Q: Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
Overall, the difficult economic environment obviously has been the biggest challenge for us and our clients. Our challenge as a firm, however, was to raise the bar for our own performance — working harder and doing more for our clients—without compromising our quality of work, our integrity or the high morale of the firm.
We saw the challenges ahead and immediately let our people know that more was going to be expected of them, not only to help us remain strong, but to help our clients remain strong. We communicated frequently to the entire firm. I made trips to each office to hold town hall meetings, which provided an open forum for employees to ask questions. The firm also provided regular webcasts to the management team, providing frequent reports on our financial status and plans going forward. Everyone knew what was expected of them and how the firm was performing each step along the way. Providing direct, internal communication and tangible metrics let our people know that their contributions were helping the firm succeed.
Q: In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
We treat all of our employees as an integral part of the team. Each individual has an important role in our success. So we feel it is absolutely critical to keep our employees well-informed about the firm’s goals, progress and anything else that may help employees do their jobs, service clients and remain engaged.
One of our recent initiatives, greatly expanded over the past 18 months, is the use of financial “dashboards.” Access to real-time information—from budget reports to invoices to collected billings—is provided via the intranet to virtually every staff member so they can more efficiently handle the administrative side of our business. The dashboards serve as a real-time management tool for all areas of the firm and significantly streamline our operations. Multiple calls and follow-up research to determine the status of billings, receivables or payments have been replaced with one click of a mouse, day or night. Improving our business operations means we can focus more on servicing our clients and providing the innovative solutions they need for their businesses.
Q: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned and how have you applied it?
The greatest lessons I’ve learned come from our clients. Working with private companies, I am reminded (and inspired) daily that entrepreneurs must work tirelessly for what they have, stay hungry for more and always nurture their employees in order to really be successful—regardless of the economic climate or competitive landscape.
We try to apply this mentality every day at our firm. Cohen & Co. has been an entrepreneurial-based firm since day one with a strict focus on keeping our clients and our staff fully-engaged. We work diligently for our clients to help them reduce taxes, keeping money in their pockets, and to plan for growth. We continually look toward the future and plan for our own firm’s growth as well. And we really take pride in taking care of our people. We offer unparalleled benefits and training, and encourage and fully-support our employees’ family lives.
Q: How does your organization make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
We commit a tremendous amount of time and money, on a firm and individual basis, to our communities. But we are in a unique position to give back even more. Our primary function as a tax and accounting firm for private companies is to help those companies thrive.
We also encourage them to support their communities generously. Small companies are the drivers of our economy and the lifeblood of any community. We help them find ways to save money, grow and be profitable.
For example, we recently worked with a manufacturing organization to implement an entity that serves as a vehicle for export tax savings.
The result was a $200,000 tax savings for our client, which translates to more money they can invest in their business and in our regional economy. That’s our impact. Especially in today’s difficult lending environment, we have found ourselves advocating even harder for our clients, helping them build the financing relationships they need so they can continue operating and creating jobs. We are proud that our jobs allow us to contribute to the growth of our region.