Catching up with Tom Parker and Layne Bodily
Tom Parker and Layne Bodily of FBP CPA first joined Randy on Episode 36, where they discussed their co-founding of the firm in Itasca, Illinois and their vision for their venture. Tom and Layne discuss its evolution so far, the challenges they’ve faced around the pandemic, employee retention, and establishing structures and best practices. As well, Layne has resiliently responded in the face of a cancer diagnosis, with the team and clients of FBP rallying around him.
Today, our guests are Tom Parker and Layne Bodily. You may remember Tom and Layne were on the podcast a little over a year ago. We started a series that we were calling the Nuts and Bolts Series where we’re following their firm. Last year, they were a year plus into a new firm, where they had three partners—Tom, Layne, and Tyler, who’s not on the show—but the three of them took over another firm. We decided we’d do a podcast where we watch the progression of this firm over the years. So this is version two of the Nuts and Bolts Series of FBP, which is their firm name. It’s a CPA firm in Itasca, Illinois. Today, there’s a bunch of things we’re gonna want to discuss. But before we get into that, Tom, Layne, welcome back to The Unique CPA.
Thanks for having us.
Yeah, no problem. So I want to kind of recap what we talked about last year. But before we do that, there’s obviously—well, not obviously; obviously to you and I because we’ve talked about this—but there’s a spin a major impact that’s happened in the firm this last year. And I think before we go further and recap last year, let’s talk about what happened Layne. You know, what I found out recently, and what we just talked about, is you were diagnosed with cancer. So do you want to give us an update on that?
Yeah, so I mean, as far as what we planned on doing for the last year, this was not in the cards, obviously.
You know, long story short, the initial impact was worse than it ended up actually being in the long run. The expectation of life expectancy and things like that, just dealing with the emotions of it all, took a bit of a toll at the beginning. Luckily, Tom and Tyler were really cool about it, you know, it was you know, “Take care of yourself, get back on your feet.” And, you know, without going into all the details, I’m at a point now, where we’ve had some procedures done, and I’m never gonna not have cancer, unless there’s a cure, you know, unless I’ve live that long. But it’s also something that’s very manageable at this point.
So you know, I’ve been working full time, other than chemo. You know, working full time, getting stuff done. It’s been a bit of a adjustment working from home, especially last year, with my immune system being a little lower. This year, and this is kind of new, going forward, the new chemo that I’m on, it’s not quite as taxing on me. So, you know, I’m getting out to clients more, going into the office more. So, trying to get back to a bit more normal. But yeah, that’s been, you know, everything we plan on doing that’s been part of the change of the plans has been this thing happening.
Yeah, well, understandable. It’s because I think you guys know I went through a traumatic health event at some time in my life, and it takes over, so I can understand that. That can definitely take over where you are, especially what you’ve been going through.
So as we talk today, obviously, that’s going to be in the background of where we came or where we went. “Did we accomplish everything we wanted to, and if not, you know, why, and how, and what are we going to do going forward?” So Layne, I appreciate you sharing that and you know, believe me, you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers, and you know, I hope everything—I hope this is a—I hope you outlive the cancer. You know, we talked about you know, people are living longer with that. And you know, as long as you can manage it, and the way that medicine is progressing these days, you never know what tomorrow brings as well. So good luck with all that.
That being said, let’s go back. Year one of this—we recorded just over a year ago. You know, you guys were what a year and a half, two years into the firm at that time. Is that accurate?
About a year.
Yep. Okay. All right. But for a majority of that time, we were also in the pandemic, and so it was a unique situation. And we still obviously are at this point. But some of the things we talked about this, just that whole transition, you three took over the firm from three other partners, you know, how you went from, you know, trying to incorporate a “one firm approach” to working with clients. Is that still a key factor of what you guys are looking to do as you go forward?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think we’ve done a decent job at it. It is hard with some of the existing clients that were already there, and like the routines that they were used to, kind of peeling that back. But you know, when you add staff, you know, the partners push their work to the staff, which has been, you know, pretty successful. Tom and I do a lot of work with mutual clients. Tyler is getting more into it—he was already inundated with what was already there. So that’s where some of the challenges as far as blending all the clients together, making it a one firm approach. But it’s still a goal. And I think we’ve made some decent progress. I’m not saying we did a perfect job, but I think it’s maintained.
So you’re around that Tom, that’s the plan?
Yeah, that’s definitely the plan. I think it’s worked really well with new clients that we brought in. And from the beginning, we can kind of explain, “Hey, we have different expertises between the three of us and our staff,” so much easier with new clients coming on board.
Okay, so we’re on that path, we’re doing the integration, we are, you know, new clients, it’s easier with, and we’re converting old clients as well. Okay, so that’s great. Just wanted to make sure, kind of wanted to recap a few things we talked about, make sure we’re on the path, and if not, what changed and why.
So one other thing we talked about last year was partner roles. And you guys had three distinct roles you had mentioned last year to me which time you’re I think, and Tom—you guys can correct me if I’m wrong—Tom, you were you were pretty heavy on the business development side; Tyler, on the internal controls; and Layne, on just building out the service offerings. Is that the continuing the same types of roles?
Yeah, I would say for the most part, I think Layne’s kind of shifted a little bit to helping with more of the internal controls, or like marketing-type pieces, to make sure that we keep the ball moving forward on those.
Yeah, you know, the thing is before, especially with the CFO offerings, I was probably going to be like, you know, really into developing that. And I still am developing it with the clients that I have. But you know, speaking of things that have changed with staying, you know, working from home, it’s harder to do some of that stuff to the degree that I wanted to. So I’ve had to shift over and do a lot more like internal things that I don’t find as exciting, but have to be done. So, you know.
All right. But you’re on that same path. The other thing is we did discuss last year, is there a managing partner? And there really isn’t, there wasn’t. Are you evolving towards that, or are we still doing the three person approach to managing the firm?
We don’t have an official managing partner. But I think Tom’s played that role pretty well, this last year, as far as someone kind of being the point guard who’s in the office and, you know, keeps things organized, going the right way. It’s not on his card. But if there’s an evolution happening, it’s probably you know, it’s Tom.
Alright, well, that’s—I kind of assume that that kind of would evolve as you guys grow. And as you see what everybody’s roles are.
And then just the one last thing on partners and in general, you know, we talked about, you know, you guys wanted to work on a comp structure. Right now it was pretty much 1/3 1/3 1/3 equally. Are we still down that same path? Are you working on this compensation structure?
We’ve stayed at the 1/3 1/3 1/3 for now, and we’re eventually going to probably change that. But I don’t think we have any immediate plans. Right now. There’s just too much on our plate to worry about that. The pie happens to be big enough that I think we’re all happy.
Okay, all right. And then one last thing, and we’ll touch on some of the things from last year as we go into this year, too. But one thing I wanted to touch on last year, because you did talk about this, as we were discussing—that you had this business plan coming in. You know, even I think before this deal happened, you two had put a plan together. And then with Tyler, you’re adjusting the plan. And you talked about, you felt, when we discussed this last year, you felt there was a need to really update that business plan. Has that specifically happened, or just more mentally, or where are you in that situation?
That kind of stalled out. I mean, that’s one of the things that even with your compensation question, you know, the business plan should theoretically, like, lead to certain goals, and then each partner would have goals and some of your compensation was based on achieving those goals and how to help the firm things like that. This last year has been crazy. I mean, a lot of it really, like the plan itself, I think I was going to be the one more in charge of it. So, you know, that got kind of pushed aside a little bit.
But it’s not something that we’ve given up on either. I mean, I think it’s important. What’s been nice, actually—and I’m not saying this is a replacement for having an actual business plan—but it turns out, you know, Tom, Tyler and I, when we have meetings about things that might be plan related, we really see eye to eye on a lot of things. So having a plan to reference back to you as like, you know, here’s the thing we agreed on, therefore, we should do it.
We haven’t quite needed that yet. I mean, we will need it going forward. And the bigger we get, the more important that will become. But you know, we don’t have it in place yet. We haven’t given up on it.
Yeah, I mean, we still meet like on an every other week basis for a partner meeting. So I think that really helps with at least keeping the ball going forward on a lot of the objectives that we’ve had. We just don’t necessarily have something written down on paper right this second.
Okay. And that’s what I was going to ask because I knew you had these weekly meetings—weekly, I thought, but every other week now?
Well, it’s around my stupid chemo, so.
Yeah, well, that’s unfortunate. But at least you’re continuing the meetings. And one thing I want to—this is just my personal, I’m going to interject on there—it’s great that you guys are all on the same page with a lot of things. It’s also to me in my mind, can be a detriment at times, because if you have everybody that is just thinking the same way, how do you get new ideas? And that’s me personally. It took me a long time to realize that, that having people that disagree with me is actually good, because I’m not always right. And just as a side note, that’s a thing I talk about a lot lately when I’m talking to other people.
Yeah, well, luckily, we’re always right, so.
And the ones that disagree, we just fire—it’s really easy.
Alright, maybe not the best plan.
Is that bad? Okay, maybe next year, we’ll give a lot better answers next year about that.
But you guys, you know, you go your own path. That’s fine.
All right. So let’s talk about then, you know, we obviously talked about this year and a major effect with what Layne is dealing with. But, you know, overall, how is this last year gone?
Personally, I think it’s gone pretty well. I mean, especially considering what we’ve been up against, with the pandemic ongoing, me getting sick—that being kind of the background, the firm has still grown. Clients have still, you know, like, even my clients, that at first I was a little nervous about not being able to go out and see them as much, they’ve been super accommodating to me. I mean, one thing about having cancer is, it’s amazing, people rally behind you.
And, you know, lot of my clients are also friends, you know, like, when you, when you get to these CFO roles, where you’re really where you’re really involved with their business, it ends up crossing over as well, where it’s becomes a little bit personal, and you’re friendly, and you know, about their family, things like that. So they’ve been really kind to me as far as how that goes. And so I’ve been able to increase my business working remotely from home. Tom can’t stop finding clients, Tom finds too many clients, it’s actually hard to get all the work done sometimes. So I think the year’s gone really well, considering what we’re up against.
Let’s talk about the too many clients, because, you know, if Tom’s out finding clients, then obviously the next question is, are you finding employees? So are you able to utilize, you know, they and you said, you know, too many clients? So I assume, have you been able to add employees, and how’s that gone?
We’ve added a few, we’ve had some, I guess, mixed results, we had some people that we added last year that have already taken other jobs. I mean, it just, I think we’re having the same struggles a lot of our clients are. But we’re still working towards it. We’ve actually been working with our marketing team over the last couple months to make sure that we’ve got stuff kind of lined up, and we’re trying to get in front of more colleges for recruiting in the fall. So we’re trying to line up the schedules for that. We did a couple of virtual ones, had a little bit of success. We have a couple interns lined up for this summer, so I think we’re starting to build that pipeline. But hopefully, we can keep it stocked, I guess, going forward.
Yeah, that is a major impact just about and that’s not just public accounting. It’s everybody, you know? I hate hearing the great resignation of the great whatever you want to call it, the redistribution of employees. But it is real, it is happening. And the thing that I hear is, I mean, there’s people leaving firms, like in the middle of tax season, even right now, like, I don’t know how I mean, I’m old school, you didn’t do that?
Yeah, that’s what kind of got us. We had a person leave, not during tax season, but so close to it, that there was no way to replace that person.
And like you’re saying. I mean, I don’t know, I feel like there’s a time where it’s appropriate to leave an accounting firm, and there’s a time when it’s like, not appropriate. I understand that, you know, I read, I read these forums, and I hear like, people talk to younger people, I’m not exactly old, but you know, “Your employers and care about you, you shouldn’t care about them, go ahead and leave, their best interest is their own, not yours,” things like that. And you hear this? It’s very cynical, I think, what’s being said, and, you know, in reality, we take pretty good care of our employees, and, you know, when they when they kind of just bail like that, and the time that you’re going to need them coming up? I don’t know, I don’t think that’s very, I don’t think it’s cool. You know, it’s unfortunate.
I think that part of that, I think, is why we built out—like we spent some of last year building out like a Path to Partner. So when people come onboard, they understand what expectations are for each position in the firm, and kind of how you could progress inside the firm. So we’re really trying to be transparent with the staff, make sure they understand, “Hey, here’s where we see ourselves going in the next, whatever, 18 months.” We can’t really go further out than that. I feel like we’re constantly changing our goals as the owners as the firm evolves. So trying to be as transparent as we can and make sure people know what the goals are for everybody.
Yep. And I saw that, yeah. Appreciate you sending me that PDF on your Path to Partnership, which I found really interesting. And, you know, we had talked a little before the show started that you guys are both at least have gone through some portion of Upstream Academy’s Emerging Leaders, which I don’t know if that’s based off of that because, I know they talk about that with Sam Allred and his group. But besides Path to Partnership, was that specifically broken out? Like okay, here’s path to manager, here’s path to supervisor. Because what I found out, that I was always surprised about—not everybody wants to be a partner. So do you take that into account when you’re talking with people?
Yeah, so first of all, with, with Upstream Academy, I think everything Tom and I do is in some way influenced by that. We went to a lot of those—their talks, or even if it was something else, but they were speaking at a time when I would always make sure to go. So I can’t say enough good things about that group.
But for our Path to Partnership, it is actually. So the intent was, that’s one of the things that I had to do because I couldn’t leave the house. So we hired an outside consultant, first of all, because we recognized that, you know, we’re not going to be the best people to put this together the right way. So we had an outside guy working with us—we met every other week. And yeah, so the goal was to say, like, not just, “Here’s how to be a partner,” but “Here’s how to go from a new hire to like a senior, from a senior to a supervisor, from a supervisor to a manager.” And we’ve tried to make sure that the tasks and the and the, you know, the sort of their strength in each role, progress in a natural way as they go through these things.
And you’re right, not everyone wants to be a partner. So one of the things—I’m not sure if it’s in the in the PDF or not—but that we communicate, you know, we’re not showing this to people to overwhelm them, and say, “Here’s what you have to do to be successful in our firm, you have to do all these things and progress and be a partner someday.” But what we’re saying with this is, “If you want to be a manager, here’s what a manager looks like. If you can achieve this level of expertise and organization, then you can be a manager. And if you don’t want to go past a manager, you don’t really have to.” And in fact, I think it’s better sometimes you can’t have everybody wanting to be a partner at the same time, you kind of need people that want to stay at a certain level. So we don’t put the pressure on them. I hope they don’t feel that there’s any pressure—I don’t think that they do. But we tried to make it pretty detailed, though, as far as what each role looks like.
Yeah, no, that’s great. I didn’t read it word for word. But I went through it, and I was impressed that you had that in place. So to me, you’re putting the tools in place to continue to build this firm or be successful.
Let’s continue on employees for a second, in general, because this was a concern last year, and, you know, pandemic being a big part of it, that—and Layne, I think you specifically said that, that you were you know, concerned that, and well Tom, you too, how do you keep up your corporate culture, while you know, there was so much remote work going? And how do you, you know, you guys wanted to concentrate and do charitable work with your employees and just having, you know, fun events with employees. You know, as you know, we had a little downswing and the pandemic last summer, were you able to start doing these things? Or do you have them in place now as well?
Yeah, we’ve been able to keep up with the charitable days, and we’ve got some plans in place so our office manager’s working on already setting up some for this year, we’re trying to do at least once a quarter, trying to get ideas from the employees to make sure that we’re doing things that everyone wants to support. And we’re not just delegating, I guess, not just—
I just go into dog charities all day. That’s what I would choose.
Dog charities, I’m okay with dog charities, as well. How about just the fun, you know, camaraderie building, let’s go out for you know, TopGolf, or, you know, things like that. Have you been able to do anything like that with everybody?
Yeah, we’ve done some of that. Last fall, we actually had a firm-wide pig roast, and everyone’s families were invited. So that was fun. That was good to see everybody and everyone kind of get to meet spouses and kids. And I think trying to do something with the whole firm, and families, at least once a year is good. So we’re going to try to keep doing that, something along the lines of that.
Well, I think those are important to build this culture when it’s so competitive right now for employees to, you know, have these things that are not just work related, but the fun related, let’s all get along, let’s learn about each other outside of the office as well, and what our passions are.
I think one of the things that we do, that Tom’s done a really good job with, is organizing these events that are like scheduled, and people come to them, and I think they like them. I haven’t gone to a lot of them. But what we’re missing, and this is just the pandemic, is some of the ad hoc stuff, where it’s like, hey, let’s get some beers, you know, like after work. This is the pandemic, people you know, so there’s been some, I don’t wanna say problems, but it’s been harder to do some of that stuff. But I think that this thing’s opened up more and more.
I mean, people at our office do get along really well. I’m not there all the time, but I hear the stories, the whole thing gets, you know, animated with people talking and everyone has really nice personalities in our firm. There’s not a lot of drama. Actually an employee yesterday was just telling me like, “Hey, it’s nice to work here because there’s just not that like dramatic employee or the dramatic boss or the person who’s yelling” or whatever. So it is a nice culture. I’m not sure—I’m kind of removed being at home a lot. I’m not sure if how much, like, friendships are developing, necessarily. That’ll happen more if we can go out a little more often. But like Tom’s saying, I mean, we have been sticking to it and it’s still a priority of ours.
Yeah, actually, on that point. My wife and I, we have four and a half and a two and a half year old, so we’ve been doing, you know, going to a McDonald’s or something, grab Happy Meals and then go to a local brewery for like a happy hour on Friday nights and we’ve gotten some of the staff to come out and hang out. So they’ll bring their kids or whatever, and we get to do kind of more of that ad hoc. We’re trying to get back into doing that kind of thing.
So your local brewery that was right down the road from you that’s not open, is it?
No, they’re gone.
They are gone.
Been supporting Church Street brewing in Itasca or Pollyanna’s Roselle location of late.
Okay. Both good breweries for sure.
Alright, let’s talk about some more things you did this year, and we’re probably gonna go along this year. But that’s fine. Let’s talk about a few more things. Because not only did you do the Path to Partnership, you put together a Client Onboarding worksheet that you use, I’m assuming as you bring in new clients. One of you want to expand on that, and what that means to the business?
Yeah, I mean, basically, you know, when a client comes on board, I guess that worksheet is just to make things more organized, where you’re not asking them for stuff ten times over the course of like two weeks, when you’re working on their work. It’s not an overly complicated worksheet. And something else we’ve done too, as far as onboarding goes, we sort of centralize it to our office manager, for the most part. Obviously, you know, Tom meets someone, I meet someone, we have to do that initial step of talking about our firm, and selling the idea of being a client of ours. But once they come onboard, you know, I’m not doing my onboarding, Tom’s not doing his onboarding and Tyler’s not doing his onboarding, and then the staff too find clients. Sometimes it just becomes a mess, and things aren’t consistent. So, you know, we have a really, really good office manager, and we let him run it. So you just tell them, “Hey, here’s this client,” at least from my perspective, at least from my perspective, maybe Tom’s gonna tell me later, “Hey, do some more work.” But I just, I send an email, “Matt meet Joe,” and I just sit back and let it all happen. And it seems to just work like clockwork.
it’s been really, really good for the pipeline of like, putting that together and having Matt kind of be the centralized piece for the onboarding. We use HubSpot as like our pipeline, so Matt, and I meet every other week to make sure things are moving along. And then depending on the size of the engagement, I think the sheet you’re specifically referring to is more for when we’re onboarding a pretty involved, CFO-level type client, where we have, essentially trying to map out like the first 12 months and say, “Okay, in the first three months, we’re trying to accomplish XYZ, and the next four to six months, here’s the next set of goals.” And then a lot of it’s usually centered around, “Okay, we’re gonna review tax returns, make sure there’s no amendments or anything that needs to be done; let’s look at some budgeting; let’s look at cash flow planning, figure out, hey, what’s your strategy?” What do they want to try to accomplish in the next five years? And how do we start laying out that groundwork? So I guess there’s different onboarding tracks, depending on the level of clients and what they’re looking to accomplish?
And, you know, speaking of the CFO thing, since I was talking with the rock document a second ago, I was like, Man, this is really simple sheet. A CFO onboard is actually kind of hard, because you’re walking into a client, and the expectations can be all over the place. So that document helps them understand it’s not going to be like, you know, we’re there for a week, and suddenly, things are different. I feel like every CFO engagement goes well eventually. But you gotta give us a couple months to kind of—you gotta just sort of trust us, let us in there for a couple of months, we need to get our bearings, we need to see what you’ve been up to, I need to understand, you know, what your products are, who the company, what the identity of the company is, what are your goals? it takes a little bit to build that up.
So that onboarding sheet is really nice, actually, for the for the new clients to say, All right, you know, I’m excited to have a CFO-type presence in my company, but I shouldn’t expect that, you know, it’s March right now, and by May, things are gonna be totally different. They’re not. But in a year, they might be—or not totally different, but you know what I mean—different. And so it’s good to set that expectation from the very beginning.
Right. Let’s talk about the CFO services for a second. So niche is a thing I love talking about. And so if you guys had a niche, would this be our niche within the firm? Or is it just another service within the firm?
I think that I think we’re pretty good at it. I think it’s a niche.
Yeah. All right. And is there, you know, a percentage of new businesses coming from CFO services? Is this what we’re concentrating on?
I mean, as far as my new business has almost been exclusively that. I don’t get a lot of like one off tax returns anymore.
Yeah, I guess I’m more of the smaller stuff is kind of funneled through myself or other staff where it comes through some myself and Matt, and then we figure out what level of staff should be working with it. And then the CFO-type engagements is usually Layne, Tyler, or I involved in it. Percentage wise, it’s huge, because I mean, one of those engagements is $60 to $100,000 engagement as opposed to a thousand dollar 1040. So it’s definitely the biggest chunk of what we’re trying to bring in and we’d like that work because it’s more steady throughout the year. You don’t have the onslaught of tax returns and compliance usually.
I mean, we just onboarded—well, we’re six months into the engagement now—that they had nine entities, one setup wrong where we consolidated tax returns so that we’re only doing four instead of nine. There’s a lot of work that went into looking at what 2020 was done. And then we didn’t get in until September, October, so now we’re working with the attorneys. So ‘21 is still kind of a little bit of a mess, and then 22 will finally, we’ll be able to get everything kind of streamlined. And it just really depends on timing when those engagements start and how quickly the client wants to respond and make decisions too, because we can give guidance, but we can’t make the final calls on how things are going to be structured going forward.
And then one thing we talked about last year that Tom, you didn’t know, what I was talking about, was that three tiered pricing. And it looks like based on this one CFO services, you do have that. It’s like, here’s this service, there’s this services, that service level, and each one has more offerings, and then I assume that they’re priced differently as well.
Yeah. I think we’re getting better with having a more consistent quoting process. But it is really hard. I mean, you get the client come in, that has a dental client, and they’ve got one office and they want someone doing basically accounting services and tax returns, and that’s about it. And then there’s other ones where it’s “Hey, we’re a dental office, we got 10 offices, and we need help budgeting and figuring out when we’re opening up our next location,” or whatever that project is. So the pricing is very different. And I think at one point, we were like, “Okay, well, let’s put pricing to it,” but I think we’ve realized that there’s so wildly different every time you bring someone on that we’re gonna individualize we know.
Yeah, like, I would love to have like a bookkeeper price, like a controller price, and a CFO price. I think that it’s a natural way of like categorizing these things. But like Tom said, even a bookkeeper, you know, do you have 1000 transactions a month? Or do you have like 20? I mean, the price is just so customized. And I know, you know, to clients, I hope it’s not like a copout when you say that like, “Well, I’ll tell you the price once I see a little more information.” I mean you can tell them the hourly rate, and you can tell them, “Hey, we’ve got a lot of clients that are happy with our prices,” but you really can’t just put a price on things until you see what’s going on.
Well, are you guys familiar with Ron Baker?
I feel like I want to say yes, because we always say no. And I feel like we’re ignorant. But no.
Alright, well, Ron Baker is like the pricing guru. And he, you know, probably defined the value pricing model years ago. And he’s out, you know, preaching pricing for CPA firms. And his new model is subscription pricing that he’s takling about. In fact, plug alert here, Ron Baker is going to be on the Unique CPA Virtual Conference that is going to be out November 30 and December 1 of 2022, and Ron will be one of the speakers. But I would highly recommend listening to Ron and his discussion on pricing. Because he’s—my mind gets a little blown here in how he’s talking about this subscription pricing. But he swears this is the way to go in the future.
Yeah we’ll definitely take a take it into consideration and then see what he’s got to say.
You know, anything that can make billing and quoting easier, because you do spend a lot of time doing both those activities. So yep, I’m interested.
Yeah, with one of the newer CFO clients that we brought in, that one that’s got a bunch of stuff that we were working on over the last six months, we basically just came to an agreement—$10,000 a month for the first six to nine months, and then we’ll figure out whether we’re way over, way under, or somewhere in the middle. So March was our six months. So he was just asking me, and we were going to do a review and see where we’re at. I think we’ve priced it just about right, but we’ll see. But I think a lot of the heavy lifting is done. So we’ll adjust going forward, probably. Hopefully he’s not listening,
Right? It sounds like subscription pricing somewhat, just that “we’re gonna dial it in. We’re learning as we go.”
So it sounds like for this year, last year, I think it’s been like 13 or 14 months since we talked, things have progressed. You’ve grown. You have new procedures in place, new policies in place, you’ve obviously had a huge hurdle to get over with what Layne is going through. But it sounds like it’s been progressing nicely. Anything else that happened this last year that you’d like to highlight?
I know Layne worked on onboarding, like personnel onboarding training programs. I think we have yet to actually put it to use, but I think we’re excited to try to get that done, because I think that was a huge piece, because before, you’d hire someone and you just throw them into some engagements and just sink or swim, and we needed more structure around that. So I mean, Layne, if you want to expand on that?
Yeah, I mean, the onboarding that we have, and we can send you a copy if you’re at all interested, but it’s pretty detailed. It’s a weekly type thing, everybody has a mentor. We have different onboarding for if you’re like right out of college, because especially out of college, those are the ones needed the most. But you know, even someone who’s been in somewhere else for five years, they’re doing—you know, they know things how they used to do it, and we might do things a little bit differently, especially procedure-wise. Obviously, taxes are taxes, accounting is accounting, but, you know, where do we put stuff? How do we move work along? Who do you talk to?
So the goal is if someone comes to work for us, we want them to come out of the first couple of months and say, “I felt like I was really taken care of, I always knew what I should have been doing, I always knew how I was doing.” I remember when I started working, one of my biggest questions was like, “Am I good at this or bad at this? I don’t even know, like, I’m just doing stuff, and it goes somewhere else. Are they changing everything? Or was it mostly right?” And that’s not to fault anyone who was there, it’s just, you know, processes develop over time.
And so, you know, our goal is that someone comes in, they feel really kind of taken care of, and really the onboarding process into becoming, you know, a really functional accountant a little bit faster. Because we have training set up for them to learn things, you know, before tax season starts, rather than just throwing them in, at tax season, they’ve already done all the taxes procedures. I’m not saying they’re perfect at it, but they’ve at least seen it.
And then from there, the Path to Partner, I mean, really, a person who comes into our firm should be taken care of for the first couple of months onboarding, and then really just see their entire career kind of unravel if they want to, if they’re interested in that kind of thing. So that was kind of like the, it kind of connects all the dots.
Maybe not “unravel,” but roll out in front of them or something?
Yeah, is “unravel” a bad word?
Well, to me it is, maybe I’m wrong.
Like it’s falling apart!
I think my career unraveled a little bit, but maybe “rollout” is better.
Maybe I look at it differently. So, I know what you meant. The path is there in front of them and they see it.
Alright. So then how about goals for this coming year that we need to see if we can hold you accountable for when we talk again a year from now? Are there things you put in place that you want to see implemented before the next year is up?
I think something we’re talking about is something, as we’re getting bigger, a little bit more department-type focus. Right now, everybody works in everything. We have some employees that work on certain stuff, but almost just because that’s how it worked out. It wasn’t really intentional. So I think we’re trying to focus more on, like, 1040 work versus corporate-type work. Getting someone in charge of the 1040, let’s call it department or division, would really help us out. Because what happens this time of year, especially in March, is we have—you get all these CFO clients, they don’t go away during tax season. So if you’re busy in July, you’re really busy in March.
So what happens is, those clients are a lot of times at a higher level. So me, Tyler and Tom are more involved. And you’ve got these 1040s coming in, and these reviews that are piling up, and it’s just like, really hard to stay on top of it all. So we’re talking more about getting a system with, you know, a really qualified person in who can be in charge of 1040 reviews. There’s going to be some that you always have to look at, you know, really complicated ones. But most 1040s aren’t going to be at that level. They’re going to be basic 1040s, maybe a Schedule C here and there, stuff like that. So keeping that moving without having to do every little bit of work at a partner level, that would be one of—we don’t have an exact roadmap on how that’s going to play out.
But as far as 2022 goes, that’s something we’ve all kind of talked about and agreed on, that we probably need to look into it.
More departmental-focused groups. Okay. Anything else we should be talking about for next year?
Hopefully this mentorship program is rolled out and functional, and—
—right, new hires—
—and we’re getting good feedback on that, yeah.
Yeah, that’ll be interesting. If we think it’s so good, and we get some new hires, and they say “Hey, I didn’t really like this.” Like “Wow, I took a lot of time to put that together!”
Alright. We’ll definitely bring that up next year. And the one thing I heard from this last five minutes of discussion, I guess I know what I’m doing at the end of next tax season: Reviewing 1040s. I’m not cheap, but I’ll be out there helping you guys.
Yeah, come on over! We got a seat for you.
We’ll take you. Do you need anything to do in the next like three weeks? We’ll take you right now!
Uh, you know, we may talk about that after this call. Actually, I’m pretty busy. But at some point in time, I could see myself doing that. But I’m having too much fun to not do what I’m doing now, so.
Getting famous. You’re gonna be too big for us, so.
I, for some reason, my name is getting out there places. But we’re just having fun. It’s a good time.
Well, I want to thank you guys for doing this. We got—one thing I want to tell you—people are going to get CPE for the discussion we just had right now too. We are putting the podcast, and by the time this is released it’ll be out there, on Earmark, which is a new service that turns podcasts into continuing education. And so, you two just a CPE class for CPAs. Congratulations.
I want to apologize to all of you guys then. Sorry it wasn’t better!
Yeah, no feedback, please.
That’s right. You’re going to have these Reddit streams about you now, and you’re going to be all over Tiktok and Instagram.
Alright. Well, this was a lot of fun. I’m glad to see the progress. I’m sad to hear what you’re dealing with Layne, but I’m hoping for the best with everything, and good luck in the next three and a half weeks of tax season. Any final thoughts from either of you?
I don’t think so. Thanks for having us on—it’s fun talking to you, and we look forward to doing it next year too.
We will do it again.
Yeah, appreciate the time, Randy. Thank you very much.
Next year, when you’re working in our company, we’ll actually just go in the conference room! Put a tape recorder down.
Well, the thing is, my new plan at the start of this year is, I go out of town January and February. So I’m not available till March. But I guess that’s 1040 time, so.
Yeah, the 1040s start rolling in.
We’ll plan for it!
Tom Parker on LinkedIn
Layne Bodily on LinkedIn
About the Guest
Tom Parker and Layne Bodily cofounded FBP CPA with Tom Fates in 2020 in Itasca, Illinois. FBP specializes in professional services from taxation, to accounting and wealth management, and has a strong focus on charitable giving and work. Tom has been advising closely-held businesses on tax planning, mergers and acquisitions, cash flow projections, gift and estate planning, and state and local tax matters since 2011. He works with clients in a wide range of industries including construction, manufacturing, health care and professional services, and real estate. Layne works closely with a variety of small to medium sized businesses on issues ranging from tax planning and preparation, to strategic goals and measuring success. In his advisory role, he has successfully increased profitability for his clients, been in the weeds facilitating multiple $50m+ acquisitions, assisted with banking relationships and funding, and has organized accounting departments for faster and more accurate monthly closes.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.