Art of Accounting: Withum’s State of the Firm

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Last Monday Withum held its annual State of the Firm (SOTF) event, which was attended by almost 1,000 of our 1,100 people. It was an elaborate affair whose purpose was to update our staff on what is going on at our firm as well as what is in the works. Exciting things are happening and are on the horizon.

I do not believe too many firms do this. It is an expensive endeavor. On top of renting the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and catering 1,000 meals, we hired an outside speaker, provided transportation and hotel accommodations for almost 300 people traveling from Orlando, Boston, Washington and other areas of the country, printed an awards booklet, provided really cool awards, produced our SOTF culture video, which required the efforts of dozens of people to have the event appear seamless — and it came off beautifully. So, the question might be, was it worth it? Was there an ROI? And here is where I believe my colleagues can get some takeaways they could use.

We are a pretty large firm with staff spread along the East Coast. Bringing everyone together a couple of times a year (we also have a new partner reception in September) strengthens our culture and the feeling of being a single firm. The overall firm update, i.e., revenues (44 consecutive years of growth), the sources of the growth, i.e., organic and through mergers, the increasing pipeline and success ratios, staff growth, financial metrics, projections of the need for additional partners and announcement of six promotions to partnership effective July 1, 2019. We opened the program with our new SOTF19 culture video with over 150 participants. The original purpose of the video was to open the SOTF meeting. What happened was a startling unintended benefit. After it went viral it became a magnet, drawing young people to apply for positions here. We became the “cool” firm with the cool videos. Check them out on YouTube and you can watch the latest video at click here.

As for the ROI, when you consider the costs of onboarding and training staff, if we end up retaining just seven or eight people that might have left, it pretty much pays for the event. The culture strengthener adds value to our people and brand. The information provided about new opportunities and services does lead to additional business prompted by staff in the field. Seventy-five staff were nominated for the Strength awards — they were all introduced to the entire firm and what they have done plants seeds of ideas for what others can do. Our growth comes from everyone’s efforts, excitement and enthusiasm, and the SOTF event fuels that.

We had an outside speaker, Andy Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift. He gave some mind-expanding ideas to the attendees. Ideas germinate and produce even more ideas. And ideas are what drive innovation, growth and success. Also, everyone received an autographed copy of his book.

It was an exciting program and I enjoyed every aspect of it. As for ROI, it was a home run, and the following morning planning started on next year’s SOTF event.

A partner from another firm that had a similar event was invited, as were some of our partners to their event. Sharing enables everyone to grow. If you think you might want to hold a similar event at your firm, contact me and we can discuss it. Reach me at emendlowitz@withum.com and include your telephone number. You can also get additional information at #SOTF19.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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Practice management Recruiting Ed Mendlowitz WithumSmith+Brown