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Lucky 13th Anniversary at Withum

January 2, 2018

Today marks the 13th anniversary of mine, Peter’s and Frank’s merger with WithumSmith+Brown, PC. It also marks Scott Perlzweig’s and Debbie Malles’ tenure here. It’s been a great move for all of us. It is our Lucky 13.

The merger was the right thing on paper. Everything fit in – the reasons, the addition of staff, partners and services, the ability to approach larger prospective clients, the similar cultures, greater opportunities for staff – and there was never any doubt about the decision, from either side. However, the reality has been so much grander than could ever been expected.

We joined Withum at the exact moment where there was the start of a questioning process whether there might be a better business model. The process started easily with bringing in speakers at the partners’ retreats to explain different models. There was no agenda other than to hear successful larger firms lay out how they grew. This took a couple of years with differing views. The Withum model was successful, but it was being questioned if it could sustain the expected growth also considering where public accounting was headed. The Withum model was office centric client servicing where resources were maintained and concentrated in local offices. Ivan Brown, our managing partner prepared 5, 10 and 20 year models to determine whether we would have the infrastructure and service specialists to handle the expected growth and our clients’ needs. At some point a new paradigm started to take shape – that of niche specialists not dependent on an office location. This was also enabled by new technology that was quickly becoming available with Jim Bourke heading an accelerated adoption and integration program.

Once there was a path, our management group met to develop plans on how it could be implemented. Detailed, deliberate and careful plans were established with realistic timetables without any feelings of rushing to completion. Rather a slow and steady approach was decided upon. During this period, industry specialists were engaged to share their experiences and comments on our plans. Partners and senior managers soul searched to decide on how they wanted to participate. Firm wide niche groupings for industries and service specialties were organized with the right leadership. The best people for each niche were assigned irrespective of office location. This process took about 5 or 6 years and reached its culmination about 2 years ago and is now fully operative. We have over fifteen industry and twenty service niches with many having multiple sub niches. Our website has listings you can access at

Change happens. When living through it, it seems to take forever, but when looking back, it seems like it took no time at all. For me the metamorphosis occurred over 13 years, but looking back it looks like it just happened. It just did happen but with a lot of thinking, planning, investigation, deliberateness, foresight, guidance from outside consultants, and just plain good business management. It started with Ivan Brown, and ended up being guided by Bill Hagaman, who succeeded Ivan six years ago, and who is handling the reins of leadership with a strong steady hand. It needed an idea, a desire to explore if there were alternative models, and the initiative to tread carefully but forward, and once a plan was formulated, a commitment of the necessary resources.

It has been thrilling for me to see all of this and to be a part of it. If you want to consider something similar for your business, reach out to me and we’ll see if we can help you move forward, if that is your choice.

Have a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year!

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