Linked by interest in service, KLR is a success story

Bethany Costello
Company: Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co., Ltd. Managing directors: Lawrence I. Kahn, Alan H. Litwin, and John S. Renza Jr. Year founded: 1975 Employees: 62 Type of company: Certified … More

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Linked by interest in service, KLR is a success story

Managing directors: (L to R)
Lawrence Kahn, John. S
Renza, Jr. and Alan H. Litwin.
Bethany Costello
Posted 10/15/01
Company: Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co., Ltd.

Managing directors: Lawrence I. Kahn, Alan H. Litwin, and John S. Renza Jr.

Year founded: 1975

Employees: 62

Type of company: Certified public accountants and business consultants

Location: 951 North Main St., Providence

Annual revenues: Over $7 million

For the managing directors of Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. there is more to the accounting industry than crunching numbers.

In fact, it was their belief in a full-service system, including business consulting, business valuation services, and growth management that brought them all together.

It's a story that goes back a quarter of a century, and it's one that the firm's three directors, Lawrence I. Kahn, Alan H. Litwin, and John (Jack) S. Renza Jr., are excited to share.

"Jack and I worked together in the early 1970s at Peat, Mar-wick," Kahn said. "We both left to form our own accounting firms. Alan joined me in public practice (from Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co.) in 1983. Jack merged his company with ours in 1999."

And while many firms in the industry were merging at the time, for Kahn, Litwin and Renza, the consolidation was about finding the right fit for both companies.

"We had talked to different firms about merging," Litwin said. "When we sat with Jack it was clear that we shared the same goals. There was a lot of synergy."

The goal of the new company has been to provide the highest quality accounting, tax and advisory services by taking a proactive approach with an emphasis on planning, communications, and feedback.

"We want our clients to think that we are shareholders without owning stock," Renza said.

The firm's clients represent a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, health care, technology, tax-exempt organizations, construction and insurance.

"Our clients are closely held family businesses," Renza said. The company doesn't work for public companies.

One benefit from the recent merger has been staffing. In recent years, the accounting industry has struggled to attract workers, losing out to more lucrative careers in technology.

According to Renza and his partners, the drop is in part the result of new standards set by the National Association of Certified Public Accountants, which has made accounting a five-year degree.

"The association thought that by increasing the credentials, it would make the business more sexy, but it hasn't happened that way," Kahn said.

To attract employees, the company presents a variety of training courses, and offers tuition payment to all of its workers interested in furthering their education.

"Besides professional development, we have always had a policy to pay for a masters degree," Kahn said. "As we have grown, we have been able to expand that program. I think it has been a real benefit. We have a lot of long-term career employees that have moved from one division to another."

The firm's wide range of employees has allowed it to develop specialties outside of just the traditional accounting.

"Our clients want as many options as possible," Kahn said. "They don't want to call different people for different things. Today, this business is about more than taxes."

To meet its clients' growing demands, the company has created two separate entities within its corporation: Envision Technology and KLR Strategic Placement. Envision Technology provides Web site design, Web page hosting, technology planning and implementation, and high speed Internet connection to clients, while KLR provides companies with qualified trained employees.

One of the company's most recent expansions has brought it to the forefront of the global marketplace. A founding member of the Leading Edge Alliance, a new organization created to help large independent accounting practices leverage the strength of a national organization while maintaining their local autonomy, the firm has found the venture to be one of its most successful yet.

"Through this organization we are able to service clients all over the world utilizing the staff in other cities," Litwin said. "This has been a major selling point for us because we can be a hands-on partner, offering consulting or tax service, to a client in California. It's an alternative to what the big five (accounting firms) offer, except we know these people, and it's a very personal relationship."

One of the organization's greatest benefits, according to the directors, is that it allows the company to do all of its work from its Providence location, now a new, renovated space on North Main Street.

"We don't have to have separate offices," Litwin said. "What we have found as we have looked into expanding is that having more than one office is often difficult to manage. With technology, and the Leading Edge we are able to give our clients the service they need from here."

Still, the company isn't shying away from any future expansions.

"We take care of ourselves as if we were a client," Litwin said.

Kahn agreed. "I think we have moved a lot slower than others," he said. "We have controlled our growth. We have tested everything before making a decision, and it's worked well for us."

(Photo by Al Aleixo)

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