Archive for January, 2014

I am a big fan of reading books and articles on leadership and the psychology behind what drives people to succeed. I’d like to share an article I read via Yahoo.com’s Small Business Advisor website, offering some valuable gems of advice: 9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People.  Here’s the list; the article offers full descriptions of each point:

1. Time doesn’t fill me. I fill time.

2. The people around me are the people I chose. Successful people are naturally drawn to successful people.

3. I have never paid my dues. Dues aren’t paid, past tense. Dues get paid, each and every day.

4. Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.

5. Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn’t just happen to me.

6. Volunteers always win.

7. As long as I’m paid well, it’s all good.

8. People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do.

9. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland… full of opportunity.

After reading this list, it occurred to me that there is an underlying personality trait held by those who can embrace such ideals… having a great attitude.  It’s about keeping a positive outlook on things, even when in tough situations.  Enthusiasm is infectious, and a smile and a pleasant attitude can work wonders.  Successful people perpetually keep in mind that life is good.  Whether with your clients, co-workers, or even your own family or circle of friends, demonstrating a positive, cooperative attitude will help you reach your own personal pinnacle of success.

Have a great week.


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Good morning, Everyone!

One of the really neat things displayed at the State of the Firm event last week, was the series of poster boards in the main lobby, which featured photos from the past next to modern-day photos of our staff mirroring the old photo.  In that same spirit, I have some merger news to share, past and present.


Today marks the 25th anniversary of the merger of Millner, Millner and Aronson, CPAs, which was effective January 23, 1989.  The merger not only represented an additional $400,000 of revenue at that time, but also gave us three dedicated long-time, loyal staff members, Stan Millner, Joe Klinke and Jean Rittger, all of whom are still with the firm, based in the Princeton office.  Congrats to the three of you!


Just a week ago, Dan Vitale and the staff of the Toms River office began a new and exciting chapter in their history of growth, as we welcomed the partners and staff of Hutchins, Meyer & DiLieto, PA (HMD) to the Withum family.  We have been seeking the right strategic partner to enhance our presence in Ocean County, and we found the perfect match with HMD in terms of expertise, geographic location and culture.  Bob Hutchins, HMD’s managing partner, and his team were at the State of the Firm , enjoying a glimpse of the Withum Way culture and introducing themselves to many of you.  We are certain this will prove to be a very successful union. Please join me in sending best wishes to Dan, Bob and the rest of the Toms River staff on this momentous occasion.

Growth through mergers and acquisitions is certainly a part of any firm’s long-term strategy, to supplement organic growth.  We are so pleased that throughout the firm’s 40 years of history, we have been successful in finding the right strategic partners to help us reach new markets, expand a variety of service areas, and bring aboard so many talented professionals who help provide the World-Class Service our clients have come to expect every day.

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Good morning, Everyone.

I recently received and read an emailed article (below), “How Trustworthy Are You?,” and found it quite thought provoking.  Trust within a team is vitally important to its success.  As a Firm, we stress the importance of providing World Class Client Service, with the aspiration of becoming a client’s trusted advisor.   By definition, “trust” is the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others.  This is certainly aligned with our Firm’s goal of “maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards demanded by the profession, our clients and the public,” as outlined in our mission statement.

From an internal perspective, whether a niche team, an office team or an engagement team, having a deep trust between team members will help them motivate and inspire each other in achieving great heights together.  And certainly trust in the leadership of that team- his or her vision of strategy and end goals – is just as important.

As Managing Partner of WithumSmith+Brown, I sincerely strive to gain the trust of all I work with.  I often ask if there is something I can do better or if I can help in any additional way; I am here for staff.  In that, they can most definitely trust.


How Trustworthy Are You?
By, Pam Bilbrey

Trust on teams is a measure of the quality of the relationships between team members. It is the glue that holds the team together. Trusting teams create an environment where it is safe to admit weaknesses, ask others for help, share ideas and opinions, and offer feedback to colleagues without fear of being judged or rejected. Without trust teams often disintegrate into some predictable dysfunctional behaviors.

At The Table Group, we define trust in two ways. There is “predictive trust”, meaning people do what they say they will do, and there is “vulnerability-based trust”, meaning people are open and honest with one another. Without vulnerability-based trust, team members spend their time and energy concealing their weaknesses and mistakes from one another, and they jump to conclusions about the intentions, aptitude, and character of colleagues. Teams without trust fail to fully utilize the skills, expertise, and experience of colleagues which, in turn, prevents the team from achieving the best possible results. In fact, a recent Watson Wyatt study representing all major industries found that companies with high trust levels generated total returns to shareholders at almost three times that of companies with low levels of trust. Trust matters.

Perceptions of Trust

Surveys indicate that perceptions of team trust are statistically equivalent to the least trusted member. Trust on teams sinks to the lowest level. Research also shows we generally judge others to be less trustworthy than ourselves. In other words, it is likely that those you work with judge you to be less trustworthy than you judge yourself to be.   What creates this perception? Two thoughts come to mind. First, trusting others is a choice we make. For some, trust comes quickly while others find it more difficult to establish trust. Social psychologists say there is a complex mix of personality, experiences and culture that impacts the trust we have in others that has little to do with the other person. Our perspective on life (glass half empty or glass half full) is another way to think about it. The glass ½ full individual finds trusting easier because they see the world as benign while the glass ½ empty person sees the world as full of threats. Secondly, and the focus of the rest of this article, is the acknowledgement that our everyday behaviors affect how people assess our trustworthiness. Each interaction is an opportunity to build or erode trust with colleagues.

Demonstrating Trustworthiness

There is an intriguing line from a 1971 Ringo Starr song, “I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust. And you know it don’t come easy.” Perhaps trust doesn’t always come easy, but through our words and actions we can prove ourselves worthy of another’s trust. Take a few moments to answer the following questions and gain insight on how consistently you demonstrate trustworthiness.

1. Do you intentionally connect with others?

All relationships, even workplace relationships, have an emotional component that is critical to building trust. People need to know you care about them beyond the job title and their role and responsibilities. Get to know the interests and passions of your colleagues and share yours.   Show you care by listening well, being empathetic, and offering your support. Remember that simple gestures – a warm hello, a nod, a smile – go a long way in making a connection and showing others they matter.

2. Do you share your shortcomings?

No one gets it right 100% of the time. Each of us brings a set of strengths and a set of weaknesses to the team. My guess is that your colleagues know you are not perfect, so why pretend? Admit your mistakes, acknowledge you don’t have all the answers, ask for help, and recognize that others’ ideas may be better than your own. People will respect your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable about your shortcomings. Humility is an important virtue.

3. Do you keep your promises?

Delivering on your promises increases believability and believability builds trust. It lets others know they can rely on you. Be responsive to requests and hold yourself accountable to do what you say you will do and you will establish a track record of results. Avoid excuses to justify inaction and finger pointing or blaming when things go south and you will position yourself as a trustworthy colleague.

4. Do you tell the whole truth?

Perhaps you have met individuals that seem to exaggerate or “spin” the facts just enough to tip the scales in their favor. Or maybe you know someone with a habit of conveniently leaving out the details that don’t support their position. Communication that is a little less than honest erodes trust and creates doubt about your intent. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and you will   be respected for your honesty.

5. Do you walk the talk?

People trust others that demonstrate consistency in what they believe, say and do. Ensure your actions are congruent with your values and beliefs. Model the behaviors you expect of others. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” When you consistently practice what you preach, you act with integrity and others will know they can count on you to do the right thing.

6. Do you give others the benefit of the doubt?

A trusting colleague will give others the benefit of the doubt and assume positive intent. Avoid jumping to conclusions and the cynicism it creates. Take the time to better understand others and the way they might think and act in work situations. When you acknowledge and accept the uniqueness of each individual, you create a whole new level of respect and admiration for what they bring to the team.

7. Do you avoid back channeling?

While it may be tempting at times to vent your frustrations with a colleague behind their back, it never leads to good things. Go directly to the person that ruffles your feathers to show you value the relationship and are willing to have an uncomfortable conversation to make things better. Avoid office gossip and refuse to participate when others want you to engage in ‘behind-your-back’ conversations.

Understanding Perceptions of Trust Exercise

Trustworthiness is in the eye of the beholder. It’s important for teams to understand the personal triggers that create a perception of trust and distrust among their colleagues. I often ask teams to participate in an exercise where each team member is asked to complete the following sentences:

1. The fastest way to gain my trust is to…

2. My trust in another person is instantly eroded when…

The insights gained in understanding how perceptions of trust are formed can be a significant step in moving the team to higher levels of trust.

Be Courageous

A client recently shared his thoughts on trust and teams, “Unlike some areas of team effectiveness that can be enhanced by adopting a new process, structure or tool, trust is a ‘fragile commodity’ that takes time and patience to build as often teams experience two steps forward and one step back. My experience is that a crack in trust makes it hard to get acceleration in the other areas of team performance.” There is reciprocity in trusting others. When we give trust, people return it; when we withhold trust, they do the same. The best way to create trust is to be proactive – step forward and extend trust to your colleagues through your words and actions. Patrick Lencioni reminds us, “The key ingredient to building trust is not time. It is courage.” How courageous are you willing to be?

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