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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

I am always excited to share about Withum’s rankings in the many prestigious lists where you will see our firm’s name. Today is no exception. The Vault Accounting 50 for 2017 was recently released. Vault is a highly respected “career intelligence” website which surveys employees to determine the results of the rankings. Scores are weighted in the areas of satisfaction, business outlook and firm culture. You will see that Withum is ‘trending up’ in the Accounting 50 list from 17 last year to 13 this year.

Notably, there were 6 categories in which our firm appeared in the top three spots:

  • Withum ranked #1 in “Philanthropy” – Wow! We are thrilled that initiatives such as Withum Week of Caring, $5 Jeans Days, and the Staff Hardship Relief Fund truly resonate with our staff.
  • Withum ranked #2 in another two – “Travel Requirements” and the “Benefits” categories.
  • Withum ranked #3 in three categories – “Compensation,” “Culture” and “Firm Leadership.”

For the first time in our history of being listed in Vault, Withum ranked in a Practice Area: #23 in Forensic Accounting! What a great testimony to our skillful Forensic and Valuation Services team!

The Withum Way spirit is alive and well. I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough for the continued support demonstrated by all of our staff who are truly the cornerstone of our firm’s success, dedicating themselves to our clients, to our communities and to each other.

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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 four:

  1. Maintain a Cooperative Attitude. Possessing a willingness to help, to solve any problem, to ‘make it happen’, is an attribute that is appreciated tenfold by others, and you are perceived as a team player.

There’s an old adage which states, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This means that a team can accomplish more together than if the individuals of that team went out on their own. The importance of being a team player is to contribute to that whole through leadership, cooperation and participation. I often hear stories about our professionals going above and beyond to help a client meet a deadline or solve a problem – sacrificing sleep, hustling to get many small details together, traveling great distances or making calls to the right people who have answers when we don’t, all in the effort to get the job done right for that client.  Taking these extra measures means the world to our clients and contributes to turning our relationships with them from a client/accountant one to that of the trusted professional. This also means a lot to your colleagues who are working alongside you.

Whether with your clients, co-workers, or even your own family or circle of friends, demonstrating a positive, cooperative attitude goes a long way in strengthening relationships when everyone feels they are working together.

Thanks and have a great week!

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

  1. “Some define character as simply aspiring to high ideals and standards. I disagree.  Many people have lofty aspirations. Unfortunately, aspiring isn’t enough. You must also have the strength of commitment and sacrifice to adhere to those standards and ideals in good times AND bad.” – the late Bill Walsh, 49ers coach

The wonderful thing about character is that it is one of the few things in life that no one will ever be able to forcefully take away from you. Your choices are your own. And what is even more interesting is that your TRUE character is revealed mostly when you are in times of being tested.  Pressure or temptation can reveal sides of us we may not want to admit we have, or conversely, allow us to rise to the occasion and be the leader we are meant to be.  Here are a few traits to describe “character,” as outlined in the book:

  • Integrity: “Honesty with a Little Oomph” – ‘As John Wooden once wrote: “You can be as honest as the day is long and still be short on character. How? You can be honest and selfish, honest and undisciplined, honest and inconsistent, honest and disrespectful, honest and lazy….There’s more to character than just being honest.”’
  • Diligence: “If You’re Lazy, Stay Away” – “Leaders of character work hard. They have a strong work ethic.”
  • Self-Control: “The Hardest Person to Lead is Yourself” – “If you want to achieve great things, if you want to turn your leadership vision into reality, you must be a person of self-control… also known as self-discipline…” Your goal as a leader is to motivate yourself and your team to be disciplined from within.
  • Perseverance: “It’s a League Rule” – “When the shepherd falls, the sheep scatter. As the shepherd of your organization, you’ve got to keep going, no matter what.  You’ve got to outlast any trial of adversity that comes your way.”
  • Responsibility: “The Rule of the River” – “Each raft holds six or eight people…. If someone got thrown from the raft, all attention must be directed toward rescuing that person… but that person must be active in his own rescue…” Every person on at team must know and execute their assignment, and it is the leader who is responsible for make their roles clear and executable.
  • Humility: “Absence of Arrogance” – “The arrogance that so often comes with promotion and success inevitably begins their downfall.  The antidote to this syndrome is a commitment to humility, to maintaining a humble spirit.”
  • Leaders who possess character as defined in the above are the great leaders with longevity and a loyal following.  Strive to be that leader of character… for your staff, your clients, your family and your community.  But most importantly… for yourself.

Leaders who possess character as defined in the above are the great leaders with longevity and a loyal following.  Strive to be that leader of character… for your staff, your clients, your family and your community.  But most importantly… for yourself.

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

VISION. “Leadership is about the future, so all true leadership begins with vision.”– Pat Williams 

In Leadership Excellence, Williams cites leaders like Cyrus the Great who builds his empire based on tolerance and diversity. He talks about Sam Walton’s vision for Wal-Mart, Steve Jobs for Apple, Richard Branson for Virgin, and many more. Leaders with vision look ahead to the future while sharing the dream and direction which other people want to embrace, share and follow. The vision of an organization’s leadership permeates the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values and goals of its people. Williams goes on to share how vision produces three vital effects in the life of a leader:

  • First, vision keeps you focused.  It wards off distractions. Your vision of the future keeps you on the main highway to your goals.
  • Second, vision keeps you fueled.  It gives you energy, passion and enthusiasm for the challenges you face. Energy, passion and enthusiasm are the most contagious of all human qualities… vision evokes emotion.  There is no such thing as emotionless vision.
  • Third, vision helps you finish. Leadership isn’t easy. The road is hard, and there are deserts to cross, valleys to traverse, and mountains to climb or tunnel through. Your vision keeps you going through the tough times.

So, how do you become “visionary”? Without going into great detail (you can read the book), here is a list of skills Williams believes will help you do so:

  1. Uncork your imagination.  Don’t just think outside of the box.  There is no box!
  2. Silence your inner critic. Remember, nothing is impossible.
  3. Consider every possible solution. There is rarely one right way to solve a problem.
  4. Ask yourself, “What if—?” Don’t be content with status quo.  To find a better way, continually ask, “What if—?”
  5. Train yourself to notice what others miss. Look at everything with potential opportunity.
  6. Think “tomorrow.”  Become a futurist. Take time to imagine where today’s trends will lead us in the future.
  7. Make your vision clear and simple.  A complicated vision is not a vision.
  8. Learn to think backwards.  As you plan your leadership journey, begin with the destination in mind, not the starting point.
  9. Tap into the imagination of the entire team.  Call your team together and conduct regular brainstorming sessions.  There are no bad ideas.
  10. Get your entire team to buy in.  “My vision” must become “our vision.”
  11. Give people an elevated vision of themselves.  Great leaders want to develop more leaders.
  12. Prepare people for celebration. Reward your people for a job well done, and let them know about it ahead of time.

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 staff to make time here at Withum really count and be an active part of the growth and betterment of yourself, our Firm, our clients and our communities.  Adhere to the vision that is shared through a variety of avenues throughout the firm, either by your supervisors or office PICs or niche leaders or even myself.

See it.  Feel it.  Share it.  The vision we have for WithumSmith+Brown includes growth and success in revenue and geographic reach, for sure, but it is mostly about the growth and success our own people and our culture.  And from what I can see, the future is very bright.

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You know these people: the ones that seemingly always have a cloud over their heads; they look at everything with a glass-half-empty perspective; they are chronic complainers known to rarely have a nice thing to say about anything.  Often, these people are not even aware of their own negative attitudes because thinking negatively has become a way of life.  Help zap that negativity and turn those frowns upside-down.  Here are a few tips you can try to foster a more optimistic, positive environment when faced with a “Debbie Downer”:

  • Model positive behavior. Your mood and your behaviors are watched and interpreted by everyone around you. Be a good role model, maintaining your composure and a positive attitude that’s authentic.
  • Search out and identify the positives.  Find that silver lining in the cloud! We have an amazing ability to construct our inner world and outlook, to use self-talk to either build ourselves up, or tear ourselves down. Give yourself permission to reframe your thoughts, to focus on the opportunities and positives, and not the drawbacks and negative consequences.  Help the people around you focus on the 90% that we still have rather than the 10% we have lost. See bad events as setbacks, transitory not permanent, and focus on what you can do to learn and grow from it.
  • Provide positive recognition. One of the most powerful gifts you can give someone is to publicly share their good work and victories. This underscores your belief in their potential, and suddenly they are capable of accomplishing so much more, which in turn reaps rewards in productivity.
  • Refuse to fall into the negativity trap yourself.  When there is negativity and distractions around you, it is very important that you keep your eyes focused on the road ahead, on the things that you can do and control. Keep that optimistic attitude.
  • Brainstorm with your team to discover creative ways to make the work environment more positive and pleasant. Trying new things keeps people motivated and stimulates the mind when problem solving. Innovative thinking always has a few stumbling blocks, so maintaining a safe, non-judgmental environment to express and experiment in is very important to employee morale.

Whether your clients, co-workers, or even your own family or circle of friends, help zap the negativity around you with a positive, cooperative attitude.

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