© Mark Greenberg Photography
Peter Gurian, CPA, considers it an advantage that he never worked at a CPA firm before he started his own practice. He’s never been tied to doing things “the way they’ve always been done.”
As a result, his company – Gurian CPA Firm in suburban Dallas – has consistently explored new territory and embraced innovative ways of doing business.
Gurian’s open-minded approach has been integral to the firm since he founded it in 2003. He started with no clients and no practical experience as a CPA. But he did have a vision.
“It seemed to me there was a hole in the CPA market,” he explains. “The firms out there were either geared toward mom-and-pop companies or much bigger companies, and they didn’t offer a whole lot of advice or services beyond tax returns.”
That vision became even clearer as Gurian found himself searching for someone to handle his firm’s payroll and someone else to do the bookkeeping. He was also frustrated by never knowing how much his own CPA would charge him every time he got a bill.
“That’s when I realized that maybe what I needed to do was go out to companies and offer them a full range of services for one set price,” he says.
Forging New Paths
Establishing Gurian CPA Firm as an all-inclusive accounting practice that serves clients for a single fee has paid off.
The firm, which has eight full-time employees and, at the moment, two part-time interns, brings in $750,000 in annual revenue, with 53 percent net profit. Gurian says he has little basis for comparison since he never worked at a CPA firm, but can’t deny that he’s happy with his profitability.
About 50 percent of the firm’s business is accounting and payroll services and the other half is tax services. Roughly 75 percent of the firm’s clients are businesses.
Although Gurian continues to operate the practice on a fixed-fee basis, he’s willing to bill clients however they prefer. He tailors every aspect of the firm’s services to the needs of each client.
“I’m more open to how the client wants to work instead of forcing my philosophy on them,” he says. “I offer them several different options for doing what they want to get done and find the best one to suit their needs. Of course I’ll give my advice, but in the end it’s their decision and I respect that.”
Gurian uses the same approach with his staff, which he relies on heavily. In fact, he says, he’s able to take plenty of time off because he places so much trust in his team.
“You have to have good people working for you,” he says. “I encourage the staff to come up with better ways of doing things. I have no issue with someone saying my idea stinks. The best idea is the best idea, no matter where it comes from.”
What’s more, Gurian makes the firm a pleasant place to work. He runs his firm like a business, not a service provider, keeping his staff working at about 80 percent capacity. Doing so is as good for employee satisfaction as it is for the firm’s bottom line.
“It’s like a factory,” he explains. “If you run it at 100 percent capacity you can’t take on a large order when it comes in, and it’s demoralizing to the staff to work them that hard all the time. This way, we have breathing room to innovate and take on interesting work when it comes in.”
Venturing into Innovation
Given his background in tax technology, it’s not surprising that Gurian is a big believer in technological solutions. The practice uses the entire CS Professional Suite except for Engagement CS, only because the firm doesn’t perform audits.
He admits the transition to Thomson Reuters software took some effort – the staff was at 100 percent capacity during the conversion, which coincided with tax season – but says it was absolutely worth it.
Before Accounting CS Payroll, for example, the firm would spend about 60 hours per year preparing and processing 941s. Now it takes just 20 minutes per year, saving the firm an entire workweek, and then some.
© Mark Greenberg Photography
Monthly compilations are another example. Because Accounting CS and UltraTax CS are directly integrated, it saves the firm hours of data entry. In fact, there’s no data to enter at all. Plus, the firm can easily create customized financial statements to address industry-specific requirements.
“We work with a lot of restaurants, for example, and before we weren’t always able to create the reports they needed,” Gurian says. “Now, once we’ve created custom reports in the system, we literally just have to push a button or two and it creates the financial statements in one fell swoop – and puts them up on their secure online portal.”
Having been paperless for years, the firm is very comfortable with its workflow. Every incoming document goes into FileCabinet CS and flows seamlessly through the integrated system. Gurian says this has saved the firm hours of duplicated effort and eliminated countless errors.
“For instance, if a client says, ‘I want my direct deposit to go into this account instead of that one,’ we just enter it into the notes,” Gurian says. “When I open UltraTax CS I have it set for the notes to pop up so what I need to do is right in front of me.”
With both technology and workflow processes, the practice is constantly seeking ways to be even more efficient and provide superior service to clients. In fact, although the firm’s workflow runs smoothly, Gurian recently went through all the firm’s processes to fine-tune them.
“Because I come from a heavy software background instead of a CPA background, I just think it makes sense to work with what the software can do, which includes making sure you’re maximizing efficiency,” he says. “I consider us to be pretty progressive as a firm and I like to think we’re constantly evolving to improve our business and the service we provide our clients.”