With Brian Amann
Randy Crabtree talks “coach-ulting” and tax optimization with Brian Amann of CPA Edge on Episode 111 of The Unique CPA. Brian was the former founder and partner at TaxOps, which has been recognized as a top accounting firm by Accounting Today and Inc. magazine, among others, and he took his experience developing TaxOps’ model and offered it to other accounting professionals by founding CPA Edge. He stresses the important of culture and brand, both difficult things to measure, but very important in ensuring the success of an enterprise.
Today, our guest is Brian Amann. Brian is founder of Edge CPA, which is a firm where he consults with CPA leaders around the country to help enhance their tax practices and other portions of their business. Brian was formerly the head of TaxOps, which was a tax preparation firm that was named one of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine. Brian himself was named Managing Partner Elite by Accounting Today, and TaxOps landed on the number one spot two years in a row for Accounting Today‘s best places to work. Sounds like Brian may know a little bit about running a practice. Brian, welcome to The Unique CPA.
Thanks, Randy, appreciate it. I’m happy to be here.
Yeah, well, I’m glad that we got this scheduled. You got some impressive background there with Managing Partner Elite and Accounting Today best places to work. I like the Inc. magazine—we were just listed on this that past year and that just means you’re doing something, building a nice practice there. Did you end up when you started CPA Edge, did TaxOps, did you sell that? What happened with that?
Yeah, I sold my interest to the existing partners. We had talked to a couple of other firms at the time. I wanted to move on and do what I’m doing today. And so, yeah, at the end of the day, we ended up selling my interest to my existing partners. They’re still killing it. Actually, they were the number one best place to work by Accounting Today this past year. So they’re doing great.
Nice, nice. Alright, and so now, why don’t you give us a little bit of rundown of what CPA Edge is? When did you start this and what’s the goal of the services you’re providing there?
Yeah, I started it in 2019, or towards the latter part of 2019. And just to go back to the TaxOps days, we had a good run. We were doing some pretty amazing things. The firm got a lot of recognition, as you mentioned, the Inc. 5000 and the best place to work. And by the way, we were the best place to work. At the same time, we were on the Inc. 5000 list. And those two things, high growth and great workplace culture typically don’t go hand in hand. So I’m really proud of the combination there.
But anyway, I hit the radar to some extent and started getting a lot of recognition and other firm leaders started reaching out to me and asking me to consult with them or asking me to mentor them. And I started doing that. So I started working with some law firms and some specialty firms and some other CPA firms. And I was just having a blast from the consulting standpoint and coaching standpoint. And so I left to do that. And that’s what CPA Edge is all about. I do coaching and consulting with other firms to help them be better firms, to help them provide a competitive edge.
Okay. And is it, because I mentioned tax, is it tax mainly or is it overall practice management that you’re consulting on?
Overall practice management, but I am a tax guy. I’ve got 25 years of running tax departments and leadership positions in accounting firms. And so that’s what I know. So it’s not surprising, that’s where a lot of my work comes from, the tax departments. But I coach firm leaders or department leaders and I do tax transformation consulting for tax departments. Transformation is getting them from point A to point B and helping tax departments be better tax departments.
Yeah, which I think is obviously very important and needed, especially with the talent pool that seems to be dwindling right now. But I think the firms that get more optimization
out of, and I’m stealing your word, optimization out of their tax practice are going to. It’s gonna be a bill for one of three. They are going to outpace.
It’s funny, I deal with a lot of firms across the country and I may be generalizing and maybe I just see it more, but boy, I just seem to see the technology optimization and tax practices happening more at the smaller firm level than the larger firm level. And it’s maybe I just don’t see it at the larger firm level, but do you have a comment on that? Have you seen all levels be good at it or bad at it?
Well, I mean, smaller firms just tend to be more nimble. And implementing change in a 50 person firm is different than implementing change in a 5,000 person firm. So it’s just, it’s a little bit easier. They can move a little faster. I think there’s something to be learned there by looking at the smaller firms and seeing how they’re doing it. Part of the problem and part of the things that tax optimization addresses is just, technology is fairly widespread now. It’s available to the masses. And so it’s pretty easy for smaller firms to have top technology implemented in their firm and be utilizing it. So that’s a great benefit and it’s also part of the problem.
Well, let me read something that I read in your, what was the, it’s a—what do you call it? A white paper, a pamphlet, a booklet, that you had sent me that’s, or do you now label it?
I don’t know, the title on it says guide. So it’s a guide and it’s the demise of the tax department. It’s supposed to be scary and get attention, but at the end of the day, it’s a happy tale, right? About how we can do things better and enhance profitability.
Yeah, and that’s what I like to do with this podcast is to figure out ways we can be better as a profession. And so what I want to read, one thing that you had written in there, despite tremendous advances in technology, accountants continue to work as hard or harder, which I see as well, and make the same income, inflation adjusted, as they did 30 years ago. That seems insane to me. Is that, I mean, I mean, obviously you’ve got the numbers to support that, but man, there’s something needs to change if that’s the case. Something needs to change if that’s the case.
So I did go and do the math on that at one point. I think the last few years are probably skewed, right? And so maybe the math got off track a little bit there, but I went back and looked at Rosenberg’s for as far back as I could go. And then pretty much it was an inflation factor on the mid-size firm, not necessarily the top tier of the big four, but that $5, $10 million firm. It was 4%, 5% average partner comp increases during this period of the birth of the internet and all these tools that came along with it. It’s crazy. We should be flipping our desks over and smashing our laptops.
Yeah, oh no, for sure. So the program then, and I mentioned this before, optimization, the program that you go and install or talk about is you call it tax optimization, right?
And then that consists of leveraging technology and differentiating yourself and decommodization of the services and pricing structures and sales and marketing. I kinda wanna just dig into this whole tax optimization and what it is that you do when you go into firms and how do you transform them from this making what they were 30 years ago and working harder to working less and making more.
Yeah, so the tax optimization is a methodology and there’s five pillars to it and there’s one that’s noticeably missing and that’s people. Because it’s really, people is such a big topic. It’s on its own, but tax optimization, it’s a methodology for tax function effectiveness, historically tax function effectiveness is all about people, process and technology. So if we carve people out and say that’s a different category altogether, we look at process and technology and then not necessarily in that order, but we look at process and technology and I think there’s a good argument to be made that process and technology should be looked at before people at this point, but historically we said people process technology. So yeah, doing things better, making sure that we’re doing the right things and making sure we’re doing the right things right.
Decommoditization or differentiation just making us look different, right? There’s, if there’s no unique distinguishing characteristics of what we do, we’re a commodity and when we succumb to that distinction, the only thing we have left to compete on is price at that point, right? So we wanna get away from that at all costs. That’s what we’re talking about is on The Unique CPA and that’s some of the stuff that you do at Tri-Merit. So how do we make our penguin look different than the other thousand penguins on the beach or iceberg or wherever penguins sit?
So is this decommoditization then, is this more, I mean, would you define that as becoming an expert in a niche or is that just one aspect of differentiating yourself?
It could be.
Okay, because that’s what we are. We’re a niche service, I guess.
Yeah, it could be a deep industry niche. If you’re the gold standard of your particular, the industry that you own, that’s a great differentiator, right? That is a way to decommoditize. So you can do it through expertise, specific expertise, being deep in an industry niche. You can do it through bundling different services, right? You can do it through your service delivery model. You can do it through your level of service, but you need to find a way to do it. You need to differentiate.
So if you look at your competitors and I think we did a really good job at TaxOps and they continue to do it, who are the firms that we’re competing against? Where are we the same as them? So what are our equalizers? And those, we’re competing against very big firms. So those things were lofty. There were nothing to sneeze at, but what are our equalizers? And then what are our differentiators? And if you go through that thought process, well, number one, your differentiators can be positive or negative.
So we’re talking about positive differentiators. Negative differentiators. But what are our positive differentiators? We can’t think of any, we better come up with some. And we better come up with some in the two markets that we compete in. We compete in the client market and we compete in the talent market. And both are equally as important. I guess you could argue that the talent market is more important right now. But what are our differentiators, right? What sets us apart? And be clear about those. Being transformational—and these are all interrelated—being transformational, the easiest way to be transformational is to hit somebody in the wallet. Transforming someone, a client, is to leave them in a better place than when we found them, right?
Okay, so this is transforming your client or client experience or, okay. Alright, that makes sense.
Employee experience, yep.
Alright, and so one thing I talk about a lot is when you’re talking about that, and that sounds like advisory somewhat to me, maybe I’m confusing it, and I think you talk about this as well. I mean, really anybody can be a reporter of taxes. I mean, the softwares are so good these days that reporting taxes is, and that’s a commodity. I mean, I would assume you’d agree, but that transformational, going in and giving a client this path to whatever their goals are, I think is kind of what you’re saying. Am I on track?
Absolutely, and that’s the easiest way to do it. You can do it through relationship or other things that education, you can help educate them. You can give them tools to help them run their businesses better or their lives better. There’s lots of different ways you can be transformational, but the easiest way is to hit them in the wallet, right? Save them taxes, minimize risk. Reduce taxes.
Yeah, alternative pricing strategies goes along with that. How are we pricing these things, especially when we get into bundling different services and bringing a non-commoditized value-added service in with a commoditized service and bundling, how do we price that?
I don’t like using the term value pricing because it just, people get scared. People get nervous or scared whenever they hear that.
Well, let’s unpack that a little then. I mean, because when we’re looking at pricing strategies, value, I won’t, I use the word, sorry, value one, fixed fee one, hourly one, subscription pricing, three-tier pricing, are you all of the above, or is there a specific thing, or does it just depend on the client? How do you look at pricing?
I think it depends on what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do. So there’s an interrelation between all of these things and then marketing and sales has to weigh in on that and say, yes, we can get our heads around that and sell it that way. But alternative pricing strategies, going back to the bundling example, and this is McDonald’s Happy Meal, right? They, you could buy a cheeseburger and french fries and a Coke separately, or they put it together for you and I don’t know, they call it a Happy Meal or Value Meal. I try to avoid it because it doesn’t make me happy.
But, you know, then they come up with a bundled price, right, that drives buying behavior, right? They can sell more of the three of those if they bundle it together and give it to you at a price that’s more conducive. So those kinds of things, it really depends on, you know, how are you trying to decommoditize? What are you doing to be transformational? And let’s figure out how to price it so that we drive the right behavior. Pricing strategy is all about driving buying behavior, right, so that we can sell more of something at a higher price.
So more of something at a higher price. So is that always the goal? We wanna sell more or do we just wanna become more efficient in some cases and maybe sell the same with less people, less expenses, or is it often, is everybody on that growth mode? We wanna do more.
I think growth is kind of like a dirty word at this point, right, because of the talent issues. So growth is tough, but I think a lot of the focus right now is, yeah, how can we provide more value so that we can generate higher fees per client and price better without necessarily doing more volume. So when you look at it, is there a matrix, I just popped in my head here, that people look at, and because I’ve heard things like, okay, what’s our revenue per employee, or what’s our gross profit, or what’s…
Is there one aspect of that you think it makes more sense to track than another?
That I think is, that’s changing. I think it’s changing what we speak because I was always a big fan of revenue per professional. That makes a lot of sense to me. Well, I think now we have a talent shortage and they stopped making CPAs at some point. So how do we do that? We have to get more administrative support. We have to figure out ways to do things with non-traditional resources. So that kind of jacks up your revenue per professional statistic, right?
Well, yeah, it does, yeah.
Yeah, so it could be revenue per client, revenue per professional, revenue per employee, it’ll probably be a better metric as we diversify our workforce a little bit. But I think that is where you get into, what’s the vision? What are you trying to accomplish? Where are you trying to go with this thing? And let’s marry that to the right metrics that help you run the business and get there.
Alright, so tax optimization then, we touched on pieces of it so far. You want to dig a little deeper or give us a summary of that and then just see how we implement these types of things?
Sure, yeah, so again, there’s five things in the middle that all come together to make an effective tax department that is highly differentiated, decommoditized: being transformational, using pricing strategies to maximize profits and makes it an easy sell from a marketing and sales standpoint. Can we create interest around this? Yes, yes, we can. Do we have a sales advantage when we do this or a recruiting advantage? Yes, yes, we do.
And the things that hold these five things together are: Leadership. Strong leadership has to exist at every aspect of this. Strong culture has to exist at every aspect of this in relationships. In culture, we have our overall firm culture, but there’s the micro culture. So if we want to be a highly technological firm, we need to have a culture of technology, right? We have to have someone that’s taking the lead on that, that is looking at the way we use technology that becomes part of our review process to make sure that we’re doing that correctly, that they’re going to the user conferences, they’re coming back and reporting back to the team. There needs to be a deep culture in each of these micro areas to support it.
The process we’re doing, this is the model that I use from a consulting standpoint, and it can be as holistic as someone wants to go. So if a firm wanted to look at just one of these things, that’s fine, the holistic approach is let’s come in and do a review of how you score in all of these areas and we can see where the biggest opportunity for lift is. And firms can go do this themselves. They can download my white paper from the website and there’s a questionnaire within the white paper where you can just do it manually and score yourself. I would suggest that if you do it, have more than one person in your firm do it.
Right? You might have different views.
You might have different views and there’s a lot of power in those different opinions and how we look at things or how we see things, which is just great fuel for discussions or for discussion. Or you can do it online. There’s a link there, you can do it online. And if you do that, I’ll get back to you on it.
At CPAEdge.com, right?
Okay, Alright, perfect. Let me ask you a real quick one then. So you said they can, we can kind of pick and choose things we wanna work on, but these things you said, company culture being one of the things that you’re gonna go on or is that some, I mean, do you advise or analyze or score on culture? That’s an aspect of things you’re doing with CPA Edge or tax optimization?
I do, yeah, I think that’s really important. Again, the macro, what’s the firm culture? And the micro, what’s our culture at these individual levels that we just talked about?
And so is there a methodology just to analyze culture or a way that you advise on increasing the positive aspects of the culture? Yeah, and it’s always, where are we today? So that’s discovery, what do we think it is? What do we think our culture is? And it’s fun to talk with leaders and what do you think the culture is? And then you go and have individual conversations and you dig in a little bit.
There’s no, not that I’m aware of anyway, there’s no scientific way to measure culture. It’s culture is, culture is like brand. It’s hard to get your hands around it. Brand is what someone else feels when they see your logo or when they see your name. It’s hard to measure that. Culture is kind of the same thing. So it’s really conversations, how do people feel about it? There was an article in McKinsey and it talked about businesses and their business strategy and business leaders, like 80% of business leaders thought their company had a very clear, distinct strategy, but only 8% of their customers felt the same way. And most employees couldn’t articulate what that strategy was. So there’s typically a divide between what we think it is and what it is. And then once we understand point A, what it is, point B, what we want it to be, we can figure out how to get from point B, from point A to point B.
I feel we have a very good culture. We don’t lose people. I think that’s at least an indicator. I think in the last three years, one person’s voluntarily left maybe in the 15 years in business. We’re 60 people now. I think maybe we’ve had five or six voluntarily leave. So I think that’s an aspect, but I can’t define it. I mean, I feel like we have fun and we treat everybody respectfully and we let people have their opinions and be able to, whatever. They have an idea, boom, everybody’s going to listen. I think that’s it. But again, how do you define it or measure it? I don’t know.
Your culture is kind of your informal operating system. It’s this informal or unspoken set of rules and beliefs that we share that drives our behavior. It’s hard to measure, but that is a good measurement. I mean, employee turnover is a great measurement. Client turnover is a great measurement. If those things are high, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the culture is bad, but it means something’s going on and it could be the cultural issue.
And the other thing we’ve done too, and I think this is important and you said it already, is don’t just rely on what you think it is. Let’s see what everybody thinks it is. And so we’ve done anonymous surveys on different things. People can put their opinions in anytime. We did one on, and I do a presentation on mental health. I do a lot these days. And so we did a whole anonymous survey on how we do as a company with mental health and those types of things. I think it’s important to get, like you said, to get everybody’s thoughts on what’s happening and not just what you think is happening. And that was one way we figured out how to do it. Is that something you’ve looked at, anonymous surveys or surveys in general, or you just go out to talk to each employee?
I do informal surveys by talking. I think I can get a lot from a 30-minute conversation with some people in the group and get a really good feel for what’s going on. So yeah, I do it that way. You can do surveys. I struggle with surveys a little bit because typically when I get one, it means something’s wrong. There’s like a negative connotation to it. So I try to stay away from surveys myself. I mean, there’s value there. But you have to do it in a way that’s, where you’re really getting, you’re really digging for positive feedback as well as negative. It’s easier to give negative feedback. So I want to hear both.
Yep, alright. And then I want to back up if we can. I’m sorry, I’m jumping around here. But one of the first things you mentioned is leveraging process and technology. And I’d like to dig deeper on that because technology advancements have been so tremendous. And I see a lot of firms I deal with. I see firms that are embracing technology and just becoming so much more efficient. I assume they’re beating that metric or whatever we said at the beginning where you’re making the same, you were 30 years ago, even with new technology. I see they’re doing it, but then I see firms that just resist it.
And for me, I think there’s two things they resist in. One, they just don’t understand it. And so let’s just keep doing it the way we’re doing it. And two is, wow, there’s just going to take time to implement that. And we don’t have time right now because we’re so busy. And in reality, they’re going to save time overall. And so are those aspects you’re seeing with technology and how are you seeing?
Yes. Yes, you’re seeing it. You see both. But I wanted to take it as an opportunity to point out the correlation between some of these things because if you really embrace technology, but you don’t change your pricing strategy, you end up with that situation where despite great tremendous advances in technology, we’re making the same or less than we did 30 years ago, right? If you’re going to be able to do things more efficiently, you’ve got to revise your pricing strategy to maximize your price profit and not give it away to your client.
But I think there’s certain firms that are just embracing technology and they want to automate everything that they can possibly automate. And there’s good reason to. Why do we have to do the heavy lifting if it’s not necessary? I can be more transformational to my clients. I can do a lot of different things to provide more value to the team and to the clients. If I’m not doing the heavy lifting, it’s kind of like lifting with the legs and not from the back. Let’s let technology do the heavy lifting. And there’s a lot there. There’s really a lot there that we can do between first mile automation and last mile automation and everything in between.
What’s happened over the past five years has just been absolutely amazing. And you kind of have to do it. You really have to do it. If you want to be competitive in both markets, talent market and client market, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to keep up. You got to find a way to keep up.
I agree completely. You’re going to have to, especially with the talent market for one, like you just said, but if you don’t, you’re going to get passed by. And if you do, and you just said it as well, you get to concentrate your time on these higher end advisory transformation type services that your clients are looking for, whether you know it or not, this is what your clients want. They don’t want the reporting of taxes. Anybody could do that. They want you to be that relationship with them where you’re going to come in and you’re going to help this business be successful. And so, yeah, if you listen to this and you’re not embracing technology at this point, you better fast because you fall behind quickly. Sorry, I went on my rant there.
No, no, that’s perfect. I think that there’s, aside from the heavy lifting, there’s just quality issues, right? We’re, as humans, we are prone to mistakes, right? And if there’s something that can be automated, it should be. We went through this exercise in my firm at one point. I was pretty technologically savvy and I was walking through the whole process with everyone. Do we use this aspect of our technology? No, we don’t use that. Why not? Well, it doesn’t really take any time. How much time does it take? It probably takes 30 minutes. Okay, do we use this? No, we don’t use that. Well, why don’t we use it? It’s just some manual entry. It doesn’t really take any time. Anyway, by the time we’re done with this process, we came up with about three hours of stuff that didn’t take any time at all to do it manually. And we have more room for error.
That’s where that culture of technology comes in, like, no, even if it doesn’t save us any time this year, it will next year, it’ll improve quality. If someone else has to come in to do it, we’ll have a good trail. We utilize, we leverage technology to the fullest extent. That is just what we do. That is part of our culture.
Yep, yep. And it has to happen. You can take your 50 hours this year and you’re gonna save 200 the next 10 years each year, or whatever. And it’s just worth it. And people just see the 50 this year that’s gonna take them to do this.
Yeah. Well, I will say from that, from an implementation of technology though, if you look on the tax side, if you don’t have someone that has carved out some time to make sure that they’re focused on, that firms are focused on this all year round, it doesn’t happen. Otherwise, you get into the year, busy season is right on the horizon. Next thing we know, it’s gonna be October 16th. If we wait until October 16th to maximize the use of our technology or the leverage of our technology, we have 10 weeks left in the year. You take out vacation or holiday, you have six weeks left. It’s not happening.
That’s not enough time. It’s gotta be chunked throughout the year to make sure that it happens.
And that’s actually the thing I see a lot too, is that what you just said, the deadlines. People are just, that’s what they’re concentrating on is the deadline, the deadline, the deadline. They’re not looking at this future and what we need to be and how we need to be more efficient. And sometimes what I see is that the county firms don’t look at their firm as a business. It’s just, we’re here to help people. This is what we do when they lose to say the fact that they need to make this business more profitable for them and their employees as well.
Well, I think I don’t like the term practice. You know, we still, a lot of firms still look at it as a practice. It’s a business that needs to be run by a business. I don’t know if you can see it back there. So above the guitar on my wall, that’s a Norman Rockwell “Beating the Deadline.”
Okay, I can see it
So every day when I walk in here, I look at that and that’s like, that’s what I’m fighting against.
Right? That is what I’m fighting against.
Yep, Alright. So then with tax optimization, obviously the whole goal is to just make people, get people more efficient, work less, make more, be happier. Be more valuable. Be a valuable firm, be a sustainable firm, be a transferable firm if that’s what you want, because all these things would tie into it. So this tax optimization program you put in place, I think, sounds awesome. I think everybody should be looking at something like this.
There’s another thing that you talk about as well, which is the difference between coaching and consulting. Do you wanna expand on that?
Sure, yeah. So I do coaching and I do consulting and I do this thing in the middle that I call a coach-ultant.
Which is a little bit of a combination of both, but coaching is about the individual, it’s about the person and it’s about helping that person be the best, that they can be. So it’s about their personal goals, even though I’m a business coach, so, but I do have personal goals in business. What am I trying to get out of this? And you get to the mindset of my firm, my business is a vehicle to help me get to the place that I wanna go.
So as a coach, I’m there to ask questions. I’m not there to tell them anything necessarily. I’m there to ask questions, help them define that. And it’s hard for people. And I think it’s hard for accountants to really get into the personal goals because we’re so used to, here’s my revenue goal, here’s my charge hour goal. Great, got it, check, check. But what is it that you really wanna accomplish? What do you wanna get out of this thing? Is your career by design or by default? We can go in a couple of different directions.
Default is I’ll do whatever you ask me to do. If you want me to transfer to a different office, you want me to go do something else, great. I’ll go with the flow. I’ll go about this thing by default and I’ll end up in some place eventually. Maybe it’s not a bad place, but it’s not what I really intended. And I can be very driven and I can chase every promotion and every dollar and I can switch firms because someone’s got a better place for me. And I can drift just as equally by being too driven.
So we really wanna be intentional. What’s the design for me? My business is a vehicle to help get me there. I’m not necessarily there to answer questions. I’m there to ask those questions and then provide accountability, timelines, help keep them focused. That’s coaching.
Consulting is I have a specific expertise that I can help you with from a business standpoint, tax optimization, team alignment, those kinds of things. I do have specific expertise. Now, as a consultant, I’m telling, I’m providing answers. You hired me to do that.
And then there’s the coach-ulting in between. I find that it’s very hard to do consulting and implement a consulting project without coaching the sponsors of that project. It’s also very hard to coach somebody when you have been there and you have done it before to like, if they’re really stuck, let me just give you the answer. Or maybe I can give you a hint here. So that’s the coach-ulting and that’s where those two things merge. Both are really important, but one’s about the individual, one’s about the firm initiative or the project.
I think that’s awesome and I never looked at it that way. But when you’re talking about the coaching, I’m like, okay, if you’re only listening, then why do they get out of it? But that’s where the coach-ulting comes into play, correct?
Yeah, well, it’s awareness. By someone just asking curiosity questions, you create awareness like, why do I think like that? What do I believe to have that behavior? Just digging in the dirt.
Yep, I could have used coaching, I think, a while back. It took me a while to figure out what I really wanted, but man, when I found that out the last five years, I just have so much fun. It’s not, I realized I don’t have to run a business. I can start a business. I don’t enjoy running the business. And it took me a while. I figured those things went together and they don’t. And man, that was a huge transformation for me.
Well, I think there’s some people who are very good at getting something off the ground. I think I tend to be one of those people. You can get something off the ground. Once it’s in orbit, someone else can take it at that point.
Oh, I agree completely. Yeah, pretty good at getting something off the ground. Really good at preventing it from hitting the ground if it happens to be going in that direction. But once it’s in orbit, it’s like, but that’s playing to your strengths, right? And that’s the other thing, your strengths and your passions. And my passion’s not KPIs and process and procedure. And my passion is, well, these days my passion is this. I’m just talking about the profession and educating on the profession. And yeah, it took me a while to realize that I could just do the things I like rather than thinking I had to be all to everybody. So I think that’s important. But where were you 15 years ago when I needed a coach?
I was doing tax 15 years ago.
Darn it, Brian. Alright, no, it worked out fine.
Alright, so I think it’s about time we wrap up. And I’ll ask you a couple of final questions, but before I do that, any bow you wanna wrap around the conversation we had here?
Find ways to be different, find ways to be unique, right? Make sure you understand very clearly what your equalizers are and what your differentiators are and leverage those in the talent market and in the client market. And if you wanna banter about that, give me a call, I’m happy to have those conversations. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to be different.
I agree, I agree completely. And I think that’s very important. Alright, before I ask for contact information, there’s one final question that every guest has to answer is, alright, great, we talked about business and all that, but what are your passions outside of work? What do you enjoy doing? What’s your free time spent doing? And what do you, I guess, what are you most passionate about?
I like to get outdoors. I live in Colorado, it’s just an amazing place to explore. So if it’s on skis, hiking boots, on a bike, got a Polaris side-by-side razor, I love getting out in the desert and that thing and just tearing it up, just being outdoors. My wife of 33 years is here, she enjoys the same thing. So we enjoy being out together doing those things. My kids do the same, so I’m in the right, I found the right place. I didn’t grow up here, but I eventually found the right place to do what I want to do.
Where did you grow up?
New York, and I never had an accent. I had to leave, because I never had an accent.
They kicked you out, huh?
What part of New York?
I was in the suburbs, Rockland County. So the most recognizable town is Nyack. It’s where Roseanne lives or somebody, I don’t know. Hudson River, you go across the river, you’re in Westchester, you go south from there, you’re in Manhattan. Close enough to see the city.
Okay. But far enough away. Okay, and then how long in Colorado now?
30 years, since 92.
Oh wow, alright, alright. And are your kids there? You mentioned the kids, are they in that area as well?
They’re both in Colorado. My daughter lives in Denver. We live in Grand Junction, which is out on the Utah border, near Palisade where the wineries are.
I’ve been there!
She works remotely, so she’s here quite a bit.
Alright, nice, nice. Alright, then the last thing then is, yeah, this is interesting stuff. This is things people need. If anybody wants to get more information, find out about you, get your, that, what did we call it again that you sent me? The text, the guide. Where would they get ahold of you or get this information?
Yep, so CPAEdge.com. The link to the guide is at the bottom of the homepage, so it’s very easy to find. I’m pretty easy to find. It’s Brian@CPAEdge.com. Hit me on LinkedIn. Pretty easy to find there as well.
Yep, I looked at you this morning. You’re there, so I can vouch the fact you’re on LinkedIn.
Alright, well, I think this is awesome. I think that tax optimization is something that everybody should at least look at themselves, but get more information from you. I mean, it is something where I’m just, I’m talking with people all the time and just seeing this tax transformation happening and you don’t want to be left behind, so I think it’s very important to look at it.
Yeah, the tax, I mean, the tax department is one of the best areas we have to create differences, my biased opinion.
I agree with you completely, so if I’m biased too, we’re biased together. Well, again, Brian, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.
I appreciate it as well. I appreciate the opportunity and glad to have the time to sit down with you.
About the Guest
Brian Amann is the founder of CPA Edge, where he helps results-oriented CPAs and Firm leaders challenge industry norms, driving true vision and strategy, so they can differentiate, enhance client and employee loyalty, increase profit, and decrease working time. He formerly led TaxOps, which experienced sixfold revenue growth over a four-year period when single-digit growth rates were the norm. TaxOps subsequently made the Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, and Brian himself was featured on Accounting Today‘s “Managing Partner Elite” as a top firm leader. During the same period, TaxOps landed in the number one spot—two years in a row—on Accounting Today‘s “Best Place to Work For.”
Brian has a quarter century of experience in building high performing tax departments, having worked at a high level in that role for Ernst and Young before founding TaxOps. He is a CPA, CGMA, and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor. He earned his BBA in Accounting and Finance from Pace University in 1987.
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.