Q&A: Rich Rinehart on Creating a Great Place to Work

Thanks to the economic bust, the staffing crisis for CPA firms seems to have evaporated.

So here’s the question: Does creating a "Great Place to Work" still mean anything these days?

Rich Rinehart, Grant Partners LLC
Rich Rinehart, Grant Partners LLC

Richard G. Rinehart
Grant Partners LLC

Without a doubt, the concept of "a great place to work" means something in the CPA  profession.

The current economic crisis will pass and young recruits will be looking for great firms once again. While employee loyalty is not what it used to be and young accountants may not believe that the goal of every public accountant should be to become a partner in the firm, a great work environment, with great people, great benefits and an understanding of what makes the current generation love their work is as strong as ever.

Firms that understand their employees needs, wants and desires know how to create an environment that works.

Examples include:

  • flexible hours,
  • firm-wide social events,
  • fun in the workplace,
  • casual dress,
  • opportunities for interaction between partners, senior staff and younger staff,
  • collaboration on client engagements and
  • working directly with partners.

Young people today are extremely self-confident and self-assured. They don't buy the pay-your-dues pecking order that has existed in the profession for so long. They don't have time to wait their turn and expect to be included in increasingly complex and interesting work.

Firms that can give them what they want are by definition "great places to work." I think if a firm can create the right environment, the younger generation coming into the profession will work as hard and be as productive as those who came before them.

Editor's note: Grant Partners provides change management and leadership facilitation services. Rich Rinehart started his CPA career at Arthur Andersen in San Francisco; then launched a local firm, Zainer Rinehart Clarke, and grew it to 35 people in Santa Rosa, Calif.; and was a consulting partner at Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman in Denver, Colo. "All of them," he says, "were 'great places to work' and still are."

3 Responses to “Q&A: Rich Rinehart on Creating a Great Place to Work”

  1. Mary A. Polt CPA

    There can still be great places to work. Now is a golden opportunity for management to make small gestures that go a long way toward building employee goodwill.

    Employees are no longer expecting big increases or bonuses. However, I feel that employees would enjoy being appreciated for what they do on an everyday basis.

    One idea I would like to share with the company presidents and owners is to make the effort to create an annual holiday party that is the best gathering possible to have in these times.

    We are all looking for some lightheartedness and joviality. It only takes a little thought and creativity. Your administrative assistant or perhaps a young person in the organization can help you.

    Another idea would be to recognize employees for their service, either by having an “employee of the month” award, or via a recognition of the employee’s “birthday” with the company, i.e. celebrate their anniversary date of employment.

    These small acknowledgements have fallen by the wayside and can be brought back in lieu of lucrative monetary rewards, which most companies cannot give at this time. The workplace can be transformed to be a place where employees want to stay.

    Mary A. Polt CPA
    Scott Properties
    St. Louis, MO

  2. Anonymous

    Yes, it appears we’ve come back around to where system implementations, saving a buck and improving bottom line results are significantly more important than motivating & retaining your key individuals. IT departments are being run on a dime and cannot keep up with business demands. It completely takes its toll on the employee who is serious about doing a good job and contributing to their role and department.

  3. Anonymous

    Rick,

    As an employee, I would have to say yes – the so-called “great place to work” has fallen by the wayside. I have worked for two different firms and have spoken to many people outside the accounting world. I believe that it’s not just the accounting industry, but has become the societal normal. Management and business owners have become much less concerned for the welfare of their employees, and at times, they act downright rude and condescending. As an employee, you just have to take it and not say anything or you will be seen as having a bad attitude. It seems like management is so focused on making money that they no longer truly value their employees. I have seen it with other employees as well not just myself. We all work very hard to do our best and are constantly hassled about the amount of time it takes to do the job and how much can be billed. We have industry standards that must be met, but the client is not willing to pay the amount of time we put into the job. You will always have the clients who want something for nothing, however, generally speaking, if the client isn’t willing to pay it, then the services are not worth that much. It’s simple economics. In some cases, management is so focused on the overall health of the firm that certain details fall by the wayside. Typically, it becomes the employee’s fault that management missed something.

    In general, society itself has become rude and cranky. Respect and common courtesy have become a rarity instead of the norm. Everyone wants to blame other people for their problems and bad mood. Great service from any restaurant or store has become a pleasant surprise instead of the standard. People say they will do things and then don’t do them.

    Anyway, those are some of my thoughts.