Rich Gianello of HFS Consultants Profiled in San Francisco Business Times

February 25, 2011

Big picture
How’s business: We didn’t experience in 2010 the growth we saw in prior years, but our revenue is up 5 percent and profits up almost 35 percent.

Biggest challenge for your business at the moment: Keeping up with all the legislation that’s coming up and figuring out where we want to provide services in the industry.

What’s going to change at your company in the next year: We’re spending a lot of time on transition planning. We have two or three senior principals looking to scale back their time.

Business moves
Reason for starting business: CPA firm (Laventhol & Horwath) went bankrupt. I — with three members of the managing team and one staff member — started this company.

Most difficult part of decision: Our biggest concern was: Would our clients really go with us after working with a large C.P.A. firm and then (move to) a five-person firm? We didn’t lose one.

Biggest business strength: Our diversity. We have nine practice areas.

Biggest risk: Our growth has come from acquisition or merging with smaller firms. Two years ago, we hired five people out of another national CPA firm that was cutting back. We had to fund that for the first six months before people started bringing new engagements and work. We’ve done that three times. All of them have worked out, some have taken longer than we planned.

Biggest mistake: We haven’t been able to restructure the board for the size of the company. We’ve got to come up with a better way to make sure the firm is represented equally.

Smartest move: We developed a social responsibility committee made up of employees from the firm seven years ago to give back some of the revenue we had generated. I didn’t realize how important that was to a lot our employees.

What do you wish you had known from Day 1: More about the legal issues of starting a company. Fortunately, we had good attorneys.

Work routine
Favorite task: I really like the planning and marketing side of the business.

Least favorite task: Dealing with politics that come up. One of my biggest goals was to make (the company as non-political) as possible.

Biggest frustration: When people aren’t looking at what’s best for the company and (instead at) what’s best for them personally. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for it.

Dreams
Five-year plan:
We would like to see the company at $50 million in the next six to seven years. There’s opportunity for growth within the health care industry.

Inducement to sell: My goal is not to sell the company, (but to) make it so I sell back to the company. If it wasn’t fun anymore, that would motivate me to sell the company.

First choice for new career or venture: I would probably do a lot of interim CFO or CEO work at hospitals.

Personals
Most-admired entrepreneur: (Business partner) Steve Rousso.

Favorite pastimes: I love to golf. I’m a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Favorite books: “Built to Last” and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. “The Soul of a Business,” by Tom Chappell.

Favorite restaurant: Viva Voce Cafe.

Favorite destination: Tuscany, Italy.

What’s on iPod: Oldies and Motown.

Automobile: Nissan 350Z.

HQ: Oakland.

What it does: Consulting and management services focused on hospitals and health care facilities.

2010 revenue: $14 million.

Employees: 90.

Founded: 1991.

Source of start-up capital: Self-funded.

Age: 60.

Residence: Montclair.

Web site: www.hfsconsultants.com

Background: B.S., Alderson-Broaddus College. Served in the Air Force. Partner in a CPA firm Laventhol & Horwath.