Santa Rosa's Pisenti & Brinker post-merger looks to move further into wine, other accounting

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Almost two months after Santa-Rosa based accounting firms Pisenti & Brinker LLP and Zainer Rinehart Clarke merged, executives at the firm say they hope to expand into new markets and punch above their weight in the local accounting industry.

The Business Journal previously reported ZRC partners Betsy Stewart, Linda Kachiu and Danielle Sandoval will maintain their leadership positions in the new firm, which took the Pisenti & Brinker name, along with P&B partners Jim Perez, Ray Pounds, Tim Moratto, Brett Bradford and Josh Moore.

“Both of us had been around a very long time and had very large clients but we needed to be in a larger group setting,” said Pounds of the merger which came into effect on the first day of the year.

Pounds said the merger would allow the firm to further specialize services.

“The first one would probably be the wine industry,” Pounds said, noting that both firms handled wine industry clients prior to the merger but previously could not compete with other firms in Sonoma and Napa counties that primarily handled the industry’s accounting needs.

The firm’s presence in St. Helena could be crucial to that effort, Pounds said, noting one of the firm’s principles had connections to the wine industry and could be instrumental in creating introductions to the industry.

In the wake of the 2017 fires Pounds said the firm was also seeing an uptick in construction business, especially home builders replacing the roughly 5,300 dwellings lost in the blazes. He noted some companies were coming from outside of the North Bay area.

Offering auditing services to municipal government and nonprofit clients would remain a stalwart of the merged firm, which now counts over 80 employees.

Pounds acknowledged that bringing two firms together culturally would also be an ongoing process, a challenge echoed by Jim Andersen, a long time North Bay CPA now at Hemming Morse, LLP who acted as a consultant on the merger.

Andersen said he was charged with collecting financial information and projections from both firms as well as modeling potential cost savings and profit outlays.

“The challenge that you face is that you have people that have been doing things one way for a long, long time and they have been in charge,” Andersen said of potential glitches in this type of merger and referring to Jim Perez and Betsy Stewart, the former managing partners of Pisenti and Zainer respectively.

“You have to be getting yourself adjusted to new systems, and being part of a larger process and understanding that you don’t necessarily get your own way and get to make all the decisions anymore.”

Andersen said he suggested that Pisenti & Brinker might be a good match for a merger while working with Stewart last fall.

“I said ‘your two organizations would make a very nice synergistic or strategic merger,” and contribute to the diversification of leadership.

The move could help the firm attract more talent in a tight job market for employers, Andersen added. “They’ve made themselves a better candidate to be more attractive to college graduates,” he said. “[The merger] puts the combined firm in a better position to grow and attract new talent and keep existing talent.”

The merger put the newly combined firm just behind the largest North Bay accounting firm, Santa Rosa –based Moss Adams in terms of size, and will give the newly expanded shop a chance to compete for more regional business with them, Andersen added.

Staff Writer Chase DiFeliciantonio covers technology, banking, law, accounting, and the cannabis industry. Reach him at or 707-521-4257.

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