Balancing Career and Community – Q&A with Karl

Karl Palvisak, CPA, Vice President and CFO of GAI Consultants, has been at the helm of GAI’s financial leadership for the past 20 years, helping guide the firm through its recent unprecedented growth. Serving as Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of GAI’s Board of Directors, not only is Karl a business leader, he is also a philanthropist who gives his time and attention generously to the Central Florida community and to the Boys Scouts of America. Because of these accomplishments Karl received one of the 2015 C-Level honorees awards from the Orlando Business Journal. We recently sat down with Karl to share his thoughts on how the accounting industry has changed, what of his accomplishments has provided the most impact, and the importance of ‘giving back’ to the local community.

Q: You began your career with GAI as a staff accountant in 1992 and have expanded your responsibilities through the years to being appointed Chief Financial Officer in January 2004. How has the accounting industry changed over your career?

Karl: The most obvious change over the years has been transparency in reporting. After the Enron scandal hit, the accounting profession made several changes related to auditor independence and financial disclosures. It made not only the accounting function, but all corporate leaders more accountable for corporate responsibility to the shareholders.

Q: You have spearheaded numerous strategic business initiatives over your experience with GAI— from streamlining the invoicing process, reducing accounts receivable collectibles time, and improving GAI’s billing factor, to implementing electronic payment/invoicing practices. All of these efforts have helped to increase profit margin and company value. Which of these accomplishments do you feel had the most impact, and why?

Q: As technology advances, the accounting team has been able to improve efficiency faster than the growth of the company. Automating the invoice process for example, made the department more efficient but also improved the cash flow by getting invoices to the client faster.

The biggest component that I was involved with was the creation of GAI’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). It wasn’t a bottom line process per se, however it did ensure the long-term viability of the Company by putting a mechanism in place to retire the stock held by owners of GAI. The ESOP and plan for annual funding eliminated the large cash requirement that was necessary to repurchase the stock of the founding members of GAI. This program is a great asset to the company, and our valued employees!

Q: And what advice would you give to a graduate entering this field?

Karl: For new graduates, accounting is a great field to pursue as a career. You’ll gain an understanding of how all of the financial components fit together in the success of a company. By having the overall grasp of how the company functions, you will have the ability to assist in just about any facet of the organization.

Q: You are very involved in donating your time and talents to community organizations as shown by your involvement with Boy Scouts Central Florida Council Board of Directors (serving as its Treasurer from 2005 to current); past chair of Sigma Chi Alumni “Puttin’ on the Ritz for Kids” Golf Tournament for the Children’s Miracle Network; University of Central Florida’s Alumni Association President; member of the UCF Golden Knights Club (Boosters); and UCF Foundation Board of Directors from 2002-2004—as well as participating in numerous community involvement activities through iGaive, GAI’s corporate philanthropic program. Explain why you feel it is important to balance your professional career with community involvement?

Karl: Volunteer groups stress time, talent and treasury, and for a good number of them time and talent are just as important as treasury. I’ve been very fortunate both professionally and personally in my life and firmly believe that whatever you give you get back in multiples. A lot of these not-for-profit organizations can raise money, but they don’t spend the funds wisely and the funds are gone before they have achieved their goals. I try to help them with some business decisions to stretch their dollars. We’ve all had great successes in our lives and it is a great feeling to help someone with something that we take for granted, but they see as a big gesture. Overall I encourage everyone to help in any way you can no matter how big or small—you won’t regret it.

When someone is truly vested in their profession and community, it shows—with awards and appreciation. Karl can be reached at 407.423.8398.

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