Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP
Any person – or business – bred out of the 1960s can expect to undergo rapid transformation, and Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP is no exception. Having practised under a number of names and weathered the “work hard-play hard” extremes of the 1980s, the firm has now settled on a solid identity and work-life policy that’s serving its team well.
The locally owned, full-service public accounting firm provides advisory accounting, assurance, tax, insolvency and bankruptcy services to a range of clients. As its name suggests, the firm is a member of the Collins Barrow Cooperative, a national association comprised of independent accounting firms.
“Our workplace has seen dramatic change in recent years,” says Randy Tivy, managing partner. “The old ‘work hard-play hard’ culture from the ’80s and ’ 90s has been replaced by requests for a balanced lifestyle and an emphasis on family. We have had to change our business model and HR policies to accommodate these changes and at that same time continue to grow the firm and meet the needs of our clients.”
With a large majority of staff either studying for a professional degree or wanting to expand their work experience, the firm has introduced new HR policies, including paid study time, paid exam fees, paid professional dues and 40 hours of professional develop- ment per year. Other policies include employee assistance plans, wellness benefits, time off in lieu of overtime and a maternity benefit plan. Plus, a new investment in secure remote access technology allows people to work from home.
These investments have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by staff. In this year’s Employees’ Choice Awards survey, staff consistently noted the personal care and supportive environment.
“The firm has a strong vision of where it wants to be and the type of ‘technology world’ that we want to live in ... empowering employees to explore alternative work arrangements,” wrote one. “It is exciting to see where the firm is going.”
Another said: “My organization takes a real, personal interest in the people who work here, and provides mentors to each person, so that my own goals and expectations are known to senior management, and then I am provided the tools and experience to allow me to reach those goals and expectations.”
“Partners/principals are genuinely caring people. They take the time to know our names and our spouses names, and are always open for questions or input. I feel privileged to work at this organization,” noted a third.
It soon becomes apparent that the personal touch is an interpersonal skill that is advocated from the top.
“Although our clients appreciate our professional skills, we also have recognized that there is a need for assistance with the soft skills,” says Mr. Tivy. “We have formalized training that has been customized to our industry and our firm and includes communication skills, writing skills, interview skills, et cetera.”
Staff members also have the opportunity to participate in non-client-related work, such as marketing, preparing and delivering a course/seminar, recruiting, assisting with the firm’s buddy program and being involved in the annual business plan and budget.
The bottom line, as one employee told Mr. Tivy, is that staff members feel they are “more than just accountants” at Collins Barrow Ottawa.
L-R: Tracey L. Page, Randy Tivy and Robert Rock.