In Mary­land, valu­ing clients and col­leagues equally

Accounting Today - - Spotlight -

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.”

Peo­ple per­son(s)

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

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