Andy Armanino ’83 – Values Set His Business Apart from the Crowd
Boring.That’s what Andy Armanino ’83 thought of the first college accounting courses he took at Santa Clara University. Once he advanced from core theoretical classes to dynamic ones – such as international business and auditing and taxation – and saw how to help organizations grow he was hooked.
Today, Andy enjoys a fulfilling career as the Managing Partner of Armanino LLP, a CPA & Consulting firm known nationally for its array of services, nimble leadership, personal attention to clients and, most importantly, dedication to corporate responsibility.
Each May, Armanino closes the office doors and the entire staff – some 475 people – participate in a day of service, known as the Great Give, partnering with philanthropic organizations. “I’ve seen first-hand the meaningful difference we make when we work together to improve the lives of others,” Andy said.
Since 2009, Armanino’s Great Give has donated over 10,000 hours of community service to more than 100 nonprofit organizations including local schools, assisted living communities, animal shelters, food banks, homeless shelters, community parks and more.
Started as a one-time event, it turned into a yearly tradition where all Armanino employees are encouraged to nominate charities in their individual communities. Once narrowed down to a final list, employees select which nonprofit they will spend the day helping.
On a personal level, Andy’s Catholic faith inspires him to give back. “To me, it’s pretty simple. It stems from my belief in Jesus Christ. I know what Jesus would want us to do, and that’s take care of others,” he said.
Corporate responsibility has long been a firm hallmark, dating back to when Andy’s father, Andy Armanino Sr, founded the company (then known as Armanino, Jones & Lombardi) in 1969.
“We held community events in San Leandro and always found ways to give back to the community,” Andy said. “But as we’ve grown, we formalized what we were doing by launching a giving program that supports a variety of charities and initiating the‘Great Give’.”
Getting Started in the Business
After earning his accounting degree, Andy received job offers from each of the “Big 8” accounting firms that existed in the late 1980s. He accepted a position with Arthur Young in San Jose. “At that time, Arthur Young was the more hip firm – their partners had beards,” Andy said. “They were non-conformists compared to the rest of the profession, though they would be considered very conformist by today’s standards.”
Andy embraced the work as well as the social opportunities the firm offered. He organized the company’s flag football team, was the captain of the basketball team, and played on the softball team. He also led Arthur Young’s recruiting efforts at Santa Clara.
Two years later, after earning his CPA, Andy and an Arthur Young colleague joined his father’s firm. “There were only 22 people working at the firm when I came on board we had one office in San Leandro,” he said.
Only 25 at the time, Andy was charged with growing the audit practice. He was undaunted by the fact that this business segment was being considered for elimination. “I had lots of energy and self-confidence, and thought I could set the world on fire,” he said.
It didn’t take Andy long to realize the task was harder than he first imagined. “Nobody wanted to hire a kid to take care of their financial statement audit,” he said.
So Andy came up with a plan. He approached his former firm, which by that time had merged with Ernst & Whiney to become Ernst & Young, and pitched a proposal to take on some of their 401K benefit plan audits.
“They only gave us a handful of plans, but they were some big name companies, including Yahoo. That helped us establish ourselves,” he said.
Andy soon landed his first significant audit account – the Diocese of Oakland – and was off and running.
Four years later, Andy was named a partner and became the head of the audit group. It blossomed under his leadership, growing to a staff of 100 and becoming the largest group in the firm.
Leading the Industry
Armanino is the largest independent accounting and business consulting firm based in California, the 28th largest firm in the United States, and has been nationally recognized as a “Best of the Best” and “Fastest Growing” accounting firm by Inside Public Accounting.
“One of the things I’m most proud about is that we’ve been recognized as a ‘Best Place to Work’ by the San Francisco Business Times,” Andy said. “We’ve grown a lot, but our people are happy.”
And why not? Longevity awards are given to employees at five year intervals, including an around-the-world trip to those who hit the 25 year mark.
Andy says the firm’s recognition in the broader community and employee satisfaction stem from two basic company principles: providing a unique level of hands-on client services, and creating a work environment that values and empowers employees.
While many Silicon Valley firms encourage youthful leadership, it’s still not common in the accounting field, Andy said. “In this profession you typically need to have 15 years of experience before you become a partner. It’s an antiquated concept,” he said. “We’re not afraid of youthful leadership at this firm. We encourage it.”
To ensure that employees are ready to accept the challenges of leadership, Andy established staff and manager advisory boards which allow employees to help craft business strategies and run key company programs. In fact, the manager advisory board has become the vehicle for recruiting the next generation of partners, he said.
Andy also established an internal training and development program – Armanino U. Comprehensive courses are offered throughout the year including technical, leadership and soft skills. Andy teaches classes and finds it extremely fulfilling to share and mentor his experience with others.
The firm offers an unusual mix of services that includes audit, tax and consulting. “Fifty percent of our firm’s revenue comes from consulting. This is very, very different than all the other firms in the country,” he said.
And the company serves a wide range of industries – technology, not for profit, manufacturing, distribution, health care, real estate and more – and this year will do around $130 million in business.
Andy isn’t satisfied to rest on the firm’s laurels. “We can’t be complacent,” he said.
To that end, business operations are constantly re-evaluated. “We look at our key systems and ask ourselves if we were starting from scratch today would we do things differently,” Andy said. “If the answer is yes, we better have a pretty good reason for not changing.”
Andy continues to feel blessed by all the opportunities he’s been given and is excited about his firm’s potential. “I love thinking about ways to grow the business and working with a team of people that has great ideas and great energy to do that.”
Andy and his wife, Denise Worm Armanino ’83, were high school sweethearts at O’Dowd. The couple has three children Drew, 21, Siena, 16, and Dominic, 14, and the family resides in Danville.
Despite his busy work schedule, Andy has always made time to coach his children’s sports teams. He credits his ability to balance work and family life to the unconditional support of Denise. “She’s an amazing partner,” he said. “She’s allowed me a lot of freedom to work on growing the business.
When asked what career advice he would provide a young person, Andy didn’t hesitate to say “Don’t make it all about money. Pursue what you are most passionate about.”
And, he adds, “Be curious. Never stop learning, never stop questioning.”
Learn more about Armanino at www.amllp.com.