Goliath's challengers Featured

9:37am EDT July 22, 2002

Mark Goldfarb and Gary Shamis aren't just small-town gladiators making a stand against greedy Goliath competitors.

They are the managing partners of SS&G Financial Services Co. -- a regional, full-service accounting firm with offices in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati -- who are making their mark, making a point and making it easier for independent firms to compete in the financial services arena.

"There are top quality firms like ours around the country that are very successful, have deep client relationships and strong community ties, and don't want to sell out to large corporations," says Goldfarb, explaining that SS&G is often approached by big-boy firms hungry to buy local practices to create financial services conglomerates. "Like other independent firms, we're tired of large multinational rivals targeting our clients, and we want to find ways to compete." (See SBN, August 2000.)

And so they have, in ways that would impress Marvin Shamis, the founding father of the 32-year-old practice also known as Saltz Shamis & Goldfarb Inc. To provide superior client service, foster entrepreneurial growth and safeguard against industry consolidation, SS&G's managing partners are launching a steady blast of innovative ideas and leveraging the potency of like-minded industry alliances.

Making a mark

To boost retention rates and brand SS&G as a cutting-edge financial services practice, the partners debuted offerings unique to traditional CPA services. For example, SS&G was one of the first nonnational firms of its kind to introduce a product like SS&G Investment Services. The partnership with R.C. Morris Inc., a local employee-benefits consulting firm, augmented SS&G's employee benefit offerings.

The partners then introduced SS&G Healthcare Services to assist physicians with practice management, contract negotiations, strategic management, billing and collection issues.

To provide operational and managerial consulting to the restaurant and hospitality industry, the firm partnered with Carroll Consulting, a restaurant and hospitality consulting firm. And this spring, SS&G enhanced its IS consulting practice by merging with F1 Ltd. to create SS&G Technology Consulting.

"Offering all these services is unheard of for a traditional accounting firm, but we realized the capabilities would set us apart from other accounting firms," says Goldfarb. "It's also allowed us to grow at an unparalleled rate."

Making a point

To establish a competitive advantage, Shamis arranged a meeting of several top national independent accounting firms, and last fall, "The Leading Edge Alliance" was formed. The consortium is the first international association of its kind designed to help large independent accounting practices leverage the strength of a multinational firm, while maintaining individual local expertise.

Goldfarb says the outcome has been "overwhelming" in that, to date, the consortium includes 25 domestic firms, and a recent partnering with an international association secured a combined membership of 245 firms in 68 countries -- and more than $600 million in annual revenue.

"Through this alliance, we can tap into global resources of cutting-edge knowledge from leading experts and deliver even more value to clients," Goldfarb says.

And since the power of The Leading Edge is based upon the strength of its regional affiliates, this June, SS&G merged with Greene & Wallace, the fourth largest independent accounting firm in central Ohio. The merger made SS&G the largest independent accounting firm in Ohio and an employer of about 240 people.

"We can grow and receive awards, but it all comes down to serving your clients by coming up with innovative ideas to help them with their businesses," says Goldfarb. How to reach: SS&G Financial Services Co., (330) 668-9696