Connecting to Your Clients With Stacey Roberts

Hosts & Guests

Judy Vorndran

Meredith Smith

Stacey Roberts, State and Local Tax Director


Connecting to Your Clients With Stacey Roberts

Meredith Smith [00:00:02] Welcome to SALTovation, this alteration show is a podcast series featuring the leading voices, Insult, where we talk about the issues and strategies to help you make sense of state and local tax. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the SALTovation podcast. Today, we continue our Meet the Team series with director Stacey Roberts. Hi, Stacey. Do you think we'll be able to stay focused today? My guess is maybe

Stacey Roberts [00:00:30] that's a strong maybe

Meredith Smith [00:00:32] and the SALTovation boss lady duty border and high duty. Oh, all right, Stace. So we're both Illinois girls, part of the Midwest. We are. You started your career in Chicago and then towards the Pacific Northwest and then settled in Denver. What do you think you learned about working in each of those markets?

Stacey Roberts [00:00:50] Oh, well, so I worked for Anderson and the Chicago office was the headquarters of Andersen. So it was a huge one. It was a huge office building. I mean, we had a whole office building and tons of people. Right. And I'm from a little town in Illinois, a little farm town. And so when I moved to Chicago, just that alone was like a big culture shock for me. But in the end, one of the best things I ever did for myself, just personally. And so then going into the building, you know, thirty four, thirty three, West Monroe, still remember, burn it down. You'll never I don't know what's in there now. It could be the new Anderson. I don't know, because, you know, Anderson's back is in another shape or form. Right. But yeah, I would go into thirty three West Monroe and with thousands of other people and the salt group, the same local tax group was I think around 100 to one hundred and twenty five people.

Judy Vorndran [00:01:52] Oh my goodness.

Stacey Roberts [00:01:54] Wow. Yeah. OK, I was so the group so the team was further broken down into various service lines. So I was part of the income tax group. There were people that were part of the sales tax group. There were people that were part of the property tax group and there were people that were part of the payroll tax group. So at that time, Anderson did all of those services for state and local tax. So having been part of that, I worked for I would say I mean, some of the like really lakes, I mean, very technically oriented income tax partners probably learned the most honestly from them from a technical perspective, not to get too nerdy about Illinois income tax, but it can be it can be pretty complicated. So you did a lot of corporate tax work. The group itself was consultative, so we didn't comply. But so there was a separate group that did compliance, but we always reviewed it. So here I was, just like a staff person reviewing state income tax returns that other people prepared. And then I was having to work with this other group that was the compliance group in order to get changes made and the returns out the door. So a very well oiled process as far as that was concerned. But from a consulting standpoint, I just I learned so much from the partners because they really challenged us to learn the law, to understand the nuances with like the Illinois law, as opposed to maybe like a California, because so much of what Illinois is like, unitary rules are related to are very much related to California's unitary rules, but in some ways somewhat different. So we would have quizzes. We'd have to do these income tax meetings really early in the morning. Right. And when you're in your twenties and going out in Chicago and then having to go to work the next day and early, like, you know, seven thirty have it like a quiz from one of the partners, it's kind of brutal. But at the end, I mean, I learned a ton and I learned I would say a lot about just kind of hierarchy and some things that I didn't like honestly. Right. Because I remember distinctly what I had written and this was I had made senior and I had written a private literally for the state of Rhode Island, of all places, and it was arguing distortion for apportionment. And I remember walking into, like, pretty much the head technical partner of the income tax group, his office. And these are the days right. Where these partners still wanted things printed. Right. So, like, you're not emailing it to them, right? I mean, I've been doing this a long time, so I'm physically taking in this power and he's just sitting there in his office waiting for me to bring it in. And he grabs his red pen to get ready to make edits. And he did. And he's and he's a lefty. So it was like, you know, like this kind of you know, it's all over my paper. So, you know, I mean, hard, you know, like, I was really nervous walking in. Right, because it's all these, you know, it's a big group. It's you know, you're expected to do what you're expected to know what you're like. Twenty three. Twenty four. Correct, and a little intimidated by these people. But it really was like a really good learning ground for me to become so technically competent, I think, in the income tax area. But then I also had, like, the blinders because I did it. I didn't know about sales tax. I didn't know property tax, I didn't know payroll tax because there were other people that knew that stuff and I didn't have to know it. And so then when for personal reasons, I decided to move logistics or geographically, rather, I had to learn and become more of a generalist because Anderson's office in Chicago, again, the biggest office, the headquarters office, then I'm moving to other offices that are smaller. And I also learned that at these firms. I don't know why I would ever have thought this, but also learned at these offices, the culture is very different, even though you're part of the same firm. And so that was really interesting to me to, you know, to go from that Chicago office, which I felt was I mean, I had a lot of support and I learned a lot. But then when I got to these other offices it was just different. And culturally, I was very surprised at how different it really was. That was an eye opener. Then, like I said, I had to really kind of learn like sales tax, for example. I mean, I just had to learn it because if I was going to help my clients, I had to figure it out. So it was kind of sink or swim a little bit. But I would say moving to those other geographies exposed me to a broader base, also just different clients. I mean, surprisingly, this probably isn't a surprise to you, Meredith, but like Chicago's pretty middle market, I mean, there's some big companies, don't get me wrong. Like I worked on Walgreens, for example. It's a huge company and I worked on a giant project for them. Right. But, you know, there's a lot of middle market companies. And so when I moved to Portland, when I moved to Denver here, I mean, a lot of middle market companies. Right. So from that perspective, it wasn't that different. I will say, you know, in those other markets, I was also still working on, you know, sexy companies. So I was having to do work that I had been doing similar work when I was in Chicago. And I always got my in with these clients through the income tax just because that was what I knew. But I would say, like I said earlier, that for me, moving to the smaller markets forced me to become more of a generalist and learn sales tax, which has been invaluable to me over time.

Meredith Smith [00:08:01] Well, so then you said you went to Portland or. Yeah, you went to Portland from Chicago and then did you kind of do like Oregon and Washington kind of together

Stacey Roberts [00:08:13] more than you. I would say. Yeah, I mean, so fast forward. And so Anderson went down those prayers. That's not boilerplate. That's not news. And I went down with that ship and then I ended up at KPMG where you worked. So what was interesting about that, too? So I was in Portland when that happened. I barely got my moving expenses reimbursed from moving to Portland. The firm was indicted. I think I moved in late February and the firm was indicted in April or May, actually, probably April, because then I became a KPMG employee in early May and all of the Portland and Seattle office people for Andersen became KPMG employees. They took over the audit and tax work for those markets. And so we were when we were the bigger practice. And so we were all kind of I'd say misery loves company, but we were all in it together. And so there was some comfort in that. Right, because I made friends with these people. Honestly, I hadn't been there very long to get to know a lot of the people clearly because I moved in February and then everything happened a couple of months later. But I got to know them. They got to know how I worked. And we were all kind of in it together and figuring it out. Right. And so when we all joined KPMG, Yashar, a different firm, you know, culturally a little different, but we were still all kind of the Andersen people together. And so it didn't really feel that different. And we continued working on the same clients. So that was kind of interesting, right? It was just like they just basically slapped the KPMG name on the door. I mean, I was going to the same office space. I sat at the same desk. Oh, really? Yeah. So, like, one day I'm going to give my resignation at Andersen and then the next day I go to offsite training all day with everybody else. And then the next day I walk into my office and sit at my desk. So it's just very interesting. It was a very interesting time.

Judy Vorndran [00:10:20] Yeah. Changing your emails and all that. I mean, like in the day, all the emails we got at KPMG. Wow. Oh, yeah. Because, you know, when I was at Deloitte, we acquired the Andersen practice in Chicago. I actually went to the Christmas party there because I was working with a group that was in Oak Park. Is that right? OK, ok. OK, so our

Meredith Smith [00:10:42] group probably Oakbrook

Stacey Roberts [00:10:44] it was.

Judy Vorndran [00:10:45] Yes. Yeah. There was a sales tax. Correct.

Stacey Roberts [00:10:48] Sales tax,

Judy Vorndran [00:10:49] which was a way from downtown Chicago. You got to go to the Chicago party which is at the Natural History Museum. And I mean, I don't know if there were ten thousand. I mean, I had no idea there was that big office in Denver that is so small, but I work nationally. Right. So I got to see all these different offices at Deloitte, but we had taken over. The a.m. practice in Illinois, so I was with your old brethren and and then you're at KPMG because that's what happened. KPMG took over the Andersen practice in different markets because Deloitte was going to take all of it, I guess, but they didn't want the liability. I think legally there was an issue with that. So they only took piece offices like they took off California, Chicago, Texas. I can't remember all of them, but oh, boy, that was so.

Stacey Roberts [00:11:34] And I think they only took tax. They did not take an audit. So that's my recollection.

Judy Vorndran [00:11:40] Maybe you're right. That's America, which had been that many people in tax in Illinois then and probably had that money to a lot of people. I just couldn't believe how big those offices were.

Stacey Roberts [00:11:52] Yeah.

Judy Vorndran [00:11:53] I mean, I'm a history museum. They rented out the entire museum for the party

Meredith Smith [00:11:58] where Sue the T. Rex.

Judy Vorndran [00:12:00] Right. I've been to the whole museum. Was just that party for that group.

Stacey Roberts [00:12:07] Yeah. I mean, it's crazy. When I was at Anderson, they'd rent out great America, OK? I was amused.

Meredith Smith [00:12:14] That means something to me and you. But everyone's like, yeah,

Stacey Roberts [00:12:17] they're like eulogized downtown Denver. I keep thinking the same thing. I don't know if it's still owned by Six Flags, but it was Six Flags. Great. America was like, yeah, huge, right? I mean, not like Disney World. Huge, but huge. And they'd rent it out. That was one of the things that we would do for fun.

Judy Vorndran [00:12:34] Yeah, right. Little treats to the staff, you know, to do a lot of neat things that they would do to kind of make up for all the hours they'd kill you

Stacey Roberts [00:12:43] for a little. Right. But so I was like KPMG for three years. OK, I'm all

Judy Vorndran [00:12:50] in Portland, Oregon. In Portland. OK, OK.

Stacey Roberts [00:12:54] Yeah. And so I didn't really I didn't work in Washington at that time. We had groups, a group of people in Seattle that were really kind of their expertise. And so I was really kind of more of an ink, still more of an income tax person working on, you know, just multistate compliance and consulting work. Not a lot of sales tax even at that time, although I was getting a little bit more exposure to it, I would say that

Judy Vorndran [00:13:23] probably the

Stacey Roberts [00:13:23] biggest kind of shift in my career was when Kim Snyder, who is the multi state tax services partner in Seattle, he contacted me when I was still at KPMG and asked me if I would have dinner with him because he was looking to hire somebody to rejuvenate, I would say the practice in Portland for Deloitte. And he found me and asked me to go to dinner with Deloitte here about what I could contribute. And next thing I knew, I was signing my offer letter to join Deloitte.

Judy Vorndran [00:14:05] And I remember Kim Snyder was a federal guy who became in charge of the state local practice. And because I went to your office before you were there, when I was part of the national team and I remember being a little bit annoyed, I won't lie because I was like, he's not even a multistate guy. Like, he has bread and butter, becoming a federal person and understanding that and the nuances, of course. But I was like I was purely state and local. So I had a little bit of resentment, I suppose, because I'm like, this is all I know. I don't know much about the federal government. I did federal for a couple of years, but like, I really was ingrained in state, local. And yet he was a leader with a stronger federal background than a state local background. But he was still the market leader in salt. So it's

Meredith Smith [00:14:44] interesting. Fast forward. And then Stacey showed up.

Judy Vorndran [00:14:47] Yeah, right. Probably needed some of those strengths in the technical area that he was lacking.

Stacey Roberts [00:14:53] Yeah. So the guys that had been in the Portland office before I joined were really very heavy business and occupation tax guys. That was their technical kind of background. Even though they were sitting in Portland, that was most of their work. And that was they just weren't really, I guess, making inroads with the federal tax team because they just didn't know income tax. Right. I mean. Right. Anybody knows Washington. Oh, right. It's it's I mean, it's pretty intricate, right. It's very there's a lot of different rules and you can make a career out of it. You really can. Yeah. And so there's I mean, that's kind of what those guys did.

Judy Vorndran [00:15:32] Right. And especially the larger companies of the world, like smaller mid-market, they're not paying enough to really spend a whole lot of time fighting over a couple of thousand dollars tax. But when you're talking about something larger, you're probably talking millions of dollars of the tax. That's it. Yeah, yeah.

Stacey Roberts [00:15:47] And so Kimberly needed somebody who could, you know, make inroads with the federal tax people and kind of build that practice. And so I took a leap of faith and said, OK, I'm going to try it. Right. I mean, what do I have to lose? Right. And I was a manager. And so here I was kind of joining this practice. I didn't know any of them. I don't even know if I'd seen them out in the market, right, because they were all federal tax people and, you know, if I'd seen anybody else out in the market, I would have been like an Iwai multistate person or something like that. Right. It wouldn't have been a federal person necessarily. The other thing was that that office had kind of had a shift in leadership where there were a couple partners that were retiring or had retired. And so there was just kind of a leadership change and younger partners coming up. So really, the timing was really good for me to come in because they were really looking to build and kind of change that office and attract younger talent and things like that. And so it was really a good time for me to be there and learn. And it was also I joined, I think, in 05 and then, as you guys know, in forty eight, hit a few years later. And I was the busiest I've ever been that year because, you know, everybody was having to book reserves and we had publicly held companies that were having to figure out their next footprint there, get everything booked.

Meredith Smith [00:17:19] And Mosher's for like a long time.

Stacey Roberts [00:17:23] Yeah. And and so I was never busier and I'm sure you guys weren't either. But I mean, it was a very busy time for us and also been a bit like probably like for me one of the better times in my career, honestly, because I just learned a lot. I was constantly helping clients, which is really what I love to do, you know, figure things out and help them book things that they need to book, help them figure out their exposure, help them figure out what to do to fix it. And so that was a really interesting time for me. And then I was able to hire people to whom I loved. Right. I had a lot of support from leadership. And I was able then to, like, build a team. And we had a great time. We, I mean, we worked hard, but we also had a good time. Yeah. And I really, really loved that office. I really love that office. And I really loved the leadership team. I mean, I ultimately reported up to Seattle and then down to San Jose and I loved my whole leadership team. And that Pacific Northwest, it was, they were so incredibly supportive. And I had Walker when I was there, too, which I would have to say that Kim was probably I mean, he was the one of my biggest supporters. As far as what do you want to do when you come back? Do you want to come back? I know, right? This is your first

Judy Vorndran [00:18:48] baby was having a conversation. Why is that the conversation? It's an assumption that all women and careers will quit.

Stacey Roberts [00:18:54] Well, I mean, I think I didn't really get that impression from him, honestly. It was more like you got to think about it. What is it that you want? Yeah. And then I remember kind of having the conversation with him. I'd gone up to Seattle. I was pregnant. I used to spend a ton of time in Seattle. I'd go back and forth between Portland and Seattle a lot. I remember kind of sitting in his office and him being like, OK, what do you think? And I said, well, what if I went part time? And he goes, Well, don't forget, part time means part time pay and part time benefits. Why don't you just think about working from home a couple of days a week? Which was all right. Oh, right, not done.

Judy Vorndran [00:19:33] Yeah. So interesting that I mean, now we're like there, but we were not there.

Stacey Roberts [00:19:39] Oh, no. Walker was born in 2006.

Judy Vorndran [00:19:42] Yeah, yeah. I mean, it was the black suit pay to wear jeans on Friday when I got

Meredith Smith [00:19:48] in, pantyhose were still part of the dress code.

Judy Vorndran [00:19:51] Oh, yeah. I remember going to the Arizona office, traveling Arizona, of all places in the summer, and I could not wear sandals in Denver. We wore sandals. They're like, you're wearing open toed shoes. I'm like, we're actually having this conversation about the fact that I'm wearing open toed shoes.

Meredith Smith [00:20:05] It's one hundred ninety seven degrees outside.

Judy Vorndran [00:20:08] And I was somewhere somewhere ninety two thousand five. Two thousand six. I mean, this is not that long ago. And we were still talking about open, you know, open toed shoes and what proper attire was for women in the office so that somebody would say that and allow that and be thoughtful of that. I also felt I don't know about you, but I also felt like the women who chose to go part time did not get a good deal because the work is not part time. So you would still be at the beck and call the client. Things are needed. You can't just take the day off. If you have to work and answer a question. The client is expecting an answer. They don't know that you're off on Wednesdays. So I was like, why would you do it? Just figure out a way to work around and not take the pay cut because you're not going to have the time cut. That isn't going to be representative of. Right. That's what my perception always was. So I thought take the money and just figure out a way to work around your life and still be productive in the full time area, just maybe not in the normal construct of a nine to five. Right. Because that's not how children work. So what do you mean?

Stacey Roberts [00:21:14] Well, with our kids running around and

Meredith Smith [00:21:16] potentially going on and off moods because of yelling or

Judy Vorndran [00:21:20] the sleeping cell, because at school, it's no school this week. So she's yeah. We had a rousing game of cricket last night and then she was like, I have to go to bed. I did win, by the way, nice.

Meredith Smith [00:21:40] You had Walker in Portland and then eventually you ended up in Denver. Was it a really hard transition if you felt so connected to your team? And I know that's, you know, when you spend and that was something because I did a lot of recruiting at KPMG. It's about the team and who you surround yourself with because they become your family. This is why there's a lot of love for marriages, like it's an integral part of your life. And so is it really hard for you to kind of let go of that team and transition to Denver?

Stacey Roberts [00:22:09] Cried. Yeah, I mean, I was super invested, right. As you can imagine, because I had hired these people, you know, they were looking to me to lead them. And then I was really invested with all the other partners. And like I said, I mean, I felt like some of the best support in my career at that time. I'd already been in my career for 10 years at that point, maybe over. And so it was just me, I just kind of felt like I was in some ways a little bit home right when I was there. But then you love Portland.

Judy Vorndran [00:22:50] I mean, it's such a great city.

Stacey Roberts [00:22:52] I miss it. I miss it still to this day. I mean, I could never get that back. Right. You know, all of that I had there, of course, you know, but meaning just the team, the people. The people that I found different ways. Oh, yeah. And oh, yes.

Meredith Smith [00:23:08] Yes. Well, not to mention your Salivation team now will never be topped

Stacey Roberts [00:23:16] or

Judy Vorndran [00:23:16] again, if you wanted to just

Stacey Roberts [00:23:17] say no and you never know, I might end up, you know, back out there eventually.

Meredith Smith [00:23:24] Would you have. So did you. So you transferred with Deloitte to Denver and then you and Judy, were you actually met at the same time?

Judy Vorndran [00:23:31] Yeah, but she was in Portland when we met. We never lead. We didn't have this. I don't even think I knew what you look like unless I looked at our picture. Yeah, we talked on the phone and we are trying to get some clients and lots of great conversations because her trying to understand what I was trying to do and vice versa, me trying to send her clients so I can give bids because I have to figure out what the heck it's going to costs for the client and see if it's because I

Meredith Smith [00:23:57] met Judy where you do. And like the sales tax outsourcing. Yeah.

Judy Vorndran [00:24:01] And so we were doing this. I was part of the whole outsourcing practice at Deloitte where we took over tax departments. One byproduct was sales tax, part of those property tax, part of his income tax, the whole suite. So it just depended on what the client needed and we would slice and dice accordingly. And so that's what we were trying to do, was sort of kind of what we do now, honestly, but on a larger scale, because a lot of those companies. Right. Couldn't necessarily justify the resources, nor do they have the expertise, I mean, the resources it costs to have a group like software technology. I mean, that's an infrastructure cost. You just have to absorb if you're going to have your own tax department. So if you can get somebody else who's top of mind, pay attention, work with people. Gabbert sometimes it doesn't make so much sense to be an in-house person. You may be able to attest to that at all. Like, how much does it cost to support all the technical resources you had at the big four? There's a lot that really is at your fingertips that you would have to replace an industry. You have just Google it all.

Stacey Roberts [00:24:58] Yeah, I mean. I mean, yeah. So I got to know Judy there. And then when I was going to be moving to Denver, I contacted her because I had Walker and I got it. I need daycare. So I contacted her like we're going to start, you know. And so she gave me some ideas. And then when I came to house hunt and daycare hunt and all of that, then I settled on a place and, you know, here we are right next

Judy Vorndran [00:25:32] to each other. We did it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Stacey Roberts [00:25:35] But we were playing pretty flat briefly until you then moved on. Yeah. So yeah. But yeah, I worked. So I worked in this office here at Deloitte until I was twenty eleven and then that's when I went to the ball and that job also fell in my lap.

Judy Vorndran [00:25:54] When did you come to Colorado though?

Stacey Roberts [00:25:56] What year was two thousand.

Judy Vorndran [00:25:58] OK, yeah. Because I think I left Deloitte in 09. No, I did leave in 08. I left in 08. So we were very short because I had seven and then 08 was when I left.

Stacey Roberts [00:26:08] Yeah. Because I remember like I'd run into you in the halls. Right. And we'd like to chat for a period of time and then you'd be off, you know, saying, well, because you were traveling a lot. So I was rarely was

Judy Vorndran [00:26:23] back and forth to Boston at that point. And that's what ultimately led to my deciding to leave, because in order for me to make the numbers and do what I wanted to advance myself, I was going back and forth to bigger markets to have the bigger book of business. And I had. Had just had Zoe and I'm like, I didn't have a kid, never see her, you know, and I could bring her out on the weekends, but my husband comes out on the weekend. I just was not tenable. I just didn't at that point. My life I don't want to be a road warrior anymore.

Meredith Smith [00:26:50] It's Veterans Day. So at that point, you're kind of in your fourth market in Denver. You left, you wanted to ball, you went to and then you ended up going back into a kind of public accounting with a smaller firm and then ended up at tax ups. What do you think? Because I always find you to be. Very relatable and very good with clients and just able to just, like, listen and hear them and let them feel like you're being heard. So how have you changed those kinds of markets? How do you stay grounded and connected to your clients? Like, what is it that really kind of drives you to be a great practitioner outside of your incredible technical abilities?

Stacey Roberts [00:27:38] I do think I mean, one of the things that I do try to do is have empathy for our clients, no matter who they are. Right. I mean, and just like you said, I do try to listen. I think, you know, as I was kind of reflecting on some of the things that I think have made me relatable over time, I think it is that I do listen, I do care and not everybody does that right. I mean, there's a lot of we know a lot of practitioners that just say this is what you need to do. Here's your report. Good luck. Right where we don't we don't treat them like that. And I think early on in my career, maybe not so much when I was an Anderson in Chicago because this was so huge and I was young. But I do feel over time and we do this now and I think I've done it, you know, as I was getting further on in my career early on, I have wanted to be their state tax department. Right. And there was a client that I had in Portland in particular. He was a tough cookie. And he had been a longstanding client of the firm. And then here I come with a fresh set of eyes, looking at their state income tax returns. He prepared them in-house. I mean, he wasn't necessarily doing them, but his team was. He ultimately signed off on them? We signed as well. We were the reviewer. We signed the returns too. We did. But we were so we reviewed and signed. They've been prepared a certain way for years and years and years. And here I come with a little bit more state income tax expertise than my brethren, you know, at Deloitte had. And I found all these issues, some favorable, some thought. And I remember sitting in his office and he was a tough cookie. He wasn't a difficult person. He was just a quiet individual. I would say he was very someone who took in information. He was a processor. So I didn't say a lot. And I just remember sitting with him, going over all of my notes and letting him process. And it was kind of awkward sitting there in silence. He's just processing. He doesn't really know me. He doesn't you know, we hadn't really gotten to that level of trust yet because this is all new. And I remember him getting upset, rightly so, with the partner on the engagement because he's hearing about these things for the first time. Why am I hearing this now? And here I am having to explain who I am, my expertise without throwing somebody else under the bus, you know, a little bit of a fine line. All of us have been there one at one time or another. But I just remember he and I created a really good working relationship. And I think it was because I was able to let him be him and process that information, kind of read him and let him process it, get comfortable with it. And then I was able to earn that trust. And then I became me and my team, their state tax department. And he I, I worked on so many projects for that company. And they were real car manufacturers, so kind of old school. Right.

Meredith Smith [00:31:10] And also really interesting issues. Oh.

Stacey Roberts [00:31:13] Oh yeah. And then that was also fined forty eight. They had a leasing company, they leased railcars. Oh yeah. Like Mobile. I mean very interesting issues. Right. This is all mobile equipment running through. Do you have Nexxus? Do you not? What do you need to do about it?

Meredith Smith [00:31:30] Multiple miles and state or your where's all your stuff stored at.

Stacey Roberts [00:31:36] I mean do you have flash titles in places? I mean just lots of different, really interesting issues. And so I was able to really help them. And we, I mean, we created a really good relationship. Like I said, I

Judy Vorndran [00:31:49] didn't lose the client. I mean, that's important, too, because, you know, you don't want to throw the other person under the bus. But what they're trying to say is, hey, this person knows even more strategically in these areas. Let's give it a shot to take a look. And you did find problems which meant kind of ill on the signers. Right. And you were able to get through that. That's incredibly positive.

Meredith Smith [00:32:10] Yeah, you're that glass of milk that you just dipped, that tough cookie and slowly over time and it got all soft, not soggy at all. Yes, we met over the weekend.

Judy Vorndran [00:32:25] So there's a sense you're talking to her. She did the whole dipping. I'm like, I don't know.

Stacey Roberts [00:32:29] I think about making cookies. And I didn't see well.

Judy Vorndran [00:32:33] And I just think it's funny how some people are dippers and some people aren't. I am not a tipper, but she's another important thing.

Stacey Roberts [00:32:42] Are you, Tipper or not?

Meredith Smith [00:32:44] Yeah, but when it comes to your work style stays more than that necessary glass of milk. If you need to dip that in that tough cookie

Judy Vorndran [00:32:56] you in, I thought you were good for

Stacey Roberts [00:32:57] that. You know, like the difference between different people.

Judy Vorndran [00:33:02] You're a good mediator. I think you take people into account, you bring a different context that other people may not think of, and it gives them a more well-rounded view of the relationship with the client. And then really, in the end, I think the clients that you really care about them in addition to the work, and I think they really build that trust with you, you know, and I think that's really important as a service provider.

Stacey Roberts [00:33:25] Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, I don't know if I intentionally ever really did it that way. It just has. Or thought about it, I guess. Right. I just think that just from human nature, people want to be heard and they should be heard

Meredith Smith [00:33:40] more and more. And just part of your nature is a genuine, kind of caring soul. And that carries over. Just because we're in a business setting doesn't mean that you have to stop treating people like people. Right. Right. It's like we're not we're not changing the world. We're not teaching our youth. Yes, we do taxes. But at the end of the day, like, it's about helping people and everyone's got a need. And how can we best suit to help your need and work you through things especially, you know, often, especially in the last couple of weeks, we've come into companies and said, hey, by the way, your million dollars in arrears, like you are not compliant by like

Judy Vorndran [00:34:21] a million dollars. Yeah, it's very stressful for us, too. Yeah. Can't even imagine what it's like for them because it's not our money. Yeah, no. It's very, it's, we're like, oh we think this is pretty good considering but you know it's only ten states instead of all forty six or whatever. Fifty. Right. But then they're like.

Stacey Roberts [00:34:40] Right. Yeah. Meanwhile, their heads are spinning right now. I know it can't get worse than

Meredith Smith [00:34:47] it could have been worse. It's a million dollars, right? Well, so then who do you throughout your career and maybe you've touched on this, but who would you say has been the most influential person in your career? I don't like one. I mean,

Stacey Roberts [00:35:03] there's like there's been like some I don't know. I feel like it's been different people over time. Right. You know, like I said, the one partner that I walked into his office,

Meredith Smith [00:35:15] the red line.

Stacey Roberts [00:35:17] Yeah. With his red ready at the ready, I mean. While that was incredibly annoying, I learned a lot right, because words matter, right, and I mean, I would agonize over these memos and. A private letter, rulings that we would write, I mean, hours and hours of agonizing because we all know the words matter and then when I go in and he'd, you know, start redlining and I would and then sometimes I just agree with them. So we'd have actually I think, you know, he and I carved a pretty good relationship. Right, because I'd walk in and he'd be like talking to me about an issue. Right. To be like because I like writing and I'm like, words matter. Right. And so, like, he would be like, well, what do you think this should say? We got into that kind of unrest.

Judy Vorndran [00:36:06] So there's respect. Yeah, well, he probably saw you, that thing, whatever that is for him. That was like she's good. I'm going to invest in her and how we feel about a lot of people. Like I hire people that I want to invest in. Like I feel that there's this thing that I see there that I know you're going to be really good at and I could trust you to execute like that. Supported like if I am the one who's creating the work and helping people get through it, I can't do all that by myself. I need good people that care. I do a great job.

Meredith Smith [00:36:37] Well, and you do. That's what you've always said, is people matter. Yeah. Like whether it's our clients, our staff, you know, and just life outside of work and tax and whatnot, that people matter. And it's true.

Judy Vorndran [00:36:54] And they're paying us and they're giving us a living. But we also want to help them. Right. I mean, we also have something to share that is so deep and intrinsic and not commonly known. Like we can really provide a lot of advice and counsel to them, but we also have to be patient with their ability to absorb us. So that is a really powerful thing, Stacey, that you kind of one that practitioner over

Stacey Roberts [00:37:17] well, and I might have had a little bit of an in, honestly, because so when I took the job at Andersen, I had no idea who the practice leader for the Chicago office was. Turns out he was the brother of my algebra teacher. And if you think about that, like put your head around that because you grew

Meredith Smith [00:37:41] up in a town of seven hundred

Stacey Roberts [00:37:42] and he grew up in a town of about that number of people to a neighboring town, and I didn't know that until, like, he actually pulled me aside and he was like, you're from Bradford. And I'm like, yeah. And he's like, do you know who my brother is? And I'm like, looking at him. And I'm like, oh, my God. Like Sash, Steve. So Bob Sash was the partner in charge and his brother Steve was my favorite teacher.

Judy Vorndran [00:38:10] I swore I'd see that there's that affinity, a common heritage or whatever, that connection that we have as people that forms a lot of things.

Stacey Roberts [00:38:21] Well, Bob and I lived in Chicago for years. Right. And I think he was like, hey, here's somebody who's like from my neck of the woods and he'd like to have me come into his office. I remember he got an aerial of the farm that he grew up on. Right. Like, that's a big thing, right, with farm communities. Right. You get an aerial picture of the farm. Right. And so he brought me into his office to show me the area. And then I'd walk out of his office and everybody would be looking at me like, why were you in there? I live on a farm about like he's showing me the aerial there. Like what? Why? It's an aerial. Why do you even know that? Right. So, yeah. So I mean, like so we had some commonalities which I think was refreshing to him in some ways. And then. Yeah. But he also got to know me. Right. And my work style and you know kind of what I could offer. But then I think to the other partners, you know, they came. I never use that to my advantage by any stretch. Right. Because it's not like I mean, Bob was my boss, ultimately my boss.

Judy Vorndran [00:39:19] But, you know, people you already have that affinity from him and he's going to connect with you and then everybody else is going to see it and go. She knows a way into the king could

Stacey Roberts [00:39:30] looks at it that way. I get it like that. I'm sure it didn't hurt.

Judy Vorndran [00:39:36] Right, because you can have a more informal relationship in addition to the formality and you have a more common history. So there's that connection that you have about living in a farming community.

Meredith Smith [00:39:48] Yeah, well, so then, Stace, as we kind of wrap this up, share one thing about yourself that we don't know about you.

Stacey Roberts [00:39:56] Oh, this might be a surprise. I'm a geek out on the NCAA March Madness. Really huge kick out. I love it. I do multiple brackets totally into it. I mean, like weirdly into it.

Judy Vorndran [00:40:13] I don't I don't like and can see you play basketball.

Stacey Roberts [00:40:17] All right. I can never play basketball. I just love March Madness. Like, I love all the energy. I love everything about it. I'm usually rooting for the underdogs, even though, like in my brackets, they're not winning. I mean, you don't I mean, like, it's. Oh, yeah, no, I'm totally into it.

Meredith Smith [00:40:33] What's going to happen to get the twenty the twenty five. What do you mean? You know how like every year there's a twelve five upset. Right. Yeah.

Stacey Roberts [00:40:40] No I don't. Ah you have that upset. It's kind of funny like I should.

Meredith Smith [00:40:44] Oh you love it but are you bad at it then.

Stacey Roberts [00:40:46] No I've won some pools over time but you know that's right because I put in like ten brackets. One of these is gonna go to random totally like all the underdogs at some point because you're going to have

Meredith Smith [00:41:01] that one upset that just breaks everyone's

Stacey Roberts [00:41:03] bracket.

Judy Vorndran [00:41:04] So do you pick based on your team, Jerry, or do you pick based on.

Stacey Roberts [00:41:08] I like OK. Oh, no, no, no. I mean, it's funny because I don't normally pick the underdog, but like, when I'm watching the games, I'm totally rooting for the underdog. Right.

Judy Vorndran [00:41:17] Yeah, that's funny because I did that way in the beginning of my staff years and I won. And one of the directors, he was really mad because it was sort of my first time. But I got advice like I figured out how to pick the seed and then I picked it and I won fair and square. And I don't think he liked that very much

Meredith Smith [00:41:34] from the people who take it really seriously. My husband, being one of them, just gets super upset when, like, people are like really have no business. Right. Like, he gets so mad at his fantasy where he's like, I am strategic, but I'm doing terrible because it's like, OK, we're part of it's like luck, right? Like you never know.

Judy Vorndran [00:41:51] Like right now it's like something in that game that brings the underdog in. I mean, that does happen. We watch where you're like these people

Stacey Roberts [00:42:00] starting receiver has covid like.

Meredith Smith [00:42:04] So that kind of helps. So our last thing and this wasn't as rapid as we did with Alex, so maybe we'll try again, but we're going to do some rapid response questions that are just silly fun and just another way of having people get to know you. So you ready?

Stacey Roberts [00:42:19] Ready for everybody that's coming. So like, oh, all right. All right.

Meredith Smith [00:42:24] What are you reading right now?

Stacey Roberts [00:42:26] Oh, I'm not I'm watching, I'm like, what are you watching the crown?

Judy Vorndran [00:42:32] Why are you all right? That's why I

Stacey Roberts [00:42:37] like so I'm not normally, like, a sit around and do nothing type of person. But full disclosure, Saturday I watched the whole first season of the Crown on my thoughts on my sofa, organic food, like that's what I did. So like, what did I do without my kids? That also

Judy Vorndran [00:42:57] had a little jar 20 minutes

Stacey Roberts [00:42:58] out there and OK, I mean it's Netflix. So there's no commercials. Right.

Judy Vorndran [00:43:03] You're like in the zone, you're committed.

Stacey Roberts [00:43:06] Right.

Meredith Smith [00:43:07] What do you listen to in the car?

Stacey Roberts [00:43:10] Oh, XM Radio, I usually listen to alternations of new, like alternative music. What's your favorite movie? Silence of the Lambs. Really? All right. All right. And my favorite book, honestly. Interesting. I know. I wonder what that says about me.

Meredith Smith [00:43:30] Yeah, well, pack that. We'll unpack that in a follow up.

Stacey Roberts [00:43:36] That's right. I mean, should we do a round to make them.

Meredith Smith [00:43:41] All right. Three words or phrases that Lott would use to describe you.

Stacey Roberts [00:43:46] Oh, a lot. Mm hmm. Oh, that's unpredictable. But I would say fun. I hope to love. Caring.

Meredith Smith [00:43:59] All right, what is one thing you've learned during stay at home, I would

Stacey Roberts [00:44:03] says to appreciate the little things. I try to get out to take a walk, I mean, there's kind of that I try to get out and take a walk. It's getting colder, right? So it's not happening quite as much. But I really like being outside and I've gotten to enjoy it a lot more since we've been home.

Meredith Smith [00:44:21] What is your favorite thing to do with each one of your kids?

Stacey Roberts [00:44:25] Well, we're big Disney World fans, as you guys know, our Disney, Walt Disney and both Parks, I guess, in the US. I would say going on a roller coaster is one of my favorite things to do with him. He loves roller coasters and just to see his face and just how the pure joy on his face Walker, I would say, is actually just taking a walk with the dogs. He and I usually have some quality time walking the dogs. And we just talk about whatever he wants to talk about sports, whatever he loves baseball, as you guys know. And so we talk a lot about baseball and kind of what he wants to do with that because he's currently trying to get on a travel team. So we'll see if he ends up getting on a team. But we spent some time. It's just, I think our time to just talk about what's going on in each other's lives because he's 14. So it's a different relationship. Yeah. And a different stage. Which one of your animals is your favorite?

Meredith Smith [00:45:31] Oh, the new puppy. Because it's the cutest and cuddliest.

Stacey Roberts [00:45:38] He's a puppy. And I'm like my head examined for this everybody. And I'm cleaning up after him all the time and I'm getting up in the middle of the night. So maybe not him. Maybe eventually, maybe eventually. I would say maybe it's funny because I have dogs and cats, but I would say my cat, Tom, he's my buddy. He sits next to me. He's not right next to me now, but he usually sits next to me when I'm working. And sleeps with me at night. He's like my buddy, he's like he's watching the crowd with you. You read part of it. They all did, though, really. I mean, but the Times didn't really mean, they're like cashed out, right. Like it was ours. It was 10 first 10 episodes in their first season, maybe every season. I don't know. Ten. Think about that, people. How much I sat on my sofa.

Meredith Smith [00:46:32] That's fine. I'm jealous. Let's be honest.

Judy Vorndran [00:46:35] I got for Netflix, though, honestly, with this covid thing, I'm like it is like a saving grace of something fun to look forward to getting into some of these series I think for sure.

Meredith Smith [00:46:46] So. All right. Well, thank you so much for being here today, for being part of the team and for being you. You are the newest member, but a tremendous member and team. And I just love the opportunity that I get to, you know, connect with you and spend time with you. So thank you for taking the risk and joining the team.

Stacey Roberts [00:47:08] Oh, my gosh. It was I mean, to me, honestly, I mean, I feel blessed to be here just so that you guys know. But also, like, I had several friends ask me, you know, once I made the transition, like, how's it going? Do you know how it feels different? I'm like now because for the most part, I've worked with everybody before. Marinho, you and I have worked together before, but I feel like it's just been an easy transition and it feels very comfortable and like just being home. Right. I mean, I do consider you all my family and, you know, it takes a village. Right. And we are that village. So, you know, we need each other as much as anybody else. So and so I just feel very blessed to be here. And I love working with you all. So thank you for thanking me for hiring me, for entrusting me and, you know, for letting me do my thing and be a part of it.

Meredith Smith [00:48:09] Well, this has been another episode of SALTovation. I’m Meredith Smith until next time. This podcast is for educational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be relied upon as legal tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult with a competent professional to discuss specifics of your situation and the applicability of the information presented.

Questions asked and answered in this Episode:

  • What did Stacey learn working for markets in Chicago, the Pacific Northwest and Denver?
  • How has Stacey grounded and connected to her clients?
  • Who has been the most influential person in her career?

What You Will Discover:

  • [00:38] What Stacey learned working in the Chicago market
  • [08:01] What she learned working in the Pacific Northwest
  • [21:40] How she transitioned working with the Denver team
  • [26:50] What drives her to be a great practitioner
  • [28:37] How she created a good working relationship with a client
  • [34:49] Who is the most influential person in her career
  • [39:52] One thing we don’t know about Stacey
  • [42:09] Random facts about Stacey


  • “I would say, like I said earlier, that for me, moving into the smaller markets forced me to become more of a generalist and learn sales tax which has been invaluable to me over time.” – Stacey Roberts [07:48]
  • “One of the things that I try to do is have empathy for our clients, right? No matter who they are, and just like you said, I do try to listen.” – Stacey Roberts [27:39]
  • “I just think that just from human nature, people want to be heard and they should be heard.” – Stacey Roberts [33:33]
  • “I hire people that I want to invest in.” – Judy Vorndran [36:16]
  • “Well Judy, that’s what you’ve always said that people matter. Like whether it’s our clients, our staff and life outside of work and tax and whatnot. That people matter and it’s true.” – Meredith Smith [36:37]