Pro­logue

Accounting Today - - Practice Profile - From page 8

for some­one in a key lead­er­ship po­si­tion.

When Kams started in his role, “I didn’t know about the book. My prin­ci­ples were [to have] no ti­tles, and have a fam­ily at­mos­phere. The same phi­los­o­phy he had, con­tin­ues now. When [peo­ple in the firm] were pro­moted, ar­ti­cles came out in the lo­cal pa­per, and in the pro­mo­tions to part­ner, share­holder, you never see a men­tion of the ti­tle, so I pre­sume he kind of fol­lowed that.”

Re­gard­less of his em­pha­sis on ti­tles, Kams was a leader of Wal­dron Rand & Co., and he pri­or­i­tized a more ca­sual, but close, re­la­tion­ship with clients, along with strong in­ter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Rand had cham­pi­oned the same, ac­cord­ing to Shaff: “He was pre­dict­ing ‘oc­cu­py­ing a closer, more con­fi­den­tial re­la­tion­ship with clients than ever be­fore.’” 7/11/2018 12:45:13 “One PM of the key things about this,” Kams added, “is we have very close re­la­tion­ships with clients. We can ad­vise them on ev­ery­thing; peo­ple ask me all kinds of ques­tions, and we try not to be as con­trary a force as a banker or IRS agent. We’re a very ca­sual firm, we talk to clients and don’t have airs about us. In ad­di­tion to that, we cre­ate strong re­la­tion­ships that help with their busi­ness.”

“We have a lot of ex­per­tise in our firm,” Kams added. “Sharon does a lot of in­ter­na­tional tax, I do a lot of es­tate tax, and Rick in real es­tate. If we need help in a dif­fer­ent area, we go down the hall — a lot of the ar­eas are cov­ered by se­nior staff. If you don’t have the ex­per­tise, go out and get it. The main goal is to keep a firm that isn’t a high­fa­lutin firm, but down to earth.”

Part­ners share more than ex­per­tise, Kams ex­plained. “Not only do we not have ti­tles; at the part­ner level, we split the pot. We don’t care who picked up the client. A big piece of it, is a lot of what [Rand] said. Suc­cess is noth­ing un­less you can de­velop those around you.”

This mantra is ev­i­dent in the firm’s long­est tenured em­ploy­ees, who in­clude the ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant, who has been with the firm for 35 years, long enough for the firm to help put her through school to be­come a para­le­gal, and Kather­ine Philbrick, daugh­ter of found­ing part­ner Hazen and the firm’s first fe­male part­ner. “This was her en­tire life,” Kams said. In her later years, “she couldn’t hear, but she still an­swered phones for us. We had a re­tire­ment party for her — she was here for­ever.”

The next 100 years

Look­ing ahead to the next gen­er­a­tions of tal­ent can be chal­leng­ing, as it is for ev­ery firm in this time of un­prece­dented change, but es­pe­cially for a firm so rooted in tra­di­tion. Wal­dron H. Rand is ret­i­cent to adopt cer­tain pro­fes­sional in­no­va­tions, in­clud­ing out­sourc­ing, a flex­i­ble-work pol­icy, and ex­pand­ing into ser­vices like wealth man­age­ment.

“Every­one’s big­gest chal­lenge is re­tain­ing staff,” Shaff said. “We are grow­ing with the times, but keep­ing to what­ever it is that made us what we are. We have been ahead of the curve with the tech­no­log­i­cal up­dates we have made, in­clud­ing when we adopted front-end scan­ning and a pa­per­less sys­tem. Out­sourc­ing — we don’t want to do it. The re­la­tion­ship with our clients is im­por­tant to us, and we can do it ef­fi­ciently.”

While en­cour­ag­ing re­mote work is a chal­lenge be­cause the firm doesn’t track hours and bill­able re­al­iza­tion (and be­cause, as Kams said, they “don’t want to be a Facetime firm”), Wal­dron H. Rand has in­sti­tuted other poli­cies, based on em­ployee feed­back, such as mak­ing profit-shar­ing con­tri­bu­tions, half-day Fri­days in the sum­mer, and clos­ing the firm Wed­nes­day nights in tax sea­son — an idea bor­rowed from a fel­low mem­ber firm of in­ter­na­tional as­so­ca­tion Mori­son KSI.

The firm’s found­ing val­ues are crit­i­cal to its cur­rent iden­tity, though Kams, Shaff and Dlu­gasch ac­knowl­edge the need to evolve. More flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments, for ex­am­ple, will be a topic they said will be re­vis­ited. And while some his­toric philoso­phies like do­ing away with ti­tles have ac­tu­ally come back around to be al­most pro­gres­sive to­day — call­ing to mind the shared-workspace, anti-hi­er­ar­chal aims of star­tups — they might not be sus­tain­able.

“The ti­tle sit­u­a­tion — staff mem­bers had ques­tions about ti­tles. We have to think back to our val­ues — is not hav­ing ti­tles crit­i­cal to our value sys­tem?” Shaff ex­plained. “We’re work­ing though de­cid­ing what we want to stay there. There’s our ‘se­cret sauce,’ and then there’s grow­ing with time.”

Luck­ily, the firm’s goals align with this de­lib­er­ate pace. “The big­gest chal­lenge is to main­tain our cul­ture as we grow — slow and steady,” Kams said. “We are not striv­ing to be dou­ble our size next year.”

And what would Wal­dron Rand say? In his “Re­port of the Pres­i­dent,” in Oc­to­ber 1920: “The new prac­ti­tioner must not ex­pect to build a prac­tice ex­cept by slow stages … . He may be greatly helped by rec­om­men­da­tions of fel­low ac­coun­tants, but his new client will come chiefly be­cause an old client has been faith­fully and ably served. His in­creased earn­ings will come from in­creased merit.” AT

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