IPA Profile: Lisa Shuneson, Whalen & Company CPAs

Years in Business: 78

Headquarters: Worthington, Ohio

Staff Size: 35

Net Revenue: $7.1 million

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

Capacity is the single biggest challenge. We understand that expanding our services and growing our client base relies on having the right personnel in place, so our team development efforts are geared toward addressing this challenge effectively. We’re committed to nurturing a personable and professional team that can not only meet but exceed our clients’ expectations.

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

I expect my focus to be on providing direction and support in our endeavor to grow our staff and volume/revenue, as well as expertise in niches – we have a very good foundation to support this but need people. We will also be continuing to standardize processes and utilize technology to maximize our capacity. We will be restructuring our CAAS department to have industry specialists in each niche, meaning professionals having worked in those industries that can assist in providing additional value to our client relationships.

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

Determining the actual needs of clients and answering those instead of offering a pre-packaged one-size-fits-all solution. This is accomplished by being intimately involved with the client’s business. We can add AI and other technological solutions, but the human factor will always be the most important one in a service business, or probably any business.

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

Be persistent – nothing worth having comes without struggle. First find out what fulfills you and then be persistent in achieving it. I do not believe you can be anything you want to be – I believe that you need to find out what your gifts are and utilize them to the best of your ability. This advice has not only steered my professional career, but it also plays a major role in how we lead at Whalen. Our leadership team goes to great lengths to recognize our staff’s individual talent and cultivate that gift or put that person in the position to fully utilize it.

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

Be persistent (again) and stay until you are no longer learning anything worthwhile. People move around too much in our profession, always seeking an easy way out and a place where the grass is greener. But we’re often our own worst enemies when we don’t realize that most of our troubles are self-created and will follow us wherever we go. We need to be disciplined to work through hardships instead of avoiding or running from them. Staying in one place and getting to know my clients has led to very good consulting for them – and fulfillment for me.

What motivates you most as a leader?

I’m motivated to live out the principles in the Bible. I use it as my life guide.

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

I was co-managing the firm with others for many years before I became the sole manager (CEO) in 2022 in anticipation of my business partner’s retirement. By that point, many of the inner workings of the firm were kind of on autopilot. What has changed is that responsibilities, which were divided in the past, are now sitting entirely on my shoulders. Having the support of the other partners has certainly helped, but at the end of the day the buck really does stop with me.

Human resources issues and client demands/desires have also changed over the years. The world seems to be getting more and more dynamic in terms of speed. There is a great deal of information at our fingertips, and it brings a whole new level of expected responsiveness from clients and coworkers. We must be ever more intentional in living out our respect for our team members’ needs to have personal time reserved for pursuits outside of the firm.

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?

Public accounting, as a profession, is going to have to offer what professionals want in terms of a career. That will require that we figure out how to manage the hours required to serve clients while offering employment conditions that serve the professionals. This is already in motion as we solve this dilemma on a day-to-day, employee-by-employee basis. One thing I know is our profession is in good hands, and we will overcome these present barriers.

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

The Bible. Therein are contained all the business principles you could ever need.

What is your proudest achievement?

My family. I have helped, along with my husband, to successfully raise two children and have six grandchildren. They are healthy and responsible. I am very blessed.

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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