Hungarian born and raised in Transylvania 1 mile from the border of Hungary, Borbala Banto grew up in a dual culture that forced her to try harder and make her mark. Two weeks after graduating from law school she was on her way to the United States, leaving family, friends and everything familiar behind. A pragmatist by nature, Banto’s first goal upon arrival was to accrue as much business knowledge as possible.
She secured a post as office manager in a small IT firm, and set about teaching herself everything she could about operating a business. Unlike many immigrants seeking the illusive American dream, Banto had no illusions about streets paved in gold or overnight success, she simply wanted a level playing field where her intelligence, ingenuity and hard work could open doors.
“I just thought there has to be a better way,” Banto said. “Maybe it was because I was new to the country, but I felt certain there must be basic business rules. So, I started reading every business magazine I could get my hands on. It bothered me that here in the United States people can have a good idea and the freedom of owning their own business without knowing how to run it!”
“I was 16 when communism fell, but my grandparents, who grew up before that era, were farmers and they understood that business has to do with pricing, timing, supply and demand. I learned as much as I could from them, the rest I found in books, articles, seminars, YouTube and networking. If you want to learn it’s all out there.”
Next, she returned to school, attending Cleveland State University to earn an accounting degree. An illustrious student, she was recruited from her graduating class by the prestigious advisory firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and later became a certified public accountant.
“I wanted to learn everything I could about legally saving on taxes and how the numbers work in a business,” she said.
Step by step she had carefully and precisely constructed a solid platform from which she launched her own boutique firm, Concierge CPAs, Inc. in 2010. Her sole purpose was to help professional service businesses understand more about their numbers so they could make better business decisions.
Her passion for law had never waned however, and although she does not practice in the United States, her law background naturally attracted a lot of lawyers to seek her out. Gradually, her client list represented more and more law firms and Banto realized she had found her niche. In 2011, she created the brand, Better Numbers for Lawyers but the firm has grown tremendously across all businesses. In fact, thanks to the far-reaching aspects of the Internet, their client list includes companies throughout the United States and around the world.
“I was amazed that so many attorneys held the belief that you had to struggle for years and years to be successful,” said Banto. “The truth is, nobody teaches you how to run a business in law school. So, with each client everything starts with a goal and reverse engineering. What needs to happen, how about staffing, marketing, budgets? We put together a plan and review it every month.”
As you must have surmised by now, Banto is not your father’s CPA. Even the meaning of the name, Concierge CPAs initially puzzled some.
“Our business advisers suggested we change the name because it sounds too subservient,” Banto said. “But that’s what we are! We know what we are worth, but we have a service attitude. Perhaps that comes from growing up in a foreign country, but it’s how we feel.”
Concierge CPAs offers clients a combination of services that include business advisory, management and internal control consulting, outsourced CFO and controllership functions, accounting and comprehensive tax planning services. It has been described as the perfect combination of “done for you” traditional CPA firm services, actionable insights and coaching.
Following in her footsteps, younger brother Laszlo Szilagyi soon made the big move to this country, attended his sister’s alma mater and, was recruited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“I stole him away,” Banto said proudly. “Laszlo and I work wonderfully together and we both love what we do. I think we complement one another. He’s 14 years younger than I am, so he’s very up-to-date on social media and new technology. Also, he’s a perfectionist. I know that any project he works on will be perfect when he gives it to me to review!”
It’s obvious that this sister-brother team share the same astute, inquiring mindset, work ethic, and vision of what a true full service CPA firm should offer. The formula is quite simple but with astounding results. They apply their business experience and accounting knowledge to realize real life growth in law firms.
“We teach lawyers to consider their practice as a business and what that looks like on a daily basis,” said Szilagyi. “We spot trends and prompt our clients as to things that look out of place. Then, we turn raw data into actionable insights and discuss those so that the client can use this information to make better business decisions.”
“The average CPA puts the right numbers in the right boxes,” said Banto, “but the top priority of Better Numbers for Lawyers is to increase profits and the bottom line by looking at all the different aspects of running a law firm. We support the law firm owner’s practice management with our financial expertise. In short, we don’t just take care of accounting and taxes, we think about the entire ecosystem for them.”
Banto and Szilagyi believe that every small business (and law firm) should have their own private board of advisers consisting of a good CPA, outsourced CFO, business coach, banker, insurance agent, financial adviser and business attorney.
This premise has led to the unprecedented success of this duo because they fulfill a major role in this support circle contributing to the success of law firms.
“Professionals who are experts in their field, specializing in law firms, are your biggest cheerleaders,” Banto observed. “Just imagine what impact it would have on your business decisions and ultimately on your firm’s growth, to have all these professionals around a table once a quarter!”
“We believe that every law firm should work with a CPA who is also its business adviser and can help the owner evaluate the financial and tax implications of business decisions,” added Szilagyi. “If law firm managing partners have an ongoing, proactive and strategic relationship with this type of CPA, the relationship will be extremely profitable for them.”
Perhaps most unique, and to some competitors shocking, about the services offered by this firm is the fact that they readily and happily give their advice for free!
“The problem is, too many CPAs feel that they have gone to college and the information they have is their value,” said Szilagyi. “But let’s be honest, today with the amount of information available online, if you know how to use Google you can find anything! Our philosophy is that we take the time to talk. Our real value, we believe, is working side-by-side with you, helping you implement these ideas and advising you along the way.”
“I think sometimes we can make people feel uncomfortable,” said Banto. “I mean you can sugarcoat the reality to your business coach, but we see the numbers. With us, you have to be honest with us and with yourself. But the results are worth a little pain.”
The duo also host a free online program called Law Business Podcast, which offers behind-the-scenes insight into the journey of building a thriving and profitable law business.
Above all else, it’s evident that they love what they do and are passionate in their pursuit to help others grow their businesses.
“We have a great opportunity to help other people and make money,” said Banto. That’s what I love about the United States, you can accomplish your dreams!”