There are few accounting professionals that have had the opportunity to serve in multiple roles and gain insight from several unique vantage points over the course of their career. Greg LaFollette is one of the few. I met Greg early in my career. He quickly became a friend, then a mentor, and today is a well-respected colleague.
As a part of our executive series, I wanted to include Greg and share his vast knowledge of the profession with our readers. Because Greg has served in numerous roles—from firm partner to Executive Editor of a leading trade publication—he offers a distinct and relevant perspective on the profession and where it is heading.
To begin, I would like to offer a snapshot of Greg’s background:
- Practiced public accounting for more than 27 years.
- Served as a partner in a large CPA firm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
- Held the position of VP of Product Strategy at Thomson Reuters (then called Thomson Tax and Accounting).
- Served as Executive Editor of The CPA Software News, which he transformed into The CPA Technology Advisor—launching the digital version of the publication and advancing the magazine to a top-three trade publication.
- Currently serves as VP of Product Strategy for CPA2Biz—focusing on helping accounting firms to move to the Cloud and work differently.
Greg has had a great impact on the profession and on me personally. It was during Greg’s time at Thomson Reuters that we became acquainted. It wasn’t long after getting to know each other that I received a call from Greg, requesting that I be part of a product advisory group for Thomson.
A few years into our relationship, I met up with Greg at the Thomson Reuters Users’ Conference. By this time, Greg had assumed the role of Executive Editor of The CPA Technology Advisor. I relayed to Greg that I admired what he was doing for the profession and that I would like to follow in his footsteps. He responded by telling me that he was approaching 60 and thinking about an exit plan, and that we would most certainly talk.
A few weeks later, our mentor-mentee relationship began. He enlightened me to the inner-workings of the magazine and how to be a consultant to the vendor community and the profession as a whole. We’ve been friends and colleagues ever since.
Today, as Executive Editor of CPA Practice Advisor, I have the opportunity to bring Greg’s knowledge to the forefront and share it with our readers…just as he shared it with me, one-on-one, over the years. While we were both in Chicago recently, I had the chance to sit down with him and ask him a slew of questions.
Darren: How many years did you actively practice in public accounting?
Greg: Twenty-seven—from 1972 until I joined Thomson in 1999.
Darren: Tell me a little about the practice you ran?
Greg: It’s a large local firm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota—full-service with about 20 staff. The firm still exists and my former partners are still my good friends. I occasionally take bagels in on a random tax-season Saturday.
Darren: You spend a lot of time at the CPA2biz offices in New York and California and you’re on the road speaking often –where’s “home”?
Greg: I choose to live in my home town of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When I'm there, I office with Eide Bailly. That way I get to hang around practicing accountants (I love the smell of tax reruns in the spring!) The partners at EB are very kind and I very much appreciate their ongoing hospitality.
Darren: What are the core differences from when you ran your firm to running a firm today?
Greg: Back then we were the only technology-oriented, fixed-fee billing firm I knew of. Even so, we still worked way too hard at about 2,800 to 3,000 hours a year. We were a generalist firm, took what walked through the door. It was almost impossible to be a niche firm back then. Today, technology enables a firm to specialize because it removes time and geography. I worked the 2800 hours at my desk 35 years ago, which was a lot of time away from my family. Today, if I were doing it again, I would probably work as much, but I would do it when I want from where I want, and often times in bits and pieces.