Thomas Wolf, 57

CPA spends entire career at Rochester firm moving all the way up to managing partner; talks about passion for golfing, biking

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

‘When I started, you were expected to work 55 to 65 hours a week and that was just common place. But now with the influx of millennials they really appreciate the idea of work-life balance.’

-Thomas Wolf

Q: What got you into the field?

A: I had a friend of mine that was working at the company [Mengel Metzger & Barr, a CPA firm based in Rochester]. After graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology I was looking for a job. They were not looking for an entry-level person, but they said they would interview me. I must have done something right because they offered me a job on the spot and I have been working there ever since that day in 1983. The firm has really grown from a staff of 25 when I started to about 130 and I am so happy that I made that decision to interview.

Q: What are some of the aspects of your job that you love?

A: Working with people face to face and helping them reach their professional goals is one of my greatest satisfactions. People have dreams that they want to accomplish. It can be running their own business, buying a vacation home, creating wealth for their family and I am lucky enough to help them with that. It is very satisfying to see people achieve that goal and look to do even greater things. Everybody needs some help figuring out their grand plans and that can’t be done without creating a specific plan for yourself or your business.

Q: How has the industry changed since you started?

A: First when I started in 1983 we didn’t have computers. Everything had to be done by hand. As technology has come into place, it made the process easier on one hand. However, with the tax rules changing, it has also made things more complex. Another shift is the people who are coming into the field. You don’t have the large numbers of people wanting to be accountants as you used to, so retention is very important. When I started, you were expected to work 55 to 65 hours a week and that was just common place. But now with the influx of millennials they really appreciate the idea of work-life balance. I have seen our firm looking to help employees find that balance and respond to what the workforce is looking for. It is the only way you can retain good quality people and that is something we believe in.

Q: What has been one of the great shifts in dealing with clients throughout the years.

A: The biggest change is that you are helping transition families from turning over their business from one generation to another. There are a lot of emotions and psychological elements that go with that transition. You start by seeing certain families own their businesses when their kids were smaller and formed a great relationship with them. Now those same children have grown up and they are taking the leadership role of the business while the parents are working with their children to take up that mantle and vision for the business going forward.

Q: How do you spend your spare time?

A: Golfing is one of my favorite activities. I am a member of the Penfield Country Club but my true passion is traveling internationally to golf. I have golfed at St. Andrews, considered one of the oldest golf courses in the world in Scotland. I have golfed in Ireland and many other places. I also enjoy cycling where I will ride anywhere from 10 to 40 miles.

Q: Why is keeping in shape important to you?

A: At any age, it is essential to be as fit as you can but especially as you get older. Keeping in shape gives you the opportunity to do all the things professionally and personally that you want to do. It is also very therapeutic to exercise and I find it relaxing. That is how I feel when I go cycling.

Q: What life advice do you offer to others?

A: You really have to live in the moment and enjoy the present. You can’t take anything for granted. I had friends that have passed away at much younger ages than expected. It makes you realize that every day is a gift. You have to make the most out of it. Spend quality time with friends and family every chance you get. Cherish one another. Tomorrow is not always going to be there so don’t take anything for granted.

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