It took more than two years of lobbying Nebraska lawmakers and the Board of Accountancy, but Bland & Associates is now the first employee-owned CPA firm in the state.
Bland & Associates of Omaha, Neb., (FY18 net revenue of $14.2 million) is 100% employee-owned through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and it is one of only a handful of ESOP CPA firms in the country, the firm announced today.
The partner group decided to transition ownership to all the employees in part as a reward for making Bland one of the fastest-growing firms in the country. INSIDE Public Accounting named Bland a 2018 Top 10 Fastest-Growing Firm with a 37.6% year-over-year increase in net revenue. IPA also named Bland a 2019 Excellence in Firm Culture award winner.
“This is not how you transition a CPA firm in the traditional sense, but Bland isn’t a typical CPA firm. We realized that it fit our culture and goals perfectly,” says MP Jeremy Vokt. Vokt and partners Jason Tonjes and Troy McKinney are majority shareholders. “Jason, Troy and I are not going nowhere and are actually re-energized to grow our firm even more than the last 10 years,” Vokt says.
To become an ESOP in Nebraska, Bland had to pursue a change in state law with the assistance of a former CPA, Nebraska Sen. John Stinner, who introduced a bill to allow the ownership of public accounting firms by ESOP. Under the bill, non-CPAs are not allowed to exceed 49% of total equity interest. The bill became law last year. The firm also worked with Bankers Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, which specializes in ESOP-owned businesses.
Employees are starting to learn about the value and structure of the ESOP, and initial response is positive, the firm says.
“One of my goals has already been met, to become a shareholder,” says DeVon Billups, who has worked at Bland since he was a 17-year-old intern. “Now I am a full-time employee with responsibilities, client relationships and many more things that I never would have imagined for myself. This gives me one more reason to stay with the company, and it feels great.”