Member Spotlight: An Interview with Our Coworkers at Embark

July 29, 2014

We had a few questions for Embark Group’s founder, Paul Allen.  Here is what he had to say:

Embark_logo_blue-2Who are you and what are you up to?

We’re Embark, a boutique financial consulting and recruiting firm based here in Dallas.

Our consulting team helps clients with pre- & post-transaction accounting, the accounting implications of ERP implementations, SOX and internal control testing and development, audit and debt covenant preparation, etc.  The team is a bunch of ex-public accounting CPA’s that love helping clients and having a life at the same time!

Our recruiting team helps clients find talent in the audit, tax, accounting, and finance worlds here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  We’re NOT the volume shops that you typically find in the recruiting industry.  We take a more consultative approach and really help find the right people for the right team.  It can be a challenging process at times because it’s an inexact science, but it’s worth it when we can make a difference in someone’s life.

 What’s your story?

We started with just me, a phone, and an apartment on January 1st, 2010. I knew I didn’t want to head back to one of the large recruiting firms, so I started Embark.  I thought the volume approach taken by the large firms could miss too many opportunities to provide value to clients.  I wanted to create a different approach.

We’re actually really ramping up our team as we speak.  We love finding people that are super sharp as well as really great to work with on a daily basis.  We’ve had to find people that understand how things change quickly in the dynamic environment of a start-up, where there’s not always an easy, buttoned-up, pre-developed process to help you with what you need to do.  So we have to find people that can be a part of the solution, not just point out problems.

What sets you apart from others in your industry?

Our culture.

Most recruiting firms are just worried about making the next placement.  We’d rather not make a placement than make a bad one!  We want someone to really excel long-term in their careers, and that means sometimes taking a hard look at a potential opportunity.

Our culture is also what makes us different on the consulting side.  We’re building a team that doesn’t work 24/7 and end up burning out quickly, so we can maximize profit immediately.  We’d rather keep our team fresh, engaged, and dedicated to helping our clients.  We think the best way to do this is to hire really sharp people and then help them truly develop a schedule that is sustainable over the long haul.  We’re not afraid of hard work, but we know that long-term success is better than short-term profit

How is it going?

We continue to hit all-time highs in revenue, profit, and clients served.  We’ve started small, so we can put our own unique stamp on the exponential growth we expect over the next few years!

What are your biggest challenges?

Over the first few years it’s been the access to working capital.  We’re a professional services firm, so we don’t have any collateral.  Banks literally kind of laughed at us while they tightened lending practices after 2008.  We’ve finally passed that threshold and grown a successful relationship with Chase Bank, but it’s been a tough road for sure.

Our other hurdle is and will always be finding the best people for our lines of business.  We don’t make widgets, so our people truly are the most important part of our firm, both in consulting and recruiting.

What are the two most valuable things you have learned since starting your business?

1-Business plans don’t always work.  We’ve had to be very flexible and really try to listen to what the market is telling us it needs.

2-Instead of doing as many things as you possibly can, surround yourself with people that are great in other areas and let them make their magic happen!

What’s your favorite part of your work?

The fact that what we do really does make a material difference in people’s lives.

When we place someone into a new role and they get to spend more time with their family or take a huge step towards their goals, that feels really good.

When we help a consulting client land a $20M line of credit by cleaning up their financials and working with their auditors to satisfy the bank, that feels really good.

When a recruiting client comes to us and we can tell they’re extremely overworked because they need more help on their team, and we’re able to help them find the relief they need, that feels really good.

Basically we want to do things that really make a difference.  We just happen to do that in and around the corporate finance and accounting world.

What is the most time-consuming part of your work?

Planning and administrative functions.  Hands down.  We’re still working through streamlining our processes and making them as efficient and effective as possible.  We hope we get there sooner rather than later!

Do you get much free time?  How do you spend it?

Not really.  My wife and I have a 2 1/2  year old little daughter and an 8 month old boy.  They keep us pretty much hooked up all the time.  Plus, as an entrepreneur you never really stop thinking about ways to improve your company.  So it’s really just our community group through our church (The Village), our family time, and work.  It’s a busy season of life!

Where are you going from here?

We’re looking into Austin and Houston as potential next-step expansions.  We’d love to add the Due Diligence and Valuation lines of business to our firm as well.  Basically, we love to find talent, and then we’ll build around them.  We’ve found that to be the most successful approach.

Are you thinking about expanding your team?

Definitely!  We’re really in ramp up mode right now.  So if you’re a CPA with public accounting experience and want to work with a cool and sharp group of people, let us know!!

Head to embarkgroup.co and reach out to us.  We’ll get back to you ASAP!

What is the impact of your business on the local community?  On society?

Great question.  I know we make a positive difference in people’s lives when we help them with their career.

Also, internally we want to create a culture where our team is empowered to regularly volunteer their time and skills within the community.  We’re looking into a team volunteer trip to Africa with a micro-finance organization called Videre and we work locally with the Junior Achievement teams to train high-schoolers in DISD.  We want volunteerism among the employees of our firm to keep growing, so if you have any other ideas please let us know!

Why did you decide to office at The Common desk?

The vibe is great.  Being around so many other motivated people and companies that are trying to grow and develop is awesome.  The CommonDesk team is great, too.  They’ve been extremely approachable and helpful throughout our time here.  Everyone should know them.  They’re great peeps!

Are you working on a Mac or a PC?

Mac – always!

What are two mobile apps that you couldn’t work without?

1-Salesforce1

2-Office for iOS

What’s your favorite place to eat in Deep Ellum?

Uncle Uber’s

The Common Desk

The Common Desk

The Common Desk is a unique coworking community in Deep Ellum where freelancers, artists, and startups come together to work in an inspiring new way.

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