Technological advances and the increase of government regulation has made a huge impact on accounting over the past five years, according to several Tulsa-based accounting firm principals.
At the same time, the resurgence of the oil and natural gas industry and the steady growth in manufacturing, construction and service sectors continues to fuel a thriving economy, they said.
Tulsa’s economic environment grows increasingly complex, said the managers of several of Tulsa’s top accounting firms — Tom P. Goekeler, Bob Vaught, Sharla Marder, Greg Entwistle and John Curzon. Changes occur at an ever-increasing rate, and the result is an evolving professional sector.
One of the largest Tulsa-based firms, Sartain Fischbein & Co., 3010 S. Harvard Ave., employs 29 CPAs and has grown nearly 13 percent over the past five years, according to Tom P. Goekeler, managing partner.
Trends that public accounting firms are seeing include the “paperless” offices and a shortage of professionals with 3- to 5-year’s of experience, Goekeler said.
Founded in 1951, SF & Co. is Tulsa’s largest local certified public accounting firm.
“The things we are doing differently mostly relate to technology — paperless (office) and electronic data transfer,” he said.
A significant change Tulsa accounting firms are seeing is mid-level companies looking to large local or regional CPA firms as an alternative to the large international firms, said Bob Vaught, managing partner of Tullius Taylor Sartain & Sartain.
“They want to engage a firm that is strong enough to meet their needs, but small enough to provide personal attention,” Vaught said.
New Rules Boost Growth
Tullius Taylor Sartain & Sartain has seen strong growth since 2001.
The firm’s Tulsa office has grown 42 percent since ’01. In the past year, TTS&S has expanded 21 percent.
TTS & S, which has a Fayetteville, Ark. office, has grown 77 percent companywide as the total number of employees has rocketed from 35 in 2001 to 62 today.
Increased government rules, created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, are keeping the accounting sector busy, said Greg Entwistle, managing partner of Stanfield & O’Dell.
“There has been a high demand for people since ‘02,” he said. In Tulsa, general commercial business has been growing.
“It seems that everything has come together at the right time,” Entwistle said. “We have more business than we can handle.”
That is true at Woodrum Kemendo Tate & Cuite, where growth in each of the past 5 years have averaged 10 percent, according to Sharla Marder, administrator.
“Our increase is due to the fact that we have obtained additional clients from other firms and that our clients are doing well in their businesses,” Marder said. “Our real estate clients are expanding. We are providing more assistance in the technology area to our clients.”
Woodrum Kemendo Tate & Cuite, founded in 1984, employs 10 CPAs at its downtown Tulsa office, 321 S Boston Ave.
“We are using more computer power, hardware and software to increase productivity,” Marder said. “Our employees are attending more training courses and increasing their education.”
Activity Helps Numbers Add Up
Entwistle echoes the opinion that expanding businesses across Tulsa generates more activity at the firm.
“We have been expanding the types of services we offer —personnel issues and incentives, managing compensation — but more than that, the growth in business has created a demand for operating (computer) systems.”
Stanfield & O’Dell, which was founded 54 years ago, offers core services like accounting, tax advice and audits, “but the most valuable services are advising medium- to large-family owned business in their areas of need, like mergers and acquisitions,” Entwistle said. “The goal has to be—help them be successful.”
A firm that has doubled in staff over the last five years is Curzon Cumbey & Kunkel, 5100 E Skelly Dr. Suite 1040. Founded in 1997, CCK has grown to 11 CPAs on the staff, said John E. Curzon, managing partner.
“In that same period, our focus has been on what our vision of CCK is — being committed to excellence in every aspect of our practice,” he said. “We have hired staff that are equally as passionate about our vision. Whether it is our client or our staff, we value the whole person. We demand accountability — do what you say, deliver what you promise.”
Available Staff Falls Short
A significant difference in the profession today is increased competition for high-quality people, said Bob Vaught of TTS & S.
“The Y2K phenomenon pulled a lot of prospective accounting majors into IT in the late 1990s. Then as most of the states went to the 150 credit hour requirement in order to qualify for the CPA exam, there was another drop in the number of accounting graduates,” he said. “There has recently been an increase in the number of people graduating with accounting degrees, but there is still a shortfall of the number needed to meet current demands.”
Sarbanes-Oxley increased government regulation, creating one of the biggest differences in the accounting profession today, Vaught said. Areas especially impacted are financial reporting and accountability required of public companies.
“Indirectly, SOX has had a significant trickle-down effect on virtually every area of accounting,” he said. “In the tax area, the reporting on ‘listed transactions’ has created a considerable increase in time and attention to a highly technical list of possible reportable tax positions that a company might be taking.”
Technology has “immensely” impacted the way firms conduct business and relate to clients, he said.
“Everything from paperless (or at least less paper files), electronic gathering of data and filing tax returns and access to information to help us and our clients manage our businesses better,” he said.
Another major emphasis is to continually improve the culture and expertise in order to help clients and employees achieve their goals, Vaught said.
“Creating value has always been an emphasis, but it is now the standard in which we must live. We must not only be technically competent and good business people, but we must also create valuable relationships with our clients and our people.” ?