Needless to say, the Big 4 firms offer great opportunities across nearly every accounting-related career path. But for those with audit and/or tax experience seeking a job in a transaction advisory role, or those already working in transaction advisory who are looking for a change, there are plenty of midsize firms that can offer comparable—if not superior—benefits to that of the Big 4 firms.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas in which midsize firms can offer more enticing advantages in transaction advisory, and how taking a job at one of these firms can lead to better compensation and an accelerated career path you might find difficult to achieve outside the walls of the Big 4 firms.
A transaction what now?
If you’re unfamiliar with transaction advising, here’s a quick intro course as to what the job entails. Already familiar with the position or currently working in transaction advisory? Feel free to skip this section—there’s plenty of juicy information for you further below.
The roles of a transaction advisor will probably be a bit different every day—which is one of the things that makes it a compelling career path when compared to traditional number-crunching accounting or compliance-only advising. Keeping that in mind, here are some typical duties a transaction advisor might perform:
- Help clients understand and consider normalized cash flows and balance sheet/working capital matters in buying or selling transactions, including mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
- Assist clients in evaluating the financial impact of a transaction by highlighting profitability trends, flagging overly aggressive accounting policies, and examining regulatory restrictions.
- Assist with tax due diligence (international, federal, state, and sales taxes) and structuring.
- Gain an understanding of opportunities for tax efficiencies and quantify potential tax risks, ensuring that tax exposures are considered in transaction documents through tax due diligence and structuring services.
- Provide recommendations as to how/when/if the client should move ahead with a given transaction.
- If the client chooses to execute a transaction, aid the client in substantiating and structuring a sale or a purchase price.
- Compile and analyze historical financial data/financial statements and conduct interviews with buyers and/or sellers.
- Participate in new and existing client proposal processes and build client relationships.
Midsize firm benefit #1: Potential for rewarding compensation and faster career development
Moving up in a larger firm can be difficult. No matter how much you prove your worth, you’ll have to run through evaluations by multiple bosses and skirt around an endless army of brown-nosers to get the job and compensation you deserve.
The path tends to be much easier at midsize firms. With a lower headcount and a greater supervisor/employee ratio, you’ll get more of the direct attention you need to have your accomplishments recognized and rewarded appropriately.
“We want to facilitate our transaction advisory employees toward moving their careers up and potentially becoming a partner at our firm. We’re not hiring to find someone to keep the same position for life,” said Michael Levy, partner-in-charge of the Transaction Advisory Group at midsize accounting firm Aprio.
At Atlanta-based Aprio specifically, the opportunity to make partner quickly is an enticingly open one.
“We’re understaffed at the partner level. We want more partners in the practice. We want to provide our people with entrepreneurial opportunities to grow a practice,” Levy said.
And when it comes to compensation, midsize firms like Aprio offer incentive packages that larger firms just can’t match.
“If an employee brings a new client to the firm or sells work to a client, we currently compensate them by paying them 10% of any revenue we collect from that client. That could be huge. Additionally, if you work over a certain number of hours, we compensate you for your chargeability,” Levy said.
Does landing a new client or cross-selling an existing one feel like it’s a bit outside your wheelhouse? Not to worry—firms like Aprio give you the tools you need to help you get there.
“We give our prospective partners a marketing budget so they can go out and foster new client relationships while enhancing existing ones. We send our folks to outside training—not just for accounting disciplines, but for overall business skills as well. We feel like those opportunities create a pathway for employees to get to partnership as fast as they’d like,” Levy said.
Already sold? Scroll down to the bottom of this article to apply for the open Transaction Advisory Senior Manager and/or Director position at Aprio now.
Midsize firm benefit #2: More flexibility, more time for your life
While the Big 4 firms offer a number of benefits, work flexibility usually isn’t one of them. But you’ll generally find more expansive working options elsewhere, leaving you with more time for family, friends, fun, and—y’know—life. At a midsize firm, for instance, your workload will likely be significantly lower than at the Big 4.
“We want our people to have better work/life balance. Most of our people work on clients anywhere between 30 to 45 hours a week,” Levy said.
It’s hard to accurately measure workload at the Big 4, as they tend to be shy about releasing those types of numbers. But anecdotally we’ve heard that your workweek will generally be much longer than at Aprio. An extremely unscientific blog post from Acuity Mag estimates a variance of 40 to 80 hours of weekly work at the Big 4, with an average of 50 to 60 hours/week.
You’ll also be asked to travel less, allowing you to spend even more time with friends and family.
“Our people probably spend 10 to 15% of their time traveling, compared to something more like 30 to 50% at the Big 4,” Levy said.
And you’ll have more flexibility to spend time on nonprofit, charity, and community efforts—provided you’re into that sort of thing.
“If our employees want to get out there and do not-for-profit work or work in the community, we absolutely encourage that and help make time for it,” Levy said.
Midsize firm benefit #3: Connecting with clients and feeling the impact of your work
One of the biggest complaints we hear from our readers who are currently working at the Big 4 is that they sit at their desks crunching numbers and creating reports all day, never (or rarely) getting to interact with a client directly or feel the impact of their work on the client’s life and business.
This is a much smaller problem at a midsize firm, especially when you work in a transaction advisory role. You’ll connect directly with clients, working to agree on scope of work, communicating the results once the work has been executed, and acting as their friend and trusted advisor for all their transactional needs.
And you’ll be out in the field, engaging with and selling to prospective clients while fostering existing client relationships and looking for mutually beneficial cross-sell opportunities.
“At a Big 4 firm, you’re one of tens of thousands of people. Whereas here, you’re coming into our practice that has 12 full-time transactional professionals in a firm of 450 people. And you really do have the opportunity to not only be a leader in the practice, but also to directly influence the trajectory of the firm,” Levy said.
Apply for the Transaction Advisory Senior Manager/Director job at Aprio now
Aprio advises private-equity funds, middle-market companies, and large corporations with middle-market investments in transactions up to $250 million. Its clients receive the benefit of Big 4 experience, delivered with personalized service and senior-level attention specifically crafted for the middle market.
Ready to join a midsize firm with a global reach, where you can fast-track your compensation and career development, enjoy more work/life flexibility, and connect with clients to feel the direct impact of your work? Click one of the links below to apply now.