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CPA firm focuses on building businesses

Rochester Business Journal
December 23, 2016

John Rizzo, co-founder of Rizzo, DiGiacco, Hern & Baniewicz CPAs PLLC, does not mind being called a “bean counter,” as long as you understand he does not just count them—he is there to help you find more beans.

Launched 11 years ago from his home office, the company landed on the Rochester Chamber Top 100 list of fastest-growing private companies for the first time this year.

“We feel like we’ve been under the radar for way too long,” said Rizzo, managing partner.

Over the past three years, the firm has averaged 20 percent revenue growth per year. It has grown from the two founders, Rizzo and Brian DiGiacco, to 30 employees and four partners.

This growth is reflected in physical terms as well. The office in late November had plastic sheeting over several entrances and was filled with the whine of power saws as the firm prepared for its third expansion at its Pittsford location. This time, they are making room to add wealth management to its lineup, including three more staff members come January.

Rizzo calls his business a boutique firm. It provides accounting, bookkeeping, taxes and audits, as well as offering ongoing advice to clients to help them grow their businesses or other investments.

“We want to actually challenge our clients to do better, to improve, so we provide all sorts of financial data that helps them make decisions. It’s not just a once-a-year drop off your taxes, or once a year, we come out and do your audit. We start with the value-added ideas,” Rizzo said.

Growth has been steady over the past 11 years, and the firm now serves a diverse group of clients, none of whom make up more than 5 percent of the company’s revenue, Rizzo said.

“We hit a lot of singles along the way. We didn’t hit a lot of triples or home runs. It was just a very consistent, one base at a time,” he said of the firm’s growth.

Timothy Hern joined the original duo not long after they started the company, becoming the third partner and bringing expertise in audits.

Four years ago, Whitney Baniewicz, who specializes in helping small businesses, came on board. She had been operating her own accounting business and sometimes partnered with Rizzo’s group to assist clients depending on their needs. When they reached out to her about joining them, it felt like a good fit right away, she said.

“It’s really an awesome partnership,” she said. “We don’t even need to talk about it sometimes— (I know) when John (Rizzo) needs me to step in and take over a certain client, and he knows when I need his assistance because it’s his area of strength,” she said.

The four partners have bonded over the years. A mix of personal and professional is reflected in the family pictures hanging on the waiting room walls, and they maintain a social calendar at the firm so everyone has opportunities to get together outside of work.

“Our culture is work hard, play hard,” Rizzo said.  “We have a very fit office actually. We have Ironman triathletes here; we have a lot of runners, other athletes.”

“I come from a sports background so a lot of how I manage is a team approach. It’s not like I’m the CEO and then there’s everybody else. We divide and conquer most things that we do here as a team,” he said.

Clients typically pay a fixed fee for the services, a bill that is calculated after analyzing a client’s needs and before the work is done. Rizzo said he has never had a complaint about a bill despite the association of boutique with expensive. That is because his firm is determined to help clients be financially successful.

The firm’s approach is not for everyone, he adds, since it involves engaging in a constant effort at self-improvement. But that does not apply just to clients.

All of the employees, including the partners, keep lists of “accountabilities” or goals. They are paired with mentors or a fellow partner to help them develop and implement these goals. Some are professional, like reducing the turnaround time for tax returns, and some are personal. As goals are met, the lists are updated, Rizzo said.

Rizzo and DiGiacco originally dreamed of a boutique firm of maybe 30 employees. The company reached 30 staff members last year and continues to grow, but the focus on responsive service remains.

“I do believe in the grow-or-die model, so we can’t just stop,” Rizzo said.


The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.

Rizzo, DiGiacco Hern

& Baniewicz CPAs PLLC

CPA firm providing attestation services, tax and consulting

Year founded: 2005

Top executive: John Rizzo,

managing partner

Current employment: 30

2016 ranking: 100

Headquarters: Pittsford

Website: rizzodigiacco.com

12/23/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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