PhillyDeals: ParenteBeard will merge with Chicago-based firm
What's with the accounting industry? Every company needs outside bean-counters to audit the books, trim taxes, and help make a case for tough decisions.
What's with the accounting industry?
Every company needs outside bean-counters to audit the books, trim taxes, and help make a case for tough decisions.
But you need a chart to keep track of them all, the way local firms have joined, split, and been replaced.
Ten years ago, Robert Ciaruffoli moved his office and his home to Society Hill from northeast Pennsylvania with the goal of building the firm now known as ParenteBeard L.L.C. into a formidable player, from New York to Washington.
Acquiring smaller firms, ParenteBeard became the largest accounting firm based in the Philadelphia area, but billings didn't keep pace. This month, Ciaruffoli, 63, told 800 partners and staff (down from over 1,000 at the firm's peak) that ParenteBeard will be combined into Baker Tilly Virchow Krause L.L.P., a larger Chicago firm that is part of the global network Baker Tilly International.
"Our strategy has been consistent for many years: You can start from scratch. Or you can join somebody and get there a heck of a lot faster," Ciaruffoli told me last week. Only this time his firm was the smaller partner in a larger combination.
"I give Bob Ciaruffoli a lot of credit. He moved headquarters from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia and built a compelling regional firm, and now they're building into a much bigger firm that will be close to one of the Top 10 accounting firms," said James Smart. "To me, that's a success."
Smart sold what was previously the largest local accounting firm, Smart Business Advisory & Consulting, in a $105 million deal back in 2007. He has built his current firm, Smart Devine, to nearly 100 people.
Local firms are still in demand, says Ciaruffoli. But ParenteBeard, he said, "came to a critical inflection point this past year."
He explained: "Our health-care practice needed more geography; Baker Tilly wants to get into health care. We wanted to be in Washington; they have 300 people there. Both of us had New York offices that were too small. Combined, we'll have a $50 million [yearly sales] practice there, which is enough critical mass to be taken seriously in Manhattan."
I told Ciaruffoli I've heard from Parente veterans who left the firm after the last couple of mergers, complaining about leadership style, cultural fit, workflow.
"There's no way with a large-size firm you're going to get everybody on the page 100 percent of the time," Ciaruffoli said. "We have a firm and a culture where, if you want to get ahead, you have goals and objectives. It drives me cuckoo in conversations to hear, 'I work all these hours.' The question is, what did you accomplish?"
Ciaruffoli is also president for the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia, the gathering that Pope Francis is expected to visit next September. Ciaruffoli appreciates recent changes under this pope and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
Better accountability makes the church stronger, he says, and "it has to get stronger before we can expect people to come back."