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Withum held its 13th annual State of the Company (SOTF) event last Monday. About 300 Withum’ers attended the New Jersey Performing Arts Center theater in person, and 1,200 of us “attended” on Zoom.

It was an exciting four and a half hour presentation that provided data on how we are doing and insight into the many exciting things that are happening and will happen. The meeting was led by Bill Hagaman, our CEO/Managing Partner.

Many were particularly interested in the news that 17 staff members had been promoted to associate, including five who started their careers at Withum. There was also a projection of the number of new partner promotions that will need to be made over the next 10 years. Additionally, 95 staff members were nominated for eight strength awards and one special award. Each nominee was introduced with a brief description of the extraordinary efforts they have made to strengthen Withum, our team, our customers, and our community. Really inspiring. They are all winners.

We also had a return presentation by John O’Leary, author of On the fire and In admiration, who gave an inspiring, motivational and at times moving speech that included some insights from his remarkable life. I highly recommend reading his books and having him as a keynote speaker.

Last summer, I hosted a series of joint retreats for small business partners, and they expressed interest in creating a strong, uniform culture among staff in different offices. As part of the discussion, I described some of what Withum does and gave them impressions of my previous posts on SOTF meetings with links to our culture videos. A company’s culture (with a capital ‘C’) doesn’t just materialize the way you want it to. It needs focus, work and deliberate attention. Without it, there will always be a Culture, but it would not be enviable. A strong, company-wide culture is important for people, customer retention and staff recruitment and communicates the presence of a significant contributor to the community. It also makes good business sense. The costs (and at Withum they are quite substantial) are more than repaid with happier and more enthusiastic staff, customers and other stakeholders. Building and strengthening your culture is more than leading by example; it requires active management and attention and commitment from partners.

Having a strong culture includes a clear demonstration that owners care. At Withum, this comes with many unique perks designed to make life easier for our team. This includes a virtual stock ownership plan, employee support fund, daycare payment, college loans, wellness program and fitness challenge, additional closing days like the week between Christmas and New Years, 1,300 hour volunteer support for 35 charities during Withum Week of Caring and many other programs, some of which are unique to the accountancy profession. It takes imagination, insight, empathy and determination to make the firm the best it can be for everyone involved. And it can be done. Witness the success of Withum.

The SOTF event began with our 13th Culture Video which included appearances from 230 team members from each of our offices. You can watch it here. Congratulations to our marketing team who did an outstanding job organizing the event and preparing the video.

If you would like a printout of my previous columns describing previous SOTF events, email me at [email protected] and just put SOTF as subject.

It was an exciting event and I am happy to share it with you. Hope you enjoyed reading about it.

Do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with your questions about practice management or assignments you may not be able to complete.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPA. He is on Accounting Today’s list of the 100 most influential people. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns”, co-authored with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition”. He also writes a blog twice a week dealing with the issues customers have with with the Pay-Less-Tax Man Blog for the bottom line. He is an adjunct professor in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MBA program and teaches end-user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is an ongoing series where he shares autobiographical experiences with advice he hopes his colleagues can adopt. He welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 743-4582 or [email protected].