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Archive for October, 2015

As you heard through that very kind email from Andy Vitale last week, I recently celebrated a 35 year milestone with the firm. Thank you all for your well wishes that followed and blew up my inbox.

Reaching a milestone like this has made me reflective upon the last three-and-a-half decades. When I was offered the opportunity to join WithumSmith+Brown, it was sold to me as a unique firm that was growing and progressive. I accepted the position here, with a hopeful expectation of it providing a great learning experience and intellectual challenge, as well as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Clearly the firm provided this to me… and so much more.

When I look back, I think about how I envisioned my career when I graduated college – oh so many years ago – and I have exceeded those expectations exponentially. The profession and our firm have provided me opportunities to travel far beyond what I could have imagined, while also helping me provide a comfortable standard of living for my family, and even helping my children get a leg up on life as they launch their careers. And as icing on the cake, many of you – my colleagues at the firm – as well as clients and referral sources, have become true friends, rewardingly intertwining both personal and business relationships.

Yes, there were times throughout my career when I was approached with opportunities from other firms, forcing me to reassess my position at Withum. But I always concluded that the best opportunity was right here in front of me, and I have never regretted the repeated decision to continue my career here. Our firm has always been entrepreneurial and a people-oriented place to work. As the Withum Way describes, we work hard and play hard, embracing the family spirit and offering the flexibility to allow all of our professionals to be well rounded people in and out of the office, and not just focused on work and the accounting profession.

When I joined Withum in 1980, I could have never predicted I’d be here for 35 years. Yet, here I am… and I am truly thankful every day for the people who work for this fine firm and make the experience not only interesting, but also very enjoyable. I share all of this with everyone today, not only to thank you for your support of our great firm, but to remind each and every person here about the opportunities that WithumSmith+Brown provides all of us… to enjoy an intellectually stimulating, satisfying career with phenomenal upside for personal reward and achievement.

The best career opportunity is right here at Withum. All we each need to do is take advantage of it.

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I’d like to continue expanding upon the ten traits described in the Withum Way, all of which define our culture and the behaviors which best exemplify our people.  Today we will cover point two:

  1. Possess a Vision for Growth. Those who are most successful at WithumSmith+Brown are forward-thinking with a long-term perspective on how our clients, our communities and our firm can grow and succeed. They take the initiative to identify challenging issues and bring about positive change.

There’s a wise old adage which states that people will support that which they help to create. It’s been widely proven that successful organizations having a broader participation among its people in creating a vision will in turn have people with a greater commitment to it. Regardless of what level professional you are, from staff I to partner; or in which department you are based, be it Accounting, Marketing, Firm Administration, IT or Human Resources, we encourage you to make your time really count and be an active part of the growth and betterment of yourself, our firm, our clients and our communities.

Quoting an article I read recently, “A compelling vision projects an image of how an organization intends to grow and serve its clients through individual, team, and organizational excellence.” That is why our firm finds it important to hold annual events such as the State of the Firm; or why PICs conduct regularly scheduled staff meetings; or why we hold niche meetings; or why we have the Withum Suggestion Box. See it. Feel it. Share it. The future and success of our firm is all about our people. And from what I see, the future is very bright indeed.

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In today’s MP Message, we will be covering the second topic from Jack & Suzy Welch’s book, The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, which is: You Gotta Have Growth.

The only thing that is constant is change, as the old adage states. Moving forward and staying competitive requires constant adaptability, development and growth.  We continually see many changes in our firm, be it the addition of new staff at every level, new titles within departments, new software being implemented… all done in the spirit of accommodating growth and staying on top of our game. Growth is great because it is what gives people job security, pays for a child’s college tuition, buys a home and all the while builds meaningful careers. Growth is a huge part of what makes business fun.

The Real Life MBA shares these six levers which have proven to be effective catalysts for growth:

  1. Eyes Wide Open (or ‘fresh eyes’) – If you want growth, no matter the size of a company or where you sit in it, be it a leading niche or department, don’t be afraid of a new pair (or more!) of fresh eyes on your team.  And by that, we refer to the newly hired people we bring in. As a firm, we are excited to recruit the best and brightest in the profession from other firms, or merge in smaller firms. These professionals are always willing to integrate into our culture and ways of doing things, of course. But remember to tap into the value they bring with their experience and new perspective on the current way we do things here. The fact is, we don’t know what we don’t know. So a fresh point of view can help recharge a team or help spark ideas on new growth initiatives.
  1. Concentrate, Don’t Dilute – When allocating budget resources, sprinkling a little here or a little there tends to be ineffective, particularly with growth initiatives. Focus on what will make the most impact and go with that. Quoting Jack Welch, “If you want growth, don’t hedge your bets. Go big to get big.” As we all know, we keep a close eye on our spending as a firm and can’t offer enough money for every last growth initiative. When looking at department or niche budget allocations, spend what you have to, spend what you can. Just no sprinkling. Concentrate on a few things for bigger impact.
  1. All Hands on Deck – In business, we hear the word ‘innovate’ frequently within the scope of growth. And maybe epic inventors such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates comes to mind immediately, leaving you feeling a bit intimidated when asked to contribute to the innovation within a team. Don’t be! Innovation in business is likely to occur when it is defined to mean incremental improvements that are held to everyone’s job. It can and should be a mindset that has everyone saying everyday as they walk through the door, “I’m going to find a better way to do my job today.” Amazing ideas can be born when done collectively as a team.
  1. Match Talent to the Task – If you want growth, you have to staff the engines of growth with your best. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is a point that is oftentimes overlooked because of time constraints or lack of resources. Assign projects to the right people. Growth doesn’t lead itself.
  1. Keep Compensation Fresh – Measure and compensate your people for their performance accordingly. According to the book, “Performance and compensation systems go stale with time… So you may think your organization measures people for the right things, and pays them for the right things, but such thinking could be more wishful than accurate.” As a firm, we have looked and continue to look at how our professionals are compensated to keep them motivated and satisfied. We encourage you to be very mindful of evaluations and niche member ratings, as these are the basis of raises, bonuses and promotions.
  1. The Competition… Inside – You know the ones… jealous, petty resisters who moan and groan about new ideas or processes or people. And their subterfuge can take a real toll on the psyche of team members. I’ve seen it first hand: talented, bright staff who get turned off completely by this type of nonsense. If you are aware of it, I ask you to let me know immediately, or at least let your PIC know. There’s enough competition going on outside of our firm; we won’t allow for this type of influence within the firm.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the thought leadership coming from The Real Life MBA.

Have a great week!

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