MP, Lauterbach & Amen LLP
(one of IPA’s fastest-growing firms over $10 million for 2020)
Years in Business: 24+
Main Office: Naperville, Ill.
Staff Size: 160+
FY19 Net Revenue: $20.1 million
What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm right now? It’s a familiar refrain, but it’s the truth – attracting, retaining and developing talent is the biggest challenge and opportunity for our firm. It’s all about the people. We seek out people that are motivated, engaged and have grit. In turn, our firm makes a dedicated effort to provide more than just a job, but a fulfilling career.
Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years? My focus is on helping our people, strategy and operations link together. While we strive to have all three of these key areas in balance, in practice there’s some fluidity to what takes priority at any given time. But all three are critical. I expect to spend the next few years continuing to work with our leadership team on execution and allocation of resources.
For decades, the profession has encouraged a move toward partners delivering advisory services beyond compliance. What has been your biggest success in this endeavor? L&A’s splits are 25% compliance, 10% actuary, 5% tax and 60% advisory. We expect to carry forward those segment allocations as we continue to evolve and expand. While we don’t believe the splits, and our segments, are a final strategy, we do understand that advisory services are a strong piece of the future.
What’s the best advice you have ever received from another leader? Provide quality and focus on service and everything else will take care of itself. Riffing off that a little, as a people-first firm, we know that exceptional quality and service is a product of hiring exceptional talent. When you have the right people in place, the rest is infinitely easier. One more piece of advice that’s stuck with me – it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. In my role it’s important to keep an eye on the future but resist the urge to get too predictive.
What one piece of advice do you wish someone told you before you stepped into your current leadership role? How fun it would be, every day. As one of L&A’s founding partners I didn’t step into the MP role, I’ve enjoyed watching it evolve since day one. The initial stages were intimidating and full of learning, and every phase along the way has revealed its own set of challenges and successes. We have learned to leverage innovation and prioritize development – of our team, ideas, technology – to help propel the firm forward.
The industry often paints the MP role as a grind; and while there are complicated days and periods, as there are for anyone, on the whole that hasn’t been my experience. That can largely be attributed to our strong leadership team – it’s essential to have a strong bench. L&A is not just me, it’s the sum of many smart, dedicated and ambitious people. It’s been a fun ride.
What has been the biggest surprise in your role as a leader? How complicated it is to write and adopt a strategic plan. Plans are important, but often pose challenges when it comes to development and execution. I’m sure that writing a strategic plan, only for it to be quickly rendered obsolete, is an experience shared by many.
Another surprise has been the importance of being relentlessly intentional about the big picture. There’s a constant juggling of key L&A strategic needs, we are regularly examining and assessing the qualities our team possesses – and needs to hone – to get us to where we want to go. We value people that are problem solvers, risk takers, responsible, passionate, driven and have grit.
How has your role as MP changed over the past five years? As our leadership team has grown and diversified over the past 5+ years, my time has shifted from the fundamentals of firm leadership and operations to focusing more acutely on our people, strategy and execution. Our workplace culture continues to evolve. When we opened our doors in 1997, we had a small, nimble team and could more easily imbue our values and culture. Today, with more than 160 staff, we must be even more intentional about cultivating a workplace environment that keeps people happy, engaged and tenured.
What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today? Get your CPA license early. Also, there’s great value in being a ‘multi-sport athlete.’ Make a point to develop a range of skills – accounting, business acumen, emotional intelligence, communication, tech savvy and more.
How do you stay on top of the profession? For me personally, being engaged through associations, reading, peer networking, conferences, roundtables, benchmarking, reviews and more. Engagement can mean many different things, and it’s at the root of our firm strategy. Getting data and inspiration not only from other accounting firms, but other organizations and industries as well, helps with ideation and innovation.
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? Call me a contrarian, but I’m not a believer that the accounting profession is changing at a rapid clip. Many articles and consultants implore that massive changes are on the horizon, but the foundation of our work largely remains the same. The tools are changing, much-needed diversity is being infused and workplace culture continues to evolve, but anything resembling a revolution in our field will likely stretch out over decades.
At L&A, we will continue to focus on the strategic plan, engaging the right people and adapting new technologies. We have committed to one in every four new hires coming from outside the traditional recruiting pool of accountants and CPAs. Technology, data analytics expertise, project management, financial services, forecasting – our firm model puts a premium on diversity of talent.
What is your proudest achievement? Family.
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