The Numbers Guy
Michael Daszkal stands out as the leader of a top independent accounting firm
Michael Daszkal co-founded Daszkal Bolton with one partner in 1992; today, the public accounting and consulting firm has three offices with approximately 130 employees.
The firm had a major challenge along the way: In 2013, co-founding partner Jeff Bolton’s Bahamas vacation turned to tragedy when he died in a swimming accident. Daszkal, who is managing partner, persevered to keep growth on target.
Daszkal has expertise in audit and accounting, strategic tax planning, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, and business financial planning. He is a trustee and a board member of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, as well as a trustee of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce. He serves on the advisory board to the FAU College of Business and is on the board of the university’s Research Park. He is also active with New World Angels and PROPEL, a group that advocates for education and leadership.
Daszkal was interviewed by SFBW Chairman and CEO Gary Press at the clubhouse of the Polo Club of Boca Raton. The CEO Connect was sponsored by Greenspoon Marder and TD Bank. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tell us about your childhood. What did you see yourself doing when you grew up? What led you to pursuing a degree in accounting?
I grew up in Detroit in the Eight Mile, which you can see in the movie “8 Mile.” It was sort of a tough place to grow up, but I had a great mother and father and three brothers. As I got a little older, my father, who was an immigrant from a communist country, moved us to Bloomfield Hills. He said, “When you grow up, you will work for yourself.” All four of his kids are successful entrepreneurs.
I always did well in math. I took accounting in high school and really liked it. I enrolled in college as an accounting major and never looked back.
I see you graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1985. When did you meet Jeff Bolton?
I didn’t meet Jeff until 1990 or 1991. He had this awesome networking group, the Boca Enterprise. He didn’t want to let me in because I was the competition. We became great friends and worked out at the Jewish Community Center and played basketball together. We spent about a year planning to get together.
What was your strategy? You have grown tremendously.
We were lucky and we had a good plan in place. When Jeff passed way – it’s been almost three years – we had a great buy/sell agreement. We were able to buy him out. His family was happy with that, although life is not the same for them. The year he passed away, we grew about 8 percent. That was amazing because he was a rainmaker and a dominant force.
You must be a prime target for an acquisition. Where do you want to grow?
We do get approached quite a bit – there are not that many independent CPA firms. There’s the mega firms, such as Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra and Kaufman Rossin in Miami. We are the largest firm in Palm Beach County that’s still independent. I don’t know if there is a larger firm in Broward that’s independent. We have been approached a lot. It’s just not something I have been interested in doing.
Tell us about a couple of key events that happened at your company and changed your direction.
It has revolved around bringing in partners who have brought a new dynamic. Partner Tim Devlin brought a new discipline in tax services. Partner Kevin Reynolds specializes in health care. Whether it’s international tax services or international consulting, it’s just bringing in the right talent.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Probably when Jeff died. But aside from that, the biggest challenge is being a full-time leader. Growing the business. Putting talent in place. Letting the CFO do their job. Letting audit managers do their jobs. Being able to delegate – that’s the biggest challenge.
Your firm is known for trying to get work/life balance.
We started to talk about work/life balance 20 years ago. There has always been a talent shortage, and work/life balance is a differentiator to attract talent from bigger firms. We must have 30 to 40 employees that work 20, 30 or 40 hours a week. However, if you want to turbo-charge your career and make a million dollars, you can do that.
Have there been more and more hours for you?
I think it’s been brutal the last 25 years. Since the recession in 2008, I feel like everybody has to work harder to stay the same. I think it’s been better in the last two or three years. Revenues went down 10 percent for the first time ever during the recession, but then they went back in a good growth pattern.
What do you look for personally and professionally when adding team members?
Most people have a master’s degree at this point. I think the No. 1 quality is having a good energy level, having a positive attitude and being a good communicator. You can’t do a good job for clients unless you are good at communicating with them. I think finding the right personalities and people who show leadership helps with retention and servicing clients better.
Of the remaining presidential candidates, from an economic standpoint, who do you think would be able to serve the business community?
I’m not a big believer of anyone who is extreme. I think Bernie Sanders is extreme. I think Ted Cruz is extreme; he wants to abolish the IRS. I think Donald Trump might be good for business. When Bill Clinton was in office, the economy was great, but I don’t think Hillary is the same.
What are some of the hot growth areas and how is South Florida changing its economy?
I think there is a lot of money coming offshore. International tax work has been a driver in everything we touch. For five years, I wasn’t getting any new construction clients. Then we started seeing new construction clients. Health care is big, such as treatment centers. Steven Friedman has 20 new treatment center clients for the firm.
When you do have time off, what do you like to do?
I love to play golf. It relaxes my mind and I can hang out with friends. I love being with family. I have three great brothers. I do yoga three times a week at night or on weekends. I do the hot stuff, but not Bikram. That’s too hot.
What are some of the most important steps that high net worth individuals need to take care of?
I think they are constantly looking for more strategies to minimize their estate tax down the road. They are constantly looking for avenues for asset protection. I think the biggest thing is that they are looking for ways to make more money from their wealth. They are looking for yield and cash flow. We have a multi-office platform where we do their accounting and oversee the investment advisors and the asset allocation. We help structure on a fee basis. We do tax returns and planning and try to minimize their tax liabilities. We just don’t sell them investments.
What are some of the most common mistakes businesses make?
For small companies and growing companies, it’s probably that they don’t have good systems in place. The owners are trying to work crazy hours and trying to do everything.
Another is valuation can be unrealistic –
too high or low. When a business tries to get funding, they can’t get anything because they don’t know what their company is worth.
What are your thoughts and system in terms of values?
In our profession, much like the legal profession, everything we do and every product we issue with our client, we have to sign under oath. We issue financial statements and have to provide assurance. I think the CPA by profession is very ethical. Nothing goes out the door without three or four people looking at it.
What are your feelings on growing organically vs. acquisitions?
I strongly prefer the organic growth model. I’ve done two small acquisitions.
What is your leadership style?
I think my strategy has always been to work hard and lead by example. I think I’m generous – I hardly ever go to a meeting without bringing someone with me. I call it hands-on training and side-by-side working. I’m always trying to do the right things. ↵
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