[caption id="attachment_88079" align="alignleft" width="142"] Ed Pisenti[/caption]
SANTA ROSA -- Backed by a panoramic window showing rolling grassland flanking a busy Highway 101, Ed Pisenti gestured with a smile to a corner of the conference room at the Santa Rosa office of Pisenti & Brinker.
Perched on sturdy metal legs was an immaculate Burroughs "style No. 3" adding machine, a hand-cranked mechanical calculator once considered state-of-the-art in the accounting profession.
"The end of its career was when I was just starting," he said with a laugh.
It wouldn't be the last fixture to go by the wayside in Mr. Pisenti's career in accounting, a field where changes in technology and practices have come at an ever-faster pace in recent years. Yet one thing has remained constant as the firm he founded with Lynn Brinker approaches its 50th anniversary:
"All of these products just do something," said Mr. Pisenti, now retired. "It's the experience of the people at this firm to interpret those results that makes the difference."Rapid growth
[caption id="attachment_88078" align="alignright" width="315"] Pisenti & Brinker partners office building in Santa Rosa[/caption]
It was in 1962 that Mr. Pisenti, then working at a San Francisco firm now part of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, turned down a promotion in Detroit to open a new practice in Santa Rosa. The three-person firm had doubled in size by 1965, when a partnership with Mr. Brinker launched the firm known today as Pisenti & Brinker.
Sonoma County was a very different place at that time, just stepping toward today's reputation as a hub for premium wine and decades from the boom years of "Telecom Valley." Yet the region was no stranger to small business and professional-services firms, and many lacked the sophisticated approaches in structuring business entities and perks like retirement and benefit plans, Mr. Pisenti said.
"Coming from a national firm background, I had some assumptions," said Mr. Pisenti. He found quickly that "the concept of a corporation or a limited partnership didn't exist."
Helping owners to modernize those plans was a major source of business for Pisenti & Brinker in its early years years, one that its owners said had an enduring positive effect for the region's business community.
As that economy grew, so too did the firm's area's of service.
"We were one of the first firms in the North Bay to have an employee-benefits and wealth-management practice," said James Perez, partner.
Pisenti & Brinker added a Petaluma office through acquisition in 1991, the same year the firm opened an office in Napa. Its Santa Rosa office, launched in a small location at 897 Third St. in 1962, now occupies nearly an entire floor in a new office building at the city's northeast Fountaingrove business district.
The firm today has more than 40 employees.Pace of change accelerates
It was in the 1990s that the demands on the accounting profession were intensifying rapidly, driven in part by customer demand for services that crossed international boundaries and the acceleration of regulatory and technological change. The North Bay economy itself was also going in new directions, influenced by the larger regional economy that includes San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
The environment seemed ripe for merging with a larger firm, but William Robotham, a partner since 1966, said the sentiment at Pisenti & Brinker was to keep it independent. Instead, the firm in 1994 entered into a relationship with national accounting firm McGladrey -- it was a novel arrangement at the time -- that allowed Pisenti & Brinker to keep its autonomy while utilizing the larger firm's resources.