How Symphona is adding value to each relationship it creates in today’s tech-driven landscape.
By Michael J. Pallerino
Before every meeting, Symphona team members begin by reviewing the firm’s mission statement. The tenets that drive the team of advisory focused CPAs and IT professionals are as succinct as they are powerful. Professionalism. Exceptional customer service. Trustworthiness. Continuous improvement.
Its mission statement: To be the leading professional services firm by creating value in each relationship. “Creating value in each relationship” is what truly sits at the heart of the Symphona story. For example, in those meetings, team members are encouraged to share stories about peers who exhibited one of the company’s four core values or how they added value to a relationship.
With offices throughout Georgia — including Atlanta, Dublin, Savannah, and Marietta — Symphona provides access to innovative business tools, advanced technology, and focused solutions — all designed to deliver high-quality services in everything from audits to IT. Operating under the direction that companies of all sizes should have access to strategic financial service and innovative tools, Symphona offers large-firm resources with a small-firm culture. The company provides CPAs with tax advisory services, accounting services, auditing, and HR outsourcing. Symphona’s IT-focused division, Symphona Technology, is a managed services provider or MSP.
Formed in 1945, it embarked on a strategic and methodical growth plan, including 20 acquisitions. One of those came in 2019 when Vertisys LLC joined the mix to help expand the company’s service offerings to include technology solutions. Founded by Matt Baldwin in 1992 in Marietta, Vertisys had more than 20 IT solutions experts who provided customer service, product upgrades, and support to businesses across the Southeast.
As part of the acquisition, Baldwin, a Jacksonville State University and Kennesaw State University attendee, was named Technology Partner and Service Line Leader of Technology (SymTech, as it is known internally). Today, he leads a team of IT professionals he affectionately refers to as a “house full of nerds.” The entire team — from staff accountants and IT Professionals to CPAs — are incentivized to deliver complete, end-to-end solutions for technology strategies, financial guidance, and tax advice.
“As your technology and financial partner, we can put you on the right trajectory with our ‘white glove’ lifecycle tax consulting and IT strategies,” Baldwin says.
The Vertisys and TJS Deemer Dana (a similar acquisition made at the time) additions to the family gave the company an edge in the ever-evolving world of technology. The overall breadth of business experience delivered by Baldwin and his team has helped contribute to more business growth and creation of additional service lines, thanks to more than 30 years of experience in the field.
Shortly after the acquisitions, the company was rebranded as in 2022, encompassing the company’s portfolio of services, office locations, and team members. In part, exemplifies a stark contrast from traditional accounting industry norms, where firms typically are named after current or former founders. Integral to its rebrand was the visual representation of a “music tie” and a relation to the word “symphony,” which is meant to represent working together in a simple and beautiful concert.
For Baldwin and his Vertisys team, the new relationship was exceptional. From an employee perspective, Baldwin says the transition was seamless. His employees now have a dedicated HR team to assist with benefits, health, retirement, payroll, etc. The most difficult part of the process was changing the company name with all its distributors, modifications to its banking relationships, changing partnership agreements, and updating its Master Services Agreements (MSA) and Statement of Work (SOW) contracts with its clients.
From a management perspective, the transition was perfect for Baldwin. “I now have 11 partners and a steering committee that assist me with difficult business decisions, along with tax guidance and resource sharing,” he said. “From a financial perspective, the cash flow funnel is much wider, allowing us to hire Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) resources, and focus on building new products and services.”
For example, shortly after joining the fold, Baldwin and his team worked with the Symphona accounting group to develop a QuickBooks hosting offering. The solution added what he calls a “stickiness” to its accounting clients, in addition to showcasing some of its technical offerings.
Pillars of Strength
These are interesting days in the accounting profession, where many firms are acquiring companies to add value as professional services organizations. As you would expect in a landscape where computer and data hacking are becoming the norm, the call for increased cybersecurity requirements (especially in the accounting audit space) continues to emerge.
That’s where Symphona Technology is making its mark. Led by Baldwin, the SecOPs team (security operations) provides third-party assessments, policy review, and remediation and consulting services to its clients. Baldwin and his team also help keep Symphona ahead of the curve when it comes to the ever-changing technological waves hitting the industry. That means making areas like data integrity a priority for its clients.
The strategy falls into a three-pillar approach. The first is backup/recovery. Symphona offers a product called SymBackup — a backup service or disaster recovery system. The product is a combination of hardware, software, and services. “We ensure that each SymBackup client gets a good backup every day,” Baldwin says. “We validate backups by restoring files routinely and we perform disaster recovery tests to ensure recovery time objectives are within each clients’ tolerances.”
The second pillar is endpoint security, which includes PCs, laptops, and servers. Baldwin and his team are constantly reviewing and evaluating the best security solutions on the market. As such, they have found SentinelOne, in combination with its 24/7 Security Operations Center, to be a superior endpoint security solution. “A good product will use AI [artificial intelligence] to quickly identify suspicious activity, then hand it off to a security analyst to correlate and eliminate false positives,” Baldwin says. “Our SecOps team delivers such a solution at a very competitive price.”
The third pillar is social engineering. “Human curiosity is the biggest point of exposure and the weakest part of a security plan,” Baldwin says. “Our security team works with our clients to develop programs consisting of security awareness, phishing simulation, and policy development/enforcement.”
Amid the scope of technical strategies, implementations, and jargon that surround Symphona every day, the mission statement is key: to be the leading professional services firm by creating value in each relationship. “Most tech companies build too much automation into their ticketing and dispatch systems,” Baldwin says. “We use high-tech automation for menial systemic maintenance tasks, which saves our clients money. What sets us apart is our ability to integrate that ‘human element’ into our resolution process. This starts with a live dispatcher, who routes trouble tickets to the right team. Our sales team is trained to call each client when they make a sales request. When appropriate, our techs will call to follow-up with clients, ensuring we resolve issues the first time.”
Symphona Technology also employs a dedicated team of dispatchers that assist its clients when they need support. The dispatch team follows up with each client to ensure completeness and customer satisfaction. The management team, which consists of a service manager, project manager, and technical account managers, is tasked with building quarterly business reviews for every client.
“Our goal is to work strategically with each client to better understand their business needs and goals,” Baldwin says. “For every member of my team, and the company as a whole, our core values are critical. Showing professionalism, employing exceptional customer service and trustworthiness, and exhibiting continuous improvement are the core tenets of our business. And we live by them.”
There is a video that outlines the benefits and synergy of Vertisys and TJS Deemer Dana acquisition. The black-and-white video, beautifully tracked by the symphonic sounds of an orchestra playing in the background, relays the connection the companies (all of them) have with each other and the clients they serve. The message is clear: Companies, people, communities, and technology all working together provide opportunities for success — opportunities that can help improve overall financial well-being.
It is music to clients’ ears.
The Symphona Way
The core values the Symphona team live by:
Trustworthiness — Integrity combined with competence, respect for commitments, forthright, fair and ethical in all its relationships.
Exceptional Customer Service — Anticipating and exceeding the needs of its clients with consistent, high quality services.
Professionalism — Compliance with all professional standards and adherence to all applicable laws and regulations related to the services it provides.
Continuous Improvement — Providing a learning environment for all team members to grow professionally and personally to increase and enhance its skill, its services, and its relationships.