Most successful entrepreneurs have not built their businesses completely on their own. Success is often made possible by the people we surround ourselves with, including our accountants and attorneys.
Some of these professionals truly go the extra mile with creative thinking, smart strategizing, and “elbow grease” to make and save a lot of money (and heartache) for their clients. Great advisors also help their communities by donating their time and expertise to worthy causes around the region.
For NY Report’s third annual Best Accountants and Attorneys for Privately Held Companies Awards, which was held in June, we received a record number of applications. These applications were reviewed by a panel of knowledgeable small business owners.
The most important factor our judges considered was how these advisors have helped their clients’ businesses grow. Other factors included achievements that set them apart from their peers, outreach to the community, level of expertise, and the ability to genuinely empathize with their clients. We congratulate all the 2012 award winners—and their clients, as well.
Attorney of the Year & Service Area Firm Award
P.H. Wilson Law & Consulting
“The question I would put to entrepreneurs is, do you feel that all business relationships always work out?” says Paul Wilson of P.H. Wilson Law & Consulting. “If you don’t, you need to be prepared with a contract governing how any business relationship should work and how the relationship should be unwound in the event it doesn’t.”
For entrepreneurs, an optimistic faith that partnerships will thrive without careful planning is a common mistake, says Wilson, who acts as outsourced general counsel for small to medium-sized businesses.
He cites the example of a client who started a company with a co-founder via a loose and unwritten understanding that they would each own 50 percent of the company. Five years later, the business had grown into a $45 million company, but the partners had become entangled in a bitter dispute over who owned what. After a month of negotiations that often consumed 16- to 20-hour workdays, Wilson was able to protect his client’s interest in the company—reaching an agreement hours before the finalization of new financing that was needed to keep the company afloat.
Wilson left mega-corporate deals behind when he left the Wall Street firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson to follow his passion for helping small businesses. Typically, his clients have between 1 and 100 employees. “I’ve always been a big fan of people who start a business and create their own paths as opposed to just taking a job,” he says. “When I started my practice, my goal was basically to help people who were taking an entrepreneurial journey, while taking an entrepreneurial journey myself.”
While he is a sole practitioner, Wilson chooses to handle corporate matters exclusively, while bringing in other attorneys with differing areas of niche specialty as needed, and quarterbacking the process. “The result is that small businesses, which can’t afford to work with large firms, are able to hire corporate counsel who has serviced some of America’s largest companies,” he says, “while accessing expertise with regard to all of their legal matters.”
Accountant of the Year
Norman H. Schulman, CPA
Schulman Wolfson & Abruzzo, LLP
Norman Schulman was serving as the CFO of an international wholesaler of food, health, and beauty products when he realized what his next goal would be.
In a meeting, the company’s outside accountants told him and his CEO how they would advise them on various areas of the business. But it quickly became clear that the accountants had no direct management experience in the company’s industry and type of business.
“I realized that I wanted to be on that side of the table, but actually have the knowledge these people were purporting to have,” Schulman says. “My passion has been to take more than 30 years of expertise and experience and put them in a format that helps the client.”
In 2001, Schulman Wolfson & Abruzzo (SWA), of which Schulman is managing partner, was launched. Its premise, Schulman says, was not to be just another compliance, auditing, and tax firm. “We wanted to bring a consulting service experience to individuals and small businesses that could not afford to work with the Big Four, and also wanted the hands-on approach that a smaller firm could provide,” Schulman says.
Schulman brings not only his seven years with the wholesaler, but four years as president of a multi-state advertising company and 11 years of private accounting experience.
In 2005, Schulman began work with a manufacturer that was faltering and experiencing financial losses. He developed a plan to consolidate their operations by putting management and sales under one roof; shut down their warehouse and outsource that function; and revise their software system for better coordination between sales and accounting. The company was able to cut costs considerably and increase revenues, which have grown from $1.5 million to $12 million.
Lee Lusardi Connor is a business writer and editor. She can be reached at LeeLusardi@gmail.com.