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LEADING QUESTIONS: CPA Sponsel takes calculated risk

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Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of  “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which  IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about their industry and the habits that lead to success.

Tom Sponsel, 57, launched Sponsel CPA Group in September 2009 after leaving the accounting firm at which he had spent a majority of his career. He joined the firm that would become Greenwalt Sponsel & Co. Inc. in 1980, and expected to succeed managing partner Larry Greenwalt as the firm's leader in January 2011. But Sponsel was unhappy with the direction of the company, and he decided to leave after it became apparent the firm no longer intended to install him in Greenwalt's position.

It was a calculated risk for Sponsel, who plowed $250,000 of his own money into the start-up and arranged for $750,000 in financing for the firm from M&I Bank. Today, Sponsel CPA Group has 21 employees—including managing partner Sponsel and three other partners formerly with Greenwalt Sponsel & Co. Inc.—and more than 100 clients.

In the video below, Sponsel recounts the steps taken to create his firm and get it off the ground. The experience was valuable for Sponsel and his employees, who gained insight into the business issues on which they regularly counsel their clients. Sponsel also discusses the inspiration he finds in his family's history, marked with entrepreneurs.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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