RI PowerPlayer: CFO Consulting’s Brett Smiley

Monday, February 18, 2013


Every Monday, GoLocalProv.com shines the spotlight on one individual who you may not know that is making a large impact on Rhode Island. This week, we sat down with Brett Smiley, the founder and president of CFO Consulting Group, a quickly-expanding accounting and compliance company at the heart of the Rhode Island political landscape.

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Meet Brett Smiley, the founder and president of CFO Consulting Group, a quickly-expanding accounting and compliance company at the heart of the Rhode Island political landscape.

1) You are the head of CFO Consulting Group. Tell us a little bit about your organization and what it does.

The CFO Consulting Group was founded in August, 2007 under the name Campaign Finance Officers. CFO’s original focus was political fundraising and regulatory compliance. In six years, our compliance team has quickly risen to the top tier in the industry. CFO Compliance works exclusively in accounting and compliance to advise Democratic campaigns, PACs, Parties and related entities. With two CPA’s and a former Federal Elections Commission analyst on the team, the credentials at CFO are hard to beat. In addition to regulatory compliance, we have helped managed the HR needs of major national advocacy groups.

CFO’s development team has focused on political and non-profit fundraising. In 2011, we expanded our presence by adding an office in Chicago. Together the development team has raised millions resulting in the election of a new mayor of New England’s third largest city, a Congressman, a reelected Congressman, and several state legislative leaders. Further, we have conducted trainings and workshops across the country for new and prospective candidates. Finally, in the last two years CFO has expanded its development efforts to include non-profit organizations including a disability support group, a major regional cultural event and local tourism funds.

Last week we announced an expansion of services in the form of a new Public Affairs practice. CFO Public Affairs also announced its first clients including the Greater Providence Board of Realtors and the City of Providence, Rhode Island. During the 2012 election cycle CFO Consulting Group assisted the successful $25 million affordable housing bond campaign in Rhode Island.

2) Your organization has recently begun an expansion and is adding a new public affairs practice. Tell us why you felt the time was right to grow your business and what impact you hope it will have in both the short and long-term.

After five years of intense focus building our compliance and development practices, we’re ready to expand again. The practice is anchored in Southern New England and builds on a decade of work with the region’s biggest Mayors, statewide elected officials, and members of Congress.
With our particular expertise in local government, we hope to assist developers and those working with municipalities get their project going and start investing in our cities and towns. Additionally, as the prevalence of ballot initiatives continues to grow, our electoral experience is an invaluable asset for those seeking to win at the ballot box.

3) Your organization has been in business for five years. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced thus far and how have you overcome them?

The two biggest challenges have been managing growth and keeping a diverse client base.

Most of my professional life revolves around the two-year election cycle. There comes a point in the cycle where our team is maxed out and it takes several more clients to justify one more staffer. Finding that sweet spot of profitability and quality work product has been a process of trial and error. Ultimately, I think we’ve largely succeeded.

Rhode Island is a great place to live. The quality of life is second to none. But, it’s one big small town. In our work it’s critical that we have a diverse client base and one free of conflicts. As a result, we work very hard to have clients and projects across the country. I spend a lot of time in Washington, DC and Chicago nurturing relationships to ensure we get referrals from many different sources.

4) Take us through a day in your life.

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The alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and most mornings my husband and I go for a run. At 9:00 a.m. we have a staff Skype meeting with our co-workers in Washington and Chicago. I’m in the office until around 4:00 p.m. Then it is then off to the State House. Most evenings include either a political or charity fundraiser. I have dinner at home at the end of the night and wake up to do it again the next day.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I have never taken a political science class in my life. I went to school for accounting and my first two jobs were in that field.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty – no one treats their staff better.

Favorite Restaurant: Providence has too many great places to single one out. My favorites are Bacaro, Chez Pascal, Mills Tavern and Nick’s on Broadway,

Your Favorite Part of Winter in Rhode Island: Unlike my hometown of Chicago, the sun actually shines in the winter here. I appreciate a sunny winter day every time I see it.

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: The Power Broker by Robert Caro (in fairness…it took me more than a year to read it)

Advice for the Next Brett Smiley: Treat everyone with generosity and respect. Besides the fact it’s the right thing to do, I can’t count how many former interns I have called on as potential new clients!



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