Economic Development and Small Business

SMALL BUSINESS PROFILE MILESTONE ADVISORS: CFOs for hire: Company fills financial gaps Consultants provide expertise small businesses may be lacking

November 27, 2006

SMALL BUSINESS PROFILE

MILESTONE ADVISORS CFOs for hire: Company fills financial gaps Consultants provide expertise small businesses may be lacking Tom Gabbert and Glenn Dunlap started Milestone Advisors three years ago with a couple dozen clients already in tow, parlaying their previous experience and contacts into a new venture.

They've been using it to help other businesses shore up their financial foundations ever since.

Milestone Advisors provides financial management, strategic planning and related services to small to medium-size businesses with high growth potential. "Small and medium-size businesses don't get the attention needed in management accounting or corporate finance," Dunlap said.

Many of Milestone's clients don't have chief financial officers on board, even though business owners need help managing growth, Gabbert said.

Some companies do nothing more than basic accounting and have insufficient information to operate the business, said Jeff Good, who joined Milestone as a co-owner in 2004. "We hear business owners all the time say they have their financial statement, which shows proof of revenue, but there's no money in the bank and they want to know IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad why," said Good, 44, a CPA and former CFO at student loan provider USA Group.

So Milestone employees serve as chief financial officers, controllers, accountants and business strategists for hire.

Gabbert and Dunlap started Milestone with $10,000 in personal funds and the partners continue to operate it with very little overhead.

Its 17 employees work out of their homes or in clients' offices. Milestone has a conference room for meetings in a north-side office building, where the partners and employees also avail themselves of receptionist services that come with the space. They rely on hand-held computers, e-mails and other technological forms of communication.

Dunlap, 37, has had a long career in helping small businesses get started, grow and develop. Formerly director of the Indiana Small Business Development Center in Indianapolis and Columbus, he was an adviser with Concord Partners, a consulting firm for high-growth companies. He left Concord to form an independent consulting firm.

Gabbert, 40, has had a career in highlevel financial services, including chief financial officer at Escient Inc., Compression Engineering and Cybo Robots Inc. Also a certified public accountant, he formed CFO Solutions LLC, when he left Escient. He and Dunlap merged their operations to form Milestone.

"I think Milestone is successful as a professional-services firm because the three partners are very skilled and wellrespected," said Bruce Kidd, director of small business and entrepreneurship with the Indiana Department of Economic Development. "A real key is that they all have significant 'operating experience' inside companies, too, and are viewed as business advisers more than just an outsourced CFO or consultant."

That's a big difference in the eyes of company owners/CEOs, said Kidd, a founder of Concord Partners.

Virtual Meeting Strategies hired Milestone Advisors to be its "surrogate CFO," said Neal Rothermel, a principal in the Indianapolis company that develops, sets up and manages teleconference meetings.

Although growing, the 11-year-old VMS is not large enough to have its own CFO, so Milestone's Gabbert has been filling that role for about four years. He

Location: 450 E. 96th St., Suite 500 Phone: 581-1820 Web site:

milestoneadvisors.homestead.com/Index.

html E-mail: info@milestoneadvisors.netFounded: 2003 Founders: Tom Gabbert and Glenn Dunlap Owners: Tom Gabbert, Glenn Dunlap and Jeff

Good Service/Product: management accounting,

corporate finance and business strategy Employees: 17; 5 full time Revenue (2005): $1 million One-year goal: Add five to 10 employees

and to become the brand that comes to

mind when people think of chief financial

officer services in the local market. Industry outlook: Positive. As small to

medium-size businesses continue to

develop, the need for financial

management services will grow, too.

works regular hours, usually two days a week, and "is an extension of our management team and a strategic partner," Rothermel said.

Aiding Gabbert, when needed, are other members of the Milestone team.

"They are almost telepathic with the excellent information they give," Rothermel said. "They can take an idea and tie it to actual finances while filling the gap on tax advice, inventory advice and year-end and monthly documents."

Milestone Advisors has grown primarily by word of mouth, but last August hired Donna Dwyer Pitz as director of business development. "Our customers get exactly what they need without paying for services they don't require," said Pitz, former director of national sales at Emmis Communications Corp.

The business development hire is a "good sign in that it likely means Tom, Glenn and Jeff are too busy serving existing clients," Kidd said. "... It also means that they see an expanding opportunity for their firm and are taking aggressive steps to build the company."

Milestone's partners say there are many small to midsize companies that can benefit from their services and they've only begun to penetrate the market.

Their advice for any small business:

"Don't wait too long to get the expertise you need to take your business to the next level," Gabbert said. "We hear all the time how [clients] should have done this a year ago."
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