January 7, 2019
2019 Best of Business Awards

Best of Business: Handling your money

David McLaren (far right) with the associates at his firm.

Best Forensic Accountant

McLaren & Associates CPAs, PC

Shrewsbury, dmclarencpa.com

Top executive: Founder & Managing Partner David S. McLaren

Founded: 2005

Employees: 14

McLaren & Associates is hardly your regular tax accounting firm.

Sure, the firm does typical accounting things like taxes, but its real bread and butter is in forensic accounting.

That includes tracking down money lost, hidden or stolen, said Managing Partner David McLaren.

In addition to companies of all shapes and sizes all around the world, the firm has done work with the FBI, U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.

"It's always been a passion to bring people to justice," McLaren said.

Dealing with lost or stolen money can be a stressful time for finance managers, and McLaren's firm seeks to ease that tension.

"We give hugs," he said. "We understand the stress people are going through when they've been wronged."

If anyone understands loss, it's McLaren, who was homeless at age 9 after his parents separated when his sister died at age 11 after a battle with leukemia.

He got himself through high school and worked two jobs to pay for tuition at Bentley University.

"We have a very different view" at this firm, he said. "I know what it's like for people to struggle."

That business, McLaren said, is fueling the firms' rapid growth and a 3,000-square-foot expansion doubling the space in its Shrewsbury headquarters.

The firm is now at 14 employees since adding four in the last six months.

In terms of revenue, the firm grew at a clip of 21 percent this year, 25 percent the year before and 35 percent in 2016.

The firm has 400 clients while most firms that size have upwards of 3,000, but that's because McLaren accountants are extremely detail oriented, he said.

"We know all of our clients' names, spouses, kids, dogs," McLaren said. "We spend up to 10 times the amount of time working with clients than a typical accountant does."

With the Worcester-area economy doing well of late, McLaren said his firm helps clients and businesses contribute to that growth with proper money management.

"We're trying to help clients hold onto more of their money and taxes and plow that money back into their businesses to continue growing and grow more jobs," he said. "It's really to improve their life."

Blue Cross CEO Andrew Dreyfus participates in the company's bikeshare.

Best Health Insurance Provider

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts*

Boston, www.bluecrossma.com

Top executive: President & CEO Andrew Dreyfus

Founded: 1937

Employees: 3,800

Blue Cross launched a new website this year to enhance the customer experience, sponsored the bikeshare program BLUEbikes, started an opioid toolkit for employers to prevent lethal overdose and sponsored Drug Story Theater, a program meant to reduce substance abuse among children.

Notable runners-up: Fallon Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

Best Accounting Firm

Bollus Lynch, LLP Certified Public Accountants & Consultants*

Worcester, bolluslynch.com

Top executives: Partners Michael J. Bollus, Stephen A. Lynch, Jeffrey C. Swanberg & David G. Eaton

Founded: 1989

Employees: 39

One of Bollus Lynch's major goals over the years has been to attract and retain the best audit and tax professionals to the firm. This, along with keeping up with the latest technology, policies and procedures, helps the firm create long-term client relationships and a diversified client base.

Notable runners-up: Stowe & Degon, LLC, and O'Connor, Maloney & Company, P.C.

DCU employees participate in the regular Shred Day event.

Best Credit Union

DCU – Digital Federal Credit Union*

Marlborough, www.dcu.org

Top executive: President & CEO James Regan

Founded: 1979

Employees: 1,331

Owned and operated by and for its members, DCU is committed to providing financial products to help members through every stage of life. Its new Quick Loan program offers short-term, small-dollar personal loans to help members cover emergency expenses.

Notable runners-up: Leominster Credit Union, Central One Federal Credit Union

Provo Wealth Management Group.

Best Financial Planning/Investment Services

Provo Wealth Management Group*

Shrewsbury, www.ProvoWealth.com

Top executive: President & CEO Christopher P. Provo

Founded: 1992

Employees: 14

In 2018, Provo doubled the size of its offices and launched its Strategic Business Innovation Hub and a family office focused on first-generation wealth. The firm prides itself on leading with compassion in an environment of non-judgment, using specialists to help clients decipher the complex financial world.

Notable runner-up: Fidelity Investments

Sullivan Benefits

Best Employee Benefits Consultant

Sullivan Benefits*

Marlborough, www.sullivan-benefits.com

Top executive: Principals and Co-owners Gary Goodhile and Chrystine Heier

Founded: 1998

Employees: 12

In a consolidation-heavy industry run by a handful of major players, Sullivan is unabashedly locally owned and operated, giving the company a better understanding of the community. With the increase in cyber breaches, the company has changed its approach in how it educates clients about the need and importance of having network and privacy liability.

Sullivan Insurance Group

Best Business Insurance Agency

Sullivan Insurance Group*

Worcester, www.sullivangroup.com

Top executive: President & CEO John T. Andreoli

Founded: 1957

Employees: 50

Sullivan sets itself apart with its technical capabilities, attention to detail, business model, and commitment to independence. As the number of cybersecurity breaches have increased, the firm has changed its approach in educating clients about the need and importance of having network and privacy liability.

Best Bank

UniBank*

Whitinsville, www.unibank.com

Top executive: President & CEO Sam S. Pepper, Jr.

Founded: 1870

Employees: 285

With 14 branches throughout Central Massachusetts, UniBank takes a personalized approach to banking, creating programs like Invest Worcester, which keeps deposited money in the city to advance home ownership, community development and small business development in Worcester.

Notable runners-up: Fidelity Bank, Bank of America

*Repeat winner

Read about the rest of the 2019 Best of Business Award category winners:

Multimedia experts

People to know

Places to conduct business

Servicing your business

To add a touch of luxury

Where to unwind

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