Lamfers Follows Career Path

November 14, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Mike Lamfers had a clear sense of what he wanted to do career-wise before he graduated from high school.

Today, as the youngest partner in Deloitte & Touche LLP's Grand Rapids practice, he's glad he never veered from his goal of becoming a certified public accountant.

"Right out of high school I thought that accounting seemed like a good career choice and a good business platform to start with," he recalled. "I thought the degree would give me the best, well-rounded opportunity to pursue something in business."

He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Grand Valley State University, took the CPA exam following graduation, and started his career in accounting at Autodie Corp., a Grand Rapids-based automotive supplier.

He originally worked in the company's finance accounting group, dealing with accounting for revenue contracts and collection of receivables, among other things.

That led to working with Autodie's project management team on the finance piece of industrial projects.

"I really enjoyed that part of the business and working with people in the plant," he recalled.

He took on more responsibilities and roles in Autodie's finance group during the six years he was there.

Lamfers joined the firm that is now branded simply as "Deloitte" in 1994, bringing with him extensive experience in consumer business and manufacturing.

"Having worked in industry you can bring somewhat of a unique perspective because you've been there in the trenches, so to speak, and had an opportunity to work on the inside with clients and gain insight into what kinds of issues they have to deal with day to day in running their business — whether it's matching cash flows or trying to help that company achieve the bottom line."

From Lamfers' perspective, Deloitte has always had a great reputation both locally and worldwide, as well as a good client base.

He said he sensed even back then that the firm had a great culture.

"It's the best thing I did for my career," Lamfers remarked. "Working with great partners, I think, gave me an opportunity to show my skills.

"We have great people that work here and we have great clients. When you put that combination together you have fun when you go to work, and it's both challenging and rewarding."

In his nine years with Deloitte, he has moved quickly up the ranks from associate, to staff accountant, to senior accountant, to manager to senior manager.

Lamfers was named partner in September and leads client service teams in the firm's Audit and Assurance Group.

About 90 audit and tax consultants work out of the local office. Lamfers is one of 12 partners in Grand Rapids.

He works with both public and private companies, primarily as lead audit partner on audit engagements. He also helps clients in other areas, such as mergers and acquisitions.

He said one of the most exciting, out-of-the-norm projects he has worked on was the Blackstone Group's $4.7 billion acquisition of TRW Automotive, a deal struck just in the past year.

The firm's Audit and Assurance Group is growing at a steady pace, and has seen more growth opportunities since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Lamfers noted.

Sarbanes-Oxley has forced more responsibilities on boards of directors, audit committees, CEOs and CFOs of public companies in an effort to foster ethical behavior and performance.

It's a very interesting time to be in public accounting, Lamfers noted.

The world of accounting has changed dramatically since the Arthur Andersen-Enron scandal.

"We used to be sort of a self-regulated profession, but now we have the oversight commission, the PCAOB, and the regulators looking at the auditing standards and really challenging the process.

"There is a continual flurry of new regulation, pronouncements and guidance, and it's coming from multiple bodies."

He believes that, ultimately, it will be a positive change for the industry because it will help restore public confidence in the profession.

People have started to ask questions that they normally didn't think twice about before, Lamfers observed, and executive officers of companies have started to look more closely at their governance processes.

"I think it's a good thing for boards to be more involved in understanding their businesses and the financial status of their businesses."

When Lamfers started, the firm served 96 markets. It now serves more than 150 markets, markets that continue to become more complicated. Business is becoming more complicated, too, because it's global, he said.

"The resources we have as a global firm are just tremendous. I can pick up the phone and talk to partners in France or Luxembourg, and they're there to support whatever needs I have.

"The majority of clients that we serve will be global corporations and that's why you need to be a global firm and have those types of resources to be successful."

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