Small firm based in Madison, WI
PCPS Member Since 1998
Rick Vanden Huevel, CPA – Owner and Peter Nagel, CPA – Senior Manager
A Firm Driven by Its Philosophy
I started in the profession in a larger local firm with 16 partners. The firm performed all types of services, from audits and tax returns to insurance fraud investigation and investment advising. After working in that environment for about 15 years, I had developed a passion for small businesses and wanted to branch out to focus on that area. I moved to a small firm with one other partner for five years, before leaving to start my own firm. Since the creation of Rick Vanden Heuvel CPAs, S.C., the firm has grown to eight employees and provides CPA services, forward-looking outside CFO services and CEO coaching services to small business clients. The CFO services are focused on working one-on-one with clients to increase their financial literacy, so that they can better understand their business and make well informed decisions. Building on my own entrepreneurial spirit, the CEO coaching services aid clients in creating a vision for their business.
Our firm has its own philosophy statement that consists of our mission, vision, core values and critical success factors. This philosophy is deeply engrained in our firm culture and truly drives and shapes the way we do business. Our mission statement doubles as our elevator speech, and summarizes the services our firm offers. Our vision statement is our differentiator. It outlines the goal of our firm and how we intend to reach it. Our core values highlight the traits that we strive to embody in serving our clients. Finally, our critical success factors provide more detail about the steps we take to achieve our firm’s objectives.
Creating a Learning Culture
One of our critical success factors is building a team of talented professionals who are willing and eager to learn. Staff training is built into the core fabric of our firm, and we maintain a focus on training all year, even during busy season. We have a firm-wide weekly meeting each Thursday. The agenda for this meeting is created by our customer service committee which, due to our size, consists of all employees except for myself. Employees take turns leading these sessions and they range in topic from tax issues to writing emails. We strive to provide a good mixture of hard and soft skills and aim to create a well-rounded pool of talent. We also use tax reviews as learning opportunities. If we find errors in a return, we send them back to the preparer to correct, even if it is a quick fix and even if it is close to a deadline. This allows our employees to know they are accountable for their work and take ownership of the work they are doing.
We have a very “open book” policy with our employees. All decisions are discussed with the staff and, though I ultimately makes the final choices, every member of the firm has input. All of the firm’s financial information is shared with staff so that they can maintain knowledge of how the firm is performing. If the staff can’t make decisions to improve the performance of our own firm, we can’t expect them to do the same for our clients. This open culture helps keep our employees engaged in the firm and the work that they are doing, and helps increase the value of the services we can provide to our clients.
Why We Joined PCPS
One of the most valuable PCPS resources is the annual Practitioner’s Symposium and Tech+ Conference. Either myself or Peter, my senior manager, attend this event every year. There are a wide variety of topics that are covered and networking with peers at the event is extremely useful. We always leave with new ideas of what is working for other firms and what we should implement within our own practice. Another valuable resource is participating in the PCPS Networking Groups. We are always trying to improve the management of our firm, and these semi-annual meetings provide a wealth of insights to help us better our firm. Finally, we also regularly use the biennial Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey to benchmark our firm and track our performance. We recently went over the results of the most recent 2016 survey with our employees and compared our firm’s financial statements to our peers. This exercise in beneficial in both identifying areas for improvement and highlighting areas where we are doing well, which is also valuable in helping employees understand our business.
Small firm based in Madison, WI