A certified public accounting and business advisory firm, Cassell Plan Audits was founded by JoAnn Cassell in 2013. Already an industry expert with 20+ years of accounting experience under her belt, 10+ years had been focused exclusively on auditing qualified benefits plans as a Director at a national accounting firm.
In that role, JoAnn saw firsthand how frustrating the audit process was for the clients they served. “Big firms like the one I worked for have a lot of red tape,” she observed. “This and that person need to approve… It seemed like overkill for my industry,” auditing qualified benefits plans.
Because the firm juggled multiple accounting services, 401(k)audits were just one of competing priorities, increasing the time needed to complete them. A multi-level team also added significant overhead, resulting in astronomical fees for the client.
JoAnn also observed how high turnover was. There’s a big difference between working with the same provider each year and working with the same people each year. Every year, clients had to retrain a new crop of auditors on their internal processes and controls.
For the largest companies, high fees and turnover were not deal breakers—but for mid-sized and smaller, the fees were exclusionary, and retraining a new batch of auditors each year was a major time suck. JoAnn knew there was a better way. “I saw how I could offer the same services at the same level of quality, but at a much more affordable rate, with a smaller team focused only on benefit plan audits,” she recalled.
Leaving her job to start her own firm was no small decision. Her children were still little, and her family relied on her steady income. After a few years of struggling back and forth on the decision, JoAnn’s mounting frustration finally pushed her to take the plunge in 2013.
“I started laying the groundwork for my company in June and told my employer that October would be my last season,” she said. Her last day was in December. “I used those six months to lay the groundwork and get myself organized.”
“December was good timing because I got invited to a ton of holiday parties,” JoAnn quipped. Armed with a business card, drive, and experience, she started building her business from scratch. As scary as it was, starting with zero clients and a non-compete order with her former employer, she reassured herself that if things don’t work out as an entrepreneur, with her skill set, she could always polish off her resume and get a job at another firm.
Fortunately, her business took off—and fast. Through networking and word-of-mouth, she built her client base one 401(k) plan at a time. “Accounting firms love to refer to us,” she said, including her previous employer. “They don’t want to do the 401(k) audits, and we don’t want to take their accounting work,” so it’s a win-win.
A year after she launched Cassell Plan Audits, JoAnn hired her first team member. Ten years later, she now helms a team of eight. “We do good work. We have good partners in place. We’re not going anywhere.”
Ready to put your 401(k) audit in expert hands? Let’s talk.