Becoming The Firm Of Choice

By Alton Miyashiro
Wednesday - April 27, 2005
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It’s no secret that many people’s first impression of accountants is, “dull and boring.” As a CPA, I believe it’s a misconception because we do need to reflect a credible, respectable demeanor since our job is to maintain the public’s trust and live by the profession’s code of ethics.

Rommel Marzan, Kekoa Beaupre, Alton Miyashiro, Tiffany Yu, Shanelle Kanoa,
Yuko Nakayama, Won Han, Joann Nakamura, Ivan Takushi and
Dennis Higashiguchi of Nishihama & Kishida, CPAs Inc.

Nishihama & Kishida, CPAs Inc. (N&K) opened for business 32 years ago. Since then, N&K has become one of Hawaii’s largest CPA firms. The firm has always strived to provide our clients with the highest quality services, from tax planning, auditing and accounting, to management consulting, training, and information technology consulting. To do this, the firm hires the best professionals and provides training, education and coaching to help them develop their technical and people skills to provide clients with exceptional service.

Like many other businesses in Hawaii, N&K is constantly challenged with recruiting and retaining great personnel as well as great clients. Last year, the firm decided to make N&K “The Firm of Choice” for both our personnel and clients. The belief is that if personnel are happy at work, then they will serve the clients better.

N&K already had many incentive programs in place. Among them were a referral bonus program for any person who brings in a new client; a matching 3 percent 401(k) contribution in a program where employees are fully vested as soon as they start participating; dry cleaning pick-up and delivery at the office; casual dress Fridays and holidays; massage therapy during busy times of the year; and monetary allowances for divisional outings throughout the year. As an example, the Audit Division went out for an evening at Dave & Buster’s and the Administrative Division went on a shopping spree followed by lunch at a fine dining restaurant.

Becoming “The Firm of Choice” meant making a commitment to change the firm’s culture that was “very traditional.” Through a management retreat, the principals found that team members wanted a work environment where there is mutual respect for each other; cooperation and teamwork; open communication; constant learning; and a balance between work and personal lives. This was confirmed with a survey the firm had all personnel respond to.

So at the beginning of 2005, N&K added several more incentives. We instituted a formal coaching program in which the principals coach the managers who in turn coach the staff, guiding them in their professional goals as well as reinforcing the firm’s new culture. We reinstated a referral program in which employees receive a financial reward if they refer experienced and/or entry-level job candidates who are hired. We also held a “Stress Relief Day” on April 1st where the office was closed in the afternoon, and everyone enjoyed food, games, and prizes. After the event, everyone was told to leave for the day and relax. It was a hit!

We made our flex time policy even more flexible to allow personnel the option to work four 10- hour days a week and get the fifth day off, or four 9-hour days with a half-day off on the fifth day. And, if the firm meets certain financial goals in 2005, everyone in the firm will get a trip to Las Vegas next year. Also for the first time, the firm will allow team members to dress up in costumes and participate in the first Halloween costume contest. Very out of the box for us button-down types.

So what, you ask, has the response been to all of this change? It’s been positive all around, and fellow professionals from other firms are amazed at what we’re doing. Employee morale and performance are definitely up. It’s not always easy to change, but the firm is working hard to make N&K the “firm of choice” for our personnel and clients.

Next week: Joseph Haas, managing director of CB Richard Ellis Hawaii

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