2021 Powered by Women – Susan Koss

The 2021 class of powered by women, selected from reader nominations, navigated the worst pandemic in more than 100 years, economic uncertainty, and employee anxiety. Today, with Covid-19 on the wane, they’re helping to lead their respective corporations and organizations into a safer and more prosperous future. // Photographs by Emily Crombez

Susan Koss has been in accounting long enough to have participated in the transition from paper forms to automated systems. Now, as partner and managing director of the O’Keefe consulting firm in Bloomfield Hills, she advises clients on how to adopt the latest fintech into their operations.

O’Keefe provides a range of advisory, consulting, or interim leadership roles to organizations in a diverse mix of industries. Due to the firm’s wide spectrum of clients and businesses, Koss is never bored.

“Because I work in consulting, I work on an engagement-by-engagement basis,” Koss explains. “It varies day to day. It’s always different, with different clients. I do a lot of litigation support work as an economic or damages expert on cases. I work on all kinds of stuff. It could be a divorce case, a shareholder dispute, (or) two companies suing each other.”

She also performs business valuations utilized in estate tax resolutions and merger and acquisition transactions, and participates in breach of contract, lost profits, and fraudulent conveyance matters.

Additionally, she prepares complex financial analyses utilized in business turnarounds and bank workout assignments for clients. Her restructuring expertise includes a variety of industries including distribution, real estate, and manufacturing, and she’s involved in the quantification of economic damages for large product recalls and warranty matters.

Koss, who spends time on administrative duties as well as marketing activities for the firm, grew up in the Utica-Shelby Township area and attended Oakland University in Rochester Hills.

While at OU, she interned in the international accounting and cost accounting departments at Daimler Chrysler Corp. (today Stellantis), where she first started learning about computers in accounting.

“That was actually great experience and very eye-opening,” she says, “because it was such a big company and you’re working in such a finite area. I thought that working for a smaller company would give me experience in all the different areas of accounting.”

After graduating from OU in 1994, she became a staff accountant at Macro Computer Products. She earned her CPA and joined a public accounting firm before returning to Macro as accounting manager and then controller. When Macro was acquired by SER Solutions in 2000, she became its divisional controller.

All the while, Koss was amassing experience in various areas of accounting, to be able to advise clients. She joined O’Keefe in 2001. “At first I didn’t think I should go to a consulting firm since I didn’t have that kind of experience,” she remembers thinking. “It turns out most consultants get their knowledge by working in companies.”

She also has observed and participated in the digital transformation of accounting. “It’s so different. A lot of stuff is handled by computers now, and we’re leaning more and more to that.”

Koss says she’s fortunate that she hasn’t had to deal with gender discrimination during her career.

“When I went through the interview process after college, I think there were a couple of instances where there were some inappropriate questions asked, like was I engaged,” she recalls. “I feel I’ve been treated fairly. I do the work and have been rewarded, but I know that’s not always the case.”

Koss is accredited by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts as a certified valuation analyst, and she holds Accredited in Business Valuation and the Certified in Financial Forensics credentials from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

She’s involved in the Michigan Chapter of the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation, and is a member of Oakland University’s Accounting and Finance Advisory Board.

When not focusing on O’Keefe matters, Koss enjoys watching her daughters’ volleyball games, biking, traveling, skiing, walking her two dogs, photography, bowling at the Detroit Athletic Club, and visiting the cottage she and her husband, who works for GM, own in Michigan’s thumb.

“I’m excited to continue working with our clients and individuals at the firm to grow the firm,” Koss says about her future. “As a partner in the firm, I have an interest in seeing it be as successful as possible. I’ll continue growing professionally. I like to learn new things, and to stay on top of the things and issues that will impact my work with clients.” 

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