Aruba, Dentistry, and the Baltimore Ravens

The key to Allen Schiff’s financial planning and leadership is all about gratitude and people

Allen Schiff could spend hours talking about his trips to Aruba. He recently returned from one of his many yearly trips with his wife to their favorite destination for the last twenty-plus years. The time-shares Schiff and his wife enjoy are maybe the only unsound investments the president of Schiff & Associates—an accounting firm featuring Schiff’s own specific dental industry business planning—has made in an otherwise hugely successful career helping dentists plan for their futures and eventual retirements. Wise investment or not, Schiff says sometimes success just needs to be celebrated. In fact, it is this mentality that has kept so many Schiff & Associates employees at the firm. Likewise, this focus on celebrating successes comprises a fundamental component of the team mentality that has helped build a company culture of community and support.

Allen Schiff, Schiff & Associates Photo by Marc Summerfield, Guill Photo

Schiff’s commitment to teamwork runs deep in his Baltimore heart. The NFL’s Baltimore Colts (who would later move to Indianapolis under cloak and dagger, one of the most controversial moves in US sports history) of the ’60s and ’70s embodied the working-class spirit of the city not just to a young Schiff, but the community at large. The players were known to live alongside city residents and participate as active members of the community. When the team left in 1984, Schiff says he and the city felt a huge, Sunday-sized hole in their hearts. But that void was also the key to a role in the future president’s own personal development. “When the team came back as the Baltimore Ravens thirteen years later, the community really reunited again, and the leadership of the team did such a great job of reinvesting in the team to make it consistently competitive as well as integrating itself within the community.”

When Schiff himself left his longtime firm, where he had become one of forty-nine partners and six hundred and fifty employees located in eleven different cities, he wanted to instill the same pride and ownership in an organization that he’d seen with the Colts, and later the Baltimore Ravens. “The culture here is much different than the firms I’ve worked at in this past,” Schiff says. “If one team member is burdened, another will step in to help; there is no internal competition here than can spur such negativity at larger firms. We have an amazing culture supported by teamwork.”

Schiff is able to help drive culture from a single seat, without having to consult partners or other parties when, for instance, he elected to give the office the day after the Fourth of July off, granting everyone a four-day weekend. “I want to spread my gratitude to all of these people,” Schiff says. “We all have families, and what we were working on could wait until Monday.”

“If one team member is burdened, another will step in to help.”

The president’s relaxed hand is certainly no indication of how hard he worked to get where he is. After making partner at his former firm, the CPA realized that working with dentists to grow their wealth and plan for their futures was the ideal niche to operate within. “I’ve always found that compassion seems most prevalent in density,” Schiff says. “There was always more of a team concept that spoke to me, as opposed to one individual out to make himself successful at the cost of those around them.” His big break came when after convincing his other partners to set up a booth at a dental conference trade show, Schiff was ultimately asked to speak to the D4 class at the University of Maryland’s dental school. It’s an obligation he’s honored for thirty-three years and has ultimately led to sound financial planning for many a dentist.

“There was a recent study done concluding that only 6 percent of dentists today can afford to retire,” Schiff says. “These people need to surround themselves with competent professionals who can help guide them and understand how to accumulate wealth and build their businesses.” Schiff’s goal is to help his clients retire at an earlier age, and certainly not be beholden to continuing their work because it’s the only way they can afford to live. “As soon as I begin working with a client, I’m already working on an exit strategy for them. You just have to maintain that kind of scope if you want to be effective in your role.”

Allen Schiff
Photo by Rachel Smith Photography

In 2001, right after September 11, Schiff also founded a group of dental CPAs in Scottsdale, Arizona, which would ultimately become the Academy of Dental CPAs (ADCPA), a network and intellectual property goldmine of CPAs willing to share their expertise and advice with professionals in twenty-four states. “This organization builds a lot of confidence because it provides a competitive advantage for its members that simply cannot be matched,” Schiff says. “If I encounter a complex problem that I haven’t seen before, I can have six to seven ideas on how to solve it in fifteen minutes flat.”

Having successfully built his own firm and a wide network of professionals, Schiff says he’s continually motivated to help his team succeed and watch their growth both professionally and personally. “I think it’s imperative to surround yourself with really good people in all areas of discipline,” Schiff says—perhaps a comment on his own success as much as the advice that he gives young dentists just setting out on their career journeys.

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