Technology Champion / Oct. 2018
This month, Nick Lanese of Lanese & Associates discusses how their firm has utilized technology to run circles around their competitors while still remaining hungry for more.
Lanese & Associates, Inc.
Lanese & Associates, Inc. (L&A) started as a dream of mine, Nicholas Lanese, CPA (Nick) after moving from Ohio to the Tampa Bay area in the 1987. Initially, the firm operated out of South Tampa then moved to a small home office in south Hillsborough County. From that small SOHO office, we added staff and evolved to the current operation that now operates offices in Sun City Center and Sarasota FL. Over that period, the firm grew from 2 to currently 16 employees (7 CPAs).
The driving force behind starting the business was a better client experience and a more comprehensive relationship with clients, really understanding their businesses (or personal tax situations) and helping them succeed.
That “mission” is still the primary objective that guides every move we make.
The Evolving Role of Technology
In 1987, when L&A started, technology was just becoming a serious issue in the accounting profession but many functions were still done manually and inefficiently by today’s standards. In fact, in 1987 when we started I did not even own a computer; can you imagine!
As L&A progressed in the 1990s it was clear that the IT department was going to be a key player in my company. One problem: I did not have an IT department (nor the money to get one) and that expertise was outside our “mission” of better client service. In the early 1990s we survived this issue by band-aiding it with internal people (Nick’s wife at first, because she knew DOS) and then a small IT practitioner who helped us function. In the late 1990s we met Scott Beene of Diversicom. Scott’s first job for us was to get us organized to move forward, no one had ever brought up planning in this area to me before. I remember him overhauling the 2,000 wires under my desk into a beautiful labeled panel. It looked so organized! I knew I found someone who cared and had the expertise to help us move into the future with this IT issue.
All Great Plans do NOT go as Planned
Diversicom successfully managed our IT from 1998 to 2007. Our firm grew considerably during that time and we routinely discussed our needs with their team and they would respond with solutions and ideas. Actually at times they were already ahead of me to make our IT run smoother and support our “mission” more efficiently (after all do you ever have enough speed!) I had a partner in this area of our business.
In 2007, L&A merged with a large national firm and guess what, they had their own IT department. So now we had an internal department handling our needs and did not need Diversicom’s services any more. At first I thought, fine, they will just pick up where Scott and his team left off. I was wrong. I usually felt dictated to by IT. Ineffective software, slow systems and no regard (from internal IT) of the challenges that it created for us fulfill our mission with clients. This certainly was one contributing factor to why we de-merged in 2012.
We need HELP!
So in 2012, we had to figure out how to recreate all the systems that were provided for us by the national firm. The IT component was by far the most daunting for us. The team of 12 people that came (mostly stayed from before 2007) with us knew client service extremely well but knew almost nothing about the inner workings of our IT. So who did we call?? Diversicom, of course, our old friends!! Fortunately, they already knew us and how we did business. It was a nice start BUT there was MUCH work to do. They worked tirelessly for us and made it affordable for us at a time when we needed them most. They bet on our success and got us back up and running. In fact, the tools in the post 2012 world are far superior to the tools in our pre 2012 even though we had the resources of a national firm behind us.
How about now?
Lanese & Associates, Inc. has an IT department (Diversicom). They are better than having an internal employee, from my experience. We routinely discuss and address issues that arise. We have employees that work remotely effectively and rarely come to the offices. Our “everyday” staff routinely work from home very effectively and that gives us great options to increase the quality of life for our employees. Our staff works at all hours. They keep our very sensitive data safe. We could NOT do this without Diversicom.
They care as much about their clients as we do for ours!! They back it up with talent and work ethic. They also understand their role, that is support us and help us be effective and profitable. That means they need to understand our business and they do!
I feel prepared to face the future while our team remains laser focused on our only objective; to provide EXTRAORDINARY service to our clients and helping them succeed. I always felt (and still do) that a good CPA can go well beyond just helping you get your taxes filed or assisting with your financial statements. I am proud to say that many of the clients we have helped over the last 32 years would agree. Excitingly, the future looks to hold an even greater need for this partnership and advice. ONWARD!