Magazine article The CPA Journal

Recruiting and Retaining Talent: One Firm's Story

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Recruiting and Retaining Talent: One Firm's Story

Article excerpt

Whenever I talk to another CPA firm-big, small, or anywhere in between-about the biggest challenges facing their firm, they almost always say recruiting and retaining talent. "Millennials don't want to work like I did when I was starting out," they say, or "My firm can't compete with the Big Four at the college level." At my firm, BNA, we do not have this problem. We receive, on average, five resumes a week via our website for a 20-person accounting firm. In the 40 years that the firm has been in business, we've had one person leave our firm to work for another. How do we do it? We've developed a culture and recruiting method-mostly involving high school interns-that has allowed us to recruit and maintain top talent.

Building Relationships

My father, Bernard Ackerman, founded BNA in 1977 after four years at Deloitte in Charlotte, N.C. From the beginning, he formed a bond with the local college, Winthrop University. He developed relationships with professors, guest lectured in classes, and sponsored, along with a lawyer in town, a scholarship for a top accounting student. He believed that you needed to be directly connected to the college to get in front of the top talent, and more importantly, to have the professors recommend the top talent to you. His first hires and interns came from Winthrop in the early 1980s, and most of them are still working with us today. Over the years, the firm has continued to develop this relationship, and as we hire students from Winthrop, they become the best recruiting tools for our firm.

Another of our strategies has been to work with high school students. In the early 2000s, the local high school came to the firm and asked if we would be willing to participate in its school-to-work program. Normally this program is designed for more technical trades-repairmen, plumbers, auto mechanics-and the school had never worked with a professional service firm. My dad took a chance, got to know the program's coordinator, and with her help hired BNA's first 11th grader to work part time. What we quickly learned is that high school interns who are willing to work for an accounting firm are mature and have a willingness to learn-making them great assets for our firm. In addition, South Carolina gives a $1,000 tax credit for each qualified high school student whom we engage as an intern. …

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