bgr CPAs Reaches Its Diamond Anniversary
It might seem like a coincidence that Louis J. Berman and Herbert Goldman founded what is now bgr CPAs in 1939, the “Golden Year of Hollywood,” but not to the firm’s 600 or so clients.
Like a classic film, this business has inspired decades-long loyalty — through a commitment to client and staff relationships that is shared by its sister company, Patuxent Valuation Group, which also is celebrating a milestone anniversary — its 10th.
A lot has changed in 75 years. Movie tickets now cost far more than a quarter, and “snail mail” is hardly the preferred method of correspondence.
How has bgr stayed current?
“Technology,” said partner Marc Rubin, who joined the firm in 1976, shortly after graduating from college. “Accounting regulation and tax laws have become so complex that, without using cutting-edge technology, you would fall by the wayside.”
bgr puts the time saved by technology toward cultivating the accountant-client relationship, with a lot of help from e-mail and text.
“Because we can communicate with them so quickly, a lot of our clients consider us part of their extended family,” said Rubin. “Often, we’re the first call or text they make when they have a crisis or a success.”
The Winds of Success
The firm reduced its name from Berman, Goldman, and Ribakow (Sylvan Ribakow joined in 1952) to bgr CPAs in 2011. Other than that, it’s been pretty much all growth.
bgr now works with 600 or so business, individual and nonprofit clients whose assets range from $5 million to $80 million. Its four main services — accounting and audit, business consulting, business valuations and tax planning/preparation — continue to expand, especially the latter.
“A lot of the returns we work on are extremely complicated, but we always make sure our clients take advantage of all applicable tax planning techniques and tax credits,” said Rubin. That’s music to the ears of the firm’s client base, which boasts quite a few recognizable faces locally.
“We work with many successful auto dealers,” said Rubin. “Over the years, we’ve mastered the complexities of dealership accounting, tax and business issues.”
Certain specialized types of audits, including pension plan and 401(k) audits, present continuing challenges, however. “We’re constantly adjusting to the changing Department of Labor laws,” said Rubin. “It’s not easy, but these are an important component for our clients, and it’s something we need to stay on top of.”
Best Supporting Cast
In 1973, bgr united its Baltimore and D.C. offices in Howard County and resided near Howard Community College for years.
More recently, the firm moved to its current Columbia Gateway location. Since then, bgr has attracted not only top clients, but also some of the best and brightest staff members in the industry.
“A lot of firms talk about a ‘family atmosphere,’ but we truly have it,” said Rubin. “And it’s helped us create a similar rapport with our clients. They love having a consistent point of contact year after year.”
Those new to the industry rub shoulders with the seasoned professionals and are encouraged to take an active role. “Some of our best solutions have come from our youngest team members,” said Rubin. “Training retreats — those things ensure that we continue to evolve in a healthy way.”
So does work-life balance. Unlike many CPA firms, staff members rarely work more than 40 hours per week outside of tax season.
The Value of Green
Environmental responsibility is a core value at bgr; the office has been paperless since 2003. But if the firm wanted to put a dollar value on its green initiatives, it could find the answer just down the hall at bgr’s sister company, Patuxent Valuation Group (PVG).
PVG was founded in 2004 by bgr and Pat Lowry, a career business valuations specialist. “It’s part science, part art, and requires good judgment,” as Lowry puts it, and it’s one of the key reasons Rubin brought him on board.
Since 2004, PVG has performed hundreds of valuations for individuals and businesses. “A large percentage of our clients are in the government contracting sector,” said Lowry. “Due to our location in Columbia Gateway and our relationship with certain CPAs and attorneys, it was only natural that we developed a robust government contractor client base. Additionally, this industry focus has allowed us to develop a depth of knowledge that is critical to understanding these types of businesses.”
The typical valuation takes Lowry about 30 days, during which he measures factors such as a client’s goodwill, or intangible assets including branding and name recognition.
After 75 years and 10 years, respectively, bgr and PVG have earned substantial goodwill of their own. And they’ve continued to pay it forward.
“It’s hard not to care about children and seniors in the community,” said Rubin. bgr donates much-needed supplies to a local school each year. Staff members also contribute their time and talents to the Boy Scouts, Toys for Tots, Big Brothers, Food for Tomorrow, Success In Style, Hospice of Howard County and the American Heart Association, among other groups.
Both firms are involved with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, including its GovConnects program and Young Professionals Network (YPN).
A couple lucky enough to celebrate their diamond anniversary might decide to renew their vows. bgr takes a similar approach: During a recent retreat, firm values were redefined and goals were set for next year, including the creation of staff mentorship programs.
“I think Berman, Goldman and Ribakow would be proud of what bgr has become and what we still aspire to be,” said Rubin.
After 75 years, the firm remains independent, having resisted many opportunities to merge along the way. Its continued success shows that the best-laid plans don’t always go astray.