Why Creating a “Great Place to Work” Is More Important than Ever

When salaries are tight, corporate culture becomes competitive differentiator.

by Rick Telberg

The days of concierge service and back rubs for accounting staffers may be over. But has building the so-called "great place to work" fallen by the wayside as a competitive necessity for firms and finance organizations in this economy?

In recent years, various media outlets and organizations have created a cottage industry in rating, ranking and publicizing the elements in compensation, benefits, working conditions and corporate culture that add up to a "great" or "best" place to work.

Considering the realities of today's economy, does a "great" place to work actually mean anything anymore?

Rick Solomon, CEO, RAN ONE
Rick Solomon, CEO, RAN ONE Americas

In fact, according to CPA Rick Solomon, CEO of RAN ONE Americas and a contributor to the AICPA's new "Bull's-Eye! The Ultimate How-To Marketing & Sales Guide for CPAs," "Creating or working in a 'great place' is more important than ever."

"At the core of success for any firm is having a great team," Solomon says. "That means a team that is motivated and engaged in helping to move the firm forward, and actively participating in creating an awesome client experience. Having team members who go the extra distance for a client, to proactively engage where and when they can, is ultimately what increases client satisfaction and retention."

Jay Nisberg, Ph.D
Jay Nisberg, Ph.D

Still, the term "has taken on a bit of a redefinition," according to strategic adviser Jay Nisberg, Ph.D. "I think the characteristics of a great place to work may have changed."

"The concept of receiving partner respect and treating employees like ladies and gentlemen have taken on a higher level of importance," Nisberg says.

Despite a tight job market, Nisberg says, top-flight talent is still hard to find and keep, making corporate culture a competitive differentiator. "When it comes to human capital the A and B players are still capable of moving around and commanding interesting offers," according to Nisberg.  "High-potential people don't like being yelled at, screamed at or treated like third-class citizens." Actually nobody does, Nisberg says, but the best people have options even in this economy.

Rita Keller, CPA firm management consultant
Rita Keller, CPA firm management consultant

Management consultant Rita Keller agrees, "building the reputation as a great place to work, whether the firm actually wins awards or not, is critical to the future of the firm."

But she goes further, citing data that show a tidal shift in the demographics of accounting and accounting firms. "The CPA profession is becoming a 'woman's nation,' and younger male CPAs are joining them in the quest to change how people work in a way that helps working parents be successful," Keller says. Referring to the Shriver Report, Keller says "men and women agree that government and business are out of touch with the realities of how most families live and work today."

"The simple truth is that people are motivated for their own reasons, not ours," adds Solomon. "What motivates people to perform at their very best is working in an environment where they feel valued, and that what they do makes a difference to the overall firm mission and success. And, as a result, they grow professionally and personally."

"A great firm brings out the best in people," Solomon continues.

Can yours afford anything less?

Copyright 2010 AICPA. Used by Permission.

6 Responses to “Why Creating a “Great Place to Work” Is More Important than Ever”

  1. Michelle Cammayo

    Can anyone tell me what their firm is paying (% wise) of their medical premium? For example, 100% of single rate and only 50% or 0% of dependent rate?


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  4. Janet Carabelli

    Cultivating an environment in which people truly are valued as individuals as well as for their contribution to the team makes even MORE sense in this economy. In addition to higher productivity, employee loyalty to your company will ensure that your best staff members won’t jump ship the minute there’s an economic upswing. Improved retention means lower costs and increased client satisfaction.

    Not a trend or fad; impressive ROI regardless of when the culture is established or transformed.

  5. Dave Dillwood


    Now, more than ever, successful members of the profession need to be creative, responsive and resourceful in trying to make the work environment pleasant. No gimmicks or frills, simply a flexible, caring work environment that still challenges, but offers other solutions to life’s demands. The extras are gone due to cost saving measures, but how expensive is it to acknowledge a job well done, to back up a staff person who is not being treated well by a client or ask for the staff’s opinion about the operations of the firm? Does it really cost anything to allow for a flexible work schedule that allows a parent to retrieve their child from day care on time, or to coach their sport? It may be more difficult to administer and to ensure that accommodations are divided fairly (not evenly) but this part is no different from the old perks that cost money.


  6. Janet Kyle Altman


    Being listed as a great place to work has become a marketing/recruitment tactic that some companies may feel is no longer necessary. That’s the difference between companies who added a few extra benefits to get on these lists and those who really have an employee-first culture.

    When Jim Kaufman and Jay Rossin started our firm forty-eight years ago, they were looking to create the kind of place they wanted to come to work every day – dynamic, young, innovative, fun. “Joy at Work” is one of our core values. The firm has grown to more than 270 employees based on that philosophy. Our firm was a great place to work long before the fad — and that culture will continue long after.

    Janet Kyle Altman
    Marketing Principal
    Kaufman, Rossin & Co., P.A.