For many Bay Area businesses, navigating complex accounting and regulatory reporting requirements can be arduous and a little terrifying.

That's where RoseRyan, a Newark-based finance and accounting consulting firm, comes in. For 21 years, it has helped hundreds of local tech, life-science and other companies take their first tentative steps as startups, launch initial public offerings, handle mergers and grow to corporate powerhouses.

Starting the company with herself and one other person, co-founder and CEO Kathy Ryan now oversees a workforce of about 65 finance and accounting experts and boasts clients ranging from Facebook, Zynga and Symantec to Gilead Sciences, Kaiser Permanente and The Gap. She talked about her business in an interview that was edited for length and clarity.

Q: What sort of help do you provide your clients?

A: Strategic finance expertise, reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, business transactions -- whether it's in mergers and acquisitions, or initial public offerings -- Sarbanes—Oxley, (the 2002 federal law that imposed extensive reporting rules on public companies), their corporate-governance type work. We have a real breadth of experience that we provide. These companies either don't have that expertise in-house or they need to supplement the expertise that they do have. Especially for the small businesses, the start-up companies. They don't need full-time staff, so we are their accounting and finance department.


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Q: Do you get any clients from outside of the Bay Area?

A: Every now and then. We have some foreign companies. But the main piece of the business is here in Silicon Valley. The mid market is our big sweet spot, so we're not at the really huge companies. They have people on the bench that can help them, but a lot of companies don't.

Q: How is your company different from others in your field?

A: Some of our competitors might only focus on startup companies or they might only do Sarbanes—Oxley or they might only do an IPO transaction. We can span the whole life-cycle of a corporation. I have chief financial officers, controllers, directors of finance -- people who used to do those jobs who have moved into consulting and who find the work that we do here at RoseRyan exciting. It's challenging and it's a learning environment still.

Q: You're not a certified public accounting firm, correct?

A: I have lots of CPAs who work for us. But we are not a CPA firm, so I don't do audits and I don't do taxes. I had done that already. I worked for Price Waterhouse, and I did audit and tax there. That's just not the kind of firm I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to go into companies and help them with all of their different needs. We make sure that everything (in their finances) is clean. So that makes the auditors happy and it makes the clients happy.

Q: Can you talk a bit about how your career has evolved?

A: I mentioned I was at Price Waterhouse, and that's where you can juggle many clients. But also I was very involved at Quantum on cross-functional teams that ran different businesses, and it was a blast. I got to see the business from the engineering, marketing and quality sides. After I started the business here, for the first 12 years I was doing the interim CFO work for a lot of startups. I had like six or seven clients I was juggling all the time. But it was fun. You're treated as part of the executive team, and so you are a part of the business.

Q: Are you hiring?

A: We're definitely hiring now. We are always looking for what we call A players. That's people who not only know their accounting and their finance, they also have to be self-managed, because they often are out with the client by themselves. And more than anything, they have to have great soft skills. They have to be able to communicate well, they have to be able to fit into a company's culture. You can't go in and be condescending. You've got to get people on your side, because you've got to work with them. It's an art, and it's a thing that people have to learn. This kind of talent is hard to find, so we're very picky about who we bring in.

Contact Steve Johnson at sjohnson@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5043. Follow him at Twitter.com/steveatmercnews

Kathy Ryan

Position: CEO and chief financial officer of RoseRyan
Date of Birth: 10/30/56
Birthplace: Butte, Montana
Previous jobs: director finance at Quantum; tax manager at Price Waterhouse.
Education: bachelor of science degree in accounting from Santa Clara University
Family: Married with 3 children, ages 22, 18 and 16
Residence: Livermore

Five things to know about Kathy Ryan
1. Her hobbies include walking and golf, and she loves to read, especially historical fiction, biographies and romance novels.
2. Over the last five years, she has regularly volunteered at the Livermore Homeless Refuge and has tutored adults in learning to read and write English with the Livermore READ project.
3. She's a member of the finance committee at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Livermore, and she handles the finances of the church's largest annual fundraiser.
4. She was raised in San Jose in a tight-knit family, and two of her four sisters work with her at RoseRyan.
5. Her best vacation was a two-week, white-water rafting trip on the Colorado River.