IPA Profile: Ed Guttenplan, WilkinGuttenplan

Years in Business: 38

Main Office: East Brunswick, N.J.

Staff Size: 136

What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm right now?

Staffing – attracting and retaining great team members by creating and maintaining a culture that is responsive to each employee’s work style. This includes unlimited anytime-anywhere work options, which allow staff to determine the hours they propose to work as their commitment. One size fits one!

Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years?

Building our team while also enhancing our client profiles and the services we can offer them. We want to continue to try and attract the best and the brightest people, both through our compensation and our culture. This will allow us to serve larger and higher-quality clients going forward as we see new opportunities in the marketplace by continuing to build on our expertise in a few key strategic areas.

What is the biggest and sometimes missed opportunity for your firm and/or the profession?

I think a lot of firms are missing out on the huge benefit of creating a culture of trust, honesty and communication. We continually hear from candidates who have been in other places that we’re different because what they see is what they get – the place we purport to be is the place we actually are when they get here. This builds trust and honesty and predictability in what employees can expect from the leadership of the firm.

The other thing about candor and honesty – especially in our firm where it’s directed toward employee self-improvement and professional advancement – is that staff really understand that they’re being shown how to be the best version of themselves. Rather than any kind of punitive measures, this is about helping one another and supporting others’ success to help everyone advance.

What was the best advice you received as a young up-and-comer in the profession?

Getting your CPA designation is one of the best things you can do – and I believe that’s still true today. The CPA is a measure of credibility and an objective measure of achievement. It says something about an individual if they’re focused enough on their career to have the drive and the self-discipline to make it through the process and pass the exam. It reflects on a person’s passion for and commitment to the profession, but in the long run it also opens a lot of doors and adds another level of credibility and perceived competence.

What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today?

Be curious, have intellectual curiosity, be true to who you are and soar with your strengths. Be honest and courageous within yourself and as you interact in the workplace, be coachable and always be grateful.

What motivates you most as a leader?

Being with great professionals on staff and helping them grow personally, which propels them and the firm.

How has your role as managing shareholder changed over the past five years?

As we grew and scaled up, it became less of me directing management and more about building a great administrative and technical team. I also focus more on leadership transitions for all levels now.

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?

I think we will see more automation, sophisticated technologies and an ever-evolving work environment in the next few years. I believe the pandemic was a catalyst for many changes in relationships with both employees and clients. We have uniquely positioned ourselves with new technologies and digital tools that help ourselves and our clients be future-ready to anticipate these changes. For example, in light of the new ways to work incorporating work-life balance, we offer unlimited work options (an anytime-anywhere policy) for employees, who are now all over the country.

What is a book you’d recommend to other leaders?

My current read is Peter Bregman’s Four Seconds. I have so many – this is just the last one I picked up. I would also recommend Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection, as well as the original bible for professional services firms – David Maister’s Managing the Professional Services Firm.

What is your proudest achievement?

Building a great firm with business success, heart and caring that has enabled so many to achieve personal success, while simultaneously helping all the clients we serve.

 

The IPA community wants to get to know you better! If you’d like to share your thoughts and insights in a future edition of the IPA Profile, let us know at [email protected].  

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