Names: Josh Tarica & Brad Hughes
Company: Beech Valley Talent
Recruiting and retention of quality staff are perennial issues for accounting firms. How can staffing firms help fill those needs?
It’s a fact that despite the best retention programs, many firms will lose key staff to life stage or work preference goals and will often turn to staffing firms to fill the gaps. However, recruiting alone doesn’t help most staffing firms find the top CPAs for their clients’ needs. Vetting applicants is a critical step and that’s why at Beech Valley Talent, we invite candidates to apply for our A-List – a curated network of the top independent consultants in the CPA, tax, and advisory profession based in the US. Our team of experts invites applicants to apply through our leading-edge skills-capture platform. Our recruiting team members – all with Big-4 experience – then sift through more than 200,000 applicants to hand-pick the best talent for our clients. Our four-step vetting process ensures that only the top 2% of talent in terms of experience and education make the Beech Valley A-List. It’s not a surprise that our A-List attracts experienced CPAs with prior experience at the Big 4 firms, who are working flexibly because of a desire for a more independent work lifestyle. We’re proud that in our eight years of business, many Top 100 firms have used and continue to use Beech Valley Talent to tap pre-vetted, on-demand, stateside professionals. Working with Beech Valley Talent is a new, flexible way to retain and flexibly engage top independent talent, helping to manage a firm’s peaks and valleys of sourcing accounting staff.
Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years?
As the accounting profession has evolved, so too have the work preferences of top accounting professionals. In the past, many skilled accounting experts abandoned the industry altogether if they didn’t fit the mold of the traditional firm. However, labor trends are now shifting and opening new opportunities for skilled and experienced accounting, tax, and advisory professionals to provide value to firms as 1099 talent for project-based needs.
Beech Valley Talent currently works with 29 Top 100 firms. Educating our roster of top accounting firm clients on this shifting landscape and sharing our data insights will be a key focus for Beech Valley Talent in the next two to three years. Our data shows that engagement of top talent via flexible work models is a very real and sustainable trend. We believe it’s important for partners at top firms to understand the right models and to be open to new ways of engaging talent – in order to attract and retain the best and brightest professionals. At Beech Valley we have countless stories of firms hiring a temporary consultant, then eventually bringing them on as a full-time employee thanks to their impressive quality of work and culture fit. On the consultant’s end, many relish the opportunity to try something new, demonstrating their capabilities in a variety of areas. In a traditional firm model, many professionals feel pigeon-holed to a particular sector or vertical; this alternative model allows consultants to explore new skills, and consequently allows firms to unearth new talent.
What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today?
There is no doubt that public accounting experience is valuable, both technically and in terms of understanding the profession; therefore, it is important to focus on skills, lay the right groundwork and stay current on certifications and accreditations. However, it is also crucial to assess what kind of environment or structure is the best fit for longer-term success. Some will thrive in Big 4 firms, while others may be better suited to working for themselves or in corporate environments. The key is to find a situation that allows you to effectively utilize your skills, build your knowledge, and seek out the challenge and variety you want in your career. Ending a career at a large firm doesn’t mean an end to an accounting career – many should and will consider flexible consulting as a way to extend their career path, either as they start a family, or even beyond traditional retirement or after leaving a partner role.
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?
In the coming years, we expect to see a shift in the accounting profession as more and more firms move toward a self-employed model. Advisory work will become increasingly important as firms look to build successful teams and manage them effectively. This change will also be driven by a culture shift, with firms incorporating more remote employees into their workforce. Talent will have the upper hand in this new environment, and consultants have the power to test out different cultures to find the right fit for their business. Ultimately, this move away from the traditional model of hiring a workforce out of college will save firms money on training and office space while allowing them to better compete in the global market.
The role of the firm is changing as well, from one that is focused on the individual to one that is focused on building and managing successful teams. This shift is being driven by several factors, including the rising cost of office space, the increasing popularity of remote work, and the need for firms to be more agile in order to compete in the marketplace. As a result of this shifting landscape, firms are increasingly looking for advisory services that can help them navigate these changes. Flash teams – platforms that provide instant access to on demand employees – are one such solution that is gaining popularity due to their ability to provide firms with the flexibility and agility they need to succeed in today’s market.
What benefit is there to firms in bringing staff in on a project basis as opposed to a full-time employee?
As any engagement manager knows, burnout is a real thing. Teams can quickly become stretched thin, leading to diminished productivity and quality of work. In these cases, bringing in a fresh, new perspective can give the engagement team the boost it needs.
By expanding talent pools, expanding your geographical search, exploring different skill sets, and/or matching overhead with client demand – teams can be better suited for each other. This really allows the firm to assess someone’s skill set; they too get to test out the talent. Mitigating the risk of a bad hire in this way can help keep burnout at bay and ensure a firm always has the right team for the job.
How do you see Beech Valley Talent changing five years from now?
More and more, Beech Valley Talent is being brought to the table not as a staffing provider, but as a talent strategic partner. We see that trend continuing to evolve. With our unique data and insights gained from working as a partner to the top global accounting firms for close to ten years, we can educate our client partners at a strategic level and even help them predict needs for key skill sets. At Beech Valley Talent, our culture is such that we are always looking for new ways to serve our clients and meet their needs. Recently, we have expanded our services to include HR advisory services. We are also responding to inquiries from the private equity and venture capital sectors who see our model as well suited to scaling the firms with which they partner. We are part and parcel of a massive global trend – the shift to independent engagement and self-employment. We offer both firms and talent a unique way – we call it the Beech Valley Way – to make the new world of accounting work best for them. We are focusing on building new capabilities, including training and mentorship for consultants. We believe that these new initiatives will allow us to further raise the quality of our A-List bench and even better serve our clients and meet their ever-changing needs.
What is the biggest and sometimes often missed opportunity for firms / the profession?
One of the things our consultants repeatedly tell us is how much their skillset has grown since working with us. They were pigeon-holed at their previous firm and felt their talents were overlooked. At Beech Valley Talent, they are able to push themselves, try new things and develop new skills.
Our clients also reap the benefits of having a highly skilled team that is adaptable and able to quickly learn new things. It’s a win-win all around!
Two years ago, one of our consultants made a bold claim: she didn’t think she could ever get a job with a Top 10 firm. At the time, it seemed like a far-fetched idea since she was a military spouse and moved frequently. But then she found Beech Valley. She took on a consultant position with a Top 10 firm, and quickly rose to the challenge. She proved to be an invaluable asset to the team, and her hard work paid off. Today, she’s a full-time employee there, and we couldn’t be prouder of her. This just goes to show that with a little determination and the right resources, anything is possible!