Founded by Alan Fiske in 1972, Fiske & Company began as a traditional accounting firm. A few years later, the firm was making a transition into eminent domain and divorce work for which Alan turned to Sheri Fiske Schultz for help. With the dream to make her partner, the two eventually went on to launch a niche practice in litigation and valuation, which still stands strong today.
“Alan convinced me to take up accounting in school and to follow up with obtaining my credentials,” Schultz says. “And here we are today.”
Fiske & Company has set itself apart from other similarly sized firms with the recognition of its employees serving as the backbone of the organization and the key to success. With that being said, the firm focuses on maintaining a remarkable office culture and work together as a collective team. Equipped with the majority of their staff coming from “Big Four” employers, the firm has the depth of experience equivalent to those handled by larger firms and adds a personalized feel of a family business.
“We believe that satisfied employees are more productive employees,” Schultz explains. “That is why we strive to provide our staff with the tools for success both in and out of the office, offering opportunities for community involvement through various charitable endeavors sanctioned by our firm and promoting work-life balance through flexible or remote schedules typically only seen at much larger firms.”
The firm has transitioned over the years from being a traditional accounting firm servicing clients in audit, tax, accounting and consulting into a boutique valuation and litigation practice. While the firm still maintains its traditional service areas, the forensic services are strengthened with the technical resources necessary for accounting or tax issues that may arise in the forensic context. Other ways the firm has evolved over the years is their transition to a paperless system, utilizing electronic filing and digital research tools exclusively. Some other resources available to their employees include cutting edge training webinars, seminars and conferences in respective disciplines and in new technologies.
Schultz’s interest in forensic accounting services dates back to her first litigation case back in 1990. Her interest turned into a passionate drive to build upon the knowledge she had acquired at a “Big Four” firm and to improve upon that knowledge and gain experience to take her work to the next level, which happened to be becoming the first chair of the valuation litigation section of the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Through her position as chair, she has enjoyed teaching others and actively participates in the FICPA’s annual valuation litigation conference for the past 20 years.
“I also became very involved in performing business valuations and enjoyed it immensely as this discipline gave me the opportunity to get to know my clients and their businesses at the granular level and to develop a deeper understanding of what makes them tick,” Schultz explains.
Her interest in valuations led to her involvement in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ business valuation committee. She assisted in writing the business valuation standards that every CPA must comply with when preparing a business valuation report. Recently, she chaired the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) Champion program, which is an initiative that offers CPAs the support, structure and resources to collaborate with state societies to help promote and expand ABV credential.
With so much knowledge and expertise under her belt, Schultz points out some pressing concerns for lawyers and forensic accounting.
“I think attorneys should be most concerned with ensuring that their CPA is an advocate for their position and not for the attorney’s client,” Schultz says. “The attorney’s job is to be an advocate for the client. In contrast, the CPA should not be hired to be a ‘smoking gun,’ and win the case, but rather should be engaged to assist counsel with understanding the numbers and determining value or damages.
Also, attorneys oft en withhold ‘bad facts,’ from CPAs,” she continues. “At the end of the day, a CPA with advanced knowledge of negative facts will be far better prepared to deal with these facts in a reasonable manner.”
Aside from serious concerns and the dynamics of the issues between a forensic accountant and an attorney, Schultz enjoys working with attorneys in various capacities.
“I enjoy playing devil’s advocate for counsel so the attorney can accurately anticipate damage issues,” Schultz says. She also notes how rewarding it is to assist attorneys in tackling complex financial issues into manageable, understandable parts to better present the virtues of the case to juries and judges. Schultz encounters attorneys outside of case work, stating that they oft en visit law firms and deliver CLE presentations explaining the importance of accurate financial analysis, requesting appropriate financial records during discovery and how to best utilize forensic accounting specialists.
Outside of the work environment, Schultz is actively involved in her local communities and has been for her entire career. In 1985, she became involved in the Jewish Community Foundation and Jewish Federation of Broward County. She now sits on the board of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Broward County. She served two years as co-chair of the organization’s professional advisory committee. She’s also active in fundraising events, such as the American Cancer Society, which she’s been involved in for the last decade. She has also received several industry and community honors, including the FICPA’s Woman to Watch Award and was most recently named by the South Florida Business Journal as a 2016 Influential Business Woman.
In finding balance between work, volunteering and her personal life, Schultz’s passion for helping her clients and growing the business are all in one.
“Our firm relishes in new challenges and seeing our clients grow and succeed over the years has been key to our success as a firm,” she says. “I also know that it ‘takes a village’ and being able to delegate certain tasks to our staff is integral to being able to balance my responsibilities. I like to think that there are oft en ways to work smarter and find operational efficiencies where possible to manage juggling all the balls in the air, so to speak.”