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If you ask Deanna Salo about her 35-plus-year career with Cray Kaiser, she will eventually share stories of the mergers and acquisitions she has overseen. In due time, she will tell you about how she assists in shareholder disputes and getting great agreements into every company’s infrastructure. But first, Deanna will reflect on the impact that she and her team members have with each engagement.

In her mind, every engagement is linked to a person or family. So while it is true that Deanna grew up professionally at Cray Kaiser—joining in 1986, fresh from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s in Accountancy—Cray Kaiser has also grown with her. The firm’s people-centric approach has been instilled in every corner of the firm since its inception, which is one of the main reasons why Deanna has her career rooted in the Firm.

A CK Principal since 2001 and Managing Principal since 2021, Deanna executes assurance, strategic and tax planning services across the client portfolio. For closely-held and family-owned businesses, she focuses on the value she can bring to the family and owners. For nonprofit clients, she instills best practices in budgeting, governance issues and audit compliance procedures. Using her technical and creative talents, Deanna also performs M&A engagements for the buyer and seller sides.

Leading Cray Kaiser’s relationship with the Entrepreneur and Family Business Council at DePaul University, Deanna is a past chair to the Strategic Partner Committee and presently serves on its Finance Committee and Curriculum Committee. Given her investment in the success of family-owned businesses, it should come as no surprise that members of the organization practically have Deanna on speed dial.

Local and Abroad: Executive Board Member, Empowering Women Network; various committees at the Entrepreneur & Family Business Counsel at DePaul, Global Board member of Russell Bedford International

The Lighter Side

Favorite exercise: Trying to keep her ball on the fairway while laughing with friends.
Tax season survival strategy: A good dose of post-season retail therapy.
Travel style: Go big or go home! (One vacation included 22 family members).
You didn’t know: In high school, Deanna said she’d cut off her hair if she was chosen to give the commencement speech. Guess who wore a bob with her gown?
Near & dear: Husband Gary, daughters Natalie and Taylor.
Guardian angel: Late father Joseph.

In addition to Jim Scherzinger’s extensive experience as a tax, accounting and audit professional, he has become a driving force behind Cray Kaiser’s strategic consulting activities. Leveraging his expertise, refined over decades of practice, Jim assumes advisory roles for clients across a diverse spectrum of industries and financial needs.

Over the years, he has counseled clients on such far-ranging matters as start-up projections, cash management, exit planning, buy-side due diligence, seller negotiations and transaction structure, among many others. With deep knowledge of financial markets, financial models and tax and regulatory requirements—and a commitment to understanding clients’ needs and potential exposures—Jim and Cray Kaiser’s multidisciplinary team have the depth of knowledge to resolve a myriad of business issues and augment clients’ internal resources.

As one of three Certified Valuation Analysts at Cray Kaiser, Jim helps clients understand value concepts as they relate to market transfers, internal company transfers and family and generational transfers of business assets and wealth. He applies his understanding of exit strategies to help clients protect their wealth and preserve and shape their legacy.

As a CK Principal, Jim embraces the firm’s client-focused definition of “success.” For Cray Kaiser, success hinges on the extent to which the firm helps clients solve problems and make better business decisions. In realizing that vision of success, Cray Kaiser adds value to clients’ businesses, giving them heightened confidence in their ability to meet objectives.

In addition to his CPA license, Jim is a licensed real estate broker. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois-Champaign.

Community: Past Director, Real Estate Investment Association. Certification of Membership, The Exit Planning Institute, National Association of Valuation Analysts. Committee Member, Union League Club of Chicago. Board Membership, Various Nonprofit Organizations.

The Lighter Side

Hobbies: Golf, travel, golf and travel.
Favorite city: Paris, where even the gas station food is great.
Parisian pasttime: People-watching at a corner patisserie. (See also “great food,” above.)
Childhood hero: Benjamin Franklin. Not necessarily for his politics but his principles.
A perfect “bond”: Jim met his wife Nancy when she accompanied her sister to bail Jim’s college friend, who made an illegal U-turn, out of a holding cell. The sisters posted bond; the rest is history.
Near & dear: Wife Nancy, mother Eleanor, great-grandmother Edith, who lived to be 101. (Behind every great man, they say . . .)

Karen Snodgrass oversees Cray Kaiser’s tax division, with niche expertise in closely held and family-owned businesses. In her tax planning work, she minimizes liability at the entity and individual level by helping clients think through the tax implications of their decisions throughout the year.

The leaders of family-owned businesses, whose personal lives mingle with their business lives, share more with Karen than their 1099s. They share their financial heart and soul. For Karen, that’s an honor. So she aims to do more than meet tax goals. Before asking clients to sign a single dotted line, she picks up the phone to inform and educate them.

That’s the common thread that runs through her diverse specialties: a commitment to sharing knowledge. Having successfully navigated evolving tax codes for 20-plus years—more than 15 of which she spent at Cray Kaiser—Karen leads seminars on tax law updates at the firm. Based on her ongoing analysis of the effects of new laws, the firm’s reputation for excellence in tax services is unmatched.

With Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, Karen also gives presentations on tax and business finance topics to groups like the Entrepreneur and Family Business Council at DePaul University.

Community: Memberships: AICPA, Illinois CPA Society, Notre Dame Clubs, Exclusive Professional Women’s Networking Group, Trusted Advisors Council.

The Lighter Side

Work/life motto: Take your work seriously, not yourself!
Hidden talent: Knows song lyrics from most 80’s songs.
You didn’t know: Karen is a member of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, reserved for elite varsity athletes.
College chemistry: The reason she didn’t become a sports medicine doctor.
Travel style: Pack your bags and go!
Near & dear: Husband Harry, dog Hooligan.

Brian Kot oversees technology at Cray Kaiser and is also responsible for maintaining the firm’s quality assurance. He ensures that the firm has the necessary infrastructure and stays up to date with the latest technological advancements and solutions so the CK team can continue to exceed client expectations and remain compliant with professional standards.

As a practitioner, Brian understands that his clients need to devote their energy to their businesses, not to matters of accounting. As such, he streamlines engagements at every turn, making the process both efficient and informative. Brian also knows that, in order to diagnose client needs, his job is to listen. He starts every engagement by diving deep, gaining a comprehensive understanding of his clients’ unique situations. It’s all part of his commitment to providing an unparalleled level of service.

Brian is a member of the Illinois CPA Society’s Accounting Principles Committee. This highly impactful senior committee devises responses to new accounting standards that regulators put forth. He is proud of the opportunity to influence the discipline about which he is so passionate, while his committee work also allows him to bring back heightened knowledge to the firm.

In a real way, Brian was born into accounting. Having grown up at his father’s firm, he knew he would become a CPA at a very early age. In fact, he cut his professional teeth in high school, serving as the school store’s accountant. At its height, proceeds from the store funded new uniforms for the school band. Not bad for a teenaged number cruncher.

Brian earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Bradley University and a Master’s Degree in Accountancy from Elmhurst College.

Community: Member, Illinois CPA Society Accounting Principles Committee; Treasurer, Harris Farm Homeowners Association; Former Board Member, Downers Grove Area Chamber of Commerce

The Lighter Side

Taking-it-easy hobby: Card game Euchre.
Extreme hobby: Barefoot waterskiing. Yes, you read that right.
Fave getaway: Summer home on Indiana’s Lake Shafer. (See, “Extreme Hobby,” above).
Professional secret weapon: Listening.
Home town: St. Charles, IL.
Near & dear: Wife Mary, daughters Abby and Katelyn, and son Brody.

Amy Langfelder joined Cray Kaiser in 1995, a year out of school. Immediately demonstrating her innate customer service talents, she soon became a supervisor. In 2017, Amy ascended to her current role as a CK Principal. In addition to her work with clients as an accountant—including engagements as an auditor for nonprofits—she builds client relationships, trains junior staff and manages the flow of projects across the firm, working closely with the CK Principals.

As she sees it, most certified public accounting practitioners can sufficiently manage matters of compliance. But the real power of the accounting discipline lies in expanding clients’ financial literacy so that they may more effectively lead their businesses. This belief has led Amy to head CK’s Accounting Services division which is dedicated to supporting any (or all) aspects of a client’s accounting functions in the capacity that best serves their business.

Because of Cray Kaiser’s niche expertise in closely held and family-owned businesses, many of the owners and presidents of these companies work directly with Amy on their accounting needs. This access to client leadership extends her ability to change business practices for the better. And that is what Amy is all about.

Amy graduated with a degree in Accounting from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

Community: Memberships: Vistage and Christian Business Fellowship. Former Treasurer for Lamplighter Bible Church. Former member of the Finance Committee for Medinah Christian School.

The Lighter Side

When she isn’t working: Golfing with husband and daughter. Marrying into a political family means she’s at every community event under the sun!
Accounting motto:
 Give clients meaning, not just financial reports.
Home town: Bartlett, IL, where she lives now.
Near & dear: Husband Jay, daughter Mya.
Best vacation ever: Hands down, her trip to China, when she and Jay adopted daughter Mya. (“The three-week trip changed our family dynamics forever!”)

As a Principal at Cray Kaiser, George Domino has a passion for working with closely-held and family-owned companies and has the ability to develop enduring client relationships through the comprehensive scope of accounting services Cray Kaiser offers. George provides the type of steadfast advice that only decades of experience can bring, helping his clients make tough decisions and reach their financial goals.

George has been serving clients in the Chicagoland area since 1976. Over the course of his career, George has been providing personalized, in-depth counsel to all of his clients on nearly every aspect of their financial lives. He’s served clients in a diverse range of industries, from construction to manufacturing to retail, and worked with large corporations and individuals. George is known for being a ‘utility player’ who brings a depth of knowledge and the ability to humanize complex scenarios to each client interaction.

In January of 2018, Domino & Associates, Ltd. merged into Cray, Kaiser Ltd. George believes in a personal approach to accounting services and a commitment to getting to know each client beyond just the numbers, making him a perfect addition to the Cray Kaiser team.

George has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Lighter Side

Favorite Sports: Soccer, golf and football.
Who Would Play Me In A Movie: George Clooney
Accounting Motto: Provide clients with excellent service.
First Job: Started as a stock boy in a corner grocery store in 7th grade, working there through college and finishing as the manager of the store.

After nine years on the Cray Kaiser team, Micah became a partner in 2020. Throughout his tenure at CK, Micah has led the completion of client engagements with a focus on closely-held and investor-backed businesses across a wide range of industries including construction, healthcare, logistics, technology, manufacturing, and others.  His broad experience serves as the foundation for the assurance, accounting and tax services he provides to clients today. As one of the firm’s Certified Valuation Analysts, Micah also advises clients on matters of business valuation, business sales and acquisitions, and transition.

When you meet Micah, you’ll notice his listening skills and his humor. It’s hard to miss his genuine interest in uncovering his clients’ biggest concerns and issues. It fuels his determination to find solutions that are integrative, creative, and add value. Micah finds it fulfilling to bring knowledge and expertise that impacts his clients’ businesses beyond the basic accounting functions. Throughout that process, he also enjoys involving junior Cray Kaiser team members and helping them progress in their careers.

Involvement: Micah earned his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), and the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA).

The Lighter Side

Near & Dear: Wife Laine, daughter Emilia, son Theodore.
Hobbies: Anything involving the outdoors, traveling, and watching sports. If attending children’s activities counts as a hobby, then he’s got countless more!
Adventurer: Micah and his family have a love of travel and are always planning for that next adventure.
Cheese Head: Proud Green Bay Packers fan and frequenter of the Northwoods. Known to trek to Green Bay for as many games as possible.
Foodie: Thanks in part to his wife, Micah has grown to appreciate new and unique dining experiences. However, it’s still hard to top a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak in his book.

Natalie McHugh brings over 25 years of experience to her role as Principal at Cray Kaiser. Working directly with CK’s diverse client roster on full-service tax planning, compliance, and consulting, Natalie enjoys nothing more than assisting with business and flow-through taxes to personal and estate, gift and trust taxes.

Natalie found accounting a bit by accident when needing to declare a major prior to her freshman year at DePaul University. She soon found accounting to be her passion during her first internship when her love of numbers and people meshed in those very first assignments. Realizing accounting is not about figures but about individuals is something Natalie carries with her to this day and can be felt in every interaction she has with a colleague or client.

Ask Natalie about her best days at Cray Kaiser and a common trend emerges: Education. Whether she is tackling a new tax legislation and challenging herself in the process, or she is explaining complex tax options to a client, Natalie excels as both student and teacher. She’d better–as a mother of two, learning is as important at home as it is at work.

Natalie earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Accountancy from DePaul University where she graduated with honors.

Community: Member, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Illinois CPA Society; DuPage Estate Planning Council; Volunteer at Two Holy Martyrs Parish

The Lighter Side

Favorite exercise: I love group exercise classes. During tax season I gather a group of colleagues and we work out together in the building gym.
Tax season survival strategy: See above! A great Spotify list and banter with the tax team keeps me sane.
Travel style: Plane! I always have to have a trip planned post tax season to keep me motivated. I also am a faux travel agent – I love to help friends, family and colleagues find great deals on vacations. 
Hobbies: Reading and listening to audiobooks on my commute, baseball games (Go Cubs!) and attending my daughter’s softball games, marathon shopping trips with my daughters, and game nights with family and friends!
Favorite getaway: I love the Riviera Maya in Mexico. We take an annual extended family trip to the area near Thanksgiving, which I plan. I love the sun, the music, the ocean and the people.
Favorite sports team: The Cubs! My grandma was a lifelong fan, and we are fans because of her. Our family, including grandma who is 97, was featured on WGN and on national television during the Cubs 2016 World Series run. We watched every post-season game together in her Cubs decorated apartment.