Even before a new employee starts at Johnson Jacobson Wilcox, the firm aims to make their initial experience special. Two weeks before the person starts, they are sent a full-color orientation binder, logo portfolio, business cards and a logo dress shirt. In an effort to provide a warm welcome, every new hire is greeted at the front door by an assigned "buddy" to help ease those first-day jitters, and they are also given a $500 gift certificate to supplement their professional wardrobe. The goal? To make the first day a memorable one in an employee's work life history.

But that's not all. The 23-person, five-partner firm offers a $6,000 recruiting bonus for every employee who recommends a new applicant who is hired, a bonus of $1,500 for passing the CPA Exam, and full health benefits. Aside from that, the firm offers an annual bonus pool calculated on 6.5 percent of firmwide net income before partner compensation. Every employee - from the receptionist to the most senior accounting staff - is eligible to participate, and financial statements are posted monthly on the firm's intranet so everyone can watch the bonus pool accrue.

"I think everybody recognizes that they have a role in helping us be successful, helping us be efficient, serve clients well, to help us support each other and be collaborative," said Gary Johnson, the firm's president and managing partner. "Whether it's our receptionist and how well she greets clients, or it's administrative people being efficient and serving the accounting staff, we are all in this. We all have parts in serving clients well and when we do that we are going to be successful."

At its weekly Monday morning staff meeting, new information regarding prospects, new clients and general firm updates are shared with the employees. "They get the same information that the partners do, and we go over key performance indicators so they understand the business of a CPA firm," Johnson said. "We just like them to know that. They don't know what each partner makes individually, but they know how much we are splitting."

The downturn in the economy hit Las Vegas hard, and even though the firm has historically done very well financially, according to Johnson, the partners have had to absorb cuts in compensation - something Johnson said the partners feel is a good lesson in leadership for the employees to see. "As partners, we have always shared our financial information and the rewards of being a partner at this firm, because we see that as an incentive," he said. "But at the same time, being leaders means that we have to demonstrate that we are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the firm and our collective future. That's why we took the pay cut."

Even still, the partners decided not to reduce any of the employees' perks, though raises weren't as big as in previous years. "We did not freeze salaries, we did not reduce benefits," Johnson said. "We just thought it was the wrong thing to do. "Our people are just way too valuable and are way too good. As a partner group, we really appreciate all these people that we have."

Within the last year the firm introduced a recognition program, where employees' work anniversaries are celebrated at their three-, five-, seven-, 10-, 15- and 20-year marks, and gifts are given during staff meetings. Other employees are encouraged to speak on behalf of the recognized person or offer "testimonials," so that the individual walks out feeling seen and appreciated, not only by management but by their peers.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the firm closes at 1 p.m. on Fridays, and every day of the year - not just during busy season - fresh fruit, bagels, donuts, and unlimited snacks and beverages are supplied.

"Besides how smart they are - they are scary smart - they are just a great group of people that are enjoyable to work with," Johnson said. "I don't see a lot of office politics. I think they just enjoy working together and supporting each other and it's just a pleasure to be around."

- Liz Gold

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