IPA Profile: Seth McDaniel, Frazier & Deeter

Years in Business: 42

Headquarters: Atlanta

Staff Size: 510

Net Revenue: $144.8 million

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

Coming out of the pandemic, we’re still trying to navigate things like remote work and making sure we have the right staff in place to serve our clients. We’re also looking to add more advisory capabilities and services. We’re working on transforming our business and doing some things that we think are pretty unique in our governance structure. But the biggest challenge, which is really no different than anyone else, is staffing – just trying keep, grow and develop our people.

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

If you look at our investment dollars, those are going toward being more efficient on the compliance side and growing on the advisory side. We also want to be more intentional around the development of our staff. We’re planning to expand internationally as well – we have an office in India and a location in London right now and we’ll be looking for other opportunities.

What is the biggest and sometimes missed opportunity for the profession?

I think it’s about being a traditional firm versus being an advisory firm – that’s probably the biggest missed opportunity that I see throughout the profession. But we also need to find ways to keep more women in the profession and increase our diversity.

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

I think the very best advice I got was to have fun in this profession – to enjoy it. Working with clients can bring a lot of satisfaction, which is why it’s so important to take care of those relationships.

I just had lunch with one of our interns and we were talking about this. I told him to work hard and take care of the people around you – just Golden Rule kind of stuff. And if you do that with no expectation – just because that’s what you enjoy doing – it’s amazing how people will turn around and help you when they get the opportunity, without you even having to ask.

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

Be ready to say yes to every opportunity. I have a career’s worth of great stories and experiences that I might have never had if I hadn’t been open to the opportunities that presented themselves.

What motivates you most as a leader?

Watching other people be successful. I really, really enjoy it when I see a young person that I recruited or mentored come up and make partner. That’s why I do my best to try and remove impediments for our partners and staff so that they can be free to be creative and grow in the way they want to grow. I love that.

How has your role as a leader at the firm changed since you first stepped into the MP position?

I started out in 2010 as very much a player-coach with a full load of clients. When busy season rolled around, I still had 1,200 charge hours. Over time, as the firm has grown, I’ve needed to do less and less of that, so I’ve moved more toward being a coach and less of a player-coach.

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 it will be interesting to see the role that AI ultimately plays in this profession – I have mixed feelings about how successful that will ultimately be. I think you’ll see firms continue to roll up. I think it will be fascinating to see how the role of private equity in the profession continues to develop.

But at the end of the day, the people who give great service and help their clients grow will be the ones who continue to win. In other words, I don’t know that the formula for success changes, but the way we go about doing it will change over time.

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

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Understanding the ‘why’ and being able to connect people through that ‘why’ is what leads to longevity within a firm.

What is your proudest achievement?

I honestly think having the opportunity to lead these incredible people over the last 14 years and watching the growth of the firm over that span has been my proudest achievement, outside of being a dad. Just seeing the success of the firm and the people within it has been the greatest thing. It’s a team win.


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