Leader of Sonoma’s Aho & Associates Financial Forensics wins North Bay Women in Busines award
Lorraine Aho, partner in Sonoma’s Aho Financial Forensics, is a winner of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Women in Business Awards.
Tell us about you and your company: A Certified Fraud Examiner and CPA, I am the “Chief Spaghetti Untangler” at Aho & Associates Financial Forensics.
Combining a love of numbers with the complexities of investigations gives me a unique perspective on financial forensics. We are a boutique forensic accounting firm specializing in financial investigations for embezzlement, elder financial abuse, tax disputes, and marital dissolution's.
From misappropriated trust assets and business irregularities to reconstructing financial records and protecting vulnerable seniors’ assets within our community, I thrive on the investigative process that leads from the people involved to the monetary misconduct at the heart of each matter
Alongside my husband and enterprise partner, Erik Aho, we launched and grew our small firm into an industry-respected team of principals and consultants including CPAs, auditors, attorneys, financial conservators, Certified Fraud Examiners, QuickBooks pro-advisors, and experienced bookkeepers focused on the intricacies of fraud investigation, litigation support, and forensic accounting services.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
We compensated for the strictures of the pandemic by expanding our office footprint, creating a world-class website, and a state-of-the-art in-house studio, improving our connections and communications with our clients while continuing to lend a helping hand in the community through publishing blogs, newspaper articles and working on a new book about fraud awareness.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Entrepremom! I started my firm from the ground up and had a baby at 40. Getting my CPA in 2018 was the icing on the cake.
What is your biggest challenge today?
My biggest challenges today are hiring and retaining staff, sustaining a semblance of work-life balance, and juggling the demands of marketing and business development through virtual networking.
Words that best describe you:Tenacious, curious, persistent, determined, puzzle solver.
The pandemic placed an extraordinary burden on women. They’ve had to deal with remote learning for school-aged children, plus juggling their own remote working circumstances.
Personally, which of the adjustments you’ve had to make in your home life and career have been most challenging?
Making sure my team and family get their needs met has been top of mind for me. This plays out in so many ways large and small: Taking time to listen to everyone’s concerns. Providing extra care, patience, and understanding.
Slowing down to be aware of all the feelings and being empathetic to others. Reminding myself to take time off, giving extra PTO to team members, and providing mental health days for family and the office team.
Overall, I strive to simplify, shop local, and ‘don’t sweat the small stuff,’ as Erma Bombeck used to say. Thankfully, my daughter had prior experience with online learning, although full Zoom days were exhausting and challenging.
How about the women you work with, or know outside the workplace? What adjustments have they had to make?
Health concerns and uncertainty around COVID and the effects of stress and worry over children’s school schedules have been paramount.
Some women needed to scale back work in order to take care of family members, young and old. Finding innovative ways to help and support each other, including many women who are going through stressful situations such as divorce, has been the most necessary and profound adjustment. Doing porch drops of homemade gifts is a nice socially-distanced way to show you’re thinking of a friend.
Lastly, on COVID, which changes in routine or approach to your job you’ve made as the result of the pandemic will remain in place, either at work or in your outlook on your home life?
As a culture, we work too hard, even in idyllic Sonoma. I will continue to encourage extra time away from the office and remember to not get caught up in the ‘busyness’ of life. Family is so important and kids grow up so quickly. Circumstances can change in an instant. Health can be fleeting. Find the time to show you care.
As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
Forensic accounting is a male-dominated field where I still encounter people who are sexist and demeaning and want to talk to the man in charge, especially if they don’t like the answer that I’ve given them. I rely on my professionalism and the support of my network to not take it personally and keep moving forward.