Coffee Break: Kurt Gresens, Managing Partner with Wipfli

Posted9/10/2019 1:00 AM

Q: Describe your company.

A: From its start as a Wisconsin-based accounting firm in 1930, Wipfli today ranks among the top 20 accounting and business consulting firms in the nation. We have more than 50 offices around the nation (including nine in Illinois), nearly 2,300 associates and we serve 90,000-plus clients. These clients primarily include small and mid-sized businesses and their owners, including family and private equity owned and nonprofit organizations; these range across a variety of industries including manufacturing, distribution, construction, real estate, tribal, gaming, health care, financial institutions, nonprofits, government and dealerships.


Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: One of the hottest trends is a shift from compliance-based services to value-add advisory services. Firms are offering clients with increasing number of nontraditional services to ensure they are solving forward looking challenges for their clients.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: One key challenge or opportunity (depending on how you see it) that most accounting firms will face is how to innovate their core services and ensure that the associates have the right skills to deliver those highly-valued and quality service to the clients. I would say improving and upskilling our associates' talent will be the biggest challenge as well as opportunity for Wipfli in the near future.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: Yes certainly. For our firm, significant capital investment in talent and technology is a key part of our growth strategy.

I know that to service our diverse sets of clients best, we need associates who come from a wide range of educational backgrounds and professional experience. That's why we are continuing to hire not only accounting graduates but also associates with alternative degrees.

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In the recent years we have made significant investment in technology across the firm and are continuing to do. Because technology disruption is going to change many industries, we're very focused on how we internally drive the use of technology and its outcomes, and the efficiencies and automation that come along with that for the benefit of our clients and associates.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: Yes -- create lasting positive impact for our clients, associates and our communities. This is Wipfli's guiding principal that I very firmly believe in.

Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: Warren Buffett -- for his leadership style and business acumen.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: One thing that most people don't know about Wipfli is that we are the 19th largest CPA firm in the country.

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?


A: I consider myself to be a rookie CEO and one tip that has always served me well is "surround yourself with great people and let them do their jobs."

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why.

A: Greg Kyte -- he is a CPA and a standup comedian. A rare combination.

Satya Nadella -- Microsoft is a key partner for Wipfli and I have tremendous respect for him as a technology leader.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: I sorted bottles at a Pepsi Cola distribution center.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I like to spend my free time with my family at my lake home being active in nature.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: The Four Obsessions by Patrick Lencioni.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: The responsibility to ensure my firm continues to grow and evolve at the rate that our clients expect us to.

Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: I love fishing so I think I would be operating a fishing charter, probably in Key West.

Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: Miller Park in Milwaukee, since that's where we are headquartered.

Q: What is one funny thing that has happened to you in your career?

A: I showed up for a client meeting on the wrong day.

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