Marketing and Engagement with Mark Koziel
On Episode 33, Randy talks with Mark Koziel, CEO of accounting firm association Allinial Global. Mark discusses the unique challenges (and advantages) of taking over such a demanding position in the midst of the pandemic, the role accounting firms still play as “the ultimate trusted advisor” to the companies they serve, how best to handle the second round of PPP, the importance of cooperation among accounting firms as technology and automation continue to transform the profession, flat fee pricing and the vital need to price your services correctly, and much, much more.
Today, our guest is Mark Koziel. Mark became president and CEO of Allinial Global, an association of accounting and consulting firms, in August of 2020, which in itself is a unique experience I’m sure. He did this after 14 years with the AICPA. Mark has often been named as one of the most influential people in accounting by Accounting Today, and one of CPA Practice Advisors’ 25 Thought Leaders among numerous other recognitions that I’m not gonna list now, but Mark, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Randy. Great to be here.
Yeah, no it’s awesome to have you. I had, even before you had taken over this position at Allinial, you were on my radar as a guest for the podcast. So I appreciate you agreeing to do this. And I mentioned in the intro there, the uniqueness of taking over as the leader of Allinial during the the current unique situation we’re in during the pandemic—I’m assuming that probably brought more challenges than you expected?
It did, and interestingly, you know, transitioning from AICPA to Allinial Global—and it was actually, I first spoke to Barry Melancon, the CEO of AICPA, the time I was leaving back in April. So we were right in the middle of the pandemic, and PPP, and what the government was going to do, and our team at AICPA were just going crazy with trying to help our member firms. And it was literally, you know, hunkered down, everybody would work in 12, 15 hour days, just trying to sift through all the stuff that was out there, and keep our members up to date.
We started on a weekly town hall series our accounts people and I were hosting, so right in the middle of that I am interviewing with Allinial—Allinial was on my radar, as one of—if I were not with AICPA—would be one of the associations that I would have chosen. And so when I talked to Barry about in April, I said, “Look, we have a long runway here. I’m going to start there August 1; I’ll leave July 31. By then the pandemic will be over, PPP will be over, and everyone can move on with their lives.” Well, good thing I’m not a futurist.
Yeah. It was good wishing, I think we all were hoping that was the case—it wasn’t. But you mentioned something there that, you know, PPP would be over. I suppose, at least, we got through a portion of it, but PPP has been never-ending, and continuing now at this point.
But before we get into potentially something like that, I want to talk about Allinial, because you know, I’ve known Allinial for a while, I’ve looked at, you know, some things on your blogs and plans you have, and I know your strategic plan is in place with I think I heard you mentioned, five key aspects to that. Actually, before I move on, do you want to highlight that at all? Or is that something you’d like to talk about?
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I’ve worked a lot around strategic planning with AICPA, with different committees and things, and so the importance for me was to get a cohesive plan for the entire organization. To do that, we started with the Global Executive Board. We looked at where we’ve been, as an organization, where we’re going—we looked at where the profession, where the profession was going, I think, more importantly. And then how we need to help our member firms with that, to make sure that our firms are ready.
So we talked a lot about commerce, connectivity, global brand, being member-focused to advance the member firm forward, and then also being client focused. Those are the five pillars that we created out of this. And we did not do that in a vacuum. Global Executive Board—we went to each regional committee, each regional board that we had, and each regional task force and our smaller regions, and we did a strategy cafe. We did that so that we could get their understanding and to see if anything needed to be changed, what they liked about that plan, and it really brought cohesion around us globally, and to see that we did have a lot of commonality.
And so now we’re implementing that plan. Yes, technology is around a lot of that, but at the end of the day, that client relationship still is the one thing that is never changing as a profession. The client relationship was important in the Ebenezer Scrooge days of what client accounting was, to today, with technology doing a lot of that and us doing more of the advisory. But understanding that client relationship, getting things done for the client absolutely is necessary—we put that at the forefront of what we do.
Yeah. Well, that’s, I think, a good segue into where we can go next. Because I know part of it is just talking about the business model within the firms and, in client accounting and being a key aspect that I know you have a passion about.
What do you—are you advising clients? What are you looking to do? How are we looking to help our firms help our clients through these accounting services?
And it definitely goes back to my days at AICPA, and bringing that knowledge into Allinial where, you know, I talk a lot about—when I talk about the future of the profession—I take our three kinds of traditional lines of services, and I break them down. The historic audit versus the transformational audit of the future. We are very involved in that at Allinial. We have a number of our firms that are on the Dynamic Audit Solution Team in the US. We’re also talking about a global rollout of what that would look like for our member firms, and working with caseware and the technologies around that.
Tax, and moving from the tax compliance to the tax advisory, and indirect tax. So indirect tax globally—that tax, as an example, are big items for our member firms. And there are technology solutions that are going to help with that. But we can continue to do the compliance. We will automate that. But that allows us then to have deeper conversations with the client, and the same with client accounting. The more we can automate the routine, the mundane, the more we can move up scale into the advisory work. And we’re seeing that a lot with firms.
Now this pandemic has proven the fact that we are the ultimate trusted advisor. No matter what country I was talking to, when government programming hit, small businesses, medium businesses, they called their accounting firm first to say, “What do I do?” And in client accounting, interestingly enough for a lot of small businesses, medium sized businesses, those firms that 10 years ago, when digital CPA started, through CPA.com, there were firms that have already transformed their client accounting from traditional bookkeeping write-up to truly being an automation of the transactional, and offering advisory work on top of that—full blown CFO services. And then the clients are anywhere between that.
And because of that, when the pandemic hit, those firms that have already made that switch, are now much farther ahead than the firms that haven’t. The haves and the have nots, right now. Because they had clients they tried to move to that platform who said no. And then the pandemic hit, and the clients were then calling them saying, “Please sign me up.” And they couldn’t actually even keep up with the work that was there.
So the good news is, coming out of this pandemic, there are more companies than ever looking at that. That is absolutely brand new business for the profession. That is going to add to the profession—what we do. And so I do see that. It’s a huge opportunity at Allinial. We have a client accounting community, we are talking about that transformation. I just got off the phone with another group where we’re actually offering a bunch of different workshops and consultancy type of opportunities for the firms to transform their business.
I’m old school. I mean, I left, technically, public accounting in ’06, stayed in public accounting for the most part—just not the same tax season I used to have now with specialty work—but when I was getting out then, you know, accounting services were drying up. Everybody was starting to use QuickBooks and everything else, and it was like, again I’m old school, these things have passed me by.
[bctt tweet=”This pandemic has proven that we are the ultimate trusted advisor. No matter what country I was talking to, when government programming hit, small businesses, medium businesses called their accounting firm first to say, “What do I do?”” username=”TriMerit”]
But I can see completely how this makes sense now, with the whole automation and being able to go through this, but not only just the ease of doing it—that just the data you have now from a standpoint of, “Alright I’m doing the tax return too. I’m seeing this monthly. I know I’m gonna have this timely. I know I’m going to get this done.” And then just being able to, with advisory services, see these financial statements on a more regular basis the what we can do. I’m assuming that’s a huge part of being able to continue with servicing our clients but also grow our firms.
Yeah, so the start of the conversation is, it hasn’t changed. So from your days, my days—I go back to you know, the mid 90s, early 2000s, practicing—and so you go out to a client, you say, “Client, look, your bookkeepers a yo yo. And I understand it’s your brother-in-law’s nephew on the other side, but he’s still a yo yo, and you need to get rid of him. Put him out in the warehouse somewhere, I don’t care. Let us take over the the accounting.”
Now what’s changed in the conversation is then, we used to do that, we’d go into the client monthly, and we’d do all the journal entries because they were messy to begin with, and then us just doing that. Now what we’re talking about is, we will take over your entire accounting department, we will put you up on our platform, we will decide what is the right platform for your business, whether it’s QBO, Xero, Sage Intact, Sage Accounting—whatever the products are is irrelevant. You are hiring us to do it, we know what’s best, we will build the tech stack, we have that, bill.com Expensify, we have some type of a financial statement reporting package, all of that—the client doesn’t care. The client never asks you what tax platform you use to do their tax return. They don’t care.
And we should be making that decision, not you know, to the comfort of the administrative assistant in the client. And so that’s really the transformation. And then we’re gonna data ingest, we’re going to automate the heck out of that, and then we’re going to ask the client, “What else? What are your other wants that you’re not getting? You can’t, you can’t afford a controller, you can’t afford a CFO, but you could pay us on a part-time basis to do that. We will roll that all in. We’re gonna do the transactional at 3000 a month, step up to five for the middle tier step up to eight for the top tier”—however you do that, then we’re automatically adding advisory into how we’re pricing this out.
But we should never, in my estimation, offer less than what the going rate for a bookkeeper would be.
So I talked to firms. And I’m like, “You know, this is an absolute must, and as we do that, I might as well talk about the pricing of it.” Because when I say about three tier pricing, it is a monthly recurring fee, that’s it, we’re going to put it on a credit card, whatever, and then let them just forget about it. And when I talked to firms about that hours rate—who cares? At this point, we could be more profitable inside of that type of environment.
And I was talking to a member firm about this back months ago, and they said, “Oh, we already did that. In fact, we are so good at it, that all of our clients chose our top tier.” And I looked at them, and I said, ”Then your prices are too low.”
Yeah, I can see that.
Because everybody picked it.
I said, “It should only be about 15%, at best, that are going to pick that top tier, because it’s going to be the cream of the crop that are doing that. But about 70% should be in that middle tier.” And so getting that right becomes important, too. And we’re working with our firms on that right now.
Yeah, so you segued exactly where I wanted to go with the pricing models, because I know that’s a passion of yours as well. I have a question on that: Because when you’re doing those pricing models, it is not timesheet based, I’m assuming, and do you get pushback from people that have traditionally been so tied to those timesheets, and “What are we going to do without the timesheets in this area?” Or how’s that work?
Totally. I grew up trying to understand this, right, and, and the logic behind it. Because we keep telling our people they need to be more efficient, yet, we put all of their goals and aspirations based on the number of hours that they can produce for a particular client. “Do it faster, but bill more hours.” Those are in complete conflict with each other. And then none of that is even relevant to the client. Again, I go back to that client relationship ultimately, right?
And when you look at where the where pricing is headed as a society, now this subscription pricing becomes even more and more. Think about the fact that you could get concierge medicine on a subscription basis where a client—you know, we keep thinking in our profession, that we need more clients, we need more clients, we need to grow, we need to do all these things. Yet in medicine, because they’re just so tired of getting beat up on the pricing all the time, that there are doctors who are saying, “You know what, I’m no longer going to accept insurance. This is how much I want to make. I am going to choose the number of clients that I want to do that. I’m going to do it on a concierge basis. They’re going to pay me to keep them well—not to service them when they’re sick, but to keep them well throughout the year—and I could do that better under a concierge environment, rather than people just coming in when they have a cough.”
And I think the profession needs to think about it in the same way. Begin with the end in mind: How much is it that we want to make? How much do we want to pay our people? How many do we want to have? And then we could backfill into that based on how we price our clients and what services we incorporate into that. Client accounting is super easy to do that. It’s a great way to do it. There are other people who say, “Well, I can’t do that in tax or audit.” The what if, what if, what if.
[bctt tweet=”I think we need as a profession, more so, to be proud of who we are, and price for it accordingly.” username=”TriMerit”]
Well, you know what we generally know. In fact, we start to have the long conversation with clients, and we give discounts to 80% of our customers—80% of our clients who never asked for it, to be honest. I had a situation when I was in my firm—I had a opportunity for one of our audit group. I was in a different group, one of my employees had this opportunity to go out to the client, and the client says, “You know, the firm they’re with, the firm’s outgrown, the firm got too big, their calls aren’t getting returned as frequently as before, they’re not as well connected.”
And so when they come back, I’m talking to the audit partner. I said, “How did it go? What do you think?” He says, “Well, you know, these are all the things he talked about, they’re not getting serviced, they’re getting their stuff late, all these things.” And he said, “Well, they’re currently paying, let’s call it $20,000 a year now. With audit efficiency, I think we could do it for 17.5.” And I said, “Whoa, wait a minute. So they are paying $20,000 a year now for bad service. Did you ask them what they’re willing to pay for better service? The market rate for getting lousy stuff is $20,000, right?”
So why not have that conversation? That conversation makes sense. Those are the power tools. Randy, I think we need as a profession, more so, to be proud of who we are, and price for it accordingly.
Yeah, you know, that’s historically been that way, the same way I felt when I was in practice that, you know, the biggest conversation that I’d have when I got together with my local firms, and we’d meet once a month, was just that whole pricing and giving too much discount and D clients and how to get rid of them. And it seems like things have stayed the same, and hopefully that’s what you’re looking to change as the new leadership of Allinial Global.
Well, so part of that too, Randy, is we have these conversations, right? So—not-for-profits. You know, I did a lot of not-for profit-audits, I’ve talked a lot of firms who have and they complain about the fact that they can’t make money at the not-for-profit client. Now imagine if we took over the client accounting for that not-for-profit, because they can’t. And I had a firm that did this. They they went to their client and they said, “Look, you keep trying to hire a CFO on a comptroller’s budget, and it’s not working. Let us take over the client accounting, and we’ll do that, and they go out and find another audit firm.”
And so when when we talked about it, and they said, “You know what, now we’re making four times the fee we were making; they’re a much better client for us today.” I said, “Yeah, somebody else got a better audit, actually.” So now you can actually make money at that audit, because everything is done the way that it makes it the ideal audit client. And I looked at the managing partner, I said, “But who got the audit?” And they said, “Oh, well, you know, they just went out to bid locally.” I said, “But wait a minute, it wasn’t in our association.” This is when I was at AICPA. I said, “Well, you’re in so-and-so Association, why wouldn’t you give it to one of those firms?”
So that’s the conversation we’re having here at Allinial. We are an association of independent accounting firms. There’s no reason why we can’t have a firm doing the client accounting and another firm doing the audit, and a client relationship. The core of what we do, managing the client relationship from both ends.
And that makes sense that you’ve got that that friendly relationship between firms working together and helping overall with that client relationship. So that makes a lot of sense to me. I think that’s great information there.
So now one thing I want to talk about, just because we mentioned it at the beginning, this whole pandemic that we’re in and and how that has affected your leadership and things you’ve had to deal with: Obviously, one of the biggest things we’ve had to deal with as a profession, that no one would have thought about a year ago, is the PPP loans. And not only PPP Loan One, which we are still living nine months, ten months after it came out, but now we got PPP Loan Two.
So I guess the question is, how have you worked with clients with that? But can we actually tie any pricing models that you discussed into the PPP advisory services as well?
You know, when we think about PPP, I talked about “trusted advisor” before and how we were proven to be the ultimate trusted advisor. As I was with AICPA and now talking to member firms here at Allinial, one of the things that we found very quickly is because of our pricing model of hours times rate, or trying to price off of each one of these individual services, we had to then kind of do that with PPP, which made it kind of uncomfortable for some.
You know, there was this whole idea of collecting an agent fee from the bank. We said very early on, it’s highly unlikely, unless you have an engagement letter from the bank, that It’s not gonna work. Firms are like, “No, you need to go fight this,” and I’m like, “Look, you know, we’re on the phone with Treasury, just about every other week, and we knew for a while they were building the plane in the air, but as we were having these conversations we could get a sense of, you know, where it was that they were going,” and we kept talking about assuming positive intent.
Now there are a lot of firms, a lot of small firms, and again, I mentioned this client accounting space, this community that’s out there, the Digital CPA that was created 10 years ago by CPA.com—there are a number of firms that we were talking that said, “Look, I am their outsourced CFO, so this became just part of the the project, right?” So for those who are doing it for client accounting, it became very easy and seamless.
But then they also incorporated a special service line that they were able to offer to clients that they didn’t have, necessarily, and then they created it, they boxed it, they priced it separately. And then those became new, potential engagements for them in client accounting space. So they actually, again, started to even increase their business off of PPP—charging for it upfront, but creating an actual service line around it, and making it an almost like an insurance product that you can say, okay, 24/7, you have access to us, we’ll answer your questions, but we’re gonna walk you through this process, we’ll get you applied for upfront, we will determine first and foremost, whether or not PPP is even right for you
And round two is going to look even more so like that. “Do you even qualify, based on the additional qualifiers they put in?” But we need to have those conversations with our clients. And so yes, I mean, it made us as a profession busier than ever. Delayed tax season, and then on top of that, add PPP, and our member firms just was—2020 was an incredibly busy year. But here we are ’21, looking at the same darn thing. PPP Two right on top of tax season, which probably won’t get delayed this year, right? So at least as they passed PPP too, they also included deductibility. We had a strong sense, when I was AICPA, we kept saying that: “Not passed yet, but it’s in there, we’re expecting it, we’re expecting it.”
You know, for a lot of CPAs, they’ve got to see the black and white of it, and they want to see when it’s in writing and passed, but we are saying, “Look, give your clients a sense that it probably will be passed—you can go on that assumption. By the way, don’t file for forgiveness just yet, wait until all that gets sorted out.” Now CPA.com has a great tool that they’ve done with the tech space to manage your clients and just different ways to handle the PPP loan application, the forgiveness, the PPP One, and also applying for PPP Two. So we’ve encouraged all of our firms here at Allinial to get involved in that, and I’m hopeful that they are. It’s just a great way to offer additional services on top of it. Only CPAs can get in at this point, I think. A great way to manage your clients and and automate that space.
Yep, that’s nice. So I’m guessing that we’re much—well, more well prepared for this round. How about pricing models? Have those tweaked? Has that been able to be adjusted? Are we pretty much, know where we are and set in stone at this point?
[bctt tweet=”That’s just another area where I see firms having opportunities to go out and generate additional revenue with new service offerings: One retroactively for 2020 and Two, proactively for 2021.” username=”TriMerit”]
For the firms on pricing PPP Two, probably. I think they’re over the fact that they didn’t get in, in round one. Many of them because they are better prepared, can at least put some type of an engagement, hopefully having that conversation with the client. But because we’ve already been through it once, I’m hopeful that it’s not as big of an issue to get paid, and paid accordingly on round two.
Yeah. And so the the other thing that this is taught us to just this whole last year of new tax legislation and everything is that we have to be flexible with how we’re looking at things, and a good point to that is pretty much everybody in the profession—I’m generalizing here—was not paying a whole lot of attention to employee retention credits. Because if you took a PPP loan, you weren’t eligible for employee retention credits. And now when the CAA came out at the end of December, all of a sudden that came back into play for 2020 and strengthened in 2021.
So that’s just another area where I see firms having opportunities to go out and generate additional revenue with new service offerings: One retroactively for 2020 and Two, proactively for 2021, because there’s some issues that they need to be aware of with that too. And just the whole interplay between—even though you can do it with the PPP, there is an interplay between the PPP and the employee retention credit. And then there’s actually interplay between the employee retention credit and potentially other credit.
So there’s just a lot of advice that clients have to do out there, but it’s just—I don’t miss being directly in public accounting right now. It’s definitely an interesting time. I like being able to educate myself on this stuff without having to do that day-to-day, because it’s a not an envious position that firms are in right now.
Right. Like just I think, I think the nuances around ERC versus the PPP—you know, I believe you can’t take them out in the same period. So that was the big thing.
Same dollars, you can’t do. Yeah, exactly.
But there is some math to that, there’s advisory. I mean, this is all advisory.
In round one, I will tell you, there were so many firms—we’d sit there on the town halls, and before we could even get started. Now, the town halls started I think sometime in April, weekly. I think they’re about a once a month, but they accelerated as PPP got passed. Right out of the gate, we had probably a couple thousand attendees at our first one.
As I left, I think we were averaging about five thousand attendees in summer. They’re up to about eight, ten thousand attendees right now. But before you can even get started, the minute they open the floodgates for questions to be asked—before we can even start—people are like, “Can cell phones be included in utilities? Can garbage fees be included in you know, your sewer payment?”
The whole thing is, you know, this isn’t like a gotcha on a tax policy change. The ultimate intent was to forgive these loans. The banks don’t want to hold the loan, the government doesn’t want the banks holding the loan—they want this stuff flushed through. So as long as you’re working within the letter of the law, generally, I think positions can be taken on things. But assume positive intent.
And there were just so many people wanted all of these massive answers. We’re in such a society here in the US, we’re so rules-based in how we do things, that everybody wanted the extensive rule, and you just weren’t going to get it. And at some point, you had to make some opinions with the client to make it work. And so here we are now, but we were careful on some things to say, you know, “If your client is in the small town, owns the mansion on the hill overlooking that small town, and they own the small business in town—you know, this stuff is FOIA qualified. This information is getting out there.” We said that early on. Same with any of the firms who were taking the money. And it turns out that there were a lot of companies that actually got a little skittish about that. That comes into, you know, risk management, when we’re talking about doing things like this, and what it means.
Yep. It’s an interesting time for sure in the profession, and I think it’s an interesting time to be taking over an association. And I really look forward to seeing where you go. Allinial has always been a great Association, in my mind, and I think with your strategic plan in place here, and and how you’re looking at the business model with everybody, I look forward to seeing what we have in the future for that.
And Randy, to that point, I mean, you asked me about, you know, starting in the CEO role during the pandemic. That actually helped me because I could not get on planes. I invited every single firm—over 230 firms—and Allinial Global, globally, we did this, on a one-on-one, whether they wanted just the CEO of the firm, all their partners, their entire staff, whatever it was. I wanted to learn more about their firm, and I wanted to know what we should be doing better and focus on that and help them. I never could have done that, if people were expecting me to get on planes to do that, so that gave me a huge advantage coming in. I learned so much in such a short period of time.
Yeah, I can see that for sure, although Look at all those miles that you lost on your airline status.
I’ll make them up. I will make them up.
Yeah, I guess just to that point, and then I think we should probably wrap up: There has been some benefit—not that you can say the pandemic’s a benefit—but some ancillary things that have come out, that have been good from the standpoint of those. Being able to be more interactive with more people more often, just from a conference standpoint. You know, we all like to be in person, but every conference that I’ve been part of virtually, there’s been a much higher attendance than the in-person ones. So at least, reaching more people.
So I assume, well, as long as we’re going to go over time here, I’ll ask you, I assume, obviously, everything’s going to be going back to in person. But are you going to do a hybrid model where you will do an in-person and a virtual together?
Yeah we’re looking at that right now. Our first conference will be in May, it’s in Charleston, for the executive team of our US, or America’s firms. But we’re gonna have some firms that can’t make it as well. They’ve already set their policy in their firm, that they’re not traveling till past a certain date, or their state will prevent them from traveling.
But then there’s still some who want to do it. Our hotel in Charleston, they’ve been having meetings all throughout 2020. They’re prepared for it, so we want to try and provide that benefit where we can and then still provide a virtual option to that. I think hybrid is going to be the option going forward period, whether it’s inside your own organization, and how you do things. For firms, it’s an opportunity to recruit outside of your local marketplace, without a doubt. But you’ve got to get the right policies in place.
I said this in a recent blog that comes out this week—that this is not a work from home only, or a working office only. There is no set policy. It’s work from anywhere at your choosing, as long as you use professional judgment to get to that point. So it’s about choice more so than rules around where and when the work is going to get done, and if we incorporate the right oversight and the right policies around that, then we can expand our recruiting. We can even expand our clients. Small firms have relied on that for years in client accounting. They pick their particular niche, and then grow their practice, because it doesn’t matter anymore. Cloud has allowed that to happen.
Yeah, there’s been a lot of things we’ve been able to learn, I think, from just being forced to through this and, and that niche and getting clients anywhere, I think is huge.
Man, we could go about another hour on a bunch of different topics, but I think we’re gonna need to wrap up. Before we do, I’m going to ask one last question—but before I do that, anything you want to wrap up on, what’s going on within the association or any highlights? And I think we touched on a lot, but I’ll give you one last chance here.
We’re growing. We’ve added some sizable firms in the last 60 days. We have a number on the hopper right now that I can’t talk about, but I’m excited. People see the vision, they see the fact that we are going to be a technology organization. We are helping our firms with technology, implementation technology, adoption and access to technology, and bringing our firms together, so that we are really sharing in commerce globally. It’s been an exciting time in a short period of time for me and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
Yeah, I think we’re gonna have to do another one of these, because we can go on that whole change. Work from home, work remote, we can go on the whole technology, and how everybody was, you know, if they weren’t prepared, they are now or at least they’re a bit they’re a lot further along than they used to be. We will leave that till next time.
Before we do a final wrap-up, I always ask a fun fact about the guest on the show, and we can go anywhere we want with this. But I have one thing I specifically want to ask you, because you and I have talked before and I know that you and your wife own a store—I think your wife runs that. I think it’s called Crafted. It’s a wine, craft beer and crafts in general. I mean, all-in-one location. That’s an interesting store there, and why that’s interesting to me, as you and I’ve talked about, I’m actually a partner in a craft beer brewer as well. So tell me how this came about, and how that’s going these days.
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. We talked about small business. And we moved out to the mountains in North Carolina and all at the same time, within two weeks of moving out there, we bought an existing business that was out there. My wife owns it. She’s the one running it. She has her aunt working with her in the business. I show up occasionally to do some wine tastings and you know, have fun with it, but it really was a concept—the wine and beer.
A friend of ours in Wake Forest has a similar type of shop for that, but my wife has always been a crafter. She’s had her handmade crafts that she makes for sale in other types of businesses, whether antique shops or small craft shops. So we decided to incorporate the two, so we say “sip, shop, socialize.” It’s a great place for people to hang out. They can shop while they’re there. They get to hang out with each other. A lot of people bring in food from a lot of the other local restaurants, and they hang out with each other.
We’ve created friendships with various people inside of it, so it has been a lot of fun. You know, I was there on Saturday with my wife just kind of hanging out. And you know, so just talking to different people about what their likes and things are. I learn more about wine. Based on whenever she has wine tastings and bringing the experts in, it helps to expand my knowledge as well. I love wine. And we did incorporate cigars last year, so there is cigar night with Mark on the back porch when weather allows, every couple of weeks or so. So it’s incorporated all of my vices together.
Nice. Well, I was on a virtual wine tasting with you a month or two ago, and that was a lot of fun. So I appreciate that.
Before we do the final, final, final wrap up—so they always want me to try to keep these to 20, 25 minutes. I just can’t do it. I have too much fun. And we’ve got so many topics to talk about. But before we do that, before we close the show, if anybody wants to get ahold of you, I’m assuming website, LinkedIn—give out some places they can get ahold of Mark.
Yeah, Twitter is @MarkKoziel. Email is
Allinialglobal.com is our website, if they want to check out all the things. So I appreciate that, and Randy, I appreciate what you’ve done for the profession. So keep up the great work.
Well, I appreciate that as well. And I have fun with this. I hope other people do too.
If you do enjoy the show, I would really appreciate if you give it a review or five stars or whatever, wherever you’re listening. And I haven’t asked that before—I feel we’re getting to a point where I’m going to ask that. So I would appreciate that people do that.
Thank you for joining us today. And you could find all the links and show notes for today’s episode as well as more about Tri-Merit at TheUniqueCPA.com. 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
Mark Koziel, CPA, became the President and CEO of Allinial Global in August, 2020 after 14 years with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Leading a team of twenty-nine staff members, he is responsible for strategic planning, financial performance, and the association’s overall growth and success.
A leader and consistent advocate for CPA firms, Mark is well known and highly regarded within the profession. He has appeared among the top 10 of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting and been named to the International Accounting Bulletin’s Global Accounting Power 50 List.
Mark earned his Bachelor’s in Accounting from Canisius College in 1991. He is registered as a Chartered Global Management Accountant with AICPA, and was first licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in 1993.
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.