“This is not your typical public accounting firm.” So says Shelly Casella-Dercole — and she should know, as the partner who had a major hand in building Eder, Casella & Co. into the multidimensional practice it is today. “We have an energetic and committed staff that really care about the people behind the numbers. We carefully pick our employees not only so we have the best and brightest, but also so we maintain a positive work environment, which then translates to a great experience for clients.”
Casella-Dercole joined the firm in 1998, and her name went on the door in 1999. She now serves as the Managing Partner of the firm.“As a business owner myself, I understand the complexities and challenges business owners face, and I strive to add value by helping clients understand their financial statements, manage tax consequences, and clearly see the financial and tax ramifications — both positive and negative — of decisions they make,” she explains. “Without good financial information, it’s like driving a car blind, but with good information, clients are able to maximize profits.”
She also appreciates that great businesspeople need to focus on their own craft, not the intricacies of the tax code. “These are the clients that need us the most and are very fulfilling to work with — it feels great to do our small part to help them succeed,” Casella-Dercole says.
After earning her Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from Northern Illinois University, Casella-Dercole was an auditor with KPMG in Chicago, and earned her CPA in 1998. Returning to her hometown of McHenry, she took an opportunity to join a small and growing firm where she could make a strong, positive impact. “While working for a large multinational firm out of college was a great experience, the clients I work with now are so much more rewarding,” she admits. “They are not only clients, but also friends. I’ve attended birthday parties and weddings. I look forward to seeing them and finding out what is going on in their lives. And importantly, knowing them as people helps me to better serve them as a trusted advisor.”
A member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society, the mother of two also serves the community in various roles, including Treasurer for Village of Ringwood; Director of American Community Bank & Trust; Board Member and Member of the Planned Giving Advisory Council for Journeycare Foundation and is a past president of Rotary Club of McHenry – Sunrise. It’s all part of her hectic schedule, where each day brings something new and interesting. “I think I learn something new almost every day, whether it is a new tax law or accounting rule or something beyond our profession,” she says. “The most interesting things I learn are from my clients — situations that have happened to them in business. Or really, just learning about each individual business. There’s nothing more interesting than having a passionate business owner take you on a tour of their operations.”
Get to Know Shelly — Five Facts:
1. My first accounting job was… “At my dad’s hardwood flooring business in Barrington, when I was a teenager. I was good at math and my Dad — who is excellent at hardwood flooring — despised the paperwork and numbers. So he hired me, gave me a little desk in his office, and I kept his books manually in these old ledger books.”
2. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I always wanted to be a teacher growing up, so probably that’s what I would be doing.”
3. I’m motivated by… “Time. Life is short and I like to take advantage of every minute I have.”
4. One lesson I learned from my parents and grandparents that guides me today… “Don’t do anything in life you wouldn’t be proud to have everyone read about on the front page of the newspaper. That doesn’t mean always conform, but means be proud of who you are, what you do and what you believe in.”
5. My hero is… “My mom. She always worked hard, went to her job no matter what and gave everything she had and more to my brother and me. She never got the opportunity to go to college, but she made sure that my brother and I did. She’s still my biggest fan today — even during those times she probably shouldn’t be.”
John Albanese joined Eder, Casella & Co. in 1999, right after earning his Bachelor of Arts in Business Accounting from Trinity International University, and made partner at the age of 26. The McHenry native has built his reputation serving a variety of clients in both audit and tax capacities, developing into a go-to for construction companies.
“I love the fast-paced environment and the people we work with, both the staff and our clients,” Albanese says. “I like meeting with our new clients and working with them to customize our services to what is best for their situation.”
It was a career trajectory he admittedly didn’t expect growing up (he dreamed of being a pro baseball player) — it wasn’t until college that he locked in on accounting. “My college advisor suggested it, so I went for it,” he says, adding with a smile, “It certainly worked out okay.”
These days, Albanese heads up the firm’s tax department. The self-professed sports nut is also a baseball coach for the Pro Player Hurricanes, where he has coached his two sons, Jackson and Ryan. (He also has a daughter, Brooklyn.)
Coaching definitely fits his M.O. — when asked about what he most enjoys about helping his accounting clients, he’s quick to answer, “Explaining things in a way they understand it. We work really hard to meet the client where they are at, situationally speaking.”
Get to Know John — Five Facts:
1. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “Yes, numbers can seem boring, but once you understand them, they can really help you run your business.”
2. My first job was… “I worked for the City of McHenry street division, and sometimes I had to clean up roadkill.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Playing sports myself, and watching my kids play. I really look forward to my kids’ baseball games, basketball games, and cross-country races.
4. My advice for passing the CPA exam is… “Don’t delay — don’t wait too long after college to take it.”
Cheryden Juergensen, CPA, has been with Eder, Casella & Co. since 2002, earning Partner status in 2013. An audit specialist with nearly 20 years of experience, she researches new auditing standards and implementation, and serves as the firm’s quality control partner, ensuring that the team follows proper procedures in all financial statements. “I work with our non-profits and governmental clients, but also several small businesses,” she explains.
With a Bachelor of Science degree from Trinity International University, the married mother of two, who grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, says it’s absolutely critical that all client relationships be built on integrity. “We strive for excellence in all of our work and customer service,” Juergensen states. “I try to put myself in each client’s shoes and understand their concerns, goals, etc. There are a lot of white and black issues in accounting, of course, but there are many others that present options to consider.”
Outside of the office, Juergensen volunteers at her church, serves as the treasurer for both the McHenry Area Rotary Club and the McHenry Area Rotary Club Foundation and volunteers for the GFOA Certificate of Achievement Program’s Special Review Committee. But as for her first professional love, accounting, she recommends it highly as a course of study. “I think an accounting degree offers you more opportunities for a rewarding career than any other degree,” she contends. “Every industry and company needs an accountant, and the types of accounting positions are endless — public, private, cost, forensic, financial planner, governmental, CFO, internal auditor, you name it.”
Get to Know Cheryden — Five Facts
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d want to be an interior designer. I’m not sure if I would be good at it, but I love to decorate my house.”
2. My first job was… “Telemarketing. It was fun and I was actually good at it. I made some good commissions.”
3. People would be surprised to know… “I need a calculator to do most math. Despite being a CPA, I can’t do math in my head.”
4. My favorite inspirational quote is… “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter” — Francis Chan
5. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Watching my boys play soccer, and attending sporting events with my family.”
One word to describe Tony Michelotti? Driven. The Spring Grove, Illinois native earned his Masters in Accountancy Degree from Western Illinois University and passed the CPA exam in 2009, joining Eder, Casella & Co. that same year.
A partner at the firm, he works with a variety of clients, everything from income tax to auditing, and is a go-to person for helping small businesses set up and understand QuickBooks and accounting systems.
“I’m committed to helping our clients in any way our firm can,” the Illinois CPA Society and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants member says. “Our service is second to none, and I believe that our clients value that about us the most. We’re dedicated to meeting needs, whether that be navigating the complex tax code to assisting with a critical business decision.”
Michelotti, who is married with one child, knew early on that accounting was his calling. “I have always been a numbers guy, so an accountant seemed to be a natural fit,” he admits. At Eder, Casella, he was instantly impressed with the office culture and considers it an ongoing strength. “We have a small firm feel, but a large-firm knowledge base,” he says. “And we’ve kept the family culture even through our growth into the largest accounting firm in McHenry County.”
Get to Know Tony — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d want to be an attorney or sports agent.”
2. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Golfing, or spending time with family and friends.”
3. The advice I’d give to aspiring accountants is… “Always try to expand your knowledge base, take in as much information as you can. You should never stop learning.”
4. My advice for passing the CPA exam is… “Start taking the test while you’re still in school and complete it as soon as possible after graduation. It’s much easier to study when you’re still in ‘school mode’ and have much more time on your hands. It’s difficult to devote the time necessary to the exam when you’re working.”
5. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “With a diverse client base, you never know what the day will hold. The biggest myth about accountants is that we sit in a room, don’t talk to anyone and just crunch numbers day in and day out.”
With a deep-rooted knowledge in pensions, Kevin Smith is Eder, Casella & Co.’s in-house specialist when it comes to accounting and auditing police and fire pension funds. The partner joined the firm in 2007, and in addition to those funds handles a wide variety of duties. “I prepare business and individual tax returns; handle audits, reviews and compilations for local governments, not-for-profits and businesses; and prepare monthly, quarterly and annual accounting work,” he says.
Smith graduated with a Bachelors in Accounting Degree from Northern Illinois University in 2007, and earned his CPA in 2010. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Illinois CPA Society and its Governmental Report Review Committee. “I think I’m personable and easy to get along with, which goes a long way, especially during audits — since that process isn’t something a client generally looks forward to, anything that makes it a more pleasant experience is a plus.”
Accounting wasn’t always the plan for Smith, who grew up in the Freeport, Illinois area. “I started in college on the path to becoming an engineer,” he recalls. “But between the extensive science classes, which I ended up not really liking, the course load, along with playing baseball my first semester, that route just didn’t work out. However, I had always liked math, and my grandfather had also worked in the accounting field. So I took a few classes and ended up really liking it.”
As for Eder Casella & Co., the married father of two has been impressed with the firm since he first started as an intern. “One of our biggest strengths is that we do a lot of different things well,” he says. “A majority of the employees here have experience in tax, audit, and monthly/quarterly accounting, instead of just focusing only in one area. This approach helps everyone be better overall accountants, because they are able to look at things from various angles.”
Get to Know Kevin — Five Facts:
1. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “Especially in our office, you get to work with a lot of different types of clients, which is interesting. If you’re bored during a tax season, then you’re just doing something wrong.”
2. My first job was… “A telemarketing company, at 16, selling phone service.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Going out to eat, trying different craft beers, lifting weights, playing sports — pretty much doing anything with my family, especially my sons.”
4. I’d like to be remembered as… “Just as an overall good person. I’ve never been one that needs to be in the spotlight.”
5. The advice I’d give to aspiring accountants is… “In the real world, everything is not going to have an exact ‘yes or no’ answer like the tests you take in school. I think that was one of the harder things for me to adjust to when I first started.”
Shelly Casella-DercoleMANAGING PARTNER
audit & review
virtual work model
Shelly Casella-DercoleMANAGING PARTNER
virtual work model
audit & review
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