Five Questions With: Keith Clark

Keith Clark is co-founder and principal of ClarkSilva, a new accounting firm based in Warwick specializing in small and medium-sized businesses. Clark started the firm with Benjamin Silva, both of whom are former DiSanto, Priest & Co. senior managers.

The firm has a paperless office and will seek to use big data, artificial intelligence and virtual accounting in its practice.

PBN: What inspired you and your co-founder, Benjamin Silva, to venture out on your own in the accounting field?

CLARK: Both Ben and I were on partner track with other accounting firms. However, what we realized is that there is nothing entrepreneurial about being one of dozens of partners at a large firm. We wanted to be able to build something special. We also realized that the accounting industry, and in particular the Rhode Island CPA [certified public accountant] marketplace, was changing. Locally owned Rhode Island CPA firms were disappearing due to retirements and acquisitions by out-of-state firms. As a result, clients are reevaluating their accounting and tax services needs. This presents a unique opportunity for ClarkSilva to obtain market share by providing high-quality service with a local touch.

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PBN: How do you think technology is changing accounting practices and do you think that the technology your firm is using will be standard practice in time?

CLARK: Silva immediately made investments into the best accounting technology the industry has to offer. Ben and I are millennials. Our generation knows technology better than anyone. We are not afraid of it; we embrace it. Technology is allowing us to work faster, be more profitable and provide better results for our clients. As an example, we are a paperless office. Seriously, no stacks of paper at an accounting office! As a paperless office, we are able to share documents within our team efficiently, easily look up information and allow our clients access to their files anytime via secure portals.

PBN: What were some unexpected challenges to starting your own accounting firm and how did you navigate them?

CLARK: Starting an accounting firm from the ground up was certainly not an easy task. Like most entrepreneurs, it required a lot of late nights and several cups of coffee! We were involved in every aspect of the business. We certainly hit a few speed bumps along the way, but we woke up even earlier the next day and pushed through them. The top priority was to ensure there would be no interruption to the services we provide our clients, which I am pleased to say was the case.

PBN: You have said you have created a small business for small businesses. Do you think the scale of an accounting firm is important to clients?

CLARK: The Rhode Island CPA marketplace has changed significantly in the last five years. Locally owned firms are disappearing. Many retirement-minded CPAs have closed their offices or merged their practices with out-of-state firms. Many small-business owners now have the realization that their long-time accountant has retired and their new firm is a 1,000-plus-person accounting firm headquartered out of state. Rhode Island small businesses want to do business with other local small businesses. ClarkSilva, being a Rhode Island small business, understands the unique needs of other local small-business owners. As such, we can provide higher quality and more personalized services to local Rhode Island small businesses.

PBN: What drove the company to charge by service rather than an hourly fee? Is this a new trend in the accounting field?

CLARK: Ben and I realized during our accounting career that people really hate an hourly rate. Consumers want price transparency. When our clients hire us, we provide a scope of the services we will provide and what our fees will be. Our clients really appreciate the transparency. We are starting to see more firms transition to this billing model, as the marketplace is beginning to demand it. It is also nice not to have to maintain time sheets anymore!

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at