[IMGCAP(2)] At this point, everybody has to have heard of WithumSmith+Brown.
You may have seen one of their crazy flash mob videos with their team lip syncing and dancing burning up on social media. You may have read about them in Accounting Today where they ranked No. 29 on the infamous AT Top 100 List.
But why are they my favorite big firm?
They have partners with genuine, unique personalities who always seem willing to help smaller firms (like mine) and the profession as whole. The personal brands of their partners are actually likeable and as a result draw attention to their bigger, corporate-like firm.
The tone comes from the top. Bill Hagaman, the firm’s CEO, can often be seen in their videos sporting shades and getting right into the fun. He’s smart he knows by demonstrating his firm is hip, he’ll attract like talent. And with a firm of talent, fun, and skill, you can pretty much do anything.
I personally know three of WS + B’s partners and each one is different but yet share an underlying personality and helpfulness that make them so likeable giving me an impression of their entire firm that I can’t help but love.
Culture is so hard to define. But when you are exposed to multiple partners and each of them is different, yet so cool, I think you’ve done the culture and branding of a professional service firm right!
Example A: Ed Mendlowitz (a.k.a. Baseball Card Ed). Yes, his business card is an actual baseball card. I have it on my bulletin board above my desk and it’s even been known to attend our internal team meeting when I refer to something Ed has shared on practice management. We don’t agree on all of the same philosophies, but Ed has years of experience and is always willing to share what he’s learned. If you are not on his email list get on it, his newsletter is always worth a read.
Example B: Toni Nitti (Code Head Extraordinaire). His way of explaining difficult tax concepts is hysterical and technical. But even more so, he is willing to share it with the profession. You can catch his blog on Forbes. When working in a smaller firm you don’t always have access to the technical, yet I know if I reach out to him he will help with that practical code application.
Example C: Jim Bourke (IT Guru). Is there an AICPA committee or council related to the profession he is not a part of? I mean, for real. He has made the IT CPA mainstream. His efforts to move the profession forward through the use of technology are amazingly awesome and practical. The best place to catch Jim is at the AICPA Practitioner’s Symposium and Tech + Conference in June. He always has a crowd in his sessions.
There are lots of big firms out there. Yet unlike Withum, individual brands don’t shine through the firm. They’re lacking in personality. A CPA firm will always have partners, yet Withum is the only “big firm” in my eyes with individuals who add to the brand as a whole and as result have a much larger reach.
Ed, Tony, and Jim all use social media to amplify them across the country. They do different things, but yet it all comes back to the source the corporate culture of the firm. If I were a big firm and looking for acquisitions this might be a good strategy to connect with smaller firms or for smaller firm referrals.
What can I say? Jim, Ed, and Tony are my “Boyz” and that’s why it’s Withum all the way.
Jody Padar, CPA, MST, is the chief executive officer and principal at New Vision CPA Group and the author of The Radical CPA (www.theradicalcpa.com).