Archive for September, 2014

I am a big fan of Zappos, a mega-online retailer who truly understands the value of great customer service. I recently read an article referencing Zappos, “Want a Competitive Advantage? Focus on Customer Experience.”  One thought particularly resonated with me:

“Today, whether you’re selling online or off, focusing on customer experience should be as important a part of your integrated marketing strategies as anything you’re doing with regard to search engine optimization, social, content, lead gen and the like. If you do all these other things without focusing on delivering a great customer experience, chances are good it won’t matter.”

We certainly have a strong marketing culture here at our firm, with proven results of increased brand awareness and new business.  However, as pointed out in the above statement, all of our marketing efforts won’t matter if we don’t retain our clients.  Remember, they need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain our clients.  Here are a few tips to help you make a positive impression with our highly valued clients:

  • Respond to client calls or emails as quickly as possible.  A timely response makes them feel they are top priority to you, and everyone likes to feel that way.
  • Take the time to actually speak with them at least once a month, if not more often.  Pick up the phone and make a call.  Or arrange a time to stop by their offices just to see how things are.
  • Take clients out to breakfast or lunch (I call this a meeting without an agenda) besides getting to know our client better personally use this time  to discuss what is keeping them up at night, and see if you can help find a solution. We have a deep well of talent of expertise at our firm, as well as a vast network of resources of those services we do not directly provide (insurance, investments, payroll, etc.).  We can likely help solve any problematic issue they have. Be a problem solver for our clients and elevate yourself to a trusted professional.
  • Make it a point to let our client know you value their business, and are genuinely interested in their business. Check out their website on a regular basis to see what they are up to. Share an article you just read that pertains to their industry. Let them know you truly care.
  • Don’t be afraid to get to know our clients on a personal level. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how much you have in common.  Ask about their family; ask about their interests.  Consider sending a note on their birthday, or a gift when a new grandbaby has arrived. Be a friend in business.

It’s the little things that go a long way in preserving our client relationships and solidifying your role as trusted advisor.  Frequent touches with our clients helps to ensure they are our clients for many years to come.


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In case you were not able to attend our recent New Partner Reception, I’d like to share a few great announcements worth repeating regarding our firm and our people that you missed:

  • INSIDE Public Accounting released its Top 100 Accounting Firms list for 2014. The IPA independent rankings are among the longest-running, most accurate and up-to-date for the nation’s largest accounting firms. WithumSmith+Brown moved up two spots from 31st to the 29th largest firm in the nation, breaking the Top 30 list!  We attribute this move not only to a couple of recent mergers of competing firms, but also to our own organic growth.
  • Accounting Today released its “100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession” list and we again have TWO people from our firm being honored, the only firm on the list with more than one person.  Jim Bourke, partner and practice leader of our Technology Services Group, makes an appearance for a seventh year in a row.  Jim tirelessly travels around the country and the world, presenting and discussing all things tech, quoted and published in a variety of magazines, blogs and websites.  He truly is an influencer in our profession. The second person is Sarah Cirelli, interactive marketing manager, her second appearance on the list and most certainly the youngest person on the list!  Sarah has done extraordinary things to showcase our firm through our videos which contribute to our unbelievably great morale that defines and strengthens our culture.  The profession has taken notice of her work and has followed her trendsetting efforts.  Click here to view the list; Jim is on page 62 and Sarah is on page 64.
  • I also want to share the news that Chris DeMayo, our newly inducted partner, was listed as a 2014 honoree in the national 40 Under 40 program for CPA Advisor magazine.  Honorees are described as “trailblazers who are changing the accounting profession,” and that certainly befits Chris, who has spearheaded several firm initiatives to expand market share in various industries as well as continue to enhance the firm’s reputation as a regionally and nationally recognized provider of services to emerging growth companies. Click here for the official list of honorees from around the country.

Please join me in congratulating these talented professionals who are out there making a substantial impact on our profession… and making us all very proud.

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The late Stephen Covey was an American educator, businessman, keynote speaker and author, with his most popular books being The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Speed of Trust.  He is also co-founder of FranklinCovey, a global professional-services firm selling both training and productivity tools to individuals and to organizations, whose mission statement reads: “We enable greatness in people and organizations everywhere”.

Recently, our partners and department heads attended a special FranklinCovey program on “Inspiring Trust.”  By definition, “trust” is the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others. This certainly aligns 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 own mission statement. The “Inspiring Trust” program was powerfully insightful, with our firm’s leaders learning about “The 4 Cores of Self Trust”:

  1. INTEGRITY: Deep honesty and truthfulness; who we really are; congruence, humility and courage.
  2. INTENT: our plan or purpose – our motive, our agenda, our behavior.
  3. CAPABILITIES: Our capacity to produce and accomplish TASKS: talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, style.
  4. RESULTS: Our track record – based on past performance, current performance and anticipated performance.

Trust within a team is vitally important. We place great emphasis on our engagement teams to provide World Class Client Service, with the goal to become our clients’ trusted advisors.  From an internal perspective, whether a niche team, department team or office team, having a deep trust between team members helps 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 equally as important.

Leaders who have INTEGRITY with the right INTENT combined with the right CAPABILITIES will produce fantastic RESULTS.  Enhancing your Self Trust through practice and application of the four cores will help others put their trust in you.

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Today, I’d like to continue discussing Pat Williams’ book, Leadership Excellence: the Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century, covering the third side of leadership:

People Skills. “Excellent leaders… have empathy and compassion for the ones they lead….  To be a great leader, you have to love people….  Clearly, leaders can’t do it all.  They can’t achieve their leadership vision alone.  Leaders work through people to accomplish their goals.  That’s why leaders need people skills.” –Pat Williams

Yes, we are in the accounting, audit and tax business, but really… we are in the people business. Relationship building- whether as a trusted advisor to our clients or as a member of an engagement or niche team within our firm, it is the core of what we do. Thus, the key to being successful in our profession is possessing people skills. Williams describes them in this way: “People skills are simply the learnable skills that enable you, the leader, to understand the people you lead, to empathize with them, and to build harmonious relationships with them. People skills are the social skills that enable you to get along with people, to negotiate with people, to avoid and resolve conflict with people, and to interact with people in a way that is mutually beneficial.”

Great leaders enjoy spending time with their people, lifting morale, encouraging spirits, and empowering minds. President Bill Clinton would single out people in a crowd and speak to them at a very personal level. George Washington would never leave his troops, even though he longed to be home. Hal Moore was the first one on the battlefield, and the last one off, demonstrating loyalty to his troops. Jesus never abandoned his followers, despite the proverbial stones some may have thrown at him. Here’s a list of Williams’ recommendations on how to sharpen your people skills:

  1. Be visible and available. Here’s an important acronym to remember: MBWA – “manage by walking around.” Take the time to speak with your staff every day.
  2. Be a good listener.  Everyone has a need to be heard. The most uplifting leader of all is a leader who listens.
  3. Empower your people.  Give the them the encouragement and tools they need to succeed.
  4. Delegate. Accomplish goals through other people. Organize efforts of others in order to achieve what no one person could ever achieve alone.
  5. Take care of your troops. A leader must be loyal to those he or she leads.
  6. Don’t avoid conflict – manage it.  Great leaders don’t fear conflict.  They face it and resolve it.
  7. Level with your people. Be honest and open with your team.

I encourage you to take the time to practice your people skills every day, both personally and professionally. The effort has exponential reach, resulting in the teams in your life to reach greater heights.

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Without labor, nothing prospers.  ~Sophocles

Alas, it is Labor Day, marking the unofficial end of summer. To many of you, it means getting ready for back-to-school, hosting that last barbeque party or getting in one final trip to the shore. To the business community, it generally means the relaxed summer mood is now over and it’s time to get back into the normal swing of things once again. To the accounting profession, it means there are only two weeks away from  the September 15th deadline!

To everyone, however, Labor Day should be a reminder of the economic achievements of American workers who contribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.  And as members of a professional services firm, let us all be thankful for our valued clients who choose to work with WS+B, allowing us to do what we do best every day.  We also want to recognize our dedicated staff who work hard throughout the entire year, helping put our Firm, our clients and our communities in a position of strength. 

Please be sure to take a well-deserved break and enjoy these last days of summer. I hope you enjoy all the things you have labored so hard to achieve.


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