Accounting Firm BerryDunn Expands

Portland-based accounting firm BerryDunn is growing quickly as it adds and expands services such as company valuation, succession planning and government consulting work.

The 40-year-old company has hired 24 new employees in the past year, a growth spurt of about 10 percent, said Cheryl Bascomb, BerryDunn's marketing director.

Half of the new hires work in government consulting, which involves working with state agencies to comply with regulations, improve efficiency and maximize investments in technology. The company also has a special unit that provides consulting services to Medicaid providers.

Indiana-based industry publication Inside Public Accounting ranked BerryDunn No. 3 on its 2014 list of the fastest-growing U.S. accounting firms, with year-over-year revenue growth of 17 percent.

Unlike some other firms, BerryDunn's growth has been entirely from within, Bascomb said.

"We haven't done it by acquiring firms," she said.

BerryDunn has 252 employees, most of them in Maine, New Hampshire and West Virginia, Bascomb said. Revenue for its 2014 fiscal year, which ended June 30, was $51.7 million, she said.

Three factors have led to BerryDunn's recent growth, Bascomb said.

The company has a high rate of client retention, and the clients themselves have grown, she said. Those factors, in addition to BerryDunn's fast-growing tax planning and government consulting business, contributed greatly to the revenue boost.

One high-profile government consulting job the company worked on was an analysis of the state of Maryland's health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act before it launched in fall 2013.

BerryDunn's consultants warned of problems with the Maryland Health Connections website. State officials ignored the warnings, and the website later turned out to be so deeply flawed that it had to be scrapped and rebuilt. Just this week, an investigation was launched into allegations of fraud in connection with the site's development.

"One of the key things with our consultants is they are objective, and they are going to tell you if something doesn't look good," Bascomb said.

Other areas of growth include business valuation, which involves determining the total monetary worth of a business; and succession planning, the process of preparing a company for a change in its top management.

The qualities that make a good accountant are attention to detail and, contrary to the stereotype, the personality to communicate well with others, Bascomb said.

"They have to be good at working with people," she said.

The company has beefed up its management staff with a series of promotions over the past year. A total of 25 employees at its offices in Portland, Bangor, Boston and Manchester, New Hampshire, have received promotions.

It has not been difficult to find qualified job candidates in New England, Bascomb said. The accounting industry has recovered from a dark period, following the 2002 downfall of Enron accounting firm Arthur Andersen, in which fewer college students sought to enter the profession.

Now, many students are becoming certified public accountants, and BerryDunn has established relationships with colleges and universities in the region to connect with recent graduates, Bascomb said.

"Qualified candidates for what we do are definitely here," she said.

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Copyright 2014 - Portland Press Herald, Maine

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