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Productivity in Practice: The Specialist

In a time when many accounting practices are rethinking the services they offer to stay competitive, Scott Price and his staff of 26 professionals have found a very successful niche that puts his firm against competition that many practitioners might be intimidated by.

From the Oct. 2006 Issue

In a time when many accounting practices are rethinking the services they offer
to stay competitive, Scott Price and his staff of 26 professionals have found
a very successful niche that puts his firm against competition that many practitioners
might be intimidated by. The Florida CPA.CITP (who also holds credentials for
CISA and CIA) is co-founder and president of SAS 70 Solutions (,
a Tampa-based auditing firm that is the first to specialize exclusively on providing
SAS 70 audit services. Aside from being a unique practice specialty for a midsize
accounting firm, this niche places the practice in direct competition with the
bulls of the accounting world — the Big 4 firms of Ernst & Young,
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and KPMG.

A SAS 70 audit is the AICPA’s statement on auditing standards for service
organizations, providing them with a method of disclosing control activities
and processes to their customers and their customers’ auditors in a uniform
reporting format. A SAS 70 examination signifies that a service organization’s
internal control objectives and control activities have been examined by an
independent accounting and auditing firm, with the formal report including the
auditor’s opinion in the Service Auditor’s Report.

Scott Price & Family
President, SAS 70 Solutions
Tampa Bay, Florida

Scott and partner Christopher Schellman founded the company in 2002 after Robert
Half International announced plans to purchase Arthur Andersen’s Risk
Consulting practice, where both were executives. Scott said they realized the
potential opening in the market for SAS 70 auditing as a result of the acquisition.
“Since many state accounting boards prevent corporations that are less
than 50 percent owned by CPAs from being a public accounting firm and thus cannot
issue audit opinions, opening a specialty practice seemed like a natural solution,”
he said.

Although Scott is officially the president of the company and Chris is vice
president, the two share overall responsibilities for the company, and Scott
admits that his becoming president was probably not an accident. “My dad’s
attorney helped set up the corporation, and someone had to be president, so….”
The arrangement has worked well for the pair: “Chris is the thinker and
planner, I’m the talker and sales-oriented guy.” Revenue has at
least doubled every year they have been in business.

Both of Scott’s parents are accountants, too, with his father, also
a CPA in practice in Florida, a founding partner of Price Donoghue and Ridenour,
a more traditional accounting firm. Scott actually considered a legal career
first, but balked at the length of school and opted for an MST and a CPA credential
instead, which led him to Andersen and a specialty in SAS 70 audits.

Scott and his partner were right in their assessment of the market, and SAS
70 Solutions has grown rapidly, now with additional offices in New York, Atlanta
and Nashville, as well as remotely officed professionals on the West Coast.
The company is approximately the sixth largest provider of SAS 70 audits, with
more than 125 SAS 70 audits performed last year. The enactment of Sarbanes-Oxley
has also been a benefit to the market, as it has emphasized the need for accountability
in all organizations.

Technology has played an integral role in the success of SAS 70 Solutions,
according to Scott, who noted that advising their clients on technologies is
part of a SAS 70 audit. The firm utilizes a virtual workspace designed by Groove
Networks (recently acquired by Microsoft), which enables collaboration between
staff and provides clients with secure access to their documents. The firm also
helps provide recommendations of cost-efficient applications for its clients.
As proof of its dedication to technology, the firm is one of the first in the
nation to have every CPA also holding a CITP credential, which demonstrates
an in-depth knowledge of business and financial technologies, including knowledge
of systems, controls and security.

The firm is extremely technologically advanced, and so targeted in its service
offering (only SAS 70 audits) that we quickly determined that our trademarked
Productivity Survey was inapplicable in this case since it’s designed
specifically for traditional firms. For those firms with broader offerings,
the Productivity Survey offers an assessment of the utilization of technology
toward improving productivity and efficiency.

“It is essential that we keep on top of developments in several areas,
from communications, to security, operations, data warehousing and backups,”
Scott said. To do this, he and his staff subscribe to dozens of trade and IT
publications, as well as attend AICPA and ISACA training.

Despite running a business that keeps him on the road close to 75 percent
of the year, Scott keeps his professional and family life in perspective. He
doesn’t go to work until about 8:30 most mornings and usually leaves at
a sane time, allowing him to share more valuable time with his wife Tina and
their two children: two year-old son Brooks and one year-old daughter Adriana.
Scott and Tina, a systems programmer and now full-time mom, met while attending
Florida State University.

And living in Florida certainly has its advantages when it comes to entertaining
young children, with a multitude of theme parks and two coasts to visit. Scott
and his family have season passes to a couple of parks, as well as a beach condo.
Although only 45 minutes away, Scott relishes the time spent at the condo. “It
gives me a chance to leave work behind and just spend time with my family.”

Of course, central Florida is also a great location for sports buffs, and
Scott takes advantage of this, as well. He is a rabid FSU Seminoles fan, and
his company recently acquired a box at Tropicana Field, home to the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays. Clients are also occasionally entertained at the renowned Columbia
restaurant, which is the oldest in Florida and just happens to be owned by his
business partner’s in-laws.

As full a schedule as this seems, Scott is also involved in professional and
community activities. He was the youngest person selected to the Florida Institute
of CPAs Board of Governors and has served on various committees in the FICPA,
including as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Accounting Careers and Educators committee,
and Vice-Chair of the Young CPAs Committee. Scott has also served on the Hillsborough
County Board for Junior Achievement for the last four years.

Note: Scott Price was honored as one of The CPA Technology Advisor’s
40 Under 40 for 2006.