Your virtual CFO

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Creative Business Strategies works to be a part of its clients’ success, but the team is also there during bad times as well, working with people who get into trouble with overdue taxes and cash flow issues. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Ken McEntee

An accountant’s wife, the old joke suggests, can promptly cure her insomnia by asking her husband about his day.

Judging by the boisterous laughter filling the air in Gary Cerasi’s office at Creative Business Strategies, buying into that cure may be a risky investment.

“We have a lot of fun here,” says Gary, a CPA and owner of the Broadview Heights firm. “We are not your typical accounting firm. I like to tell people, ‘I will make you laugh, then I will make you money.’”

Gary figures Creative Business Strategies’ staff of nine serves close to 1,000 clients that range from individuals to small businesses to non-profits to large companies. Add them all together, he says, and they generate about $200 million in annual revenues.

“I like to think that I play some role in their success,” he admits.

“Everybody has an accountant who does tax returns and keeps books and that type of thing, but not many people have an accountant who is a CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and that’s how I label myself—as a virtual CFO. Our job is to wrap our hands around your entire business, learn what you’re all about and help you get to the next level, whether it is help with marketing, capital generation, equity financing or just introducing you to the right people.”

Gary is particularly proud that two clients, with whom he has worked since they were founded, have passed the $20 million mark in annual revenue.

Even before founding Creative Business Strategies in 1991, Gary was surrounded by success. In fact, as a young accountant at a major firm in Denver, he once held some of history’s most valuable financial documents in his hands.

“I didn’t even realize what I had, but it turned out that an envelope I was delivering in 1980 contained initial stock shares for Apple Computer,” Gary recalls. “I wish I could take credit for all the millionaires that were created that day, but all I can take credit for is delivering the managing partners’ shares from the accounting firm to the transfer agent.”

Four years later, after spending time with a Denver business park developer, Gary joined Forest City Enterprises in Cleveland.

“I watched the Ratners grow from $5 million to $5 billion,” he says. “It was a terrific learning experience and fun to be a part of.”

But in 1991, Gary’s entrepreneurial spark caught fire and he decided to start his own business.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to start and grow a business, especially with little kids at home,” he says.

“But I learned a lot in the process, and I love to share my experience with people who are starting a new business, or who are looking for ways to grow their existing business. That’s the fun part of my job—taking people by the hand and taking the journey with them. We hope to be a part of their success, but we’re there during bad times as well. We work with people who get into trouble with overdue taxes and cash flow issues. We want to help people get back on their feet.”

You can find out how much fun it can be to visit an accountant—or a virtual CFO—by scheduling a no-cost consultation with Gary by calling 440-546-9359.
Creative Business Strategies is located at 192 East Wallings Road, in Broadview Heights. You can learn more at