President and CEO, H&CO
Years in Business: 28
Location: Coral Gables, Fla.
Staff Size: 200+
What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm right now? The industry is changing, and COVID-19 is only accelerating those changes. Currently, we have employees working in the office, from the house and in various countries, and we expect remote work to be the new normal going forward. While remote working can improve employee productivity and happiness, it makes it very hard to maintain the culture of the firm.
Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years? As a growing firm, we are adding new team members all the time. But as I mentioned, it’s difficult for current team members and new team members to fully grasp our culture in a remote work environment.
So I expect to be focusing most of my attention in the near future on working to better communicate our culture to new and existing members in many different ways. Maintaining our culture is vital for the survival of the firm. We have a high-performing culture that places a high value on output (quality of the work and positive client experience) rather than input (the number of hours worked).
By fostering a culture that values passion, teamwork, excellence and hard work, we will adapt to the new norms and our team members will feel that they are making meaningful contributions to our success.
For decades, the profession has encouraged a move toward partners delivering advisory services beyond compliance. What has been your biggest success in this endeavor? We are a heavy international tax compliance firm. We have over 150 professionals dedicated to helping global families and multinationals invest and expand their operations in the U.S. and Latin America. We provide several advisory services to international clients by working with the best international tax attorneys.
But while most of our revenue comes from international compliance work, we’ve also seen progress in diversifying to provide other advisory services. We were fortunate to merge in a construction firm, giving us the capability to offer advisory services to the construction industry. This is a niche that allows us to offer services that we were not able to offer before, and we’re planning to grow this division within the next few years.
In addition, during the last four years, we have been expanding our technology services, SAP Business One. By partnering with SAP, AWS, Citrix and Microsoft, we have been able to build a great team and offer technology advisory services to international clients so they can run their U.S. operations from back home.
What’s the best advice you have ever received from another leader? We provide services to ultra-high-net-worth individuals who have done extremely well, and I am very lucky to be able to interact with them on a regular basis. Most of our clients have built very successful businesses, so I take every interaction with them as an opportunity to learn. Some of the best advice that I have taken from them over the years comes back to three main points:
Love what you do, and you will do it better than everyone else. My clients are very passionate about their ventures. They love what they do and, as a result, they have done very well. Most of my clients recognize passion as one of the most important traits for their success. So I live my life with passion, and I surround myself with passionate people. I also recognize passion as one of the firm’s greatest assets – we are passionate about the profession and we show passion in everything that we do.
Never give up. As a CEO, perseverance is the fuel needed to drive the firm. My clients agree on the importance of perseverance for their success – they never give up. Things not always turn out the way we want them to and we all face many difficult situations running our businesses, but the key is to keep pushing forward.
We cannot expect to become the best at what we do by just working forty hours a week. My successful clients have one thing in common – they are all hardworking individuals. Getting your hands dirty as a CEO is crucial. Leading by example, I have created a culture of hard work that gives us a competitive advantage. We love so much what we do that we can outwork the competition.
Listening to our clients is important in order to be able to help them. But we should also listen to them for guidance, since they have accomplished what we are all seeking to accomplish – success.
What one piece of advice do you wish someone told you before you stepped into your current leadership role? Done is better than perfect!
Ever since I was little, I was taught to do everything perfectly, so I carried that belief to my firm. Early in my career, I worked very hard to make the absolute best decisions and take the best actions at the right time. As a result, in the beginning, I didn’t take as much action as I should have. My desire for perfection got in the way of following great opportunities. I wish someone would have told me then that done is better than perfect.
Today, I understand that the desire to wait for the perfect moment can get in the way of taking action. We have to understand that there is not always going to be a perfect time to get into a new line of business, acquire a firm, close a division or invest in new ideas. Preparation and planning can take you so far, but as a leader I have to take action, because otherwise we’ll miss out on some great opportunities.
What has been the biggest surprise in your role as a leader? The biggest surprise is the fact that running the firm is just a small part of my job. As CEO, with so many responsibilities and time constraints, I learned quickly that I have to let go of many responsibilities in order to simply do my job.
In other words, as CEO I was expecting to be in total control of the firm. But as the firm grows, I feel that I have to give up control of some of the day-to-day operations and decisions. It is a tough job because having the authority does not guarantee control of actions. The success of the of firm is not in my hands, but in the hands of my team members. However, if something goes wrong, I have to take responsibility for it. This job is more complicated than many people think. I am responsible for the success of the firm, but I’m not involved in every decision needed to run the firm.
Today I understand that my role as CEO is to set, implement and communicate the strategy of the firm, build the culture of the firm and build a great team that will take the firm to the next level. Because only with the help of an amazing team can I guarantee the success of the firm.
How has your role changed over the past five years? As the firm continues to grow and as the industry continues to change, I have accepted dealing with changes as part of my job. With the growth of the firm, I am facing new challenges.
We need more talent than ever before. Attracting, retaining and developing new talent is complicated and it is becoming an ever more demanding part of the job. I believe in a people-first philosophy. If we don’t have the right people in the right places, we cannot continue to grow and compete in this market. I dedicate more time to recruiting these days than ever before.
Technology and globalization are also transforming our profession. The industry today is providing services that firms were not providing back when I established the firm in 1992, like digital transformation services, cybersecurity services, cloud services, etc. Digital is the world that we are living in, and it’s changing the way we do things. As CEO, I’ve been forced to learn about these new trends to compete and survive – the accounting industry is going through a transformation and we must embrace the changes that come with that transformation.
What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today? My advice to people entering the profession is to develop a passion for the profession early in their career. Because passion really is something you develop – it is not something that you are born with as many people think.
By spending time on what you enjoy in life, you will develop your true passion. By developing passion for the profession, you will be able to work the hours required to be successful. By developing passion, you will become an expert in the industry. By developing passion, you will achieve your personal goals. And by developing passion, you will make great contributions to our profession.
How do you stay on top of the profession? Staying on top of the accounting profession is a must for a CEO. My partners expect me to know the latest trends in the industry, new services in the market, the best software to do the job and future trends. Living up to my partners’ expectations is challenging in today’s completive business world.
But staying on top of the profession can be the difference between paying the bills and having a competitive advantage, so I read and I read and I read some more. Learning is a never-ending process. I take CPEs just like every other professional in the industry, and I try to read one or two business articles a day and share many of these articles on LinkedIn. I also read about two business books every month, and I attend many professional events to network with the best professionals in the industry.
Having a growth mindset allows me to stay on top of the profession, and I believe that by staying on top of the profession I can add more value to the firm.
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 accounting profession is going through a transformation, and it will continue to face significant changes over the next five years. These changes are the result of three main forces: digital transformation, globalization and additional regulation.
Digital transformation has changed the way we work today, and it will continue to change the way we work in the future. Technology is replacing the traditional ways of working. As IA continues to advance, for example, many of the manual tasks in our profession are been replaced by computers or robots. The new technology is replacing the mechanical part of our jobs because it can be done faster and more efficiently. This does not mean our jobs are at risk, however. I don’t believe that the relational part of our job can be replaced by computers – as some mechanical tasks are replaced, we’ll simply have more time to do consulting for our clients and add value to the relationship.
Globalization is creating challenges and opportunities, creating more competition for the profession since many of our services can be provided from any country. Globalization also creates other problems such as different cultural, financial and tax systems. But we can take advantage of this by helping companies in various countries, meaning our potential client base is larger than ever before.
The last development with our profession has to do with the continuing changes in the tax laws. These too will create challenges and opportunities for the profession.
We are living through a dramatic transformation of the profession, and I believe that to survive our current business environment we must be aware of these trends so we can adapt.
What is your proudest achievement? As an entrepreneur and an immigrant, I feel proud about establishing a small CPA firm of two employees (my partner Guillermo Andrade and myself) back in 1992 and growing the firm into one of the top 25 CPA firms in South Florida and one of the largest CPA firms in the country. But my proudest business achievement is building a great leadership team. Each team member here brings unique and distinct skills to the table and we trust each other to get the job done. Our leadership team is making history and is ready to carry my vision to the future.
At the personal level, my greatest accomplishment is raising a family that turned out some great kids. I have been married since 1989 to my college sweetheart, Ana. We have two wonderful daughters (Stephanie and Natalie) and one great son (Nicholas). Both of my daughters already graduated from college and are working and contributing to society, and my son is a junior in high school. They are loving, gracious, giving and hardworking individuals who know the meaning of hard work and are always ready to jump in and help others. Since I live my life by the simple principle of helping one person a day, my kids’ desire to help others makes me so proud.
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