By: Chelsea Diana
BST & Co. CPAs have named Sarah Walls and Meredith Brinkmann as co-directors of the firm’s CFO for Hire Division. Walls and Brinkmann succeed Jim Lozano, who founded CFO for Hire in 2000.
Lozano joined BST & Co. as a partner in 2017 after CFO for Hire was acquired by the Albany accounting firm. Lozano will remain active with BST & Co. and CFO for Hire as he transitions to a consulting role.
"There was always a plan when [CFO for Hire] joined BST & Co. that we needed to have a succession plan," Lozano said. "The timing was right for me. Meredith and Sarah have been here for a couple of years, learning our clients and people and processes and it was time to breathe some fresh air into the business."
"I don’t want to work until I’m 70," Lozano added.
CFO for Hire does financial work for small businesses that do not have a full-time accountant or who struggle with finding qualified people to hire in accounting.
BST & Co. acquired Lozano's firm in 2017 at a time when the firm was looking to grow its outsourcing divisions. Today, one-third of BST & Co.'s staff, about 40 people, is devoted to outsourcing.
The demand for outsourced work is expected to grow as the labor market continues to tighten, driven by both people leaving the workforce because of the pandemic and the large number of baby boomers expected to retire in the next few years.
The accounting industry in particular is navigating a battle for talent as fewer people are entering the field. Fewer people are graduating from college with accounting degrees and hiring is down across the industry almost 30%.
For companies that don't have a chief financial officer or controller, outsourcing accounting through a service like CFO for Hire is often cheaper than hiring someone. Companies seeking recurring services are offered a fixed fee, while other work is charged hourly.
CFO for Hire has seen demand for its services rise alongside those shifts in the industry. The division employs around 20 associates working full time, part time, or on a contract basis, and more than 100 clients.
"[The growth of CFO for Hire] piggybacks on what's happening in the industry with the accounting shortage," Brinkmann said. "They can't find the right person or oftentimes, companies will find they have antiquated processes and technology. If they bring us in, we can find resources to help them."
Brinkmann and Walls both have worked in public accounting for decades. Walls spent the first decade of her career at BST & Co. in the audit department after graduating from The College of Saint Rose. She later moved to New Jersey and worked for a large nonprofit in New York City. When Walls moved back to the Hudson Valley, she messaged BST & Co. managing partner Ron Guzior and joined the outsourcing division in January 2021.
Brinkmann started her career in public accounting and has worked across industries — from launching an international educational technology startup to opening a restaurant to working as a controller for a publishing group. She has known Lozano since 2002, while working with Dorfman-Robbie CPAs. Brinkmann joined BST in April 2021.
They both see opportunity to capitalize on the current lack of accounting help and find new ways to help companies — from strategic planning, to recruiting a controller or CFO.
"Companies are not investing in big COOs or CFOs, and can use us to provide forecasting systems on a part-time basis that's more enticing than having someone full time," Walls said.
BST was No. 5 on the Business Review's most recent List of CPA firms in the area with 41 CPAs.
As seen in the Albany Business Review - view here.