M&A Consulting Firm Diving Into HR, Employee Engagement Services

Whitman Business Advisors is expanding its services, just as firm leaders around the country are shifting their business models to rely less on compliance tasks and more on advisory services.

The consulting firm, which is best known for its mergers and acquisitions assistance, is growing its network of advisors. Whitman Business Advisors has offered guidance on practice management, growth strategies and training, but is now delving into human resources outsourcing and employee engagement, among other offerings.

“We are not a one-solution provider,” says president Phil Whitman. “Our answer to everything isn’t merge, merge, merge.”

Richard Fischer

The firm recently announced that it is adding HR services with the expertise of Richard Fisher, the former PIC of the HR department of New York-based EisnerAmper (FY18 net revenue of $360.7 million).

Whitman says Fisher will lead outsourced chief human resource officer services for smaller CPA firm clients. Similar to outsourced accounting services, Fisher will work with a small team of advisers to handle the day-to-day HR functions for clients without in-house resources. Additionally, Fisher will assist with pre- and post-merger transitions and integrations
and talent acquisition services.

In 2018, Whitman Business Advisors added a specialist to conduct marketing assessments and help firms develop marketing programs. Risk management consulting services have also been added through a cyber-liability specialist.

Other offerings are provided through revenue-sharing arrangements with 48 partners, including Live Oak Bank, which can provide financing for M&A deals, and StrategicFunding, an online lender and alternative financing provider. Both were added last year.

Additionally, Whitman says his company has also developed a strategic alliance with the U.K.-based EngagementMultiplier to offer employee engagement surveys. Whitman says the firm established a U.S. presence in Chicago last year but has not entered the accounting arena as yet.

Staffing issues are among the top concerns of firm leaders every year, he says, and keeping employees involved in their firms and rewarded by their work will boost retention and save firms money. If even one employee stays, the savings are considerable, he says. For example, the loss of a senior accountant making $80,000 a year would cost the firm $120,000 or so in replacement costs.

Phil Whitman:
“We’re not doing this because we’re going to make a lot of money and go to the bank with it, it’s because it’s a service we really believe our clients need,” he says. He’s also thinking about using the survey as a due diligence tool in mergers, so both sides can survey their employees and swap information to see if the union would be a cultural fit.

Other developments:

  • Whitman says about 25% of merger talks are now between accounting firms and non-CPA firms,
    such as companies focusing on cybersecurity, management services, financing and technology.
  • Whitman is exploring alliances with accounting firms in India and the Philippines, where labor
    costs are far cheaper, to offer outsourced tax, accounting and administrative work.
  • Whitman Business Advisors is helping one firm offer concierge services to its top clients. Similar
    to a hotel concierge, the service can provide advice on restaurants, luxury car rentals and the like,
    make reservations and even arrange to complete errands, such as dry-cleaning pickup. Whitman
    says the offering could make sense for entertainment industry clients, and it could be a new perk
    for employees.

 

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