Posts Tagged ‘professional services’

Part of my job as Managing Partner is to be out and about in the business community, shaking hands and telling people about the great things going on at Withum. Networking is an important aspect of building our pipeline of new business opportunities. Many of us have client and referral source relationships spanning over 25 years, having started with a fortuitous meeting and handshake at a local event or business dinner. While we are in the midst of ‘marketing busy season’ when events and conferences and networking dinners are filling up our calendars, I thought I’d share a Top 10 Networking Tips list I recently received from a colleague; it’s worth a read:

    1. Get in the right state, not “in a right state.”
      Keep in mind that you want to gain some value and benefit from the time you are committing to attending the networking event. You’ll need to look friendly and relaxed – versus panicky and nervous – if you want people to be comfortable talking to you.
    2. You will be more interesting if you are more interested.
      We have two ears and one mouth so we should aim to listen for twice as long as we speak. The people you meet will be more comfortable talking about themselves than listening to you.
    3. Networking is about building relationships not about ‘getting work’.
      People buy professional services from people they know, like and trust. You’re unlikely to meet someone who just happens to need your services that day. The magic happens when you keep in touch and demonstrate a sincere interest in them both personally and professionally.
    4. “What do you do?”
      Don’t pigeon hole yourself as any ole ordinary accountant, “I’m a CPA”. Practice answering the question in such a way that ensures you are remembered specifically and distinctly from all of the rest. This is called your ‘elevator pitch.’ Instead, you can say something simple like, “I’m an accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, one of the top accounting firms in the country. Have you heard of us? I specialize in . We work with many great clients in this area.” That’s a basic good ice-breaking introduction which you can follow up by asking questions about the person with whom you are speaking.
    5. Focus on a niche, not a list.
      Even those new acquaintances who are genuinely interested in you will quickly switch off if you try to identify all of the things you do or could do for clients. Equally, they won’t remember the list so you’ll be in danger of making yourself more forgettable. In the example above, you need to focus on a key area or topic no matter how broad your expertise and experience. People want to know more go-to people who have an expertise.
    6. Flirt as you network. Ok, not in way you are thinking, but by following these simple gestures to make you appear more likable:
      F is for FUN;
      L is for LAUGHTER or at least having a smile on your face;
      I is being INTERESTED in what other people have to say;
      R is RESPONDING to what other people are saying through conversation;
      T is TALKING appropriately not extensively about yourself.
    7. You’re not alone if you feel alone.
      There will always be someone else standing alone who will be so pleased and relieved if you go over and start a conversation with them. The chances of rejection are tiny. Simply introduce yourself, ask them their name and what do they do.
    8. Listen to what people say; don’t try to sell.
      You can only solve people’s problems or help them make the most of opportunities if you know what these are. That means listening and absorbing, not talking. If you listen well, they’ll trust you and if you ask the right questions, you’ll uncover all the clues you’ll need in order to decide if you have something to offer them.
    9. Get the other person’s name and business card.
      You can politely ask for someone’s card without seeming pushy, or wait until they offer their card to you. If you didn’t catch their name when first introduced, ask again. No one objects to repeating their name to someone who evidently wants to remember them.
    10. Follow up afterwards.
      Having given up your time to attend the event, make sure it is worthwhile by keeping a promise to follow up with each of the people you meet. Even if you think they may not be the most valuable contact, remember that you don’t know who they know who could be interested in what you do. Follow up with an email or supply some valuable information in the next day or so after meeting. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Then ensure you keep in touch thereafter.

I hope these tips will help you be more successful in your networking endeavors. By being subtle and polite, you come from a position of strength to follow up with your new-found friends/colleagues/potential clients to begin a lasting and meaningful relationship. So get out there and network!


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I had the pleasure of sitting in on a few of the staff evaluations conducted in May and June. It confirmed what I already know: we have many talented, great people working at WithumSmith+Brown in all of our departments –professional staff, administrative support, finance, HR, Marketing and IT.

Our people also have great ambition with a desire to build satisfying life-long careers. We are well aware that opportunities outside of the firm are continually being presented to our staff.  When I came to our firm in 1980, I expected to stay five years as part of my own professional development plan, and then move on elsewhere.  But what I discovered was that the best long-term plan was to stay right here at our firm. Throughout my career, I received many calls from recruiters and offers from clients to join them. But after careful consideration of each opportunity, I decided to remain with Withum. And on many levels – intellectually, professionally and financially – that consistently reaffirmed decision to stay has paid off. Now granted, we are a different firm compared to when I was making these decisions. But in many ways, the career opportunities offered today are even greater. We are a growing, thriving firm in an intellectually stimulating profession, and the long-term financial rewards can be significant.

My lessons here can be applied to those in any position.  In the spirit of professional growth and opportunity, we want to share a list we put together of “Top 10 Ways to Get You Moving Up the Ladder”:

  1. Feel confident and know every aspect of the position you have now. Always ask questions when you aren’t sure how to do something. Performing your current role 110% makes you an asset to your team and the firm we always need to remember to provide value to our firm and clients.
  2. Find out everything you can about the roles and responsibilities associated with the next level of advancement you want to achieve. Feel free to ask your Career Coach (see #4), PIC or department leader on what is expected of you in order to move up to the next level. Then ask yourself if what you are doing is helping you stay on the path to that promotion. A rule of thumb we like to offer is that you should walk-the-walk of the next level to get that promotion you want.
  3. Be a team player. Because so much of our work is accomplished through teams – departmental, niche or cross-functional – it becomes even more important to share successes with your team and to avoid pointing your finger when there are failures. By being a team player, you build a positive reputation and increase your value to the firm. Always share credit when things go well and take the blame when they don’t.
  4. Cultivate a relationship with a mentor. One recent study found that in four out of five promotions, those promoted had a mentoring relationship with someone higher in their company who helped spread the good word about them. We have formed a successful Career Coach Program to encourage the professional development of our accounting staff.
  5. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Be known as being willing to take on extra tasks when asked. Many times people make the mistake of just trying to fulfill their current job requirements. If you want to move up, you need to perform the tasks necessary for the NEXT level.
  6. Keep a positive outlook on things, even when in tough situations. Remember, enthusiasm for the job is infectious, and a smile and a pleasant attitude can work wonders. Keep in mind “life is good” at all times. Read the Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People; this will help you put work and career challenges in perspective.
  7. Be punctual, reliable and accessible. It is a very good thing when a partner calls or e-mails you with a question, and you are there to respond right away. Always show up to meetings 10-15 minutes in advance and call into conference calls 5 minutes in advance.
  8. Join one of our Industry or Service niches. There’s no better way to build your personal brand as a thought leader and a professional – both inside and outside of the firm – than by getting involved with one (or two max) niche groups. Take advantage of the many networking and education opportunities the niches present by attending internal development meetings, industry conferences and networking events, or by joining a committee. We understand that these events sometimes take place outside of normal business hours, but they create tremendous opportunities for you to grow in your career and expand your business network. Participating in these activities helps to convert your efforts from “doing your job” to “building your career.”
  9. Join a board or committee of a community-based or professional organization. Part of our mission is to give back to the communities we serve and to support our profession. We strongly encourage our staff to get involved in both areas. This is also a great way to expand your network.
  10. Take all training opportunities offered and stay informed. It goes without saying that one of the best ways to succeed in being promoted is to expand your knowledge and skill sets in areas that are critical to our profession. As laws and regulations – and even technology – change rapidly, you need an ever-increasing skill set to perform your job. Attend the CPE programs we offer (pay attention while there) and keep apprised of accounting profession news by reading publications such as Accounting Today and NJ CPA, in addition to mainstream business news.

I hope you found this information useful. Following these suggestions will put you in a position of strength when being considered for future advancement.

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Now that busy season has wrapped up and our clients are (hopefully) content (for now), we are reminded that our clients are the core reason why we are a thriving professional services firm.  They need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain Withum clients.  CCH published an Accounting Firm Client Survey which provided this list of top client responses as to why they chose to no longer work with their current service provider. I think it is a good list to review, although fortunately a few of the points are not applicable to Withum.  But overall, they offer a solid reminder of what matters most to clients.

The Top 10 Reasons Clients Leave:

  1. The firm did not regularly check with me on my changing needs.
  2. Staff were not able to efficiently find the information needed to deliver the services I needed.
  3. I believe the firm was charging more than the value I was receiving. (note this is a PERCEPTION that we need to avoid by demonstrating value time after time)
  4. It became apparent that the firm was not leveraging technology to deliver the best services possible.
  5. The firm did not keep me up-to-date on regulations that directly affected me.
  6. I became concerned about the firm’s financial stability.
  7. The firm no longer specialized in the types of services I needed.
  8. I lost trust in the ability to deliver the quality services I needed.
  9. It became apparent to me that the firm was not acting as efficiently as it should.
  10. The firm had difficulty recruiting or retaining talented employees.

As a Firm, we make every effort to do our part in the client retention process: by hiring the best and the brightest talent possible; by providing education and training to our staff; to implementing cutting-edge technology to provide world-class client service and client communications; and by conducting annual client surveys to keep a pulse on their needs. But the rest is up to you… the individual professional.

Regardless of how much pressure we are under to make client deadlines, please be respectful of the valued relationships we have developed and nurtured with our clients, so that they continue to be clients for many years to come.  And in the event I can ever assist with a client relationship, please let me know.

Thanks and have a great week.

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Being from NJ, I just read with great interest the book, The Jersey Sting, by Josh Margolin and Ted Sherman, covering the sting operation that came down in June 2009, in which the FBI and Department of Justice indicted 44 politicians and political operatives and five Rabbis around New Jersey. While reading this compelling story, I was struck by the number of people who were willing to cooperate with the central character as he manipulated them to break the law for purportedly his own benefit, which was usually for his real estate ventures.


We all know entrepreneurs who want to push the envelope and go as far as they can, whether it be relative to their tax postures or an opinion on their accounting statements or – as described in the book  – to gain favoritism for their real estate projects. We must realize it is their nature, and essentially their role within their business, to maximize the potential with every opportunity they encounter. This drive is what generally makes them successful business people. On the other hand, our job as professionals – and this would include not only accountants but also attorneys, engineers, architects and others – is to be honest and forthright with them, explaining the circumstances, the parameters that can be pushed, those that cannot and the risk of failure. We need to be crystal clear and sometimes sobering in our discussions. They need to know the ramifications of their actions and how to accomplish their goals within the boundaries established by laws and regulations. And in the end, we must be willing to walk away from relationships that encourage us to compromise our integrity by breaking any of those laws or regulations for their benefit. We are an important part of the business community and need to be there to keep entrepreneurs in check and avoid chaos.


So long as we understand our role, we will preserve and protect both our clients and the organizations where we are employed, assisting both in successfully growing, without having cause for anyone to write a book about us.



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