By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

Can it be any secret that skilled and experienced valuation staff are difficult to find?  If your practice is being stunted by lack of worker-bees, you’re not alone.  Are there any success stories you can look to for examples of how others deal with this challenge?

We talked to two senior level practitioners about their experiences.  Special thanks to Greg Crumling, CPA/ABV, CVA, a Partner at Beard Miller Co. in York, PA, and Rick Jenson, CVA, Managing Director for the Southwest Region Group of CBIZ Valuation Group.

Can you give an example of someone you hired above entry-level whose experience was only indirect to BV, when you might have preferred some direct experience?

Crumling: In June of 2004, I hired Susan [not her real name] who came to us having done virtually no business valuation work.  She had worked in family law consulting and we were on her short-list of potential employers when she moved to south central Pennsylvania.

Jenson: We had not hired anyone below an MBA for ten years.  One day we brought in a guy who had a bachelor’s degree and a little bit of experience as an analyst at an investment banker.  He didn’t have that much experience, but he turned out to be very successful;

What were the circumstances that caused you to go “out on a limb” in hiring?

Crumling: We were facing some changing dynamics in our office.  Valuation had grown and we had been planning our expansion in that direction.  We were already plenty busy, and actually talking about bringing someone in, when I was moved into the Office Managing Partner slot.  Family law had been one of my strengths, though, so when Susan showed up we shifted gears and decided to use her to take some of that workload off my hands.

Jenson: The profitability thing was a big part of it, frankly.  We asked ourselves the question: Could we bring in someone and pay them forty to forty-five thousand and make the same money off them, or more, as we could with someone we bring in at sixty to seventy thousand a year.  It was almost an experiment to see how it worked out.  In the end, it was quite successful. He met all the characteristics we would look at.  He interviewed well and did fine on finance test.  We just decided to step out and see how it worked out.

What did you do to make sure the person had a sufficient foundation for success?

Crumling: We interviewed her both individually and as a group.  Our Partners talked to her and we also put her in contact with our staff to make sure there was a fit and so she could get a sense of how we operated.  We also talked to her former employer as well as an attorney she’d worked with before.

I also look for teachability as measured, perhaps, by evidence of having taken some additional “beyond-the-norm” training.  Susan had, which helped make the decision easier.

Jenson: Our guy he came from a good university where he had done well, academically.  He had a little bit of experience and exhibited that he could survive in the quantitative world.  He did quite well on the test we give to all our folks.  We decided he was as well qualified as someone who had an MBA, and hired him.

In hindsight, how would you value the risk of going for the indirect experience?

Crumling: I didn’t see it as much risk at all because we were not really expecting Susan to develop into a strong business valuation person.  That meant her minimal exposure to that area was not a concern.  In hindsight, it was probably more a concern for the Executive Board in understanding where she would be used best.

Jenson: I don’t think you can apply that, universally.  You can’t just make every hire an out-of-the-box hire.  But I think it’s very short-sighted to not be open-minded enough to look to see if people have the basic components of what it would take to work in our environment.  And to at least talk to them.  I think that the personality of the person, their aggressiveness, their insightfulness, the way they interview and their career orientation are more important.

What would you say to others who need talent and are frustrated at not being able to find it?

Crumling: If they have good business sense, some kind of accounting or financial background and have been exposed somewhere along the line to the litigation process, picking up the business valuation skill set shouldn’t be a problem.  If the economics work out, and if they have some exposure to the judicial system, it would be a calculated risk I would take.

Jenson: I would recommend a couple of things.  First, expand your search vertically in the context of education.  Don’t be reluctant to consider someone who doesn’t immediately look like your prototypical hire.  You can also expand your search by thinking of education horizontally.  Historically, we have hired a lot from two particular universities in the Dallas area.  We’re getting ready to expand to other schools we’ve identified that have decent MBA or business programs.

John Borrowman