Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read July 2021 — Stewart Appelrouth, co-founder of Appelrouth Farah & Co., talked to Invest: about what really drives or sinks the economy: fear, especially fear of the unknown. When the pandemic hit, consumer confidence fell precipitously. Dealing with the pandemic was not just a public health issue, he said. It was about the psyche of our society and the economy. Appelrouth also spoke about important issues in accounting and business that his firm dealt with throughout the pandemic.
What were some milestones for your firm over the last year?
Our firm has always prided itself on being on top of technology. When COVID hit, we thought, maybe we’re not on top, but then again, it seemed that few firms were. But we rapidly came up to the top of the technology food chain. That was not easy, but the reality is that it’s one of the few things you can throw money at and get to the top of the food chain a lot faster. That’s what we did. Dealing with our people was, at first, a bit of a challenge. We were concerned for their safety, not just from COVID, but also their emotional health and families. Everyone says their firm is family-oriented; well, ours really is. We have unique benefits that not many others in our industry do not offer.
How were tax and accounting trends disrupted over the course of last year?
Tax and accounting went on a furlough for the business. People weren’t concerned about their taxes; they were worried about their business. Even still, there was a tremendous increase in advisory services. We became pros at navigating the PPP process. We advised on business matters, but we also spent a lot of time calming the waters for our clients’ businesses and entrepreneurial endeavors. Let me tell you something: people were scared, and fear is a sinister enemy. Overall, the accounting world has changed. As accountants in today’s world, we are equally focused on business advisory and consultative services.
Has M&A activity picked up now that the country is moving on from the pandemic?
When COVID first hit, M&A was at a dead stop. Again, fear. It started to pick up after a few months, and by the end of 2020, it was almost back to where it was in 2019. I have always looked at one item relating to the economy: consumer confidence now. If you look at consumer confidence, it is on the upswing. And if you have faith that things will get better, things will in fact get better, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The M&A world works on how things are going to look in the future.
How would you characterize the in-flow of residents over the past year?
People have been coming from all over, and we’ve certainly been picking up clients. The No. 1 reason for that is taxes. The No. 2 reason is that people have finally just had it with the weather up North. People have moved not only their families but their businesses. There are some problems in facing this influx, and these will require money. Foremost, I’m thinking of infrastructure. Our infrastructure, just like with the rest of this country, needs help. And it’s not just bridges and roads. Our school system is also in dire need of greater support and investment. Everything from teacher pay to class sizes. I also believe that our technology infrastructure must keep up to meet growing demand.
Is there a talent gap in the CPA/Accounting space?
I think there is. One of the advantages of our firm is that we have a substantial number of people in the firm, such as myself, who have substantial experience in business and entrepreneurship. Our families had businesses, small businesses, and when you’re around the inner workings of a business, you learn quite a bit. You learn some valuable tricks of the trade. There’s a big difference between that real-world experience and just graduating from school and going into public accounting. Mentorship is valued at our firm. Our leadership and team members work closely and have meaningful communication. This allows us to share valuable insight from our experience. Supporting a transition to the next generation is a big deal.
What is your outlook for the next 12 to 18 months?
There’s going to be a massive rebound and growth. There is pent-up demand, not just in Miami but also in other counties like Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach. There will be two parts to the growth. The first will be in the tourism industry, which will be felt in the hotels and restaurants. The second includes the professional service businesses, like accounting and law. Our clients are coming to us and asking what they should do next in order to come out of the pandemic prepared for success. The initial rounds of PPP money, along with other loans and grants, helped companies and their employees get through the initial hardships, and that money, which is still available, will help to support the long-term future of businesses in our community and throughout the country. Now, we need people to get back to work.
For more information, visit: