Writer: Capital Analytics
2 min read November 2020 — The pandemic has highlighted the importance of investing in top-tier technology and ensuring the right talent to push business forward. Michael Balter, regional managing partner for the Southeast Region at Marcum LLP, shares his company’s lessons learned in this new landscape.
How have your 2020 business expectations played out?
We’re cautiously optimistic. Apprehension is prevalent in discussions with clients, even without taking into account the presidential election process. A potential second COVID-19 wave and its short-, mid- and long-term impact on Florida’s economy through tourism, the food and beverage industry and consumer demand are top of mind. Clients are looking for guidance more than ever. They’re turning to us for assistance and advice in new ways, some of which are led by new services, including around loan forgiveness. We’ve always aimed to position ourselves as a resource for clients to take their business to the next level. Today, even those businesses that are in a good place are looking for advice on next steps to get to a great place.
How does Marcum inject clarity amid uncertainty for its clients?
It boils down to contingency planning. We’re helping clients reflect and consider more variables than ever. It’s not just plan A and B. It’s about having plans A, B, C and maybe even D and E. These alternatives allow them to be ready for any eventuality and act accordingly. There is significant planning that is going into the what-ifs of the current landscape. Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about cybersecurity and everything related to that. Never did we talk about a pandemic and what impact it would have across the business spectrum. With this experience, the priority lies in shedding light on other things we do not know that might be coming. It’s about our ability to pivot and maneuver properly to be a reliable resource for our clients and guaranteeing our clients’ capacity for maneuverability as well.
What emerging trends are you anticipating for 2021?
People are going to be a lot more research-driven coming out of this experience. It’s amazing how much benchmarking we have been doing for our clients. No one is just looking in the mirror and being happy with who they are and how they’re doing things. They want to see how everyone else is going about their business and how they compare to peer groups. It’s a matter of embracing best practices as they emerge.
What were Marcum’s lessons learned from the initial PPP rollout?
Making sure everyone is delivering a consistent message. When the word came out, we were reacting to the news just as much as everyone else. We quickly realized that, like in any other line of business, we needed to have experts who were living, breathing and digesting these developments in a way that would help clients. We created a national task force with local leadership in every market to focus on the emerging loan programs and related requirements. That team disseminated critical information and led the charge in informing and guiding clients. At the outset of the rollout, it was critical to take a step back before taking steps forward to understand what the PPP program entailed and what its impact was going to be, to make sure we were delivering the right message in a consistent way.
How do you see the Fort Lauderdale region emerging from the pandemic?
We have definitely learned valuable lessons in terms of investing in technology. There is no doubt you can never have enough good people to rely on, to go through that process. In terms of the Fort Lauderdale area, once things truly open, we do not see any reason why things will not go back to the way they were once a vaccine is in place and people feel safe going out.
What is your outlook for Marcum toward 2021?
We closed an acquisition on Aug. 1. It was interesting as the professionals who merged in had to figure out working from home while we integrated processes and cultures. I never imagined going through a merger without everyone being together in person. We reopened our offices officially on Oct. 1 and with that, our growth culture did not slow down even with the pandemic raging on. It’s amazing how much new business and how many new opportunities have emerged. There is a lot of money on the sidelines. A quick look at the financial markets and how well they have been doing during this time highlights the number of people looking to invest in privately held, closely held businesses. A significant volume of capital lies in private equity and is available for businesses that want to pursue it. We do not see that slowing down.
Will Marcum’s growth continue to be merger-focused toward 2021?
Absolutely. We have always instilled a growth culture. We grow via mergers, bringing in more clients, and through organic growth. Parallel to that, we will ensure our people continue to grow and develop. Just as we want to make sure we surround ourselves with the right clients, the same principle applies when it comes to having the right people onboard. It’s a win-win.
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