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In today’s MP Message, we will be covering the third 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: What to Make of Marketing.

In the book, the Welch’s really nail it when covering the WHY in strategic marketing. “In recent years, business-to-business marketing (or B2B) has undergone just as much change as business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, for much the same reasons. More technology. Savvier global buyers and suppliers. Increased competitiveness. Heightened transparency.” Indeed, our clients and prospects are continually doing their homework and have higher expectations with regards to client service. The book shares two guiding principles which aptly apply to our profession:

  1. Companies need to do everything in their power to keep the B2B relationship very, very personal. Like our own personal relationships, professional relationships have to be built on trust with both sides feeling like they’re a win-win situation. You have to really know them, and they have to really know you. As it pertains to our clients, it’s worth sharing these tips again, which absolutely apply to that hot prospect you are pursuing, as well:
  • 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”). Aside from getting to know our clients 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.
  1. Everything you do in B2B marketing today has to be driven by a careful analysis of industry.  What that means to us is to stay on top of the industry trends and issues that are most relevant to our clients’ businesses. Roughly five years ago, we embraced a niche-focused marketing model, as has most of the profession. It encourages us to be more strategic in our marketing efforts, helping us gain a competitive edge within industry verticals by demonstrating our expertise and putting our strongest people – our Niche Practice and Team Leaders – out to the forefront of their respective industries. We also demonstrate our expertise through our powerful website and content marketing strategy, our enhanced proposals, and our presence within industry associations as exhibitors at tradeshows, presenters at conferences and authors in their publications.

With business-to-business marketing, there’s a building of relationships in order to a) minimize clients going out to bid and b) ensure new business for the future. Buttress this with strategic thinking about capabilities, expertise and our competition… and you have a winning marketing mix.

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

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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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Happy New Year to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

As shared in previous posts, I enjoy reading books and articles on leadership and business topics as part of my own professional development. They often serve as inspiration for many ideas and initiatives which are currently established here at the firm. I recently read The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, authored by Jack & Suzy Welch. Jack Welch, as you may know, is the legendary former-CEO of General Electric who was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 2000. His wife, Suzy Welch, is a bestselling author, television commentary and noted business journalist. The book is chock full of sound business advice, with six key learning opportunities which I felt are most applicable to every professional in our firm, relating to Team Alignment, Growth, Leadership, Marketing B2B, Building a Winning Team and Getting Unstuck in Your Career.  I’d like to share a little about each through this and five additional future messages.

Let’s start with Team Alignment, which means more than simply a group of people who are in agreement. Alignment reflects an active ownership on the part of the team members, with each individual understanding and contributing to the goals, vision, and solution of top challenges. And Leadership is the driver to galvanizing the kind of alignment that takes the grind out of work.  Here are a few points the Welch’s share to get your teams successfully aligned:

  1. Getting into everyone’s skincaring passionately about your people and understanding what makes them tick. If you want to inspire even more good stuff happening within your team, you need to truly get to know and care about your people as individuals. Your people give their days (and sometimes their nights) to you. They give their hands, brains and hearts. Sure, they are paid a salary to do so. But as a leader, you need to fill their souls. As a firm, we are more than happy to reimburse expenses related to lunches or activities with your staff with the intent to build stronger relationships.
  2. Serving as the Chief Meaningful Officer – using words and deeds to give your team’s work context and purpose. Remember, your people spend more than 40 hours a week working. If you’re not helping them make meaning of that investment, you’re wasting their time and their lives. Be aspirational in your tone with your team members. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Removing blockages – clearing bureaucracy and other nonsense out of the way of your team’s path to results. A leader’s job is to sweep away those things which stand in the way of a team reaching its target. That includes people, too: the action blockers, the change resistors, the process obsessives. There’s always a way to create work-arounds for most anything so your team members can achieve their goals. And there are certainly plenty of people within our firm with a wealth of “people experience” to assist you in this area if needed.
  4. Demonstrating the generosity gene – going over-the-top in your desire and effort to reward people for great performance, using money, promotions and praise. One of my favorite things about the State of the Firm event is to recognize talented, loyal staff with our Strength Awards and Milestone Awards, also giving them a monetary gift. But remember, a simple ‘thank you’ or an announcement during a team meeting sharing praise about a job well done is free and goes a long way. And don’t forget about the Gotcha Awards!
  5. Making sure the work is fun – creating an environment of enjoyment and celebration. “Work Hard-Play Hard” is part of the Withum Way culture, and I think we do a pretty good job of having a good time while also providing the world-class service our clients expect. We embrace humor and candor; we do things outside of the office to build camaraderie; we do our best to adhere to our ‘no jerk’ policy and maintain a familial atmosphere. Every leader in our firm should help nurture this very important behavior.

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

Have a great week!

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I hope you are enjoying this beautiful holiday weekend. It’s a bittersweet time of year, with 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 more road trip for the season. To the business community, it generally means the relaxed summer mood is now over, Friday is once again a full 8-hour day, and it’s time to get back into the normal swing of things. And of course to our accountants, it means the September 15th deadline is only 8 days away.

Labor Day is a federal holiday dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday in September. Here are a few more things about Labor Day you might not know:

  • The first Labor Day observance was believed to have been a parade in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, organized by the Central Labor Union. 10,000 workers marched in the parade up Broadway.
  • By 1893 more than half of the states were observing Labor Day and a bill to establish Labor Day as a federal holiday was introduced in Congress.
  • On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed into law an act making the first Monday of September Labor Day, a federal holiday.
  • Labor Day is the third most popular holiday weekend for barbecuing, after July 4th and Memorial Day.
  • Labor Day is the official end to hot dog season. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, hot dog season begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day.
  • Labor Day is often referred to as the ‘unofficial end of summer’. Officially, summer extends through late September. This year, the first day of fall will be September 23rd.
  • 44 percent of the time, the NFL plays its first official season game the Thursday after Labor Day. This year, the Steelers and Patriots (with Tom Brady) play on September 10th.

Good #funfacts about Labor Day! Please be sure to take a well-deserved break and enjoy these last days of summer, appreciating all the things you have labored so hard to achieve. We recognize it is our dedicated staff who work hard throughout the entire year, helping put our firm, our clients and our communities in a position of strength.

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The NJCPA’s New Jersey CPA magazine will be including a special section in its September/October 2015 issue: The NJCPA “30 Under 30.”  This section will recognize 30 emerging NJCPA members under 30 years of age who are quickly having a significant impact on the profession and the NJCPA. Selections are determined by each candidate’s professional activities, NJCPA involvement and community service.  I am happy to share that FOUR Withum professionals will be a part of this prestigious list:

Nicole DeRosa, CPA, MAcc, Manager

Melissa Soranno, CPA, Manager

Lauren Taguer, CPA, Manager

Julia Van Saun, CPA, MS, Manager

Please join me in congratulating these four phenomenal young professionals!  We couldn’t be more proud.  (Side note: Since the release of the list of honorees, Julia has relocated to California in pursuit of that alluring West Coast lifestyle.  She made quite an impression with our staff and the NJCPA during her tenure with us, and we wish her the best of luck.)

The cornerstone of our success is truly the loyal and talented professionals who work here every day, and we are committed to providing a professional and caring environment where talented, people-oriented professionals can reach their fullest potential. I just want to remind all of our professionals – particularly the younger staff – that we have implemented a variety of programs to help everyone grow and thrive in their careers here at Withum:

Withum’s Career Coach Program promotes professional development of the firm’s staff.  Its primary purpose is to facilitate an employee’s integration into the firm, develop the employee’s professional skills and increase job satisfaction.

Withum’s Manager Training Program is a bi-annual two-day program for new managers focused on leadership, marketing, client service excellence and performance and engagement management.

The Partner Development Program trains high-potential senior managers on topics such as client management, firm management, and marketing/promotion of the firm.  Such training is part of the grooming process for advancement to partner status.

The Leadership Training opportunities are offered to professionals at all levels, for those who want to pursue advancement in their career here at Withum, through organizations such as Growth Partnership, Rainmaker Academy, Partner Institute and Upstream Academy.

Withum arranges outside continuing professional education courses (CPE), to be presented for all accounting staff, helping achieve or maintain CPA status. The Firm has also invested in the state-of-the-art CPE training and tracking system called “Learn Live” to help ensure our CPAs monitor their credits and are reminded when their licenses need to be renewed.

The Women’s Leadership Development Initiative (WLDI) is a resource for women as they grow through their career at the firm.

Our firm utilizes 360◦ Evaluations, giving staff the opportunity to provide valuable feedback to the supervisors with whom they work.

Withum instituted an innovative employee benefit, Shadow Stock Plan, which encourages staff’s “financial growth” as well. Often called “phantom stock” or “performance based units,” the program is a unique way to strengthen employees’ relationship with the firm by allowing them to personally benefit in the firm’s financial success.

Have a great week!

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