Thursday, April 17, 2008

Finding the Top Firms

WebCPA has posted its Top 100 highest U.S. revenue-generating tax and accounting firms.

The Big Four were ranked:

#1 Deloitte & Touche $9.85 billion in net, up 12.33%,
# 2 Ernst & Young $7.56 billion in revenue up 9.74%,
#3 PricewaterhouseCoopers $7.46 billion in revenue up 7.81%,
#4 KPMG $5.36 billion in revenue up 11.58%.

Some smaller firms had outstanding revenue growth, including Burr, Pilger & Mayer, San Francisco, where revenues rose 51.56% and Kearney & Co., Alexandria, Va., where revenues were up 52.25%, according to the 2008 Accounting Today Top 100 Firms list.

The ranking also shows the number of offices the firm has, as well as the number of partners, professionals and total employees.

That led us to wonder if perhaps job seekers could use the ranking as a job-finding homing device by targeting the firms that had the highest percentage change in revenues and the lowest percentage increase in staff.

We ran that theory by Bill Carlino, editorial director for Accountants Media Group and editor-in-chief of Accounting Today, who gently burst our bubble.

When asked if our homing device would work, he answered, in true editorial fashion, “Yes and no.”

As all accountants know, size is relative. “For example, there may be a firm ranked lower down that had a higher percentage increase in revenue,” Carlino pointed out, “but their increase may be measured in thousands of dollars, than if say, KPMG had a much smaller percentage increase in revenue that may in fact be several hundred million dollars.”

Size counts in hiring, too. ”In sheer numbers, the Big Four (KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and Deloitte) and the firms just below that (Grant Thornton, BDO, RSM McGladrey) always hire hundreds and even thousands of entry-level people each year,” Carlino said. “So, percentage-wise, that would probably be [your] best bet in landing a job.”

We sought a second opinion from Steve Mayer, the managing partner who presided over the nearly 52% revenue increase at Burr, Pilger & Mayer. About half of his firm’s nearly $16 million in revenue growth was organic, while the rest came through mergers and acquisitions, meaning the firm likely picked up the accounting employees associated with the acquired firms.

Mayer attributes the firm’s success to a commitment to three tenets: offer full services, have fun, be socially committed.

“Every time I interview someone or talk to a new client we talk about those three things,” he says. “We end up getting good people. And, we have low turn-over -- 5%. If you take out the people who leave because they have a baby or move out of the area, it’s less than that.”

In the past three years, he’s started hiring employees from outside accounting, including economists and bankers (who make up for what they don’t know about accounting by what they do know about relationship building).

“We try to hire people who are good, nice and smart, who excelled in whatever job they were in,” Mayer explains. “When you have these different types of people you grow consulting and open windows of opportunity because bankers have contacts that are not the same contacts we have.”

Our conclusion: Job homing device or not, the Top 100 makes interesting reading that’s useful in identifying potential employers.

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