When Plante Moran Partner Mike Baker announced he was going to be participating in SwingShift and the Stars, a live, “Dancing with the Stars”-style extravaganza performed at the City Opera House in Traverse City, Mich., I was surprised. After all, he’s never been much of a dancer. But Mike has a big heart, and 100 percent of the funds raised through voting and donations are given to local charities.

However, supporting Leelanau Children’s Center (LCC) wasn’t the only reason Mike decided to participate. His is an inspiring story—and one I thought was particularly appropriate on the heels of Thanksgiving. In that spirit, I’ve invited Mike to tell the story in his own words. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Traverse City Office Managing Partner Mike Baker.

My story begins back in May 2014 when Amy, my wife of 22 years, passed away. As you can imagine, it was a pretty rough year for me and our kids—Jennie (19), Brendan (17), and Mollie (12). I wasn’t taking care of myself the way that I used to, and I really ballooned up. Even though I had a lot of support from friends, it got to the point where all I’d do was go to work and then go home. My kids needed me and, quite frankly, I just didn’t want to do anything else.

Then, this June, Tom Aja, another Traverse City partner, was approached about participating in SwingShift and the Stars. He declined but said, “I have the perfect guy for you.” At first I said, “No way,” but then I got to thinking about it: maybe this was just what I needed—something to motivate me to get out, something that gives back to the community, and a way to get back into shape. I issued a challenge to the Traverse City office—raise $4,000 for LCC, and I’m in. They raised that money in short order (which made me think I set the goal way too low).

I immediately set upon a stringent diet and exercise program—no way was I getting up in front of all those people in my current condition—and lost about 20 pounds before the program kicked off on August 20. It works like this: six local “celebrities”—I use that term loosely and liberally—are paired with instructor/choreographer partners and select a charity to support. There are four events, one per month between September and December, where we compete for votes and to raise money for our charities. Each event has a specific theme—so far we’ve done a rumba, a foxtrot, and soon I’ll tango—which we perform live for an audience of approximately 400 people and four judges. The judges then give us comments. They’re a lot nicer than the judges on “Dancing with the Stars,” but if I’ve heard “You need to smile more” once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times over the past couple of months. So, I’m working on that.

My instructor Sharon Pascoe and I practice two-to-three hours at least three times a week. The hardest part is that first day of learning a new routine—I feel like I’m back in kindergarten with no idea of what I’m supposed to be doing. But Sharon sticks with me, and soon I know the routines and it’s just about the fine-tuning. Early on, she recommended that I watch “Dancing with the Stars” on Monday nights. I thought, “Hmmm…there’s baseball and there’s Monday Night Football—that’s not going to happen.” But now my youngest daughter and I watch it together every week. Sometimes I even text Sharon and say, “Did you see that? We should try that.”

I can’t begin to explain what this experience has meant to me. My kids—especially my youngest—love that I’m doing it. I’ve lost another 8 pounds, and it’s sparked my competitive spirit. So far, I’ve won the audience favorite award twice, so my goal is to sweep that category across all four events. And people at Plante Moran and in the community have been great about cheering me on and supporting me.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to Tom Aja for bringing me this opportunity. I’m thankful for SwingShift and the Stars and for my patient yet challenging partner. I’m thankful for my three amazing children who, despite having to endure a lot the last few years, are extremely positive and motivated kids, and I’m thankful for Plante Moran where I’ve worked for almost 31 years now. These past few years have been difficult, but the staff and other partners have rallied around me in a way that I believe is unique only to this organization. Finally, I’m thankful to Gordon, for lending me his blog for the next two weeks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a tango to perform.

If you live in the Traverse City area and would like to cheer Mike on, you can purchase tickets here


“Hero” is not a term we usually associate with “auditor,” at least not in the “faster than a speeding bullet” sense. But recently, one PMer revealed himself to be exactly that. I’d like to share the story with you now.

A couple of Saturdays ago, a man lost control of his car and careened off the freeway, crashing into some bushes about 30 feet outside of our Southfield, Michigan office. Since a few TV stations came out to cover the story, John Bebes, partner in charge of our not-for-profit practice, called our office managing partner to let her know.

Here’s what he didn’t mention. When the accident occurred, he and Kris Ray, a senior manager, saw the accident occur. Kris immediately called 911, and John dashed out of the office. Our security cameras show him racing down the stairs and rolling up his sleeves. He ran out to the truck, which was engulfed in smoke, and saw that the driver was unresponsive. Unsure whether the man was alive, John pulled him from the smoking car.

The man was alive. Once he had a chance to get some fresh air, he became coherent, and when the first responders arrived, he was even able to stand and get himself on the stretcher.

When we asked John why he didn’t mention any of this, he humbly said, “Anybody would have done it.”

I don’t know if that’s the case, but John Bebes did it, and we’re all very proud of him. He may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but he’s our very own Plante Moran Superman.

So what do you think? Would anybody race toward that smoking car and pull the driver to safety? Or does it take a special combination of gut-instinct and selflessness? Have you or anyone you know pulled off a similar heroic feat? We’d love to hear about it.



Creating a Great Place to Work Is More Than Just the Right Thing to Do

October 21, 2015

Recently, Fortune.com and Great Place to Work® came out with their inaugural list of the “100 Best Workplaces for Women.” We were thrilled to be on it. Not only is it an honor to be among such great organizations but it also demonstrates that our team’s hard work to create a diverse, collaborative, and inclusive […]

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The War for Diverse Talent

October 5, 2015

It’s a new recruiting season, which has me thinking a lot about diversity — something that’s very important to our firm. When we look at the staff in our office, we strive to reflect our communities and the clients we serve. But that isn’t always easy. Diversity challenges in the accounting profession start early. The […]

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Even Businesses Can’t Be “All Business” All the Time

September 17, 2015

Earlier this week, ESPN posted the article, “Steve Patterson’s Fall Shows College Ads Can’t Be All Business.” It talks about why University of Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson—a “businessman first” with a reputation for being “innovative” and “forward thinking” at the expense of tradition and human relations—didn’t succeed in the role. It also interviews Michigan […]

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And Now for Something Completely Self-Serving

August 31, 2015

A couple of months ago, Jeff, our chief marketing officer, was enjoying pizza and a glass of wine at one of his favorite Detroit restaurants. He got into a conversation with a fellow diner, and they exchanged information about where they work. “Plante Moran is a great company,” said the diner. “I’m actually a wealth […]

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What Would You Say if I Told You to Jump?

August 19, 2015

What Would You Say if I Told You to Jump? When my oldest daughter was in high school, she asked me for a desk for her room. It seemed like a reasonable request, so we went out and got her one. A few weeks later, I went into her room and found her in the […]

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I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of PMers…

August 4, 2015

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, talking about what a special place Plante Moran is and how much we care. So I try to focus on external things—cybersecurity, recruiting top talent, why “multitasking” is a misnomer. But the beauty of our firm is that, just around corner, there’s another example of our bright, caring […]

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It Takes a Village to Grow an Orchard

July 22, 2015

Internally, we often liken Plante Moran to an orchard. It has “trees” (or clients and staff) that have been planted at different times, bear different kinds of fruit, and have different lifespans. When new staff come to the firm, they have the benefit of capturing the fruit from trees that were planted before them and […]

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Creating a Great Workplace for Gens X & Y

July 7, 2015

Recently, we received two “best workplace” awards focused on specific generations of staff.  Crain’s Chicago Business named us the No. 1 place to work for the Gen X generation, whose birth dates span the 1960s through the early 1980s. Shortly thereafter, FORTUNE magazine named our firm one of the “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials (a.k.a. […]

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