Title: Principal Company: CohnReznick City: Woodland Hills Specializations: Acquisitions, financial forecasting and private investment transactions. As national director for CohnReznick’s Transactional Advisory Services practice, Margaret Shanley performs due diligence for acquisitions and other strategic transactions. She is also a member of the firm’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Industry Practice. Why accounting? I always liked business from an early age – as far back as elementary school, I helped my mother with her poultry business every Christmas. I started out my career with Ernst & Young in Dublin, Ireland and became a Chartered Accountant. Many of the successful business people and CEOs in Ireland started out as Chartered Accountants (CPA equivalent), so I knew accounting would be a catalyst to a great career. Favorite part of the job: You can’t beat the variety of serving clients – I can honestly say that no two days have ever been the same. Biggest challenge: Accounting and client service in general is demanding and you must love what you do to excel. If you don’t understand that the client comes first, you won’t be successful. I have learned that prioritizing is key as well as clear and frequent communication. A client will usually understand if there’s a change in the timeline or expected outcome as long as you communicate up front, so I’ve lived by that. Most memorable experience: I was traveling onsite with a client. There was a bad storm and our flights were canceled, so we ended up with the last and smallest car in the airport and drove for a day and overnight to the location. This was before iPhones and we got lost multiple times along the way and there were few decent food options due to the storm. Despite the long journey and lack of food, we still managed to make light of the situation and I am still doing work for his family business! How does your personality make you good at accounting? I like people as much, if not more, than numbers. I love nothing more than working through a complex or troubled situation and making sense of it and giving our client an analysis of the problem, coupled with the solution. I also like working with different types of personalities and figuring out what makes a particular owner or CEO tick. I like to think I’m a quick study on personality types and how to adapt to different styles, which is critical in the client service business. How has your gender affected your career? When I started out my career, I was fortunate to be surrounded by a high-performing female partners who led by example – they performed well, treated each other with respect and were respected, so I never really focused on being a female, or how that made me different from my male counterparts. As I became more senior in my career and started a family, I’ve increasingly recognized that the client needs to be served no matter what, but you don’t have to be at your office all time to do it. All working parents need flexibility, and at CohnReznick we strive to facilitate that for all our team members, irrespective of gender. I’m also the eldest of five children and grew up on a farm in Ireland, with two sisters and two brothers, so gender was not an issue growing up – everyone had chores to do and was treated the same. Impact of tax reform: Tax reform has created more uncertainty regarding tax planning, since it was rushed through without much thought to details and implementation. The expanded ability to immediately expense fixed asset purchases and the lowering of the corporate tax rate will have a significant effect on transaction structuring and purchase price allocation. Also, the question of whether to use corporate entities with the lower tax rate or pass-through entities with a higher rate is a complex one and we’ve spoken with a lot of private equity firms about the opportunities and risks created by the new tax law. How is the accounting industry changing? What isn’t changing is that clients still need a smart and nimble business advisor at a fair price. A challenge I see is finding qualified accounting candidates in the marketplace. At CohnReznick, we are continually looking to hire great talent and the current tight labor market and what seems to be shrinking number of qualified candidates can make that a challenge. Advice to executives looking for an accounting firm? Do your research and check references. Many firms lead with a low price to get in the door, and then under-deliver in terms of quality of advice and service. A mistake can be costly to your business, so it’s worth making the investment to get a quality advisor who will save you money in the long run. Advice to people considering a career in accounting: Choose a good school that has a strong reputation in accounting and seek out internship opportunities early on. Also, take extra classes in Excel and writing so that you can add value to your clients, as analytical and communication skills are critical.