Without pretense and candid, Dalia’s forthright nature is immediately striking to those who meet her. An active member of community events and a professional financial consultant with a formidable amount of experience under her belt, her openness is both refreshing and humbling as she shares with us her origins and her confidence in her team, sharing a few laughs with us in between.
Originally a humanities student with a knack for writing, Dalia tells us how it was her professor during her second accounting class in Dowling that helped to set her down the path of finance and numbers. An adjunct professor with his own practice, he was able to incorporate his real-life experiences into his lessons, explaining to Dalia and her classmates on how smaller accounting firms could influence their client’s decisions based on the power that financial knowledge could give a company.
It was more than just being an accountant; it was being a trusted partner.
This idea stuck with Dalia. It was as if everything had suddenly aligned and made sense. As the accounting classes became more advanced and her own peers started to fall out or become uninterested, Dalia had found her niche.
“There was not one point that I was struggling with the homework or assignments. I think that I found my strength.”
Between schooling and delving deeper into the intricacies of finance, Dalia also managed to secure herself a job at Louis M. Ambrico CPA PC on Long Island, NYC. Under the guidance of a senior partner, Dalia learned the importance of strengthening her accounting fundamentals, something she notes many of her own peers still struggle with from time to time.
“He was a true mentor for me and guided me not only through accounting, auditing, and tax work, but also allowed me to gain experience in different industries by assisting him with many projects.”
Through these mentorship opportunities and her own time on the job, Dalia noticed that the most successful companies were truly those that kept their finances in order. Accurate financial analysis was required to make use of data and analytics, which would help these businesses make the best decisions for themselves during critical financial moments.
After Dalia felt like she had gained the experience she needed—6 years in public accounting and another 6 in the private sector—her move from New York to Florida in 2008 finally gave her the perfect opportunity to start her own practice.
Starting up her firm in the middle of a global financial crisis wasn’t easy. Nor was it a move that anyone else would have taken at that point in time, but Dalia thought otherwise: “I felt more than ever that businesses were in need of a trusted partner… I wanted to be their sounding board and a valuable resource while they navigated through difficult, make or break financial decisions.”
That daring decision has since proven its worth. A long way from their humble beginnings, CPA Solutions has become a team that is better than anything Dalia has ever dreamt of. Having served over 2,000 clients, their goal of creating a partnership rather than being your run-of-the-mill accounting firm has certainly borne fruit.
In fact, throughout the interview, it was abundantly clear that Dalia’s singular focus is on maintaining a professional and supportive relationship with her clients for the long term. When that client focus was pointed out, Dalia acknowledged it matter-of-factly, stating that it was just how they operated.
“We take those relationships very seriously because that’s what the brand is all about (being a partner).”
She also told us how this translated into her own supportive relationship with her team as well. Dalia is a firm believer on the importance of making people feel like they belong, rather than just being a number or tool.
“I owe everything to my team. Nothing is below us, nothing is outside our job description. We do what we need to get things done… There’s nothing we can’t handle together.”
Beyond that, CPA Solutions has also proven time and time again that it doesn’t always pay off to blindly follow trends or stick to what is comfortable. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic—similar in its own ways to the 2008 financial crisis—Dalia assures us that CPA Solutions has never been better positioned.
Having started paperless off the bat and transitioned to the cloud by 2011 (far earlier than most other CPA firms at the time), Dalia has always embraced the advancements in technology and its potential in the accounting industry.
“When the pandemic happened, really, literally, we just closed our laptops and went home. Work continued. We didn’t have to reconfigure anything; we didn’t have to do anything. There was no change for us other than moving from the office to the home office.”
To her, the most challenging aspect during the pandemic was dealing with clients’ anxieties, especially as lockdowns became more extensive, and policies were made on the fly. Many people were afraid of what the future held, especially as there looked to be no end in sight for COVID-19.
As the world progressed with uncertainty on how to get back on their feet, Dalia’s voice remained unwavering. “We went ahead, we learned, we figured out what we needed to do to help the clients, and that’s that.”
Eager to see what the future of technology has in-store for the accounting industry, Dalia has also made it clear that she and the team are already in the midst of working on their own RPA (Robotic Process Automation) software to help reduce their manual workload and increase the team’s efficiency.
When we asked her about how CPA Solutions manages to maintain a positive outlook on AI as compared to other CPA firms that look at automation as a threat, Dalia is already looking ahead.
“People look at it as a threat. But threat or not, it’s coming. You either embrace it, learning how to use it for your own benefit, or you just stick your head into the sand and wait until you’re taken out of the competition. This is where the skillset—when you have AI or RPA driving the manual process—and having the brains to be able to interpret the data is so important.”
By being able to see the financial data in real-time, CPA Solutions would be able to provide meaningful advice to their clients that would allow them to pivot their business quickly and flexibly.
“We always look for new solutions because it can make a huge difference… Maybe it’s just my natural appetite to be more efficient, to be better. However, you need cutting-edge technology, especially when you’re working with other tech companies as well. They’re not going to come to me if I have paper files piled on my desk.”
Posing the question of where she sees CPA Solutions in the next five years, the confidence in her tone is obvious as she answers: “I see us as being at the top.”
Dalia says they aren’t looking to compete with the Big 4 but rather, to be one of the top firms on their home ground of Central Florida. They want to be the number one choice for clients, to be seen as experts in their field of expertise.
“We look at (small) businesses to gain profitability… I know the kids, the grandkids, all their life stories, favorite sports, and even hobbies. We’re all professionals, but CPA Solutions believes in putting in work that goes much deeper into creating lasting relationships between us and our clients.”
And with all the success that CPA Solutions has seen with their clients over the past 20 years and more, I’m hard-pressed to agree.
We ask Dalia one last question to wrap up: would she ever retire?
Dalia lets out a small chuckle before saying, “I get questions from my family. Things like, ‘When are you going to stop?’ and I just say, ‘When I’m on the cover of Forbes magazine.’ But in all honesty, I think retirement is an overrated word. Do I think I’ll just want to slow down and let the team handle the day-to-day while I’m on the consulting side? Yes. But I don’t know what that looks like. We’re talking about 20 years from now.”