Mike Sabbatis knows CCH inside and out. He began his career with the company in 1981 installing software and troubleshooting problems. After leaving for a sales and consulting stint with Computer Language Research (later purchased owned by the Thomson Corp.), which marketed the tax package known as Fast-Tax (now called GoSystem), he returned to CCH in 2002 as vice president of business development and climbed the ranks to executive vice president of global sales and marketing.
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In January, Sabbatis was promoted to the newly created role of president for CCH Tax and Accounting U.S., in which he hopes to leverage his experience to increase CCH's position in an ever-shrinking market. He shared his vision:
What are some of your initial goals and long-term plans?
This is an internal look to really understand where our expertise is and where our success has been. I'm spending a lot of time with employees to try to understand them as my customers, the value they bring to the organization of CCH and also to the profession, and then map out our plan for the long term.
We want to continue to drive our strategic partnership message. I can point to partnerships with Microsoft or Sage and integrations we built into those products as critical to our success going forward. We didn't build the products, but our customers use them. We understand both the profession and the customers that are in (it).
Do you have any goals for acquiring new customers?
We value the existing customer base that we have and we always look to try to grow that base through additional value and new product offerings. Then, we look at prospects that don't use us and try to understand what their needs are and find out their interests.
The message we want to deliver to those people is we understand our customers and we have a strong vision and a strong investment for future products and services.
How are you helping the customers you've acquired make the transition?
As part of restructuring, Jeff Gramlich (former EVP of business development and another former CLR executive) was appointed president of Small Firm Services, which handles the TaxWise and ATX client base. We have a focus on those customers, sharing some of the same basic principles of CCH, which is our customer focus.
There is always buzz about this industry getting smaller. Which of your competitors do you see losing ground?
Everybody in this industry is vying for the same customer. We have the focus and ability to learn faster than our competitors and apply those learnings to our products and services. I would say every competitor is losing ground to us and we'll continue to focus on our customers, not our competitors, going forward.
Can you single out some of the milestones CCH has achieved in the past year?
ProSystem fx Scan revolutionized the industry. It takes disparate data you drop in through your scanner and organizes it and reduces the amount of time you spend preparing taxes.
Tax Research Consultant provides a thorough step-by-step process to understanding how to ask a particular tax question and find that answer quickly and easily.
Accounting Research Manager has continued to grow. Topics are the hottest in the industry and it's part of the demand on information and services from this industry that every CPA firm is trying to meet.
What are some of the things the profession will need moving forward?
One of the biggest challenges we see is in the area of talent management. Look at the Baby Boomers we're losing. The transfer of knowledge from that group is very difficult to bring down to the masses.
Traditional ways of onboarding an employee have to change. They want more meaningful work sooner, they want to make a difference in their organization and they want a balance. People interpret work-life balance as focusing on things outside of work. But it's important to note that part of the balance comes from the rewarding work you do. Is it challenging? Is it meaningful? Is it something you can get inspired to do? Do you feel like you're making a difference? If you can balance rewarding work and a rewarding life, you've got the keys to the kingdom.