January-February 2018 | POWER IN NUMBERS




PKS & Company, P.A. celebrates 40 years of providing strategic guidance to its clients across the Eastern Shore. The Certified Public Accounting and business-advisory firm credits its many successes and continued growth to its talented family of employees

Written By: Jennifer Cording | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

A great many things in life are difficult. Certainly one of them is earning the trust of an unusually tight-knit community with the precious assets they’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Now, try doing that at the same high level for 40 years, and you’ve got the Eastern Shore’s most recognized Certified Public Accounting and business-advisory firm, PKS & Company, P.A.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018, partner John M. Stern, CPA/PFS, says the secret of the firm’s success lies in not just what it knows, but who it knows — or, rather, who it hires.

“It is our spirited staff with a passion for helping people, coupled with excellent training and quality clients is the foundation for our success” says John M. Stern, CPA/PFS.

Once, accountants were thought of as “bean counters.” But today the business of accounting is much more. PKS takes a different angle, with an ever-evolving approach to managing clients’ accounting and financial-planning needs.

“We are proactive advisors and business partners, versus historians,” said Daniel M. O’Connell, CPA/PFS, CVA. “We become part of our client’s team of advisors. They turn to us regularly to solve everyday problems. We’re in constant communication with our clients, not just in contact with them once a year.”

It is this approach to client service that’s been integral to PKS for decades. PKS focuses its ability to personally address the needs of clients, some of whom have been part of PKS’ clientele from the firm’s inception.

“We are in the people business,” said Stern. “We work as a team. We don’t work as individuals within the firm. The clients have access to everybody in our firm, not just one person.”

PKS is structured strategically to remain small enough to offer prompt, individualized service, yet large enough to provide an inclusive, sophisticated array of services to its clients. Many PKS associates have degrees and certifications beyond the typical accounting degree.

The company’s range of expertise extends to many industries and entities that are central to the Delmarva economy, including healthcare, hospitality, government, agribusiness, condominiums and HOAs, construction, business consulting, food service and restaurants, nonprofit organizations and others. 

To maximize opportunities for clients, PKS is a member of Allinial Global, an association of accounting and consulting firms, the members of which reinforce


PKS began in 1978 as James Pigg & Company Certified Public Accountants from the home of Jim Pigg, CPA. As the city grew, so did the firm. By 1991, the firm had 38 employees and had won the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award.

“The Firm started with a couple of key people, and although those individuals have left, we are continuously bringing up the next generation,” said Stern.

“Here, it’s a small family that’s been growing for 40 years. We have a low turnover in personnel. There are a lot of relationships that have existed for many years, and we have clients who have been with us for generations.”

A family-friendly atmosphere and flexibility within the company has long been a hallmark of PKS. “The people, the variety of the work we do, the flexibility, the fun,” said Jean Webster, CPA, CPP, when asked why she enjoys working at the firm.

“I love the culture of PKS,” said Kevin Dorman, CPA. “We have a close group, which allows us to collaborate and grow.”

“We work with our employees to support the family,” Stern said. “We have been very progressive in understanding the link between high-performing employees and their ability to support and interact with their families.”

“The firm developed a flexible and reduced-hour work schedule that enabled me to spend time with my children, attend their many events over the years and continue my professional growth,” said Susan P. Keen, CPA. 

“PKS is definitely a family,” added Ashley M. Stern, CPA, MBA, CGFM, daughter of John Stern. “I may have a father who works here, but it also feels as each coworker and client is an extension of my own family. I look out for them like I would a brother or a sister, and my clients and coworkers do the same for me.”

In turn, PKS not only encourages their employees to support the community by donating time and services to diverse civic organization and charities, but provides the flexibility and financial support to do so.



Noting a need among its clients for sound financial-planning advice, PKS established PKS Investment Advisors LLC in 1999. It’s a core belief at PKS that the coordination between financial plans and tax plans benefits clients with a service unique to financial planning. As a registered investment advisory firm, PKS adheres to a strict fiduciary standard and provides advice with the client’s best interests in mind. The firm is legally bound to act in its clients’ best interest and has done so since its inception.

Planning is provided for clients at all stages of life. Some are busy professionals seeking strategies to grow and accumulate wealth. Others are close to retirement and need a plan to transition from accumulating to withdrawing from their assets. Still others are already in retirement and concerned about outliving their money.

“Having a diverse team of accounting professionals available to answer questions relevant to creating and monitoring a client’s financial plan is invaluable,” said Timothy A. Gonzales, CFP®, AAMS®. In my opinion, there is no better client experience than having one’s financial planner and accountant working as a team.”


While celebrating its 40th anniversary and having grown into the most diverse firm of its kind in the area, PKS remains focused on growth and building the Firm of the Future. 

“We want to make sure PKS is here to support the next generation of business owners on Delmarva” said O’Connell. “We do this by offering forward-thinking advisory services to our clients, investing in the latest technologies and providing our staff with professional development that well exceeds the industry norm.”

The heart of the firm really lies in its local roots, its employees and its philosophy of “accounting is a lifetime of learning.” All professional staff are encouraged to set aside time for self-improvement and pursue additional degrees and certifications. Many are certified in fraud examination, business valuation, retirement plan administration, government financial management and personal financial planning — and others have gone on to obtain post-secondary degrees.

“PKS helped me pass the CPA exam by paying for my study materials and providing the time and flexibility I needed to focus,” said Adrienne Tyler, a first year accountant with the firm.  “The support and encouragement I received from my colleagues and the partners makes PKS
a really positive environment.” 

“We’ve assembled the best talent and recognize how fortunate we are to have access to a quality institution like Salisbury University that produces well-educated accounting and finance graduates. More than half of our professional staff are graduates of Salisbury University and three-quarters have local roots,” added Stern.

PKS’ commitment to its team and clients is strengthened by the tools and resources the firm provides. Significant investments in technology improve efficiency, provide the ability to collaborate in an instant, allows staff to work flexible schedules and maintain a good work-life balance.

“Whether I’ve left the office early to coach my son’s soccer team or I am working remotely, I’m able to access anything I need to provide my clients with timely support and the service they expect,” says Andrew M. Haynie, CPA, CFE.

“Our continuous investment in technology, training and most importantly, our people, has proven to be the formula for our success,” says O’Connell. “This investment will be the driving force of our continued success as we look ahead to our 50th anniversary.” 


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