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Your name is on the door today as a Partner at Bronswick Benjamin. Was it always there?
A lot of people think that, but actually, no. I joined Reicin Pollack in 1990, after beginning my career a couple years before working in a Big Four accounting firm. I worked at our firm for seven years, after which time I was promoted to Partner.
In your view, what makes BB so unique for business clients?
I’ve felt that there are many solid CPAs out there who can provide your standard accounting work, such as filing tax returns and reconciling bank statements. However, in my dealings with many business owners, I’ve found they’ve wanted so much more. What they often need is a true business advisor who can help them as their companies evolve over time, with an ability to look at the big picture from a total financial and operations perspective and advise them accordingly. That’s an essential role that we fulfill for our clients today at BB.
Are new clients surprised by that approach?
Quite frankly, yes! However, that’s in a very good way. They often come into a relationship with us expecting certain needs addressed in the arena of accounting, audit or tax services – which, of course, we can help them with. Then one of our people will invariably begin asking questions about other areas of their business from an operational sense, such as their processes and productivity challenges.
This may lead to a discussion about how we can partner with them in Business Advisory Services and other types of strategic consulting we offer, which causes them to pause for a moment and look upon us with a new set of eyes. They say, “Wow. I’ve never heard of a firm like yours that could do that.” To me, it’s a natural extension. The business owner’s concerns don’t start and end with a tax return. We’re uniquely qualified at BB to have a more extended conversation with them about the other financial and operational matters that may be keeping them up at night.
What do you take the most pride in from a client relationship?
I love that a client can feel they can pick up the phone and bounce an idea off of me that pertains to their business goals. It means they see our firm as a group of strong advisors they can consult with and there’s a deep comfort level in opening up to us like that. That’s the day-to-day pride. My longer-term sense of pride comes from looking at many of the clients we have at BB and remembering where they started, how they changed, how much they’ve grown and the excitement of knowing where they’re going to be years from now with our firm’s help.
What kinds of industries have you served?
I serve a variety of clients in manufacturing, distribution, technology, business services, food and beverage, labor organizations and employee benefit plans.
What types of challenges are these firms facing most frequently?
It’s a combination of short-term and long-term challenges, really. Planning for growth and profit is a constant. Beyond minimizing their taxes and maximizing cash flows, these types of clients have a variety of other situations that are coming around the corner which we may very well see even before they do. As their businesses change, it’s not unusual for them to cross the bridge of a merger and acquisition opportunity, so I alone have over 20 years of experience structuring transactions and performing due diligence on those types of matters when they arise.
How do you stay on top of changing business trends related to accounting and other business matters?
A CPA can’t bury his or her head in the day-to-day tasks all the time. You have to be aware of the trends that could impact your service areas to help clients stay one step ahead. After all, with everything they have to deal with, I wouldn’t expect a C-level executive to know all the trends related to flow-through taxation, for example. That’s our job. So I’m involved with the Illinois Society of Certified Public Accountants, where I’m a member of its Flow-Through Taxation Committee, serving as the S-Corporation sub-committee Chair.
Talking with your respected industry peers is important as well, so I’m also a member of the American Institution of Certified Public Accountants and a member of the North Shore CPA Roundtable, a group of local and regional CPA firm Managing Partners.