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FIRM CULTURE--WHAT IS IT By Michael Goldstein, Current Issue!    Navigation Tips!
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By Michael Goldstein, CPA, The CPA Journal

While firm culture has different meanings to various people, to me it is the totality of behavior patterns and thoughts characteristic of a firm's population--it's beliefs, institutions, and services--guiding each person in a position to enrich and enlarge the firm. It is not what a firm's partners and employees theorize the firm is, or what its public relations people would like everyone to believe it is; it is reality, the what is. Components of a firm's culture, favorable and unfavorable, include the attitude of senior partners toward--

* Dedication to Client Service--probably the most pervasive marketing exhortation common to professional firms. But did they really mean it?

* Quality--as it relates to client work, firm management, business development, or any combination of the three.

* Independence and Integrity--this means everybody.

* Growth...Increase the Size of the Practice--bigger is better, an obsession.

* Maximize the Firm's Capacity Utilization--increase profitability
by keeping everyone
busy, regardless at what realization.

* Compensating Growth--does this mean that the rainmakers (salespeople) always get to eat highest on the hog?

* A Partner Is a Part Owner and Not an Employee--even when the firm's structure more closely resembles a mega-corporate entity or in the smaller firm, even when the founding partner is still occupying an office?

* Teamwork--even if it interferes with posturing?

* Getting It Done Right the First Time--is it a lost art?

* Doing the Job for
Which You Are Best Suited--regardless of the compensation?

* Profession vs. Business--does it really matter?

These represent only some of the components associated with the culture of any professional firm. But they serve to define the personality and dynamics of the firms. Considering the components of firm culture leads to questions such as--Does every firm really have a culture? Does a firm have to consciously establish its own culture or will it just happen? Does firm culture mean firm collegiality? Can a firm simply mandate what its culture is or will be? Can you really have a meaningful culture after multiple mergers? Whether firms fail because of their culture will be discussed in future issues of The CPA Journal, under News & Views. If you have any ideas regarding firm culture, please send your thoughts to Michael Goldstein, The CPA Journal, 530 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10036-5101 or cpaj@luca.com.

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