accounting professionals, we must continue our move to offer more personalized and consultative services.

What is your proudest achievement? My proudest achievement is keeping the firm relevant for 20+ years while simultaneously continuing efforts to build momentum that will propel us into uncharted territory. As a technically trained CPA who also embodies an entrepreneurial spirit, I know the market is wide open, and I am as excited about pursuing opportunities now as I was when I was a 28-year-old just starting his new firm.

The IPA community wants to get to know you better!  If you’re a firm leader, department leader or in firm administration and would like to share your thoughts and insights in a future edition of the IPA Profiles, contact Mark Loehrke