Imagine taking over for the founder of a 4-decade-old business.
That's exactly what Bruce Zicari did last May, when he became CEO of the Bonadio Group. Thomas Bonadio launched the accounting and consulting firm in 1978. Zicari, only the second CEO in the firm's history, moved into his role at the end of a three-year succession plan.
Zicari aims to double the firm's revenues in the next five years. The Bonadio Group is based in Rochester and has a significant local presence through its Amherst office.
In 1996, Zicari was leading a family accounting firm that he merged into the Bonadio Group. At the time, the Bonadio Group had $2.5 million in revenue and 40 employees. Now it has $125 million in revenue and 750 employees.
Zicari, 51, a Pittsford resident, talked about the firm's growth ambitious plans and how to attract more young people to the profession.
Q: What was it like taking over for the founder?
A: It was daunting, intimidating, but at the same time, exciting. We have a great firm and a great foundation, so I knew I was stepping into a firm that really had a great future ahead of it. We spent the better part of a year, prior to me taking over, our whole team put together a five-year strategic plan that's going to take us now into the future.
Q: What are your growth plans over the next five years?
A: We're looking to get to $250 million in revenue. We're going to do that in a number of ways. One, we have a minimum organic growth rate of 6%. Secondly, we look to do three to five good-size mergers in New York and New England. Third, there's some hyper-growth areas that we're heavily investing in and we think there's going to be huge growth. Those three areas are wealth management, cybersecurity and information technology consulting, and our outsourced accounting group.
Q: How do you expect employment to grow along with revenues?
A: That will probably take us to about 1,400 people.
Q: What kind of connections do you build with your clients through your work?
A: I had the unique viewpoint of seeing what my father and grandfather did. I worked in their [accounting] office when I was in high school. Not only did I see the compliance work that they did, I saw the close relationship they had with their clients, the friendships they had, how their clients would call them before they made any decision, the impact they had on their clients, being able to be that business adviser. That's what really drew me to the profession.
Q: How does the Amherst office fit into your growth plans?
A: We have 120 people in Buffalo. It's a significant office. It's one of our bigger offices. It's a very important market to us. We've had some great growth in this market. There's some very sizable businesses and families that we've taken care of for many years.
We continue to put a lot of resources in our Buffalo office. We think there's going to be continued opportunities for growth there. And we'd like to do one or two more mergers to continue to shore up our presence here.
Q: How do you try to recruit and keep people?
A: We're going to roll out a partner mentoring program, where every single person in the firm will have a partner mentor. It's been proven many times over that if people have connections to the partners, they stay.
Our partners love to mentor and we're going to have a formal program to make sure our partners have the adequate time to really spend with your people, to bring them along, to guide them throughout their career, help them sort through all the different career tracks and decisions. And to really help them see all the great things that this profession can offer. … We do think it's going to be one of the keys to our success as we get bigger and bigger.