Simon Lever says focusing on young talent is paying off

Ioannis Pashakis//February 18, 2020

Simon Lever says focusing on young talent is paying off

Ioannis Pashakis//February 18, 2020

Keenly aware of its partners nearing retirement, Lititz-based business advisory and CPA firm, Simon Lever, spent the last decade forming a pipeline for young talent.

Earlier this month, Simon Lever welcomed its two newest partners, Sara Bruton and Josh Shroyer. Both Bruton and Shroyer have been employees of the firm since graduating college in 2009 and 2007 respectively.

The two new partners, both in their 30’s, are part of a continued effort by the firm to not only find possible hires while they are still in college, but to connect them with a niche at Simon Lever that captivates them.

“I had the opportunity to oversee (Bruton and Shroyer) throughout their careers and they both brought different skill sets to the table,” said Jason McDougall, managing partner at Simon Lever. “They were able to grow in areas they were passionate about and that is how they could rise through our ranks as quickly as they did.”

Finding the right employees has become an arms race among businesses but for CPA firms, known for having notoriously draining busy seasons, hiring young talent willing to stay in the industry has proven difficult.

“A lot of the individuals with three to six years of experience decide that public accounting isn’t what they want to do anymore,” said McDougall.

The firm still hires individuals from other firms and recently brought on two managers and a supervisor. However, even when the business is not directly in need of new employees, it hires between four to six college students a year.

In the past five years, Simon Lever has grown from a staff of 40 to about 70 thanks to a reliable stream of new employees out of college as well as acquisitions of other CPA firms.

Every year, the firm invites freshman and sophomores from nearby colleges to an externship day, a one-day event where students tour the offices and get a feel for what an average day at Simon Lever is like. Since starting in 2013, the externship has gone from about four students a year to 16.

The externship gives the firm a chance to decide which students it would like to offer internships to—with the goal of relaying a job offer to the students by the time they enter their junior year.

“To be going into your junior year with a job offer sounds crazy,” McDougall said. “But if we can identify them early, let’s make sure we have them lined up for us.”

The firm’s internal team has already completed its succession planning and has emerged on the other side with partners who are all under the age of 50.

“Over the last 10 years we saw a number of owners retire,” Shroyer said. “The people leading our firm now, I expect to lead our firm for a long time.”

Simon Lever’s partners who are of retirement age were brought to the firm through acquisitions. While the firm relies on its acquisitions to also bring in new talent as well as potential niches not yet accounted for at the firm, McDougall said they have become pickier when it comes to buying firms with aging leadership.

“If you are a baby boomer firm that doesn’t have that young talent, that’s not something we are looking for,” he said.

The firm recently created a new talent developer position that McDougall said will be focused on developing that new incoming talent so that it can more reliably raise its staff members to the role of partner.

“Having someone who is thinking about talent development, bringing ideas to the table and has it as their primary focus helps us as a firm to do development better,” said Bruton.