60 years of Joy: Founding the Firm 


Sixty years ago, two friends took a big step.

My good friend and fraternity brother Jay Rossin and I graduated from the University of Florida with strong evidence we were destined for entrepreneurship: we had built a much-appreciated (though short-lived) business providing sandwiches for hungry students. In the process, we learned a considerable amount about the hazards of insufficient staffing, long hours, and regulatory pressures.

We studied for the CPA exam together, and we were both gainfully employed in the profession. He was working in public accounting, and I had left public to work for a client in Georgia who was in real estate and tobacco. They paid more, but it was a little bit…slippery. We were both learning a lot about how not to run a business. And for various reasons (including a bounced check – just a mistake, I swear) my mother was pressuring me to return to Miami.

So I said “Let’s go into business,” and Jay, a bit more deliberate in his actions than I, said “let me think about it.” He had a job, and a private book of business on the side that was worth more than mine. But still he agreed, and we took the first steps toward building a place where we could make a living and enjoy coming to work.

Jay H. Rossin and James R. Kaufman, founders of Kaufman Rossin Jay H. Rossin and James R. Kaufman, founders of Kaufman Rossin

There was no way we could have anticipated the great journey we were beginning.

Jay H. Rossin and James R. Kaufman, founders of Kaufman Rossin

From the start, it was exciting. Our first client, though now retired, is still a client today. You couldn’t advertise in the accounting profession in those days, so it was really a relationship business. Jay used the skills that he had demonstrated when recruiting Pi Lam pledges to get to know the shopkeepers on Flagler Street in Downtown Miami and pass out business cards. I connected with attorneys and others in the community, and we built our firm, from one client to the next. One client, one opportunity at a time, we grew slowly for the first five to seven years.

We started to build staff in the late 60s and early 70s, and that was really terrific. Many of those who joined us were straight out of college. Our first office was on Biscayne Boulevard, and then we moved to 150 2nd Avenue in 1965. It was a bigger location, with more room to grow.

And then we moved to the Office in the Grove in 1974, where we really took off! The brand-new building was an iconic, mid-century design by Kenneth Treister (the man who designed the Mayfair Shops) and for us it became a perfect place to foster our Joy at Work culture. We added employees, we added clients, we hosted unforgettable parties. People who joined us in the 70s and 80s have spent their whole professional careers with the firm, helping us learn new disciplines and develop practices as clients’ needs evolved. We grew from 4,000 square feet to nearly the whole building over the years and added offices in Broward and Palm Beach to serve clients and spread our culture there. It was a great time to be in business in South Florida.

Now sixty years into this journey, more than 500 CPAs and advisors continue leading Kaufman Rossin into the future. Under the guidance of my successor, CEO Blain Heckaman, the firm is in another brand-new building in Coconut Grove, plus our offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and other locations in the U.S. and around the world. The firm continues to deliver joy to clients – and we appreciate how much joy they have brought to us for six amazing decades.

James R. Kaufman is founding principal and principal emeritus for Kaufman Rossin, one of the top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.

James Kaufman, CPA, is a Principal Emeritus at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.

  1. Alberto Marinas says:

    Great story. Of anyone I’ve met through my personal and professional life, there are few with whom I’ll go to business easier than with a fellow fraternity brother.

  2. Ed Parnes says:

    What a great journey thru time…..

  3. Richard Haber says:

    Congratulations brother Kaufman! I think I can say I’m one of the few remaining people who can proudly say I knew you back when!! Fraternally, Dick Haber

  4. Patrick Yoh says:

    Happy 60th Anniversary Jim and all of Kaufman Rossin! I am a very proud alumnus of KR. I would not be where I am today without having spent five years of my professional career at KR learning and growing.

    Patrick Yoh
    Managing Director, Bessemer Trust

    • On Behalf of James R. Kaufman says:

      Thank you for the support, Patrick, and for sharing your experience from your five years at KR!

  5. Chuck Ruffner says:

    Ah, the memories of Reznek and Landis, and the $50.00/week paychecks. I remember them well, Jim. But I was 2 years behind Jay & 1 year behind you, & making $60.00/wk a block away with Bearden & Miller on Coaral Way.

  6. Joanne Weiner says:

    Congratulations! As a relatively new client, I have so appreciated the attention, support and guidance from Scott Berger, Bryan Saxe and Joe from your team in Boca Raton!

  7. Joan Greenberg says:

    Loved reading this story. I could feel the passion and pride that you emanate from your journey. Thank you for sharing.

  8. jesse T singer says:

    Congratulations! Keep pushing further!!! The Firm will always be in my heart and thoughts, after all I wouldn’t be the success or the person I am today without those special people.

  9. Edward Steinberg says:

    Congratulations. You deserve all the success. It has been a pleasure working with you and your organization all these decades.

  10. Cousin Eddie says:

    Jim, 60 years later, we can all marvel and observe what an epic business you and Jay created. Thank you for always being such an incredible and inspirational leader and visionary.

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