IPA Profile: Samantha Bowling, MP, GWCPA

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Samantha Bowling




NET REVENUE — $2.8 million

What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm now? 

We are on a mission to eliminate busy season. We cannot change the deadlines, but we can change how we react to them. The tax return or financial statement is not the value. It is the byproduct of our value. Technology continues to automate what we do, forcing us to elevate our staff to a higher level of service. We are so “busy” doing the work that we are missing the opportunity to truly serve our clients. If our clients’ financial records are current and their tax position is covered then they will not care when their tax returns are filed. This allows us to shift the compliance work outside of the traditional busy season. If we bill based on value and not time, then we can force this profession to stop valuing team members by billable hours and stop underbidding each other for work. Our biggest challenge today is illustrating our value and charging the right fee for that value.

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

In 2026, GWCPA will have solidified our position as a trailblazer and role model for small firms. Building on our solid foundation, we have implemented strategic initiatives that have propelled us toward our envisioned success and transformation. A talent magnet, GWCPA has defined specializations, training and growth pathways for our confident and empowered team, which now includes two new CPAs. Our vision and consistency with our values and brand have led to deeper client relationships and growth in both service lines and revenue. This growth has enabled GWCPA to be even more involved in the community. Finally, our process and technology efficiencies allow more breathing room for our team who enjoy true work/life integration.

We are launching our new website next month, which automates our client acceptance and onboarding process. This website requires potential clients to watch a video and complete a survey. The survey has automatic green and red flags, and if a potential client receives too many red flags, they will receive a message that we are not the right firm for them.

I became a CPA to help others and that is the answer I hear from many CPAs. The problem is that we do not know how to say NO. We can’t help everyone, and we shouldn’t be helping everyone. GWCPA will be working on specialization and becoming experts in our revenue streams. We are going to focus on moving our clients from compliance-only work to a higher level of advisory services, which includes innovating clients’ internal accounting systems and processes.

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

We have an obligation and responsibility help our clients innovate. It frustrates me when I hear firms and businesses say that they do not need to change anything because the way they do it is fine. If your clients have not changed a process or technology in the past five to eight years, then I would say everything is broken. We also have an obligation to talk to them about succession planning, which includes investing in innovative processes, technology and people.

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

The best advice I have received throughout my career has always come from my husband David and Simon Sinek (through his books). David told me to leave this firm in the 1990s and it was the best thing I ever did because it showed me early on that I could impact change. When they asked me to come back and provided an offer, he made me tear it up and write my own demands. He made me revise those demands four times before he would let me send them to the firm. Sometimes it just takes one person to believe in you to open your eyes to the possibilities.

I really leaned on Simon’s books later in my career, because everything I wanted to do was answered with “we can’t do that” or “that’s never going to work.” My three favorite quotes:

  1. Innovators are the ones whose dreams are clearer than the reality that tells them they’re crazy.
  2. Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not exist and the ability to communicate it.
  3. A vision is like a dream – it will disappear unless we do something with it.

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

Be the voice of change, not the voice of complaint. It is better to listen, learn and truly understand what the problem is, and then offer a solution and volunteer to implement it. I have always said the “P” in CPA stands for patience and perseverance. I would also advise someone entering the profession to inquire about the company’s succession plan, how owners are compensated and how they will be compensated for innovation and non-billable time. If they will not share this information or their answer is that we do not compensate for innovation or non-billable time, then run as fast as you can. When someone offers you an opportunity to learn and participate in something that will help you grow personally and professionally, always answer YES!

What motivates you most as a leader?

I am motivated to make things better for the next generation of CPAs. My experience as a woman in this profession in the 1990s motivated me 100%. The fact that I was not equal and was expected to step away from accounts because I was a woman made me angry. The leadership mentality of “paying your dues” and “having to do the same or more than the leadership before you” is ludicrous. This creates a culture of greed, resentment and is one of the problems related to our profession’s pipeline issues.

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 expect continued automation of accounting tasks and elevation of accountants to a higher level of service and client interaction. I see firms that refuse to innovate, use AI or adopt technology become extinct. If you are relying on your non-innovative company or firm to be your retirement plan by selling it, then I suggest your start innovating now, because there will be no value if you don’t.

I would like for busy season to disappear because we have moved away from compliance billed hours to value billing. Our clients have a clear understanding of their financial situation in real time and include us in the decision-making. I would like for all accounting swag to be positive messages and for parents to recommend accounting careers as the best choice for their children.

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

Together is Better by Simon Sinek and Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni.

What is your proudest professional achievement? 

I have been blessed with many opportunities in my career. However, I believe each of those opportunities were providing me with what I needed to succeed in my overall mission. My proudest professional achievement is the transformation of Garbelman Winslow CPAs to GWCPA. I started this mission almost 25 years ago when I was an accounting manager. The change was gradual and sometimes painful, but always one step forward. The progress our firm has made over the past three years was possible because our team was engaging and could see what was not there. Our external image matches our brand, and we have values to measure everything against. We are positioned to succeed for another 75+ years. I have a legacy that I am proud to leave behind because we did this together. I know the foundation for GWCPA is solid and that our brand/image will continue to evolve, because that is how we built it. I feel like I made my dream come true.


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