Interview Series with Successful CPA Firms – Part 4 with Ed Guttenplan of Wilkin and Guttenplan, PC

Ed Guttenplan of Wilkin and Guttenplan, PC
The fourth interview in our interview series at Email Stopwatch, Run Your CPA Firm Like A Business, is with Ed Guttenplan of Wilkin and Guttenplan, PC.

Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.C., is one of New Jersey’s top 20 accounting firms and was co-founded by Ed Guttenplan almost 30 years ago. In addition to his administrative duties, Ed provides a wide array of accounting, tax and business advisory services to several industries including construction, food service, manufacturing, technology, engineering, medical, dental, and sales. Wilkin & Guttenplan also has a high level of employee satisfaction at their firm, indicated by their recent win of the #1 Best Medium Size Accounting Firm to Work For from Accounting Today Magazine as well as a NJ Biz Best Place to Work in NJ Award. They have been top ranked in both surveys since those surveys’ inception.

Firm: Ed Guttenplan of Wilkin and Guttenplan, PC
Highlights of his website: They have a well-defined list of specialties, as well as ‘Best Place to Work’ awards for several years.

What are your top three time-management tips?
I would recommend the following objectives as far as time management goes:

  1. Focus on things that are a priority and not things that merely appear urgent and try to ensure that priorities are the first things done.
  2. Manage interruptions by employees and clients. You can do this by understanding where people are coming from and redirect them to the appropriate outlet instead of trying to field all problems and issues that come to you.
  3. Keep a prioritized task list – I use outlook for personnel tasks and file team task lists in dropbox.

What’s something you wish you had known when you started your CPA practice?
I wish I had a better understanding of people and the power of getting things done through people, specifically delegating instead of trying to do everything yourself. Successes are created by energy of each individual working together towards the same goal. Set the goals, identify the challenges, and get out of the way.

Do you have any suggestions for hiring the best CPAs to work at your firm?
We have a fairly extensive hiring process that begins by identifying the crucial traits and attributes of an accountant that would fit in our firm, and then creating an interview process that looks for those qualities. We focus and hire as much for attitude as aptitude.
We have 12 key areas that each candidate is rated on, such as passion for the profession, passion for our firm’s unique culture, interest in personal and professional growth, interpersonal and communication skills, how good of a team player they are, ability to focus on long term objectives, leadership and marketing potential.

How would you advise people to work ‘on their practice’ better, rather than working ‘in their practice’?
For me, working in the practice needs to be done to some degree. It allows you to understand all aspects of the practice so you can effectively manage the challenges and see opportunities. That being said, to work on the business you need to treat the business as your most important client. It should come above all else and you should constantly be striving to improve all aspects of its performance. The first step in this is identifying your firm’s long-term goals and then strategizing about how to get there.

Are there any changes you have made around the office since you started to make it run more efficiently?
I’ve been the managing partner since inception. We have great partners and staff that are engaged as team for improving the efficiency and workflow of our firm. We see the best results when staff are let loose to solve the problem. Partners can’t always see problems clearly because they’ve been doing it the same way for so long. New eyes give us new perspectives and fresh thinking. Our staff also have the energy to make it happen so we, as partners, highly encourage them to take risks and offer solutions.

What are your best time-tracking secrets?
I keep a diary on my desk and track my time throughout the day. We also use a system for telephone calls that logs all the time spent on each call and gives us a report based on the caller ID, through our Avaya phone system (for more info click here). We also have a time and billing system which remains open so staff and partners time can be input daily.

Are there any great software products you use around the office that you’d recommend?
We use an add-on to our time and billing software (CCH Practice Management) called E-Analytics. E-Analytics is a very handy reporting tool that gives us many different productivity and profitability analytics. These include time allocation of staff, where time and resources are being spent, analytics for each industry area we specialize in, client analytics, which niche is growing and their relative realization rates.

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