The Wisdom of Greg Anton, Accounting Cultural Icon

Greg Anton, a CEO with a long list of accomplishments, has been influencing accounting culture for decades. While Greg may make success look easy, it was achieved through innovation, grit, and by embracing what he loves. We’ve captured some of the insights on building success he’ll share at TaxForward’s 2020 conference on October 25 through 27th here.

Before launching ACM LLP, a regional powerhouse CPA firm with 26 partners and four offices across two states, with two colleagues in 2002, Greg was a Partner at BDO. In 1999, he began six years of service on the Board of Directors for Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants (COCPA), one of those years as its Chair. His influence expanded to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), when he joined its Board of Directors, serving as its Chair, a liaison to Congress, and on several technical committees. In 2015, AICPA recognized Greg’s contributions by bestowing its highest honor, the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Service, on him.

How does Greg cultivate success? By doing things that are generally within all our capacities to do.

He Integrates What He Loves with His Work

Greg says he has had only two careers his whole life: camp counselor and accountant. As a camp counselor, Greg learned the value of integrating what one loves – then, being a camper – into one’s work. According to Greg, focusing on the things he enjoys and does well helps him set his compass and decide where to invest his time, freeing him to do more of what he loves. He attributes communicating what he’s passionate about to helping people identify opportunities to partner with or learn from him. Acknowledging what he doesn’t do well enables Greg to find people with complementary skills.

Unable to think of ways in which to integrate what you love with work? Bringing to mind Mary Poppins teaching Jane and Michael Banks to find the “element of fun” in a job (turning chores into a game in the movie named after the titular character), Greg recommends looking at other ways to integrate your passions and work, such as exercising during breaks.

He Differentiates Himself and His Company

Differentiation sets us apart from our peers and competitors, making it easier for our target audience to select us. Sharing and pursuing what he enjoys doing is a way Greg differentiates himself from his peers.

He has done the same with ACM. When launching ACM, Greg wasn’t creating something new; as he points out, the tools and laws are the same, it’s the people that are different. His goal was “building a better mouse trap” by delivering a superior experience and product than other firms. Today, ACM is renowned for quality.

He Sets the Tone

As a camp counselor, Greg had the advantage in size and strength over the younger campers in races to the swimming hole. Yet, he purposefully led the races from behind rather than in front. This gave Greg better line of sight to coach campers on how to improve and enabled campers to learn from their decisions and experiences. It was an opportunity for him to learn from the campers, as well. “My way isn’t the best way,” Greg says, “it is a way.”

To build a professional and highly competent team at ACM, Greg created an environment that fosters growth and opportunity, where others can lead and contribute. “People want to be around opportunities to succeed, grow, and advance,” he says. He’s eliminated common barriers to growth by cultivating a culture that rewards teaming with people having complementary skills and encourages its professionals to welcome questions and opportunities to collaborate.

He is Continuously Learning

When Greg entered college, he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur – but he didn’t know how to become one. He pursued accounting in part for the job security associated with the field. Now, he draws on what he learned as an accountant to be a successful entrepreneur.

He is Comfortable with Change

Having to innovate to overcome the hurdles of severe dyslexia, Greg learned early in life a person could have “major failures” but still be successful. A lifetime of seeking tools and techniques to succeed has put Greg in the forefront of adapting to the evolution undergoing the accounting field. For example, he uses dictation software, which can transcribe words three times faster than the average person, freeing up time.

Greg is excited about the technological changes occurring in his field. He believes artificial intelligence and virtual robots will assume unexciting work, enabling accountants to operate at a higher level and pursue more enjoyable consultative, observational, and value-added work.

Greg adds, doing what one enjoys will differentiate companies and individuals as technology displaces human capital.

He is Involved

Greg actively participates in what he calls the “enrichment cycle” – he is engaged in organizations within his field, which enriches his knowledge of the field, improving his ability to serve his company, employees, and clients, which creates opportunities for him, his team, and his company.

Lastly, He Tries

Greg says willingness to try and risk failure provides opportunities to succeed. Failing contributes to success by providing opportunities to learn and grow.

Learn more at this year’s conference, October 25 through 27. Register HERE.

Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

Meet the Tax Influencer Making National Waves

One of Denver’s Tax influencers (and past Future Tax Leaders’ National Board Director), is making waves in other markets while bringing an exciting new player to the local market.

An attribute that has established Chris Becze (pronounced “bee-zee”) as an influencer in tax is his approach to the field: from parties to T-shirts with cheeky slogans, such as “making tax sexy”™ (available at TaxTZs and in FTL’s online store), Chris makes being a tax professional look cool.

Since joining Armanino, a Silicon Valley based powerhouse accounting firm that seems to equal Chris’ energy and innovative style, in 2017, Chris, a licensed attorney with an LL.M in Tax, has helped Armanino expand across the country, including opening an office in Denver late last year.

With Denver’s robust market, talent pool, and embrace of technology, why wouldn’t a company open an office in Denver, asks Chris? This mix drew Armanino to the vibrant city and Denver’s reception to Armanino has been outstanding, according to Chris.

Why wouldn’t it be?

In addition to offering an expanse of services designed to fuel any business, including marketing, transformation, systems implementation, and wealth management services, along with the classic accounting firm staples of audit and tax related services, working on IA, and partnering with behemoths such as Microsoft, Armanino’s approach to managing its team has led to a contagiously vibrant and curious culture.

In Armanino’s Denver office, Chris’ entrepreneurial style flourishes. At a recent open house, members of his team said they feel they are “in charge of [their] destiny” at the firm and have “never worked in a firm as inspiring” as Armanino.

To enable his team to learn through experimentation and exploration, Chris empowers his team to pursue work that inspires them while encouraging them to assume leadership at all levels. For example, he charged his managers with identifying and selecting the space for the firm’s new Denver office. As a result, his team has a unique sense of ownership and personal pride in their office.

Leading a team this way comes with risk for Chris – such as the possibility of having to dress up as Cupid [I’m imaging diapers] in front of 60 business leaders and finance professionals. This specific hazard arose at a recent “Beer with Becze” roundtable, monthly meetings in which the team can pepper Chris with questions and test ideas. During the meeting, Chris’ team formed the idea of Armanino’s upcoming “Stupid Cupid” Archery Dodgeball Tournament on February 20th – and challenged Chris to dress as Cupid during the games if they achieved a certain goal.

Not sure what “archery dodgeball” is but you know you want to give it a try – or just want to see Chris dressed as Cupid? Contact a member of Armanino’s Denver team or email us to learn more. Space is limited.

Chris’ success in developing an inviting culture is reflected in several measures, such as employee engagement – including the frequency in which employees choose to work in the office rather than from home – and an increase in clients and applicants.

Chris’ team is curious, energized, and seems to be constantly seeking to develop new ideas and find solutions, which appears to be drawing clients and applicants to the Denver office. Combine all of the above with Chris’ knack for attracting established and up-and-coming talent and we’re expecting Armanino to make big waves in Denver.

Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

Get to Know: Joni Johnson-Powe, Taxnologi Solutions

by Jamie Overberg

Joni Johnson-Powe

Continuing our “Get to Know” feature, this month we would like to introduce you to Joni Johnson-Powe. Joni had a rather interesting introduction to the tax world. Starting as a Husker, she earned her B.S. in Accountancy from the University of Nebraska. Pursuing her interest in tax, Joni headed to University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, with an emphasis in tax. E&Y saw her potential and recruited her for their Accounting Methods and R&D group. Wanting to explore outside this area, Joni transferred to Silicon Valley with E&Y and started working in SALT and tax technology. After missing Colorado (and affordable living), she returned to Denver in 1999 working now for KPMG in the telecom industry. This is where Joni’s interest in tax technology really spiked.

Joni has been fortunate to have two influential mentors in her life: her father and a mentor at KPMG. Her relationship with her father, combined with his passion for tax—exemplified through a 30-year career with the IRS—solidified Joni’s pursuit of a tax career. Joni’s other significant mentor was Dan Burnett at KPMG, who taught her a great deal about the telecom industry and how tax technology was so beneficial for tax preparers. Joni is extremely thankful for the impact of these significant relationships.

Around the time Sarbanes-Oxley was changing the accounting and tax services industry, Joni’s father left the IRS and started his own firm. Regrettably, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after. Joni stepped in, helping his clients while on maternity leave. This became a launching pad to providing tax technology consulting services. Before fully committing to a career as a tax technology service provider, Joni spent some time at Grant Thorton and in SourceGas as a DOT.

Eventually, she created a successful business called Taxnologi Solutions, LLC. Joni and her team provide invaluable services, improving clients’ efficiency by implementing technology solutions. Taxnologi Solutions offer services in the sales and use and VAT tax automation arena, including integration and configuration of software packages such as Vertex and OneSource for retail, telecommunication, and manufacturing clients. Focused on how a tax department functions and its professionals’ needs, Joni’s firm is instrumental in setting design requirements and working with internal IT department to manage and implement conversion strategies.

Joni’s tax career is an inspiration to many young female tax professionals. She has developed her tax and client serving skills over the years while finding time to start a family, being blessed with four wonderful children along the way.

Joni’s first FTL event was a summer picnic, her interest piqued by cofounder Ashby Walters’ passion for the organization, the mentoring aspect of the group, and how tax professionals were able to come together in a casual venue. She found FTL events more intimate, allowing relationships to develop. Joni believes including students is a great aspect of FTL: She herself has an intern, and remembers her experience at the starting point of her career. Today, Joni revels in being able to interact with and mentor our younger tax professionals.