Service With a File

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

James Locatelli opened the doors to Milwaukee-based Locatelli Financial Management Co. in 1996 with a focus on the professional services industry. Now in its 10th year, the accounting firm in the Historic Third Ward has moved on to serve other industries by using the same philosophy: building relationships while building profits.
The public accountants at Locatelli Financial Management specialize in working with small to medium-sized business and have won over clients with their personalized service.
Locatelli Financial Management meets with clients on a regular basis and acts in most cases as a part-time chief financial officer to business owners, educating them on how to increase profit margins and offering plans for business growth, Locatelli said.
Serving a niche market such as the service industry came about through Locatelli’s experience in the advertising and marketing communications fields.
He discovered that business owners of service companies need more direction than those in other industries because their main focus is on their service offering.
"Marketing people are creative and talented in their own right but lose sight of how to turn a profit and manage the financial affairs of their company," Locatelli said.
Locatelli Financial Management offers financial planning and budgeting, financial statement preparation and tax reporting, like most accounting firms in the area. However, Locatelli says the firm’s personalized service is unique.
"Public accounting firms are proficient in doing audits for business and individual tax returns, and traditionally they are not involved with client billing, accounts payable and inventory," Locatelli said. "Because we are small, we are able to operate with low overhead and can price our services below what a lot of competing public accounting firms are able to."
Locatelli Financial Management also helps clients with mergers and acquisitions, human resource management, financial software selection, staff recruitment, employee benefits coordination and management, succession planning and development of a board of directors or advisory board, Locatelli said.
Locatelli was a financial consultant and executive in the advertising and marketing communications sector before branching out to start his own business. He worked for McDonald Davis & Co., Milwaukee, which merged in 1995 with Birdsall, Voss & Associates (BVK), Milwaukee, for 15 years. While there, Locatelli served in positions including controller, executive vice president, chief financial officer and minority shareholder.
As a member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Locatelli served as chair of the financial committee locally and says he became an expert in the management of a public relations and advertising agency.
"I had been involved in the inside of the business and had to understand how to make an advertising and public relations agency profitable while offering competitive bill rates and salaries," Locatelli said.
On the flip side, Locatelli said he had to be more of an extrovert and learn how to communicate financial information to people who may not understand.
"For an accountant to succeed and prosper in the industry, they need to help people understand how their business works and how to handle and manage the peaks and valleys economically in business," Locatelli said.
Accountants who tend to be very conservative would not survive in that kind of environment, he said.
"I learned how to communicate financial information and results to non-financial people, and it is important to carry that through to the clients we now serve," Locatelli said.
Locatelli Financial Management’s current clients include local agencies such as Charleston/Orwig in Hartland, Mader Communications Group in Mequon, Caffeine Communications in Milwaukee, ESW/Blue Horse in Milwaukee, Leum Roberts in Wauwatosa and Stir LLC in Milwaukee.
In the past three years, Locatelli Financial Management has taken on clients in other service sectors, including law firms, information technology firms, architectural firms and real estate and construction companies
Locatelli started the company with an administrative assistant as his only employee. As the company grew in client base and revenue, he added certified public accountants (CPAs) Mary Valdes and Shari Harenda to the mix.
Locatelli said he plans to expand the company to 10 CPAs.
His primary focus is to grow the business internally and to improve the personal and financial wealth of his clients through their businesses.
"Our primary mission is to supplement an existing client’s accounting staff," Locatelli said. "In supplementing, we seriously attempt to enable owners or principles to focus on what they are good at. We are viewed as part of a senior management staff."
Harenda has been with Locatelli Financial Management for about a year and a half and has 15 years of experience in public accounting. She previously served as a controller for a non-profit organization and within the real estate industry.
"I think the biggest difference (between us and other firms) is the time we spend with clients and helping them understand their financial picture," Harenda said. "Locatelli Financial Management is not a typical CPA firm that clients see once a year or every six months."
Locatelli Financial Management’s philosophy is that accountants meet with clients at least every six months or every quarter, Harenda said. In the meetings, Locatelli Financial Management lets clients know where they are, where they should be and where they should be striving to be in their industry, she said.
"We are going to meet with clients, be with them, show them what has to happen for them to grow or to survive, and that usually requires more attention," Harenda said.

Locatelli Financial Management Co.
Location: 220 E. Buffalo St., Milwaukee
Founder: James Locatelli

Small Business Times, December 9, 2005, Milwaukee, WI

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