Options to Help Firms Thrive
Randy talks with Alan Deichler, president of CPAmerica, about the importance for CPA firms to join associations and networks such as CPAmerica and CPA Connect. They discuss the opportunities these organizations provide for firms to share resources, clients, referrals, knowledge, and more—and most importantly, to build relationships and community.
Today, our guest is Alan Deichler. Alan is president of CPAmerica. CPAmerica is an association of independent CPA firms that provides member firms resources to achieve their goals based on their foundation of improving through sharing.
Before we get to Alan, CPAmerica has a fine place in my heart. It was one of the first associations that we were able to join with Tri-Merit when we made the decision that associations were the route for us to go to make our connections with CPA firms. I’ve always found Alan to be very informational, informative, educational—everything out there. I really enjoy talking to him, so I’ve been looking forward to this discussion. Actually, I think I asked Alan about joining our podcast last November, if I recall, at the tax conference, and so I’ve really been looking forward to this. Alan, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Randy. I appreciate you having me on.
That’s no problem. There’s a few things that we could discuss today. One thing I think I would—and I didn’t mention this to you beforehand, but just curious about how you got into the CPA association world.
I spent about a year and a half with EY (Ernst & Young) as a director of business development, and one of the people that worked for me went on to work for BKD (Baird, Kurtz & Dobson) in business development. After I left EY, CPAmerica was looking for a new president and used Korn Ferry to do the search, and they contacted this gentleman that worked for me at BKD, looking for folks doing development work, familiar with the accounting profession.
He wasn’t interested, but he said “I know a guy.” It turned out I was one of 300 applicants and got through the video interview process with twenty-six down to the first interview process of six and the final two, and as luck has it—here I am.
So video interviewing—that’s what we’re doing today! So what was that, ten years ago now?
It was eleven years ago. You had to go to one of these executive offices, places that had recording and video capability—and it was really new. I mean, that was a little scary and a little strange to be interviewing—which has pressures of its own—on video.
Yeah, that’s—it’s the norm today. So I guess yeah, we feel a little bit different now. All right, I appreciate that background. I’ve always been curious, and at conferences and that, it’s not the time to ask you—because you’re pretty busy at those—so thanks for that background.
What I’d like to discuss today is, you know, we’re Tri-Merit, we’re part of a lot of associations and I see the benefits of them when I’m there at conferences, when I’m meeting with the firm members, and all that. In general, can you give us an idea of what the benefits of joining an association are, and then in addition, we talked about this before we started recording—networks, as well. And there’s a difference between a CPA association and a CPA network. So: Benefits, and then differentiate those for me.
Sure, happy to. The accounting profession has a bit of a unique spot in that it is really embraces the “association network” concept. There are probably somewhere over twenty active associations in the United States. There’s close to forty networks and associations in the world, for the accounting profession, only—sometimes legal outside the United States because the two interact.
In the association world, the primary benefit is, as you said, it’s “improving through sharing.” It’s sharing best practices, and all the things that go with that. Where in the network world, it’s based on referrals. It’s business, it’s growing your business financially. And things come with that.In the CPA association world, the primary benefit is “improving through sharing.” In the CPA network world, you’re a little more tightly coupled. There are benefits to both. Click To Tweet
In the association world, we have to remain very independent from each other. There’s no connection. You share best practices, but there’s not much else: We don’t share expenses, we don’t share a brand name, we don’t go to market together. We don’t do any of the things that would “couple” us.
Where in the network world, you do all those things, and you’re doing it to try and expand your business, maybe a new niche or new line of business. Maybe some benefits of working together through scale. You can use the common brand, you can go to market together. But, when you do, there are liabilities. If somebody in Italy does something wrong that you were involved with, you might have some vicarious liability with that.
So you’re a little more tightly coupled; the benefit is, there’s profit to be had. Where in the association, there’s great benefit through best practices and sharing, and that’s everything we do.
Okay, best practices, sharing—part of that, I guess, is learning and training. You guys do events like that. One of the biggest things that I see personally out of it is just the community that’s developed as well. And I’m assuming that’s a nice benefit, right?
Right. That’s part of the improving through sharing because when people get to know each other and build relationships, the sharing gets much easier. And we do have something called geographic consideration. We have 86 members in the United States. 86 member firms ranging from three million in revenues up over a hundred (million). The real benefit is when they get to know each other, they’re much more likely to share, and they’re not going to share if there’s two firms next door to each other that compete for every piece of business they can. So we consider—we don’t have exclusivity, but we consider competition, and we space those 86 firms out, so sharing is something that they’re apt to do.
So, is that is that difficult at times, you know, to bring in new members when you have this geographic restriction?
Yeah, it is. You know, you commit to a firm in a particular city, and another firm will contact you and want to look at membership. We just don’t do that. We have a fifty mile radius of headquarters, and it’s the right thing to do. If a firm commits to us in particular city and is active and participates, then we don’t need to look for another firm.
That’s why there’s so many associations in the United States because other associations have a similar policy. So in Chicago, for instance, one firm joins us—there’s tons of great firms in Chicago, and they’d like to be in an association. So up pops another association and another one, and another one.
That makes sense. So let’s talk about CPAmerica in general. I know you have had some tremendous growth, recently adding quite a bit of new firms. Every time I’m on LinkedIn, it seems like CPAmerica is announcing another firm joining, so even with those restrictions, it appears that you haven’t had issues with gaining new members. Give us more background on what CPAmerica is and the member makeup.
Well, we’re as I said, 86 firms ranging from—probably we have three in the top 100, we have—trying to remember the new numbers here. They just came out.
I think I might have them, at least as of last year’s Accounting Today: 16 in the top 100 with Accounting Today, and then Inside Public Accounting’s 400 just came out and I saw I think it was 52 in that, does that sound like the numbers you’re looking at?
Yeah, I think that 16 might be the top 200. But I know, in the top 400 we’re a big part of it. We’re well over fifty.
And so when you’re getting new firms, how are you doing that? Are they contacting you? Are you contacting them? Are you getting referred to them? What’s the way that they come into you?
Well, it’s all sorts of ways, but the primary way is that we have a person on staff that is dedicated to development for both CPAmerica and CPA Connect, which we’ll talk about.
We literally go out to prospective firms, and provide something. We’ll provide a white paper, we’ll provide one of our monthly newsletters, we’ll show them some value that we have and then we will contact them and try and set up an appointment. And I’ll go out and visit—or I used to go out and visit—now I do Zoom calls, which I was very worried about on business development over Zoom. But we signed up three firms using Zoom, so it works.
But I’ll spend an hour to two hours with the Partner Group and share with them benefits and hopefully they will come to a Leading Partner retreat, which again, we don’t have that benefit this year—it’ll be Zoom and virtual—and a lot of testimonials from our members because they’re the best sales folks.
Oh, yeah, I agree completely. Like I said, I’m a I have a place in my heart for CPAmerica firms. I probably attended more conferences with CPAmerica—not probably, I have—than any of our associations, and I love our associations. We’ve dealt with associations that do it right in my mind. We’re a preferred provider, that’s what you call us at CPAmerica, and a lot of places call us that.
To become a preferred provider, it’s not a “pay your money and you’re in” thing—which I’ve seen that before. You guys—and I learned this when we first tried to join you—is that you do quite a vetting process to make sure that it’s the right fit, and I was very impressed with that. In fact, next month is the ten year anniversary of my first CPAmerica conference, which I think was the Leading Partner Retreat in Scottsdale.
I remember that! That was my first one as president. My first one was the year before in transition.
And that took us I think it took us a year to get into that because of that vetting process.
Well, everything we do is member driven. So we have a big staff—big in the association world—of about 17 people, which is a little unusual. But everything we do is, members have told us, “here’s what we would like.” And in the case of preferred providers, the same thing. We don’t even begin the preferred provider process, unless a member has said, “We use this service and we recommend this person or firm as preferred provider.” And then we go through an application process and the committee of members reviews and approves.
Well, I was impressed with it. Like I said, I’ve seen some that haven’t done that. We aren’t part of those associations, because I just feel that this is a much better method for your members. Your members are the ones that are the important part of this.
Let’s talk about the programs that you’re doing because I know you’ve got some unique ones, and some that probably all associations are doing. But I’ll name a few and you can expand on what you think we should talk about.
The VIP—I think it’s a very interesting one. The visitation improvement program? In fact, before I mention the others, why don’t we talk about that a little bit? What’s that all about?
That came about when we were developing a strategic plan way back in 2012. And one of the members started talking about, “How can we get more opportunities for members to share and therefore, improve?” And somebody said, “You know, I go to our events and I hear about a good idea, and I want to see it in action. So I get on an airplane and go to that firm and spend a day with them and see what they were talking about at the event—in action.”
And we moved on and expanded on that thought about getting on planes and going to firms. And we thought, “what if we were to send visiting Leading Partners, to a host firm for two days, prefaced by a survey, and plenty of meals together, and interviews, and meetings. Then at the end of the session, the two visiting Leading Partners would share their observations with the Partner Group?
CPAmerica pays for all the travel expenses, pays for all the meals. So that’s not any money out of a member’s pocket. We figured that would be a way for a member to gain insight on themselves and improve, and that certainly has happened. We’ve done about 115 of those since 2012—we’ve been doing fifteen a year.
Two other things happen, though, and it’s sort of interesting. One, the visitors are learning as much as the host firms. There’s a great competition to be visitors—that’s the key to the program to get the right visitor at the right firm: size, niches, all that. The other thing is, we used to have 15 minute breaks at our annual meeting. And we can’t do that anymore because we can’t get people back in the room. So we’ve gotten to 30 minute breaks, because they all know each other so much better now.
So that community gets solidified as well. Community, again—I think that’s such a key aspect to just knowing that you have these friends and colleagues around the country that you can get information, get education, like you’re saying there.
So I found that is a very interesting program. Do you do that multiple times for a firm? I mean, if you’re doing fifteen a year, it’s gonna take a while, but did we go back?
Matter of fact, sometimes we do up to twenty. There’s only three things required as a member of CPAmerica: One is to host a VIP once every four or five years. Another is to attend a Leading Partner Retreat. And then the third is to participate in our practice management survey—we have our own proprietary one.
And, and that’s revenue and profitability and—
—all the KPIs you can think of—
—yep, that’s what I figured. That’s great information to have as well.
So to transition to other programs you do: The one that we mentioned before was CPA Connect, which I think is a unique program and I’ll try to define it—you can correct me on the mistakes—but CPA Connect are smaller regional firms that are usually within a CPAmerica member’s region, and they join the CPA Connect association to get the benefits of being part of an Can you expand on that for me?
Well, CPA Connect is really a program of CPAmerica. Technically, they’re not an association. There’s 145 firms, most of which are under 3 million. We don’t bring anybody in who’s over that number—some grow and have stayed in the program. Most of the firms are half a million to a million revenue-size firms. Many are associated or sponsored by a CPAmerica firm, so that you’d have a large city with a large CPAmerica firm and maybe ten satellite, smaller firms.
They share referrals. There’s a lot talked about ABCD clients. Well, some D clients are really nice, great people who have small tax returns, that the CPAmerica firm has outgrown as they’ve grown up—and they don’t want to just abandon them. They can refer them to one of their sponsored, CPA Connect firms. And likewise, a compilation or review that a CPA Connect firm was doing might have grown into an audit that they really aren’t comfortable with. And they can refer to the CPAmerica firm. They share CPE opportunities as well.
Alright, so a lot of the benefits that we’re talking about with CPAmerica, the CPA Connect firms can get through that connection as a program.
Right, including outbound referrals internationally with our membership and Crowe Global, which we can talk about later.
So one of the other programs that I know that started at least six years ago is your “Next Gen” program, which, rather than me butchering the definition of that—I’ll let you give us a background on that one.
Well, it became very obvious that there was a lot of attention for “partner track” people—supervisors and managers that had been identified as potential partners. There’s been a lot of time with consultants who had built really nice, multi year curriculums on helping these folks begin the journey to making the decision to be a partner, and the firm’s interest to put these people in there.
On the other hand, there really was not a whole lot for—we call them a “successful senior”—somebody who’s five years, head’s down, technical work—audit or tax—and now beginning to think, “Should I make the profession my career?” And that would benefit the firms, but it’s way too early to be thinking about partner-track kind of training.A lot of the benefits that we’re talking about with CPAmerica, the CPA Connect firms can get through that connection as a program. Click To Tweet
So we built this three day curriculum for “Next Gens” that allows them to not only come and hear great speakers talk about their personal plan, presentation skills, go through the numbers on, “what are these partners talking about when they say realization, and utilization and, and all that stuff,” but also to spend time with a hundred or a hundred twenty other people, just like them, and for the first time, reach outside the firm and start sharing and building relationships that might very well find themselves on the board of directors at CPAmerica someday as managing partners.
In that six years, is it something you can track—the people that have come up through that, that have made partner or leadership roles?
We do—I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I know multiple folks that have become partners and a couple that might very well be seen as a Leading Partner someday.
Yeah, I’ve seen that. The first year you were testing it out, I recall you were not going to have sponsors there, and I called up I said, “Hey, this would be a great group for me to be able to interact with because these up-and-coming leaders are going to be influencing the firms in the future.” So we attended that first one, and we may have missed a couple recently, but I looked at the schedule, and I think May in New Orleans is the next one. Does that sound accurate?
Yeah, we’re gonna do something in October—virtual. It won’t be as full fledged and what we’re thinking about is keeping it as a video attachment to the on-site meeting in May. So we’ll be back face to face in May, if all goes right.
That’s what I’m shooting for—I’m shooting for May being my next in person conference. We need to see if we can make that happen. I look forward to that. Any other programs that I didn’t discuss that you’d like to highlight?
I would tell you about a couple. When I first got here, within the year, our very largest firm, which was much bigger than any of the others, called me up and said, “We’re only giving, we’re not getting.” I completely understood. They left and went to a much larger association and network, which large firms tend to do.
All of a sudden it dawned on me, then I’m going to talk to the second firm—which is now the largest—and they leave and then the third one, and then the fourth one and before long, I’m talking to a firm of 50 people saying they’re only giving not getting—we’ve got to stop this!
So we started the Large Firm Group. It’s for the top-third firms, and they meet twice a year—once before the Annual Meeting, the Leading Partner retreat; and once in January. They share situations and issues that are common to large firms.
The other one was the new Leading Partner Group. I remember my predecessor Doug Thompson telling me, that is one of the most dangerous times for firms to leave an association —when the leading partner changes. I got a call one day very early about the same time, saying CPAmerica was his predecessor’s association, nothing against CPAmerica, but I’m gonna go find my own.
I thought about that and realized how often we change Leading Partners over the course of five or ten years, and so we’ve got to stop that. So we have a New Leading Partner Group that if you are named one year prior to taking over, you can be in the Large Firm or the New Leading Partner Group, but you can only stay there for three years.
At the end of three years, we literally play Pomp and Circumstance and graduate you out. Because you get to know each other so well, you find out that the Partner Group doesn’t treat you quite the way they used to treat you as the leading partner, and now you’ve got a group of anywhere from ten—to our biggest class has been twenty-two, twenty-three people—that are experiencing the same issues, the same problems. And we also bring in consultants and speakers that help them get through the learning of, “how is my job changed?” It’s been a great benefit, and we have not lost a large firm, nor have we lost a new Leading Partner firm since the beginning of those two programs. So a little self-serving on our part too.
But then success! And I think it’s a great program because like you said, the way you’re treated within the firm, you may not think it’s going to be changing, but it will be changed, because now you’re in this leadership role. I think having the peers that you can talk to about that, through that group, makes a lot of sense. So sounds very enjoyable.
One other thing real quick. We built on the new Leading Partner with the New Partner Group. What we found was you get all this partner track training like we talked about, and you’re named a partner, and they bless you and say, go forward and get a lot of business and do work. Well, the staff doesn’t treat you the same as a new partner, because you’re a partner. But the partner group still sees you as the manager sometimes, and you haven’t earned the right to get full recognition. So they had some of the same issues, and we found this New Partner Group, which is a three year limit, has really benefited new partners trying to get accepted as full-fledged partners.
Nice. That sounds like a great program as well.CPAmerica’s New Leading Partner Group is a great program because the way you’re treated within the firm will change because now you’re in this leadership role. Click To Tweet
Well, transitioning from programs, there’s another unique relationship you have with Crowe Global, which if I get my terminology right, is a network, correct?—
—compared to CPAmerica which would be an association. So how does this relationship work and what’s the benefits that you get from that?
Well, we started a relationship way back with Horwath International in the 90s, who became Crowe Horwath, who now is Crowe Global. Crowe Global is a network of over 120 firms worldwide, in just about every country, certainly every country you’d need to be at, probably close to 120 countries. In 2012, we expanded from a business relationship, to literally becoming a member of Crowe Global. So it’s very unusual that the association is a member of the network. We spent a little money with the lawyers to make sure that our members weren’t going to be sort of sucked into the network—which they aren’t.
The benefit is we wouldn’t last very long as a domestic-only association, because members need help with best referrals, often best clients, internationally. So they get the benefit of referring to a top 10 network that has the ability to inspect and keep their firms at a high level—associations cannot inspect their firms once they’re on board—and it’s worked out great. We’re good friends with Crowe LLP, who happens to be the largest member of Crowe Global.
Matter of fact, Crowe LLP lets us take advantage through membership of our firm with the National Tax Office and be supported by their National Tax Office as if they were a regional office of Crowe. It’s worked out very well, too.
So what’s that National Tax Office give you? Members of CPAmerica can now interact with the National Tax Office on special projects, on answering questions, all of the above?
Right. They can join—it’s a separate transaction directly between the CPAmerica member firm who chooses to do this, and Crowe National Tax Office—and they pay a fee—it’s really nominal—with a credit toward work done. Some of our firms have found that they can get bigger clients because they have access to expertise that they just don’t have, or if they run into a dilemma, they won’t lose a client because they can run it by Crowe. It’s helped them in times of need from repair regs, back to PPP, to all sorts of things that are a one-off kind of question. About a third of our firms use it.
All right. So I think that’s a good wrap on what CPAmerica is, what associations are, and the benefits of that.
Before we wrap up today, I’d like to talk about what you’ve been doing because communities are a big aspect of what this is—sharing and training. But now that we’re not able to get together in person, how has CPAmerica adapted to the COVID-19 situation in keeping members engaged and educated?
It’s been a real challenge, and repurposing. We put on about seventeen events a year. Four major events: Leading Partner, Tax, AMA and Next Gen. “Major,” in that it’s multiple days, and well over a hundred people at every event. That process is a multi-year process. We’re negotiating with hotels for 2022, we’re starting to build agendas for 2021, and we should have been implementing the agendas that we have, and registrations that were opened in the winter of last year.
Now, we’re repurposing all that to virtual. We’ve hired production companies for our large events because there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than someone just sitting in front of a Zoom camera and talking. We have our staff cutting agendas down, because nobody can sit in front of a camera, or iPad, or computer for eight hours a day. So we do really two CPE in the afternoon, 2:00 to 5:00, because we have members in Hawaii, and it’s not 2:00 there when we start on the East Coast, it’s 10 in the morning. So you have to consider that. But it’s working pretty well. We’ve done A & A, we’ve done two or three of our regional meetings and a couple of our special events, and Leading Partner will come up in September.
Yeah, I received an email on Leading Partner this morning. It looks very well organized and apparently I’m getting at least a small speaking opportunity, so I’m looking forward to that!
I look forward to it too.I can’t stress enough—joining an association is very important for firms, at any size, but there’s a certain size where it makes a lot of sense. Click To Tweet
I’ll miss the one we had last year in Hawaii, though! That was a that was a great organization.
We were going to be at the Greenbrier this year, which would be a lot of fun.
I was looking forward to that as well.
But we will be back in 2022 at the Greenbrier.
Really! Okay, that’s awesome. It really looked like a great place.
Park City won’t be too bad next year either.
You know, I enjoy Park City a lot. You can tell I’m missing travel, we’re talking about the places we want to go.
Alright, so I appreciate that information. Everything that you told us about associations in general is very important—it can help firms. I don’t know if you know my background, but I was in public accounting. We were on the CPA Connect side of the size of firms, but what we had done is put together and associate—I don’t know if you’d call them an association—a group of CPAs: local practitioners, small, probably anywhere from one to thirty people within the firm, to get together once a week for lunch, talk about anything—there was always a topic. It always came down to D clients and that seemed to come into every discussion, but it was a great group.
It was just nice to have that community and that the other people that you could bounce things off and so, at the time, if I would have known about CPA Connect, I think I would have looked highly at that.
That group—I still get emails from them. It’s been 14 years since I’ve been part of that; I still get emails from them, and just actually this morning, 15 minutes before we got on, I offered to do a CPE presentation for them. So I’m hoping that they’ll take me up on that.
But I could obviously see the benefits of that, and then as these firms grow and join CPAmerica, or other associations—the benefits. At the beginning, I would ask companies, “What’s the benefit that you get out of joining something like this?” and it always comes back to that same thing: the community, the education, the resources and then with you, the National Tax Office presence and the international side. I appreciate that information.
Now, before we completely wrap up. Anything else you’d like to close on the association, CPAmerica?
Well, I would just say we’re all looking forward to getting back to normal or whatever the new normal is going to be, because you’re absolutely right: This is (about) relationships. It’s great to provide expertise and training, but the real crux of this is being able to have a meal with somebody, or seeing somebody at a nice hotel and spend a few days, and following up on past conversations and meeting new people and building new relationships. You just can’t do that on Zoom. I’m really looking forward to, hopefully, next spring.
Yeah, I am as well. I was trading texts with Grace from CPAmerica last night, and we were both saying the same thing. “Man, I really miss seeing everybody in that community and getting together.” So we’re looking forward to at least a virtual drink at the Leading Partner retreat, but we shall see.
All right, so before we close then: I always like to ask a fun fact. One thing I know about you and I think you’ve given me some information to expand on that is: You’re a very avid golfer. From my understanding—a very good golfer as well. I haven’t seen it personally, someday maybe I’ll get that opportunity. But today I found out that you were a very competitive golfer and played in tournaments as well. Can you give us a little background on your golf history?
My golf history started when I was 12, I was a catcher in Pony League, and the biggest kid in the league came around and let go with his right hand and kept going with his left hand and the bat hit me square on the side of the head. After three days in the hospital with a concussion, my golf career began. I went to school in Jacksonville, Florida, played at JU, lettered there a couple years. And then I played in four USGA events, the mid-amateurs, a British amateur, six mid-am’s for the British mid-am, and a number of national events back in the old days. My body is starting to betray me a bit, so it’s mostly senior events now.
Wow! But you’re getting out enough these days, at least that’s one thing that we can do during the Covid era.
That has been a blessing. Yeah, I get out a fair amount, and it works out.
And now hearing that history, maybe I should not golf with you, because it would probably be too frustrating for you to see me on the course!
You know, it’s one of the best games because an A player can play with a C or D player, where you can’t do that in tennis, you can’t do that basketball, but you can do that in golf! So that’s one of the nicest things about that game is—again—it’s really great for community and relationship.
Well, you just said my sport: basketball. And man, with my knee replacement—I haven’t been able to do that anymore. But man I miss that.
Well, I understand. You know, we’ve talked about that. I do understand.
You do understand completely, and I appreciate it. In fact, one of the last conferences I saw you—and in fact it was the last conference—I ended up spending the night in the hospital, and you helped me with that information as well: I was having a little signal issue with my heart and you gave me some nice advice. Damn, we’re getting old!
Yeah, I know. Beats the alternative!
Exactly! All right. Well, before we completely wrap up, I’ve enjoyed this. I really was looking forward to talking to you, and I appreciate it. I assume other people might be interested in talking to you as well. Is there a way people can get ahold of you get more information on CPAmerica?
Great! I can’t stress enough—joining an association is very important for firms, really at any size, but there’s a certain size where it makes a lot of sense.
We really appreciate the information today, Alan. I really look forward to seeing you in person again. Hopefully that’ll be sometime soon or early next year. But stay safe, and if nothing else, I’ll see you at the Leading Partner virtual retreat.
We’ll see you there, Randy. Thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you for joining us today. Remember to subscribe and join us for our next episode where we’ll be going beyond compliance into forging new pathways of delivering value to clients, diversifying your revenue streams, and leading edge management techniques and styles.
About the Guest
Veteran sales and marketing executive Alan Deichler serves as president of CPAmerica International, a large association of CPA firms.
Prior to his being named CPAmerica president in 2009, Deichler was chief marketing officer at talent management software provider HRsmart in Richardson, Texas, where he headed worldwide sales and marketing efforts.
Deichler also served as president of Capital Formation Counselors Inc. in Tampa, Florida.
Currently, CPAmerica’s membership stands at 81 large independent firms, representing 1,500 partners in the in the U.S. with billings of $1.3 billion. Its subsidiary association, CPAConnect, has roughly 250 smaller independent firms.