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Apr 15, 2016

Company Culture As A Critical Success Factor

Sponsored Content provided by Adam Shay - Director of VCFO Services, Red Bike Advisors

This Insights was contributed by Richard Pasquantonio, CPA/CFF, CFE, CDFA (NC License Number 33577), an associate at Adam Shay CPA, PLLC.
I have been working at Adam Shay CPA, PLLC for six months, but it feels like I have been here for ages. This is not the "in the line at the DMV" sort of ages, but “in the shoes that fit just right" sort of ages. Now I have been asked to recruit some other talented people to join the team, and I have been asking myself: Why is there so much comfort here?
Just like other accounting firms this time of year, we are in the thick of it. It is busy! Please do not mistake comfort for easy or unchallenging. The firm's calendar is bursting at the seams, but instead of a ruckus nightmare, the office sounds like an orchestra or perhaps like a Big Band that has just the right amount of improvisation.
You are probably wondering why.

  • Why, when pressed with the 4/15, 9/15, 10/15, and most recently the 3/15 tax deadlines, has everyone in the office remained so enjoyable, composed and on top of things?
  • Why have we been able to meet for 15 minutes every morning and share our personal and professional successes and struggles?
  • Why are we able to sit down for an hour every Tuesday to discuss our goals and share innovative ways we met or exceeded client expectations?  
  • Why, when we are at our busiest, can we sit down for an hour each Friday and share a meal?
  • How have we managed to meet all of our client and professional goals and still make time to close the office and participate in three half-day community service projects?
  • How is it possible that we can do these things without using timesheets to keep track of every 15 minutes of the day?
Here is what I have observed about Adam Shay CPA.
Many organizations pride themselves on their reputations, but reputations are a lot like historical financial statements. For starters, when you first open your doors, you do not have any. Also, it is only a snapshot. A sign of what once was. Perhaps, it's an indication of what might come next, but certainly no guarantee.   
Organizations today see a lot of changes: technology, leadership, workforce turnover and fluctuation of market conditions. Remember Pan Am, Tower Records, Polaroid? How about Circuit City and Blockbuster? Did you know that 88 percent of the Fortune 500 companies that existed between 1955 and 2014 are gone? Reputations are good, but innovation has real staying power.
Often, business owners believe that innovation is all about ideas. In reality, innovation is about people, delivery and process. These execution factors are a big part of what I sense as the “it” factors that make Adam Shay CPA a great place to work.
The delivery and process, in my opinion, are easy things to duplicate. It's not Adam Shay's Rocket Ship Factory. Although we do use some great technology that allows us to communicate effectively and efficiently across platforms, it is not a magic software.
Our processes are absolutely unique and special. They are constantly evolving, but that is because there is so much effort and emphasis put on fixing broken processes and improving on the way we deliver services. The real differentiator here is the people.
“Human resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn, owner of Wynn Las Vegas.
The people factor in any organization is critical, but it is especially crucial in the context of knowledge workers. When an organization is dependent on people whose job involves handling and using information, they are the company’s intellectual capital. Our organization’s approach to attracting, hiring, training and retaining members of its team are very intentional. Many organizations, especially small- to mid-sized organizations, do not apply sufficient resources to hiring the right people.
Adam Shay CPA is selective not only in which clients that it serves, but also in the people who serve those clients. Our recruitment process is a constant effort, and the process for would-be candidates is vigorous. You can expect multiple interviews, including a meet-and-greet with the entire staff. If it appears that the candidate is a good fit for our open, creative and collaborative working environment, then he or she will be asked to complete competency tests.
“When I’m hiring a cook for one of my restaurants, and I want to see what they can do, I usually ask them to make me an omelet.” – Bobby Flay, chef and restaurant owner.
The competency tests include two to three hours of core skill assessments that are designed to represent the daily work assignments that you will be responsible for. These assessments are conducted by third-party testing companies and are individualized to the position that you are interviewing for. Next, candidates are asked to complete a behavioral assessment to identify what motivates them and how they are motivated.
“Putting on the same jerseys doesn’t make you a team. You’re still just a collection of individuals until you find a common goal.”  ­– Harry Sinden, former general manager, coach and president of the Boston Bruins.
The process does not end once a candidate is selected. Adam Shay CPA has a robust on-boarding process. At the beginning, a candidate receives their last “time sheet.” The itinerary is a week-long schedule where new team members are rotated among existing team members in one- to two-hour blocks.
During these meetings, new team members are introduced to the social and performance aspects of life at Adam Shay CPA. They learn about firm administration, internal processes, our paperless document management system, and other unique technologies, but they also learn about the attitudes and behaviors of the organization.
Existing team members are tasked with a responsibility that I believe highlights this organization’s commitment to unity of workplace. Each team member is responsible for taking new team members out to lunch and for spending one-on-one time getting to know them and answering their  questions in a less formal atmosphere. This on-boarding process immerses new team members into the company culture and acts as a catalyst in fostering team chemistry.
It does not stop there. After new team members are vetted and welcomed to the firm, they are now part of our performance culture. Adam Shay CPA works hard to align its team around the firm's core values. Team members receive weekly and monthly coaching sessions and regular feedback based upon weekly tracking of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). The focus of KPIs are on results, not on time usage.   
Aside from making your organization a great place to work, there are some compelling reasons to allocating sufficient resources to attract and retain great employees. Employee turnover costs more than job-posting fees and recruiter commissions. The cost also includes lower productivity, additional training costs, lost knowledge and an overworked remaining staff.
For example, let’s assume you have a team of 10 workers who are paid $55,000 a year. Let's further suppose that each of these workers produces three times his or her annual salary. Now, let us calculate the turnover cost for replacing one employee, assuming that it takes 45 days to replace them, 60 days to get them up to speed, and you have to pay a recruiter 15 percent of the first-year salary. The annual cost of employee turnover for the one employee equals $42,154.
Indeed, a focused effort on culture leads to greater employee engagement, productivity and morale. It strengthens relationships, emphasizes teamwork, and encourages cooperation. It also makes good business sense.
The selection, training and coaching of well-qualified, team-centric individuals creates a culture of transparency, caring and passion for innovation that I have experienced at Adam Shay CPA.
In conclusion, the questions that I presented in the beginning are not the result of providing client services so efficiently that we can sit around and discuss the day. We are not able to share meals together as a team because we are the best CPAs or because we have great technologies. Our commitment to team and community is not born out of convenience.
It is the contrary. Like many other businesses, it is those things that we do differently that allow us to provide great client services. It is the collaboration that manifests itself in adopting new technologies and challenging each other to becoming better professionals. Our commitment to team and community is the product of our shared experience and the empathy that results from it. And as it relates to timesheets, success is measured in work done, not time spent. The people that make up Adam Shay CPA wouldn't have the “whys” any other way. Why is your business a great place to work?
Richard Pasquantonio, CPA/CFF, CFE, CDFA (NC License Number 33577), is an associate at Adam Shay CPA, PLLC. He focuses on forensic accounting, fraud prevention and detection, and tax controversy resolution. He is also an AICPA CFF Champion. The purpose of the CFF Champion program is to inform the professional community about the vital role of forensic accounting professionals, the knowledge required to become a CFF, and the benefits of the CFF credential. For more information, visit or email him at [email protected]. Pasquantonio can also be reached by phone at (910) 256-3456.

Adam Shay, CPA (N.C. License Number 35961), MBA, is managing partner of Adam Shay CPA, PLLC. He focuses on minimizing taxes and improving the financial results of entrepreneurs, and is actively involved in supporting the Wilmington entrepreneurial and startup community. For more information, visit or email him at [email protected]. He can also be reached by phone at (910) 256-3456.


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