Gusto for Partners

Three Leading Firm Owners You’ll Meet At Gusto Next 2022

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 
Gusto Next Blog Promo with speaker headshots

“Accounting professionals are more than just doers of tasks,” says Will Lopez. “They are dynamic, beautiful humans.” This is the ethos that guides Gusto Next, Gusto’s annual conference for accounting and tax professionals who want to get ahead of industry trends in payroll, benefits, HR, financial wellness, and PeopleOps. 

This year’s gathering promises to be a lively, engaging, and rich event that unites professionals from around the nation in one place. Expect formal education, thought-provoking keynotes, topical breakout sessions, and peer-to-peer networking. 

Today, we’d like to introduce you to three firm owners who will be speaking at the event. Without further ado, here they are. 

Nayo Carter-Gray, EA MBA, Founder and CEO of 1st Step Accounting

“The world is a diverse place and I would love to see that celebrated more often in the accounting community.”

1. What will you speak about at Gusto Next?

I’m excited to chat about cybersecurity at Gusto Next. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because I know that we accounting professionals have access to clients’ sensitive data and we must do everything in our power to secure that data.

2. What’s one big change you see coming in the industry over the next five years?

The shift to mobile. The next generation of employees and consumers is smartphone-centric, so they will be leading the profession to think how we can provide our services via smartphone technology, freeing us from being chained to our desks and our desktop computers.

3. Tell us about the most gratifying moment you’ve had at work over the past year.

The most gratifying moment has been being able to employ one of my old coworkers full-time in my business. Carlise Butler was a rockstar when I managed her in the past and to now have her on the team is exciting for me because it means I’m growing the organization and surrounding myself with people who see my mission and vision as their own.  

4. What’s something your firm does differently to put people first?

We meet with every potential client to ensure they are a good fit for us and we are a good fit for them. I don’t just see a dollar sign when I see new leads coming through the pipeline — I see a long-term relationship. I always try to make sure that relationship is a match made in heaven through that first phone call.

5. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the accounting industry instantly, what would it be?

Diversity at conferences and events. It’s so off-putting as a Black woman to still see industry events being led by people who don’t reflect our current culture. The world is a diverse place and I would love to see that celebrated more often in the accounting community.

Chase Birky headshot

Chase Birky, CPA, CEO and Co-Founder at Dark Horse CPAs

“When the firm asks [accountants] to work within a box, it’s stripping them of their self-determination and self-actualization.”

1. What are you going to speak about at Gusto Next?

I’ll be part of a panel discussion moderated by Sahin Boydas (CEO of Remote Team, which became part of the Gusto family in 2021) with two other remote firm leaders to talk about practical hacks for our new virtual world. We’ll discuss how work-from-anywhere flexibility can be a differentiator — attracting talent, increasing work-life balance, and increasing employee satisfaction. 

2. What’s one big change you see coming in the industry over the next five years?

For one, the promises of automation are starting to become a reality in our everyday work. For another, we’re seeing more IPOs of non-attest accounting firms as a result of private equity investment.

3. Tell us about the most gratifying moment you’ve had at work over the past year.

Being recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work’ was a special moment, not for the vanity of the recognition but rather for the realization of how much our people value what we’re doing at Dark Horse and their role in furthering our mission to save public accounting. Beyond that, it’s been seeing our folks become successful in their practice and growing into their most confident, best selves, both personally and professionally.

4. What’s something your firm does differently to put people first?

As a leadership team, our customers are our own accountants. We build solutions for them so they can provide value to their clients and grow their books of business. Essentially, our business model is about building up our people, so they can better serve clients, build their practice, and determine their earnings and their work schedule, all of which help the firm grow and increase the value we can provide as well as the overall value of their shares in the company.

5. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the accounting industry, what would it be?

I would change the command-and-control mindsets that so confine accountants. When the firm asks them to work within a box, it’s stripping them of their self-determination and self-actualization, and for what? Maybe for the financial benefit of the partners who overwork and underpay those actually doing the work.

Keila Hill-Trawick headshot

Keila Hill-Trawick, CPA, MBA, Founder and Managing Director of Little Fish Accounting

” I expect that more firms will lean towards advisory services.”

1. What are you going to speak about at Gusto Next?

I’ll be speaking on how we’ve used Gusto’s multiple benefit options to advise clients and help them achieve business goals like employee retention and satisfaction. I’ll give an overview of how that’s worked at my firm, then include a of mine client to dive into the specifics of how we partnered with them, what the process looked like, considerations, guidance provided, and ultimately — the outcomes achieved for their business and the impact it made on their team. 

2. What’s one big change you see coming in the industry over the next five years?

One of the main changes I see coming to the industry is an influx of new ideas about how accounting firms work. Historically, they have been pretty monolithic, and focus on compliance over advisory. I’m excited to see how the next few years engage with more diversity in the field, both demographically and setup-wise. I expect that more firms will lean towards advisory services on top of the bookkeeping and tax work typically performed, in order to provide more holistic services for clients. There is so much knowledge and education in the field that it would be a shame to see that pushed aside to simply complete tasks. 

3. Tell us about the most gratifying moment you’ve had at work over the past year.

Over the past year, I’ve been able to promote two part-time employees to full-time, which was amazing because it empowered them to really own the client work, and allowed me the opportunity to work more intentionally on the business to build relationships and expand our offerings. The team feels at its most cohesive, and having employees that are invested in who we are and what we do has led to a rich sharing of culture and ideas. It’s really encouraging and motivating as I envision our future. Without my hands in everything, we’ve been able to serve clients better, while allowing the team space to take time off because our bandwidth is better managed.

4. What’s something your firm does differently to put people first?

Our main mission is to make accounting information accessible, which means we invest in providing free resources to clients and non-clients so they aren’t stuck at step zero without help. From our weekly podcast to our monthly newsletter, we spend time and effort providing valuable information that is not locked behind a paywall. Not only does that support entrepreneurs who can’t afford or aren’t ready for one-on-one service, it also gives team members access to a resource library they can use to provide guidance to clients who need answers to questions that are outside scope. This allows us to continue to serve beyond the stated deliverables, and give insight that is clear and digestible for non-accountants to use for next steps.

5. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the accounting industry instantly, what would it be?

I wish that more options were presented from the beginning stages of our accounting careers so young accountants were more aware of the opportunities available to them with an accounting degree. We typically fall into very specific silos (public, government, industry) and there are so many more ways we can use our skills beyond accounting, tax, and audit. 

Ideally, we would be more inclusive of diversity of thought so that our expertise feels more valuable in entrepreneurship and small business building, as well as unconventional departments and roles in larger companies. 

Enrich yourself by immersing yourself in community and learning

When was the last time you invested in yourself? Whether you’re joining us in person in Denver on September 27-28, or online on September 28, gathering with other accounting professionals like yourself is an excellent way to refresh your energy and ultimately boost your career. By immersing yourself in a day or two of learning from the best, you’ll bolster your self-confidence, improve your critical thinking to make better decisions, and increase your ability to interpret relevant cues to solve real problems in innovative ways. 

Sound enticing? We’d be delighted to see you there. 

Gusto Next 22 CTA
Caleb Newquist
Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
Back to top