2 min read December 2021 — Aprio offers innovative business advisory with new technology and a proactive approach to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the subsequent issues of inflation. “We are seeing a large shortfall in professional services, which currently has 1.5 million job openings. But the shortage has driven innovation and disruption,” John Bly, Aprio’s regional managing partner, told Invest:.
What have been the major takeaways for your company during this transformational period?
From the perspective of working anywhere and anytime, the pandemic caused our firm to realize it is possible to work remotely and effectively and we made that a part of our ongoing strategy. Our reach is much broader with platforms like Zoom, so we can hire from across the country as opposed to being limited to local markets. We have also improved our in-house technology. We are testing a bot that calls the IRS directly as opposed to people having to stay on hold for 60 to 90 minutes. This creation gets the wait time down to three minutes for people. It is a simple automation and has been beneficial.
How has demand for your company’s services evolved over the past 18 months?
Mergers and acquisitions have been really busy and the market has been hot since at least July or August 2020. In the last 18 months, we supported groups who helped clients and non-clients to figure out how to calculate and get PPP loans and the forgiveness. We feel our clients are in great shape with forgiveness. A lot of our clients used us for expertise on the front end to make sure they qualified and processed the loans correctly and kept up with rule changes. Additionally, the law changes creating the Employee Retention Credits has allowed us to help clients figure out how they can qualify and work through the process to apply for these credits.
Has the Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) structure created a longer term trend for launching IPOs more quickly?
It could be a trend that fits certain parameters and companies, but the traditional fast-growth software as a service business (SaaS) that is looking to build a recurring revenue model will probably not want to go the route of SPAC. They do not typically go public that early because it decreases their opportunity for executive compensation when they hit public markets versus capturing that in the private markets. SPACs are important and play a great role but might be more worthwhile for someone who has wanted to go public for a while and is at a more mature stage, or a really small business who cannot do a private equity raise because it is not on people’s radars.
How has your company managed the booming population growth in Charlotte?
We are leveraging this in two ways. On the employee side, we love the influx of new talent both at the new graduate and senior experience levels. We are also leveraging companies moving into this market. Manufacturing and distribution players are moving here from other states and overseas.
How have the national labor shortages impacted your industry?
We are seeing a large shortfall in professional services, which currently has 1.5 million job openings. But the shortage has driven innovation and disruption and how that plays out in the next 18 to 36 months will be telling for how we do business. You can’t produce the same amount in the same old ways with fewer people, so there will have to be automation and efficiency gains. The other factor is price increases as talent shortages drive up employee cost, but that has to be passed on to the end buyer.
What are your insights with how different industries are managing supply chain disruptions?
Some of our clients are dealing with inventory and distribution pressures. Transmodal shipping is 300% to 500% more than it cost a few years ago so companies have to dip into credit lines to preorder on inventory. Short term, our clients are doing everything they can to get products over here. But in the long term, they are finding other suppliers and thinking of other manufacturing themselves. Companies may pay more to manufacture in Central and South America as opposed to China, but it may be easier to do business than having it sit in a port for up to 72 days.
What is your outlook for the industry?
Fintech has been very strong. We just had AvidXchange go public in October. I think we will see more acquisitions. From an economic standpoint, regulations and changing governance is good because there are always new interpretations of policies. We will have challenges with rapid automation change and a shortfall of talent, so there will be headwinds that may obscure good opportunities over the next few years.
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