In Maryland, valuing clients and colleagues equally
Many firms employ artful mottos or mission statements, and for Baltimore-area firm SC&H Group, there are two: “Powerful Minds, Passionate Teams, Proven Results,” and “Clients, Colleagues and Community.” These might be seen simply as catchy promotional slogans, according to firm vice president and chief marketing officer Mack Mcgee, but the phrases do in fact act as driving forces that help make the firm a great place to work. “It’s a collaboration with the client; it’s that team component,” he said. “I think the fact that we keep those [concepts] all in the same breath … is really unique in that we want to treat our clients just as well as our colleagues and vice versa; it doesn’t work if we don’t treat them great.”
It’s the idea of treating clients and community members as colleagues since the firm’s inception in 1991 that acts as SC&H’S bedrock, and that belief hasn’t lost its momentum in the firm’s 28 years of business, which helps explain why it’s the No. 1 Large Firm to Work For (an honor it has now won twice, having also nabbed the top spot in 2014).
“When we started, we had zero clients, and that sense of urgency still exists today,” noted CEO Ron Causey. “It has to because it’s an imperative. We have different committees who keep us in check and make sure we’re not just resting on our laurels. It’s not only, ‘What great things can we do?’ but ‘What can we do better?’”
“I think what we’ve found … is this concept of doing right by the client first is, more often than not, doing right by [our] business as well,” Mcgee said. “The nature of how this business has grown — referrals, cross-selling are so much of what drives our growth. So we really instill into new hires that doing right by the client is the key factor for us.”
Causey explained that their recruiting strategy is to find top candidates with a like-minded attitude: “I think we’re good at it, but we also work awfully hard at it. We are going after the same talent that the Big Four go after and we are winning just as much as they are … . But if you land that talent, you need to nurture it and take care of them.” This involves making sure staff aren’t overloaded. “If you don’t work your people to death, they are happier,” said Causey. “If you take bright, highly motivated people who can communicate, [and] you treat them really well, then they are going to provide better client service because they are passionate about what they do, and they have the time to focus on the client.”
Community and care
SC&H Group staff members average 25 hours of community service per year — about three times the national average, according to the firm. “We want people of substance,” Mcgee said. “Community engagement and work-life balance shows our people that both are important and it [creates] people with substance. When we engage with clients, they want that. I think it builds the character of the people [and] makes them more compelling professionals to work with.”
“[We include] community service for multiple reasons,” added Causey. “It’s the right thing to do, and we have a unique skill set that a lot of these not-for-profits demand and need, but we also use it as leadership development tools for some of our younger folks.”
The firm even surveyed its staff members to find out exactly what areas of philanthropy they were most interested in helping. “I think you can walk into a lot of businesses and … the community service strategy is usually driven by those at the top,” said Mack. “So the one thing I want to credit ourselves for is … to engage our employees to figure out what matters to them, because what matters at the top doesn’t necessarily matter for everyone.” The firm recently worked with an elementary school in Baltimore to tutor some 50 children during the school day using online tutoring program Tutormate, and will be hosting these children for afterschool programs three days a week.
Always two steps ahead
Looking forward, the firm has a number of initiatives in place — including an internal innovation committee examining future trends, implementing Intacct, and creating the firm’s own technology advisory group — to keep employees’ heads above water for the shifting business landscape. “Twenty-eight years ago, the vision behind [the firm] at the time was, ‘How can we drive a firm that’s innovative in terms of filling the different needs our clients have, and as we grow over time, how do our services evolve to meet those needs?’” Mcgee said.
Ultimately, people are the lifeblood of SC&H. “When you look at what’s happening inside a business today… they need a dynamic partner, and what we’re trying to do is be as dynamic as possible,” said Mcgee. “How we’re training our people to continue to transform and how they will continue to evolve … regardless of what happens technologically, people will still be a huge component of what drives our success.” — Sean Mccabe