How a Portland accounting firm’s Covid-era product launch was fortuitously timed

This piece, written by Maddie Pfeifer, originally appeared in Portland Business Journal on July 8, 2020.

The plan wasn’t to launch during a pandemic. But with local businesses trying to adapt to Covid-19 and manage their finances, the circumstances made the arrival of a new accounting service from Geffen Mesher ideal.

It’s called Forward/Slash — named for a common character used for shorthand in accounting — and it’s meant to help clients be flexible and agile as they scale up or downsize, among other strategies, in a fast-changing business environment. The name also represents moving forward from traditional views of accounting and instead using accounting to plan for the future and make growth-based decisions.

“This wasn’t planned for Covid, it just sort of happened that we were ready to invest resources in this at the time that Covid hit,” Beth Morgan, audit manager for Geffen Mesher said. “It continues to make sense because so many companies are put in situations right now where they’re having to make really quick decisions about their future.”

Clients have responded. Forward/Slash launched in June, with the firm receiving one to two inquiries a week about the services offered. Shareholder Graham Petersen anticipates it will be the fastest-growing service line the firm offers. There are currently 5 employees but Petersen said they will probably need to hire one or two more.

Demand for Forward/Slash has given the firm a boost during what has been a devastating time for many businesses.

“We have a rare moment in history where all of our clients, even those in niche categories that have thrived during Covid, are feeling uncertain about the future,” Katrina Scotto di Carlo, marketing manager said. “These are relationships we deeply care about, some of them even stretching back to our founding in 1933, so our sense of responsibility is intense. Like so many of our clients, the last five months showed the true mettle of our team.”

Petersen added that Geffen Mesher is doing whatever it can to adapt services to best suit the needs of clients. He said in many cases, demand for services has risen during Covid-19.

Geffen Mesher is the sixth largest accounting firm in the Portland metro area, with more than 65 CPAs locally. It offers tax, audit, financial consulting and reporting services.

Forward/Slash complements those existing services and offers clients outsourced accounting functions, cash flow planning, managing accounts payable and real-time information and data delivery. The goal is to provide services that allow clients to make future-focused decisions to help grow their company.

“Forward/Slash is a unique service because of the level of integration,” Scotto di Carlo said. “The technology utilized allows our CPAs to have timely oversight on every transaction. This increases our ability to help businesses make smarter and more efficient decisions.”

The idea for the Forward/Slash division came to Petersen a little over a year ago, when he saw a need for companies to quickly acquire resources to address financial struggles or manage rapid growth. He added that others simply want to outsource accounting functions so they can focus on their core business.

That was the case for Ann Jaworski, controller at Urban Development + Partners, who was already working with Geffen Mesher but recently added Forward/Slash. “I was doing that work in-house and it had grown to a place where it was just too much for one person,” Jaworski said. “To add in that layer of their Forward/Slash program…created this great environment where there are so many resources. They have an entire department that can work on things versus one person in-house. It’s extremely efficient.”

Right now, the Forward/Slash team is targeting emerging growth companies and real estate businesses with the hope of eventually expanding to assist restaurants and wineries.

“Part of our services include –– this has been a heavy request lately –– helping clients account for their PPP loan proceeds and costs expenditures and help to put them in the best position possible to ultimately maximize the forgiveness on those loans,” Petersen said.

Geffen Mesher
What: Portland’s sixth-largest accounting firm
Headquartered: Portland, Oregon
Senior executives: Dave Adams, Audit Department Chair, Tania Gitch, Tax Department Chair, and Michael A.. Rompa, CEO
CPAs: 68 in Portland metro

1933: Founded
1949: Henry Blauer and Ben Sussman form Sussman & Blauer
1960s: Blauer hires Stan Geffen and Bob Mesher
1990: Single office firm of Geffen Mesher formed
2012-2018: Named a most admired company by Portland Business Journal 2020: New branded division “Forward/Slash” launches in June

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