IPA Profile: David Levine, Topel Forman

IPA Profile: David Levine, Topel Forman

Years in Business: 62

Headquarters: Chicago

Staff Size: 136

Net Revenue: $32.9 million

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

Our biggest challenge is not unique to most accounting firms – attracting quality talent, retaining those key people and developing them to help them grow in their career. We have been fortunate to add several quality people in the past year or two. Our firm has been very focused on staff retention and continuing to build a workplace culture that keeps people happy and motivated.

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

We are looking to leverage all forms of technology to increase efficiencies – for both our people and our clients. We are also focused on adding advisory services that can benefit our clients and offer our people additional opportunities for career development. We will continue to find ways to build on the culture we have to attract and retain talent. And since we’ve been successful in creating capacity through hiring and other efficiencies, we expect to focus on growth as well.

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

I think sometimes firms feel that they need to grow for the sake of growth, expanding into many different areas at the same time. While we’re certainly focused on growth and in the process of adding new service lines, I believe that a successful firm should never lose sight of its core strengths.  Concentrate on what you do well and continue to improve in those areas. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to grow and diversify, but we don’t let that distract us from the core competencies that have made our firm successful in the first place.

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

Find successful people in your profession who you respect and learn from them – study why they’re successful and model your habits and behavior after them.

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

The public accounting profession is changing very quickly. Embrace the change. Be creative in your day-to-day activities – figure out how you can help the firm improve in certain areas and share those ideas with firm leadership. Every single person can help a firm grow and contribute to its success.

What motivates you most as a leader?

The most rewarding aspect of being a leader at an organization is observing the personal and professional growth of people at the firm. You can see this in the young staff who grow into partners and indispensable leaders of the firm, or people who have struggled at times in their career but persevere and go on to achieve success. It is incredibly fulfilling to play a small part in the success of another person’s career.

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

I think the role is constantly evolving. When I became MP at the beginning of 2021, the pandemic and all the related issues dominated our day-to-day activities – vaccines, return-to-office issues, navigating the many aspects of a remote/hybrid workplace. While we were still focused on the current success of the firm and future growth initiatives, there were many immediate and important decisions to be made. Since that first year, I‘ve been able to spend a lot more time focused on strategic growth initiatives on top of the other day-to-day responsibilities.

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 this rapidly changing world, five years is a lifetime. Technology is evolving so quickly – AI is going to play a major role in the future, as will other technological developments. M&A activity will certainly continue – there are more players in that space than ever before.

That said, successful firms in the future will still be focused on providing the best service that they can to their clients and fostering a culture that gets employees excited to be a part of growth of the firm. Firms that continue to focus on the needs of their clients and their people will be successful in facing whatever challenges the future may present.

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

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear – a great book that outlines how to change our habits by making small changes every day.

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest professional achievement is having been given the opportunity to lead our firm during a challenging time. We have experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, but the profession is changing fast – it requires our firm leadership to embrace change and to be forward-thinking and strategic. I’m proud to help guide a talented group of partners and firm leaders in reimagining what a public accounting firm can look like and navigate through the uncertainties in the profession.

 

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