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Strong relationships, deep community connections, and the desire to meet the needs of a new generation of leading professionals combined to make Centennial Tax & Accounting the QCBJ’s No. 1 Fastest Growing Company in 2023. The four-year-old partnership – created through a series of acquisitions of small legacy Quad Cities firms by Davenport-based Northwest Bank & Trust – boasted a whopping 418% growth from 2020 to 2022. That performance easily topped the 2023 Fastest Growing list that included 22 area companies with impressive growth in the same period. Adam Pelzer, executive vice president at Northwest Bank, says the idea for Centennial grew from a 2019 Northwest Bank board meeting at which attendees began looking at what banking means and what its customers need and want. That discussion evolved into a plan to leverage long-standing relationships with local legacy firms. The aim was to create the Centennial partnership which is capable of delivering a wide variety of financial services under the umbrella of Northwest, a local bank with deep Quad Cities roots. “We’ve been at the leading edge of various things, whether its banking products and services, to growing the trust department which is unique for our size,” Mr. Pelzer said of Northwest. “We were looking at what the customers were asking for and we saw that they really needed some support in their tax planning and their business advisory side and that’s not something that’s native to banking.” Mr. Pelzer, who also is a Centennial executive, added: “I think from our standpoint we saw an opportunity to continue to provide a service in the community but what we learned in the process was how important people are.” That’s apparent in Centennial’s customers, whom Mr. Pelzer described as “generally somebody who wants to be an above-average saver, a business person that wants to meet or exceed their own personal goals, and then we also serve the not-for-profit world – so any community-based institution that is mission-focused in the Quad Cities.” It’s also apparent in the Centennial team of 40-plus professional partners who boast some 620 years experience in delivering those services. That new firm was created via mergers such as with Pyle Scott & Associates in 2020 (including its predecessor firm, James K. Schnoor, CPA). In early 2021, Dave Schebler, CPA, and Randy Sovey, CPA, brought in decades of local experience, including as previous partners in Huckfeldt & Smith. In late 2021, the Centennial Group welcomed Oelerich, Reiling & Miller, P.C. and in late 2022, Hammar & Associates came on board. That Rock Island-based tax firm was founded by Tom Hammar and he was later joined by his daughter, Molly Shattuck, who is among a new generation of leaders who have found a new home in the new Centennial model. “When you own a business you kind of feel like the lone ranger sometimes,” Mr. Hammar told the QCBJ. After bringing Molly into the firm, he soon discovered “she didn’t really want to be the lone ranger down the road, running her practice and trying to grow it,” he said. “I think she would be capable of doing it, but she wanted to have other peers she was working with and that’s just not going to happen with a mom and pop shop,” the new firm’s senior director added. The Centennial Partnership provided that and more, and Mr. Hammar said he’s never regretted the decision. “I couldn’t be higher on the young directors that we have,” he added. “It’s an organization that is very solid. They are committed to what they do and they work well together and that’s where Molly really wanted to work in that kind of environment.” For Ms. Shattuck, the biggest motivation in the move was her father. “I came in 10 years ago to work in our family business. There have been many ups and some downs along the way. I have learned so much from my dad about how to run a successful business that is not only profitable but also a business that is led with integrity and excellence,” she said. “He’s worked ‘in the weeds’ with our clients for over 30 years – he deserves to retire,” Ms. Shattuck added. “Not having a business partner after my dad’s imminent retirement was daunting to me, so we started to look for someone that could fill his shoes in an equity role.” As the former Hammar Associates duo explored their options “We were approached by Centennial Tax & Accounting and this partnership made sense to us,” she continued. “I love the family-owned atmosphere, similar to what we had going on at Hammar & Associates. We have similar values, expectations, and client-focused approach. There are great professionals at Centennial and I always want to be in a place where I’m not the smartest one in the room – I want to be challenged and learn something every day.” She remains pleased with the decision. “Change is not always fun – but I believe Centennial was the right place for the Hammar & Associates staff and clients to land. We will continue to offer QC-based businesses a local spot for all of their accounting and tax needs.” Going forward, Mr. Hammar said he intends to work a few more years while he continues to hand off long-time clients to daughter Molly and other experts at the firm. “That’s my main job; to make sure that transition goes well and we continue,” Mr. Hammar said. “You’ve got to grow or you die in this business, there’s no doubt about that. So you can’t just say, ‘we’re not going to grow; we’re just going to serve our clients.’ You always have to be looking at the next client.” Added Ms. Shattuck: “We are excited to forge ahead to offer excellent tax, payroll, and accounting services to local businesses and not-for-profits. We have a great team and exciting prospects for the future.” The father-daughter team’s concerns about the future are not uncommon. Rather they represent a “bit of an industry demographic shift” tied to what the next generation of business owners want, Mr. Pelzer said. “We found that in many of these firms the next generation wanted to work alongside a peer and develop their skills together and so the independent mom and pop approach, which served the prior generation very well, led these firms to look for different opportunities,” he added. The new, larger Centennial organization also will help the expanding firm attract top talented young professionals from among an ever-shrinking pool of candidates because its larger size will help the firm provide potential new leaders with better advancement opportunities. Northwest and Centennial also remain on the lookout for new subsidiaries that will be a good fit for a firm that is led by Quad Citians for Quad Citians. But Mr. Pelzer stressed that solid relationships will remain an essential ingredient in Centennial’s ongoing recipe for success. At the same time, Mr. Pelzer added Northwest plans to continue investing in Centennial and realizing big returns. After Hammar & Associates joined the team at the end of 2022, he said, “We had already exceeded our revenue from the prior year and are looking at about seven times growth from where we started in 2019. We continue to see the demand is greater than ever.”
The 2023 Fastest Growing CompaniesRanked by percentage of revenue increase from 2020-2022, the 2023 Fastest Growing Companies are:
- Centennial Tax & Accounting, Davenport — 418.01%
- Schroeder Associates, Davenport — 250.37%
- Revive at the Group Med Spa (2022 winner), Davenport — 153.22%
- American Industrial Door Company, Davenport — 123.15%
- Mallard Pointe Kennels, Coal Valley — 122.76%
- Russell, Davenport — 105.20%
- Ecogistics, Moline — 103.21%
- Barrel House, Davenport — 101.76%
- Crawford Company, Rock Island — 74.11%
- C&W Transport Solutions, Davenport — 67.61%
- River Cities Engineering, Davenport — 65.38%
- IMEG, Rock Island — 63.69%
- Barron Equipment Company, Inc., Davenport — 53.09%
- Greenspace Associates, Bettendorf — 52.56%
- Christopher Larsen, DMD, LTD, Moline — 41.61%
- Shaw Electric, Inc.., Davenport — 38.60%
- Per Mar Security and Research Corp., Davenport — 34.93%
- Arctic Dental, Muscatine — 29.39%
- Phelps Uniform Specialists, Muscatine — 29.24%
- The Advisory Group, Inc., Davenport — 26.15%
- Salzman International, Inc., Davenport — 19.95%
- The Group – Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists, Inc., Davenport — 17.34%