During her public accounting career, Lori Kaiser remembered working in a job with 70-plus hours, overtime and travel.
She decided to forgo those elements when she started her own accounting firm in the early 1990s.
“I started working part-time flexible hours to fit my life,” the founder of Kaiser Consulting said.
But she figured there were other like-minded people who wanted a similar work environment.
Kasiser’s firm has offered employees with accounting and information technology backgrounds the option to set how many hours they want (with a minimum of 24 hours). The firm now has 75 employees.
Kaiser said her husband has described her firm as the Uber of accountants: it’s there when you need it.
“Lori’s model was truly ahead of its time. Her dedication to her company and community have led to Kaiser Consulting’s impressive success as an international professional services firm. Her ability to analyze essential elements for clients that include Huntington Bank and Bath & Body Works has set a high standard in her industry,” said Don DePerro, the CEO and president of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, one of three finalists for its Small Business Leader Award.
Kaiser said it was an incredible honor to be a finalist, saying there were so many talented business people in the region.
“Growing my business has been challenging. As a people business is not easy to scale,” she said. “Sometimes it is hard to know what path forward is best. Knowing where to invest and when to take risks is an unknown.”
But Kaiser is proud of the workplace she has provided where employees can reasonably set their own hours to fit their lives, receive internal training and an allowance for further training.
The company has done well on local best places to work lists for three of the last four years.
“My job as a leader is often challenging, but it makes it all worthwhile when it is appreciated,” she said. “Knowing Team members appreciate how hard we work, makes me try even harder.”
An Iowa native, Kaiser came to Ohio for school. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Miami University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago.
She stared her career at KPMG in Columbus before deciding to start her own firm in 1992. Kaiser decided to cut back her hours when she became a mother but wanted to still work.
“It was never a plan to build the business from the beginning,” she said.
She’s made adjustments with how she oversees the projects that come through the business’ doors to maintain quality and consistency.
This became more apparent when the company grew to 40 employees.
The company has provided services for large companies such as Nationwide and Worthington Industries but has also started working with younger companies with 10 to 100 employees that start to hit the $3 million to $5 million range in revenue.
“We’re starting to do work with fast growing companies,” she said. “Fast-growing companies that have been outgrowing their current accounting staff.”
Kaiser said her firm helps these businesses transition from a cash collected, cash paid out to generally accepted accounting principles.
Last year, Kaiser sold 20 percent of her business to the firm’s senior leadership team but said she should have done it years earlier.
“It has been very powerful to help propel us to achieve great growth and engagement,” she said.
Aside from the business, Kaiser said she enjoys teaching and mentoring other aspiring entrepreneurs. She teaches an MBA program at The Ohio State University and mentors through organizations.
Through one program, Kaiser mentored a woman grow her gas station business in Rawanda. The woman now operates three facilities in her country.
“You feel like you made a difference in someone’s life,” Kaiser said. “I enjoy making accounting understandable. Most business professionals need some basic accounting and finance skills to be successful as they move into more senior leadership roles in their companies.
“But many people dread taking accounting and think they are not going to be good at it. I like making the topics relevant and feel good knowing that these skills will accelerate my students careers.”
“Lori is an inspiration to budding entrepreneurs in our Columbus community and beyond,” DePerro said.
The SBLA’s history stretches back 35 years to recognize qualities such as outstanding leadership, business excellence and community contributions.
The other award finalists are Rachel Friedman, the founder of TENFOLD, and John Roush of Express Wash Concepts. The recipient will be announced at the Chamber’s annual meeting on Feb. 7.