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Leader of Sonoma’s Aho & Associates Financial Forensics wins North Bay Women in Busines award

Lorraine Aho

Partner

Aho Financial Forensics

780 W. Napa St., Sonoma 95476

707-931-4508

ahoandassociates.com

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.

Lorraine Aho

Partner

Aho Financial Forensics

780 W. Napa St., Sonoma 95476

707-931-4508

ahoandassociates.com

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

On the horizon I foresee more cryptocurrency investigations, more international investigations, and access to electronic files as paramount issues. When I first started, it was all paper-based documents. The psychology remains the same, but now the transactions can happen faster and have a global reach.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person:

My mom continues to be my most important mentor. After raising five children, she went back to school to pursue her dream and earn her RN degree.

Then she continued on to earn her bachelors degree and have a later career as a Nursing Home Administrator. At 88, she continues to volunteer on local nonprofit boards. She is also a great puzzle-solver.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Instead of your To Do list, make your To Be list: Be brave. Be curious. Be a positive force for change. Be part of the solution. Be of service. Be true to yourself. For women interested in forensic accounting, get involved in many different industries.

Embezzlement happens everywhere and each industry has its own subtle twist. Keep up to date on the latest fraud schemes and scams and never stop learning and teaching others. Fraud prevention is a small community, so network locally and internationally.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I most admire Crista Barnett Nelson, executive director at Senior Advocacy Services. She is genuine, caring, and fun. I got to know her when we volunteered with the Sonoma County Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) and the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI) together, and she’s a great leader and a passionate advocate for our elders.

Typical day at the office: I have a fairly standard routine, although no two days are alike due to the breadth of cases we work on. I get to the office after taking my daughter to school. I answer emails and return phone calls promptly to touch base with clients and contacts.

Then I look through my calendar for upcoming deadlines and court dates and move on to prioritize projects that need attention.

As the morning progresses I meet with staff to brainstorm and provide guidance on projects, handle administrative tasks and intake new clients.

My lunch break includes a walk outside for fresh air. Afternoons are my focus time for deep investigation or report writing before heading home to make dinner and spend time with family.

Best place to work outside of your office: My nearby home office with my two cat companions is the best alternative.

Current reading: I keep a pretty eclectic stack of titles and authors. Here’s what’s on my reading table now: “What Happened to You?,” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, “Mythos”, by Stephen Fry, “A Woman of No Importance, the Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II,” by Sonia Purnell, “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be,” by Frank Bruni, “The Price You Pay for College,” by Ron Lieber, and Atomic Habits, by James Clear.

Most want to meet: Drew Barrymore. She overcame early trauma to create a kind and authentic life of entertainment and entrepreneurship that she can share with millions. I also have some script ideas for her production company.

Social media you most use: I use LinkedIn strictly for business and Facebook for lighter anecdotes and memes I’ve created.

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