James E. Copeland, Jr., CEO of Deloitte & Touche LLP, credits his firm's 30% growth rate last year--the best among the Big Five, according to him--not to better marketing or better products, but to lower turnover. Lower turnover means more personnel available to deliver the services the marketplace demands.
It all began in 1992, Copeland said, speaking at a "Leaders on Learning" breakfast series sponsored by the Forum Corporation to help support the Teach for America program. Shortly after the merger of Deloitte Haskins & Sells and Touche Ross, as the organization was searching for a common identity, a group of partners, including Copeland, came up with a mission statement focusing on the importance of people in the client service equation. According to Copeland, this focus on people changed the firm culture and led directly to business success.
"The bright and talented people that work for our clients expect to deal with bright and talented people at our firm," Copeland said. "Recruiting those individuals is the driving force, and part of retention is helping people to become the best they can be."
Evidence of Deloitte & Touche's success in this respect was its recognition for the third year in a row as one of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work for in America."
Copeland also commented on his firm's program to improve the retention and advancement of women employees. In the early '90s, the firm consciously attempted to address the high turnover rate of women that, despite entry into the profession in equal numbers as men, were not advancing to partnership ranks at the same rate. As a result of the program, Copeland said, "Women are leading, not leaving." In 1993, the U.S. firm had 88 women partners; in 1999, the total was 246.
The only other Big Five accounting firm that made Fortune's "Best Companies" list this year was Ernst & Young. *
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