The firm of Allen, Green & Robinette has used know-how and good timing to achieve success in a highly focused niche. The 12-person, Monroe, Louisiana, firm specializes in government auditing and accounting services, mainly for school districts and public housing authorities. By establishing itself as an expert, the small firm has gained prominence in its target market.
The firm traditionally had performed some public housing authority audits, but its government practice got a boost when, due to a legislative change in 1990, the state auditor discontinued auditing school districts, turning instead to CPA firms to perform the work. "Because we had someone on staff with school district experience, we decided to pursue those audits for additional revenues," says partner Tim Green.
"Public housing authorities have unique accounting procedures, so they're not really the norm. Performing school district audits brought us more into the mainstream of governmental accounting." Because of the size of the entities, the firm's 13 school district clients are now by far the largest component of this niche. Green, the chairman of the American Institute of CPAs government accounting and auditing committee, explains that in Louisiana each school district is quite large because there is only one per parish--or county--while other states have several in each county.
Moving into that mainstream was not entirely smooth sailing for the firm. Green says the best and worst thing that happened to the practice in the last five years was a split in 1992, when two of the five partners decided to leave. Green and the two remaining partners set up shop on their own, in a transition he likens to a divorce. Although the break was traumatic, it allowed the newly formed firm to put greater emphasis on government work--and to develop a cohesive and successful new firm. At the same time as the split, due to a legislative change, the required frequency of school district audits was hiked to annually from biennially. "That increased revenues a good bit," Green says. Since the demand for school district audits widened just as the firm was gearing up to offer more of them, "we've gone on to become the largest auditor of school districts in Louisiana. If the firm had stayed together, that wouldn't have happened because the former partners didn't think governmental accounting and auditing was the way to go; that was one of things that led to their withdrawal."
Today, five professional staff and two partners spend about 75% of their time on this specialty, and two paraprofessionals...