Years in Business: 39
Headquarters: Plano, Texas
Staff Size: 300
Net Revenue: $48.5 million
What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm right now?
The biggest challenge with a growing firm is attracting and hiring the best people. The CPA market is a competitive and tight market for talent.
Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years?
Our focus is on growth through what we call the “all-in client.” We provide financial planning, investment advisory, tax preparation and compilation accounting services. An all-in client is one who uses CWA for each of our four lines of services, rather than just our core financial planning service.
A multi-service client is obviously more profitable for CWA, but it really is more than that. These clients typically have a better relationship – one rooted in trust – with their financial advisor, allowing us to serve them better by making the adjustments needed to meet their long-term goals. Not only does this increase the longevity of the relationship between the advisor and client, it also increases referrals to other potential clients.
What is the biggest and sometimes missed opportunity for your firm and/or the profession?
I have been at CWA for 26 years and because we are very specialized, I don’t always see what is affecting other general firms. What I have noticed is that new clients to CWA typically come to us from a smaller local CPA firm. Once they visit with one of our people they often ask, “Why didn’t my CPA tell me this?” As a profession, the CPA is a very trusted individual, yet many seem to miss the mark by only acting as a tax professional rather than providing financial advice to their clients.
Your firm is very much centered on the dental industry. What are some of the benefits and challenges that you’ve encountered over the years by adhering to such a singular focus?
The biggest benefit we have seen is the ability to become more of an expert in our clients’ business. This allows us to dig into one profession to help our clients identify ways to improve revenue and save costs – which in turn offers our clients the opportunity to save more money and then put that money back to work through our investment advisory services.
However, being centered in one profession means your reputation must be stellar. The dental industry is a tight group, and if we make a wrong step with a client there will certainly be other dental professionals who hear about it. We have been able to maintain a great reputation in the industry, but there have been times when that has been tested.
What was the best advice you received as a young up-and-comer in the profession?
This is a hard one. I didn’t have a mentor that I spoke to regularly, but I’m a very driven individual. Once I found financial planning, I fell in love with not only giving advice but developing relationships with clients. One piece of advice I remember was from a manager I had at KPMG when I was first out of school. He told me there are great opportunities as a CPA out there, and to make sure you look around and find what you really like to do. That’s what I did.
What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today?
First, it would be to get that CPA exam completed, then find a mentor/coach to visit with on a regular basis. Over the past few years, the CPA profession has been in decline. But for those who want to work hard and find their passion in the profession, the opportunities are limitless.
What motivates you most as a leader?
This is an easy one – seeing other people succeed.
How has your role as MP changed since you first stepped into the position almost 15 years ago?
It has evolved from mostly an administrative role to being the face of the organization to our associates. It also involves more listening and less talking. Today, I spend more time listening to associates and helping to identify things that may be lacking in the organization. Then it’s about developing the processes and putting together the people to create improvement. For example, I am currently involved with our new director of training and development to revamp and create a complete technical, management and leadership training program for our financial advisors.
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?
My perspective in this area is for the CPA that is advising small business owners like we do at CWA, and not a comparison to the largest CPA firms. I see the services of tax preparation and bookkeeping becoming a commodity for the small business owner, and the ongoing development of AI will push these even further in that direction. Consulting and advisory services for the small business owner are going to be the best way for CPAs to separate themselves from the crowd.
I would also like to see the AICPA and colleges work together better to get students educated and graduated sooner. The profession must start thinking outside the box to reverse the decline in the number of people entering the profession over the past few years. This starts at the college level. There are some states lowering the hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam, which is a step in the right direction. We have to understand that college is very expensive for most of the country. Today it takes four years to get an accounting degree and another year for a master’s degree, and then after all that you’re expected to start studying for the CPA exam. I don’t want to minimize the certification, but it may be time to consider combining some of this to help graduates get into the profession earlier.
What is a book you’d recommend to other leaders?
It might be an odd book for some, but it’s more about where I am in my career after 30 years – From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. For younger leaders I have always loved John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Good to Great by Jim Collins.
What is your proudest achievement?
My marriage to my wife Kim of 29 years, and our two children who are now graduated from college and starting their own careers.
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