Why Your Firm Needs a Chief Operating Officer

As running an accounting firm becomes more complex, many firms find that firm operations becomes a full time job. Dedicated firm operations staff can take a lot of the pressure off of partners who have client responsibilities. And when firms hire an executive, such as a chief operating officer, to oversee firm operations they can often find new efficiencies that would otherwise have been unimaginable. We interviewed Patty Kautz, Chief Operating Officer for VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm. VonLehman has offices in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and Kautz has been with the firm for more than 7 years.

How do you define Firm Operations?

To me, it’s the operation of the firm itself as well as the process and procedures inside the firm.Marketing, technology, HR, internal accounting and facilities management are all part of the operations of the firm. But it also includes the processes and procedures surrounding how work gets done for clients. That includes the workflow of assurance work, tax return processing, bookkeeping, etc.

Why is Firm Operations so important?

Operations are the heartbeat of any organization. It’s how things get done. As firms grow, these processes become even more important and need to be documented, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis. Good, sound operational procedures result in the efficient uses of firm resources.

How did you end up in Firm Operations?

I am a CPA and worked in the business of public accounting for almost 13 years (as an intern while in college and then full time upon graduation). I left public accounting to work in industry for another 14 years before becoming the Chief Operating Officer of VonLehman & Company. There was a firm administrator when I came to the firm, but we don’t use the title any longer.

What tips do you have for someone who wants to grow the value of the firm operations role?

Show your understanding of how work flows inside the organization, and offer ways to improve the efficiency of the process. Stay up to date with trends/issues affecting the business of the firm, and share that knowledge when it makes sense. Connect with others who you admire and learn from them. Also, attend industry conferences that focus on operational issues. Get involved with the other departments or committees inside the firm.

How does technology affect your ability to lead the firm’s business?

I am connected no matter where I am. That’s something we didn’t have when I first became the COO. We have multiple locations, and I can be effective everywhere. I have access to everything I need any time I need it, which allows me to make quick decisions when needed. But it also allows for analysis if needed. The one thing I wish we had today was a single source data base for all the services we provide to our clients.

Don’t ignore this critical component of running your firm. To learn more about firm operations, Download our Firm Management toolkit.


Aimee Hall

Product Marketing Manager at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting

All stories by: Aimee Hall