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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 use 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.

We all know that we prefer to work with and interact with positive people. Be that positive person in your circle of friends both personally and professionally. 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.

Thanks and have a great week!

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As part of my own professional development, I enjoy reading books and articles on leadership topics. They often serve as inspiration for many ideas and initiatives which are currently established here at the firm. Whether written by world-renown leadership authors such as Jim Collins or Patrick Lencioni, or by the CEOs of powerhouse companies such as Zappos or Starbucks, you can always find at least one gem of an idea which can be applied to how you might think differently; approach a challenge from a different perspective; or how to inspire the people around you to reach new heights alongside you.

Our partner Tom Basilo forwarded me the email below discussing “divine discontent” the “agnostic habits” shared by global advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather, which sounded very much like the Withum Way philosophy we embrace here. I like the phrase, “divine discontent,” which is an inner urging that calls us forth to our next growth opportunity. Yet, so often we ignore it or procrastinate on listening to it.

To: The Great Leaders Who Have a Passion for Continuous Learning

“We have a divine discontent with our performance. It is an antidote to smugness.” These words, written by David Ogilvy, Founder of Ogilvy and Mather International Advertising Company, are the company’s guiding philosophy – one that shapes the corporate culture instilling a passion for creativity, innovation and performance excellence. The company and people embrace Ogilvy’s eight habits that inspire and sustain this creative spirit and passion to achieve excellence. He says that these are agnostic habits “required in all our disciplines and are, by no means, proprietary to advertising.”

  • Courage – Standing up for what you believe (this habit is the foundation for the others creating a strong foundation for trust).
  • Idealism – How great you become depends on the size of your dreams.
  • Curiosity – Explain, dream and create.
  • Playfulness – Be childlike; have fun; enjoy life.
  • Candor – Be terribly, terribly honest and dedicated to the truth.
  • Intuition – Listen to the invisible guru inside of you; go beyond pure logic.
  • Free-Spiritedness – Two rules: Rule #1: There are no rules; Rule #2: Never forget Rule #1. Be a free-thinker; be an alchemist.
  • Persistence – Persistence and determination are omnipotent, always making it better, in search of the best.

I hope this list of admirable habits inspires your inner “divine discontentment” to move you in a positive, upward direction… in your career and in life.

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I recently read a great article on Yahoo! Small Business entitled, “You’ll Never Hear Successful People Say These 15 Phrases.”  Each point made is very applicable to what we do in our profession.  I’d like to share each of the phrases in a series of three emails, five phrases described in each, so you can fully appreciate the message shared for each one.  These are taken right from the article, but I am Withum-izing a few where appropriate.  As you read through these, ask yourself if you are guilty of saying these phrases, keeping you from reaching your fullest potential… and then learn how to remove them from your vernacular. 

Here are some phrases you’ll never hear a successful person say:

1. “We can’t do that.”

One thing that makes people and companies successful is the ability to make solving their clients’ problems and demands their main priority. If a need arises repeatedly, the most successful people learn how to solve it as quickly as they can.  Withum is home to many great resources and connections, both internal and external.  There is likely no problem we can’t help our clients solve.  Instead of saying, “We can’t do that,’ respond by saying, “I don’t have the answer/solution to that question/issue.  Let me check with my colleagues and I will get right back to you.”  Reach out to a supervisor or PIC if you come across an issue or service request you think you can’t address.  It’s pretty likely you can.

2. “I don’t know how.”

Instead of automatically shutting down the solution-finding process, successful people learn what they must in order to succeed in a project or in their career. For example, you would never see a truly successful international business consultant who travels to Italy multiple times per year refusing to learn Italian. If you have a desire to do something, do what you need to do to gain the skills to achieve your goals. 

3. “I don’t know what that is.”

Pleading ignorance doesn’t make the problem go away. It just makes the asker find someone who is able to work with them to solve the problem. While it’s always good to be honest with those you interact with, finishing this phrase with “but I’ll find out” is a surefire way to become more successful. Again, Withum is home to many great resources and experts who can help you find the answer if you cannot do so on your own.

4. “I did everything on my own.”

The best people know to surround themselves with others who are smart, savvy and as dedicated as they are. The best leaders also know to give credit where credit is due, as due credit to you will always come back in hand. Recognize those that have helped you or made an impact and you’ll continue to earn success and recognition yourself.  As you know, at Withum, TEAM is what drives success and recognition, not ME.

5. “That’s too early.”

If there is a networking event, client meeting or prospect opportunity at the very beginning of the day, the most successful people do what it takes to be there. Part of being successful is being at the right place at the right time, no matter if you’re a morning bird or night owl.

Please consider these important points to help you be a more successful person, at Withum and in life. I look forward to sharing the other ten phrases with you in future emails.

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I am pleased to share some really exciting news today. The partners of Walsh, Jastrem & Brown, LLP (WJB), a highly respected public accounting firm based in Boston, Massachusetts, have signed agreements to merge their practice with WithumSmith+Brown. Indeed, this is a very big milestone for our firm, expanding our presence in the Northeast, up through the New England corridor.

We have been seeking the right strategic partner to expand our geographic reach to the Greater Boston area, and we found the perfect match with Walsh, Jastrem & Browne in terms of expertise, location and culture. Boston and the New England region are at the forefront of industries such as healthcare, financial services, technology and life sciences, aligning perfectly with some of our fastest growing practice niches.  They are equally excited to now have direct access to the metro New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia marketplace, as well as an expanded suite of services we can offer their clients. Both firms are thrilled with the endless possibilities this merger creates.

With WJB on board, we will add about a dozen professionals to Withum’s roster, including three partners: Thomas F. Walsh, CPA, who has been serving as WJB’s managing partner since 2000, James D. Browne, CPA and Stephen R. Yardumian, CPA.  WJB has a solid reputation in their marketplace, with expertise in financial services, professional services, private investment partnerships, employee benefit plans, nonprofit organizations, individuals and estates.

Their office is located at 155 Seaport Boulevard, Boston, and will remain at that location under the WithumSmith+Brown name. As our firm’s brand is not well known in Boston, we have outlined a marketing and advertising strategy which will be executed in the coming weeks to include digital and print ads appearing in the Boston Business Journal and other local traditional media, in addition to other interactive digital campaigns. Letters and emails to WJB clients and contacts will also be sent.

Please join me in welcoming our newest team members.  We look forward to having you all meet them personally at future firm events.

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Welcome back from the holiday everyone.  I trust your time with your families was enjoyable.

Those WS+B professionals who attended the a recent Tax CPE were in for a treat that day, with Pat Williams, leadership author and SVP of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, providing an overview of his book, Leadership Excellence: the Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century, the very book we have been discussing the past few months.  It was an inspiriting and energy-filled session.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Today, I will cover the fifth side of leadership described in the book:

Boldness.  “I sometimes endure excruciating periods of doubt and soul-searching, and I always try to play out the results of each alternative. However, once I make the decision, I move forward. Something clicks, and all my energies are applied to ensuring the decision works rather than fretting over whether it was the right one.” – Rudy Giuliani

I am a big believer in going with your gut, trusting your intuition.  There is definitely such a thing as ‘paralysis by analysis’ when you are taking into consideration too many opinions or wanting to make the decision that will make the majority happy, thus making you a popular, well-liked person… for the moment, anyway.

However, when you go with a decision that wasn’t truly your own, it will only hurt you in the long run. Your leadership is not authentic and those you lead will catch on.  As described in the book:

“Bold leaders make bold decisions. The role of the leader is to gather as much information as practicable, consult with key people, reflect on all the options, upsides, downsides, risks, and rewards…  Then decide.”

Pat Williams shares some practical ways that we as leaders can demonstrate boldness:

  • Take on audacious challenges, bold visions and extreme dreams – when we set out do to the impossible.
  • Dare to put our own careers and reputations on the line for a vision we believe in.
  • Take a stand for our beliefs and values even when the world is against us.
  • Accept responsibility for our failures, courageously taking our lumps instead of shifting blame.
  • Stand and fight when others run away.
  • Accept criticism without defending ourselves.
  • Step far outside our comfort zone in order to try something completely new.

In what ways have you been a bold leader?  Did you stand up for the values we as a firm (or you personally) believe in, facing a client or acquaintance who asked you to do something that was questionable?  Did you take the lead on an initiative that failed or that was not popular with your team, but you knew it was the right thing to do at that time?  Being a leader is sometimes a lonely proposition.  As long as you maintain your integrity and trust in the vision of the end goal, then you can feel good in having made the bold decision you made. And win or lose, you will be respected for it.

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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 fifth side of leadership:

  1. Competence. “A leader of competence displays the attitudes, skills, abilities, and behaviors needed to function at a very high level and to take the organization to increasingly higher levels of success. Competence is not a static condition.  It’s a state of one’s continual dynamic growth, both as a person and a leader.” – Pat Williams

The book outlines fifteen leadership competencies:

  1. The competency of problem solving – “If you want to be a leader, then you need to show that you are a problem solver.  Problems just come with the job.”
  2. The competency of selling – Leadership is selling.  And the first thing you must sell is yourself.
  3. The competency of continuous learning – John F. Kenney reminded us, “Learning and leadership are indispensable to each other.  If we stop learning today, we will stop leading tomorrow.”  Invest time in reading an hour a day about great lives, great events and great ideas.
  4. The competency of teaching – Our job is to take the complex and make it simple… if they don’t ‘get it,’ it’s because we failed to teach them properly.
  5. The competency of team-building – “Industrialist entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie said, ‘Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision – the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.’”
  6. The competency of organizing and planning – “A leader of excellence starts with a vision and creates a plan to achieve that vision.”  That plan is the roadmap for teams to follow, while also pinpointing potential obstacles and strategizing around them.
  7. The competency of managing change – “A leader proves his or her mettle not in calm, stable circumstances, but in times of uncertainty and rapid change when the ground is shifting underfoot.”
  8. The competency of balance – Balance is “keeping all things in perspective, maintaining self-control, and avoiding excessive highs or lows that occur because of luck or misfortune.”
  9. The competency of charisma – “Charismatic leaders are personable and outgoing, carry themselves with an air of confidence, and are positive and optimistic in the face of adversity.”
  10. The competency of poise – “Poise is the ability to remain cool, calm and collected in emotional or stressful situations. A poised leader keeps such emotions as anger, frustration, impatience, and panic under control.”
  11. The competency of historical awareness – “History is filled with patterns that have a way of repeating themselves. The better we understand the cycles of past history, the more quickly we recognize the events that come our way.”
  12. The competency of authority – “Followers grant authority to leaders by agreeing to follow – and they can withdraw that authority by simply refusing to follow.”
  13. The competency of good judgment – “…the capacity for making wise, moral, effective decisions.”
  14. The competency of authenticity – “What does it mean to be authentic? Very simply, it means be yourself.” You are who you are. Embrace it.
  15. The competency of patience – “Pay your dues. Learn the ropes. You can’t come into a new situation and jump right to the top.”

I know there’s a lot to digest here, but these fifteen points certainly underscore the importance of being a competent leader. As it relates to our profession, I’d have to add a 16th competency – the competency of technical skills, which we as a firm strive to help you through our CPE programs, training programs, and technology and software tools. Those who are really great at what they do not only enjoy their careers the most, but also gain the respect of their clients and colleagues as experts, as well.  Continuing to grow in your competencies both personally and professionally will inevitably bring you to your pinnacle of leadership.

Have a great week.

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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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