The holiday season brings an annual opportunity to share our gratitude for the people and things we have. I’ve always believed that the reason people look forward to this time of year is not because of the gifts, decorations or holiday festivities, but because it’s the only time of year that really encourages us to be effusive in our thanks.
I’ve been thinking about gratitude a great deal lately.
Just this week, I found myself thanking a ParenteBeard team member for a job well done throughout this past year. We have a wonderful team at ParenteBeard and I know that I am lucky to lead them as CEO. Every day, I feel gratitude, but perhaps I need to express it more frequently.
I recently heard a story of a team member who spent the week of Thanksgiving on a tropical island. People thought it was an odd choice and I understood that. Turkey with all the trimmings on a beach? But when asked about it, her answer was quite simple, “I really strive to practice gratitude every single day. Not just on, or around the holidays, but 365 days a year.”
I’m guessing she may not fit it in every day, but it made me think of what a great goal it is to work towards. It’s important to give thanks all year, not just during the holidays.
In 2014, I will be making an effort to express my gratitude day-in and day-out.
How often do you express your gratitude? And do you feel it’s enough?
Thanks for stopping by – and Happy Holidays!
On Tuesday, November 19, we hosted a wide range of presenters, which included CEOs, industry leaders and topic experts at our annual Corporate Governance & Audit Committee Forum. It was a terrific afternoon of robust professional conversation, providing keen insights into how organizations must answer the critical questions, “What are you doing? More importantly, what are you not doing?”
As a CEO, these questions keep me up at night. Certainly, the answers are not only foundational to outstanding corporate governance, but they can also define the leadership of an organization to clients, team members and other key stakeholders. All of our guests spoke eloquently to these questions and I was grateful to each of them for sharing their time and expertise. Our keynote speaker, Douglas Shulman, former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, captured my attention with his vivid articulation of leadership as a core element of good governance.
Shulman’s remarks resonated because he’s mastered the difference between leadership and management. As I can attest, and likely as so many reading this can too, there is a very thin line between the two. For effective governance, you need to strike a balance between leadership and management. If one trumps the other, what you are not doing becomes all the more apparent.
In examining that fine line, Shulman talked about leadership as an “art” and management as a “discipline.” Both are apt descriptors and it helped crystalize my thoughts about the role I play at ParenteBeard. As CEO, I know how much I want to master both the art and the discipline of what I do, but I also know what a challenge that is. As Shulman said, it’s about knowing when to “give a daring goal” but also when to demand that team members “own their decisions.”
How do you balance the “art of leadership” and the “discipline of management” in your organization? What challenges have you have faced doing so and how have you overcome them?
Thanks for stopping by.
People often discuss the hardest things in life to ask for – and recently, I’ve heard the same two answers: money and help. While I agree, from my vantage point, the hardest ask is for someone’s time.
I have been reminded of this in recent weeks as we planned ParenteBeard’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee Forum. This year, we built a dynamic panel of speakers – a real “wow!” – with former FBI Director, Louis Freeh, serving as our Keynote Speaker. Other contributors include Jeanette Franzel, Board Member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board; Lon Greenberg, Chairman of UGI; Eileen McDonnell, CEO of Penn Mutual Life; Robert Schimek, CEO of the Americas for AIG Property Casualty; Tom Smith, Vice President of Corporate Audit at Campbell Soup Company and Alan Stone, Practice Group Leader of Litigation & Arbitration Group with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.
In securing this panel of speakers, the final “ask” for many of them was on me. And when you ask someone to give their time, you immediately feel a different sense of responsibility. You want the experience to be worth their time. You want to be sure that it’s a “wow” for them too. You realize that you are asking for something that there’s just too little of for all of us these days.
I feel fortunate that all of those we asked to participate in our Forum saw the value of this event and graciously agreed to share their time and expertise. But it isn’t lost on me that there might have been other “asks” of them for that afternoon. I am deeply grateful but I am also relieved that I don’t have to make this “ask” again until 2014!
What asks do you struggle with? What have been your experiences in asking for a person’s time or perhaps, in being asked to give of your time?
Thanks for stopping by.
If you had told me two years ago that ParenteBeard would be using Twitter as a way to educate and connect our team members with current and prospective clients, I likely wouldn’t have believed you. When Twitter burst onto the scene, I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the potential or use for an accounting firm. Slowly but surely, though, that changed. I found myself in conversations with team members who would mention news items – about tax audit, no less! – from their Twitter feed. Clients would send me links to industry news and trade features that no longer came just from the NYT.com or WSJ.com but were exclusive to @nytimes and @WSJ.
I realize now that my initial feeling about ParenteBeard not needing to have a place in the “Twitterverse” was rooted in the fact that I just wasn’t comfortable with what it was or how to use it. For a time, I let my personal hesitation about Twitter and the fear of breaking out of my comfort zone keep the firm from using this important engagement tool. But I knew I couldn’t let the firm be held back because I didn’t have a full mastery of re-tweets, at replies and hashtags (#StillSlightlyConfused). Sometimes, you just have to dive into the deep end of the pool.
Today, I’m thrilled that ParenteBeard took the important step to be on Twitter. We recently hosted our first TweetChat with Bob Gray, a partner based in Dallas, TX, who spent an hour answering questions from across the country about forensic accounting. It was incredible to see questions come from students, professionals and even companies seeking advice. And what made it so gratifying for me, as I followed the chat from @RJCiaruffoli, was the fact that our team was so invigorated by this company first – a first we may not have had if I hadn’t broken out of my comfort zone.
How have you broken out of your comfort zone and how has it made an impact? Hearing about the many ways – both big and small – that people challenge themselves to be better can inspire all of us to do something we never thought we would do.
If you decide to take the leap on Twitter, please feel free to follow @ParenteBeard. Thanks for stopping by.
Today, we launched a new video, “My Balance,” which highlights several ParenteBeard team members and how they strike work-life balance. From a love for classic cars to coaching t-ball to training for marathons, our team knows how to work hard and play hard. And at ParenteBeard, we couldn’t encourage that approach more.
To me, work-life balance is important – and that isn’t just lip-service from the CEO. Our team works unbelievably long hours and each team member is deeply passionate about what they do. As Jason Bernard rightly says in the video, our team is “talented enough to execute on a high level and driven to do even more than they do today.” But the reason our team is so productive and able to continually deliver for our clients is because they have rich and fulfilling lives away from the office. When people are given the flexibility to pursue their personal passions, it makes each of us better professionally.
How do you find your balance? I’d love to hear about what you’re passionate about outside the office and how you make the time to enjoy it.
Thanks for stopping by.
Recently, I was reminiscing with my wife about the summer reading list our son used to receive as the school year ended. Well-meaning teachers would ask students to read a certain number of books during the summer from a long list of recommendations to keep them mentally in shape. While this assignment often elicited a few groans, inevitably the books would be read and there were always one or two that my son just couldn’t put down.
I share this memory because, for the first time in awhile, a book on my own summer reading list has left me just as captivated as my son would be so many summers ago. Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for The New York Times recently published “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”and it is absolutely fascinating. Examining the habits of highly successful individuals (Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz) and companies (Proctor & Gamble, Target), Duhigg argues that success isn’t scientifically rooted in having good habits. Rather, it’s rooted in understanding how habits work and in a person’s ability to identify and tweak the three parts of that action: cue, reward and routine.
Duhigg is able to successfully communicate throughout the book that changing a habit isn’t as daunting as we make it seem. In fact, changing a habit is process-oriented. Success isn’t about will power but rather about asking key questions, answering those questions honestly and then, making a plan.
What I love about this book is how much it has driven my self-awareness of habits – my own and those of ParenteBeard. I have found myself examining the “habits” of our firm and asking the impertinent question “why?” Why are we doing things a certain way and is it producing the absolute best result? If anything, this book has made the answer “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” cringe-inducing. I’ve been challenged to think about whether our internal cues, the rewards for which we strive and the routines we have in place are working as well as they could be. In some cases, the answer is yes. In others, I find myself looking to make a plan for change.
Is there a habit that you have changed and if so, how did you accomplish it? Is there a habit you want to change personally or professionally? I would love to hear how you plan to approach implementing that change.
Thanks for stopping by.
As a CEO, I try to give my time, thought and energy to our team members and our clients. But there are days when 24 hours simply aren’t enough. In my career, I have always defined myself by my work ethic. But if I’m being honest, the number of plates I have to keep spinning for our company’s continued growth and success is a challenge. It’s a challenge I welcome but it’s a challenge nonetheless.
With all of these “spinning plates,” I am often asked how I manage to keep any one of these plates from breaking. I could tell you it’s about being organized or my gift for multitasking. But the real answer is trust. And not trust that I won’t ever drop a plate. It’s trust in our team that if a plate falls, someone will be there to catch it.
Trust in business is hard to develop and even harder to give. I’m a CPA by training and now a CEO. It’s not a far leap to say that I may have an “A-Type” personality. I may even be the type of person who feels better if I do it myself. But I was lucky in that I had great mentors who showed me – early in my career – that they had trust in not only my skills and counsel but more importantly, in my ability to catch a falling plate. They showed me that trust is necessary for success – and not just business success, personal success too.
That’s one of the reasons that we took the important step of announcing 36 mid-year promotions this week. Being able to recognize so many individuals for their stellar performance while offering a variety of opportunities to grow professionally reflects the strong talent we have at ParenteBeard. But more, it recognizes the commitment of so many to our continued and collective success. It is that commitment that reaffirms – and strengthens – my trust every day.
From our partners to our staff accountants, everyone on our team is committed to keeping the plates spinning – and sometimes even adding new ones. And when we do add those plates, we can do it with confidence because there are good people to keep them from breaking.
How do you keep all of your plates spinning?
Thanks for stopping by.
In 1972 famed comedian George Carlin developed one of the best remembered bits in the history of stand-up entitled, “The Seven Dirty Words…” These days I like to say that an eighth word has been added in the world of business:
A national conversation occurs annually about Americans’ lack of vacation and it has started again with the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s report that states, “The U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation days.” These reports now come rapid fire as we begin summer but for me, this is top-of-mind after our ParenteBeard Partner Meeting last week in Chesapeake, Maryland.
As many companies will do, our off-site meetings are planned as an opportunity to bring partners together to discuss the “big picture” without day-to-day office distractions. We rightly recognize that it’s just too hard for people to engage, discuss and dream a little when emails are flying, phones are ringing and the demands of daily life are calling. And so, we take our team away from the daily grind. Yet, while we are willing to step back in the name of improving our business, it’s also good to step back occasionally in the name of improving ourselves.
As a CEO, it may be hard to take advice about vacations from me. I work hard and I love what I do. But that love doesn’t make me immune to a bit of burnout now and again. While it’s hard to find the time, I know vacation is necessary not only for me but also, for my family. I find that a well-timed vacation – whether for traveling or just catching up on life – can be exactly what I need to think more clearly, more strategically and dare I say, better. I consider problems differently and stumble upon new ideas simply because I’m out of the office and out of my routine.
To me, vacation is less about unplugging and more about recharging. People know themselves best and know how they need to recharge. Whether it’s “going dark” for a week on Bora Bora or spending time at the shore where you check email once a day before hitting the beach, vacation is all about striking the right balance for recharging. And I need to trust my team to know what works best for them.
What are your tips on recharging?
Thanks for stopping by.
A little known fact about me is that I’m a self-proclaimed “foodie.” When my family and I moved to Philadelphia in 2004, I had heard of its burgeoning restaurant scene and I was excited to see what the city had to offer. In nine years, I’ve had many a meal – some good, some great and some spectacular. But what I’ve learned from all of my tastings is that the difference between “good” and “spectacular” is often one special ingredient.
In business, the same can be said for hiring – it’s the person’s overall skill set and that one special attribute that can make the difference between “good” and “spectacular.” Hiring is top of mind right now with college graduates flooding the marketplace. At ParenteBeard, we are preparing to welcome more than one hundred new young professionals into our firm. Although I hope all will find a lasting home with us, I know in reality, that won’t be the case. When I discuss with our team why certain people become leaders at ParenteBeard and why others fizzle out, I often find myself coming back to that one special attribute – the special ingredient – that makes all the difference.
As an accounting firm, you might think that we simply look to hire the best accountants. And we do. But in the 21st century, our business is about so much more than debits and credits. It’s about relationships. When I was a young CPA, I thought I was hired because I was an excellent accountant. But from my vantage point now, I realize that Chuck Parente, my mentor, hired me because I offered something a little different, a little special. I didn’t just crunch the numbers; I knew what the numbers meant to my clients. I had life experiences that allowed me to connect with our clients in a more personal way. What Chuck saw was an entrepreneurial spirit.
That’s what we look for in the people we hire. That’s our one special ingredient. We have grown exponentially, to 1,000 employees since 2004, which is an accomplishment. But we have only been successful in growing because we hired good, well-rounded people who know how to connect. This has been especially true in our hiring of new college graduates. Maybe it’s a graduate with a blended major in liberal arts and business or a graduate who worked two jobs to put him or herself through school. Perhaps it’s a new graduate who was an NCAA Division I athlete or had a full-time internship.
These are the hires that have made us who we are today and when we’ve hired with our one special ingredient in mind, we’ve been able to go from simply “good” to “spectacular.”
I encourage you to share what your special ingredient is for hiring and how it has helped to shape and define your organization.
Thanks for stopping by.
The title of this blog sounds like the plot of a “Jason Bourne” espionage thriller. But it’s not the plot of a movie. This actually happened on April 23 when the Associated Press’ Twitter handle was compromised and a tweet was posted saying that there had been two explosions at the White House and President Obama had been injured.
In two minutes, the New York Stock Exchange fell 140 points based on 140 characters.
As a CEO, I struggle with the fact that in just two minutes – and based on a single false tweet – our economic market was so significantly shaken. That’s the type of power and control that terrorists pursue – whether they employ a bomb or a computer to achieve it.
While I’m not a cyber security expert, I appreciate its critical importance to ParenteBeard as well as the larger business world, our economy and our national security. In the wake of this incident, I’ve had discussions with some very smart and dialed-in members of our team who focus on our corporate cyber security. Suffice to say, I find myself both scared and fascinated by the wide-ranging challenges we face.
But what I have found most enlightening is the near uniform response to the question, “Are we doing all that we can to prevent this from happening again?” Consistently, the answer has been no. And more consistently, the need for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has been mentioned.
This bill, which would establish protocols and standards for online protection and encourages businesses to work together to prevent crippling cyber attacks, reflects a real national strategy. And while it’s been vetoed before, I’m hopeful it might be revisited by our legislators, especially in the wake of this incident. I think we can all agree that the safety of private industry, infrastructure, banking and consumer commerce is too important to leave open to such risk.
I would love to hear your thoughts on cyber security and CISPA. Are we doing enough? Too little? Is enough action being taken by Congress to thwart a cyber attack aimed at devastating our economy or breaching our national security? Let’s keep this conversation going.
Thanks for stopping by.