Moss Adams’ history dates back to 1913, when Seattle-based John McIntosh began providing accounting services for the lumber and fishing industries. He partnered with Albert Moss and Edwin Adams six years later. The firm, which became known as Moss Adams, has since spread beyond the Pacific Northwest and into California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas. It’s now one of the top professional services firms in the United States, with more than 2,900 employees and 32 locations servicing almost every industry imaginable.

Jeff Gutsch

Its wine, beer, and spirits national practice is spearheaded by Jeff Gutsch, partner, located in Santa Rosa, Calif. In the late 1990s, he was working with food companies in Sonoma County and had a handful of winery clients. “A lot of bankers and lawyers told me the wine business looked at itself as different from other companies,” says Gutsch. “I thought building a wine business practice was an obvious next step. I brought it up to my office managing partner, Art King, and then took it to the firm’s CEO in Seattle. They saw the opportunity, believed in the business plan, and said to make it happen.” As time has gone on and the craft beer and spirits industries have grown, the practice has expanded to include them.

“It’s still mostly wine, but beer is gaining ground, and spirits is a distant third,” says Gutsch. “It’s mirroring the local industry [Santa Rosa, Calif.], and we’re actively looking to grow the beer and spirits portions.

“They all have to deal with alcohol beverage compliance rules, and raw ingredients go into each product. Some are made faster, such as beer and clear spirits, while others take more time,” he adds.

“Most CPA firms offer tax and business assurance services. What separates us is we’re more of a business consulting firm. We specialize by industry and dive deep into each one. It’s a broader, deeper level of service with a fierce focus on industry specifics,” says Gutsch.

Moss Adams’ Jeff Gutsch with clients Henhouse Brewing in Petaluma, Calif.

When asked about top concerns among the firm’s wine, beer, and spirits clients, Gutsch notes it depends on where they are as a business. “Startups are concerned with cash flow, forecasting, team building, and budgeting,” he says. “With growing businesses, especially wineries and brown spirits producers, the focus is on building inventory without overstraining cash. Cash flow is more tied up because those products can take years to produce. We help with that.

“Mature businesses are focused on transferrable value, ensuring the management team is solid, and making sure they’re in a position where a new owner can step in easily. If someone wants to sell a business, return on investment is a top concern. How the deal is structured is important to both parties, including after-tax cash flow. Most deals are asset- as opposed to stock-based,” says Gutsch.

“Once a business starts to mature, it can renew or decline. We can help avoid a decline and get it to the next level. A lot of what we do isn’t necessarily audit and tax work. Additionally, we provide transaction services, help with technology transformation, risk management, business succession planning, management development and succession, wealth services, and more,” he adds.

An example is Moss Adams’ proprietary Barrel ERP system for the beer industry. “We help implement the system and service it,” says Gutsch. “In addition, we ensure security surrounding online sales. We can also help with the business aspects of international sales.”

Looking forward, Gutsch is focusing on building out the company’s consulting practice, including having the firm’s accountants learn and apply additional consulting skills. “We also have a more robust, industry-focused training program so we can be better at what we do. And if a client needs something we can’t provide, we have a strong referral network to ensure their needs are met. We want the wine, beer, and spirits industries to think of us first when it comes to building and sustaining a successful business,” he says.