The War for Diverse Talent

by Gordon Krater on 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 pool of diverse candidates seeking a career in public accounting is small and has created a real war for talent. We realized that we needed to take the initiative to overcome this obstacle, so we developed an internship program that’s helping us do just that: we call it Track.

Track is a six-week program designed for multicultural college freshman and sophomores. It offers students a snapshot of life at a public accounting firm by shadowing partners and staff and rotating through various practice groups.

Track introduces students to business and public accounting early in their college careers — when they’re just starting to figure out what they want to do. The program allows us to connect with students and engage them much earlier than in the past.

Jalen Garrett of Plante Moran Financial Advisors (PMFA) is one of Track’s first participants and success stories. Jalen tells us that, through Track, he had the opportunity to interact, seek advice, and learn from the firm’s staff and partners — which gave him a clear picture of what a career at Plante Moran would look like. It was a place where he could picture himself.

After participating in the Track program, completing a traditional internship, and graduating from MSU, Jalen was offered full-time employment with PMFA in 2014.

And Jalen isn’t our only success story. After years of laying the groundwork, Track is making a difference. Five years ago Track started in our Southfield office as a pilot program for two college sophomores. Because of Track, Plante Moran has hired a number of full-time, diverse staff members and interns across Southeast Michigan, Grand Rapids, and Chicago, with expansion plans into Ohio over the next couple of years.

I think it’s important that organizations don’t let the competition for diverse talent discourage them but, instead, look at it as a motivator to become more strategic when recruiting, put more focus around onboarding, and increase their commitment to retention.

What’s your organization doing to promote and retain diverse talent?



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

by Gordon Krater on 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 State University Athletic Director Mark Hollis about his perspective on Patterson’s termination and what it takes to succeed as an athletic director. And then Mark mentioned Plante Moran (and me!).

“If you come into this as a successful businessperson or an attorney, that doesn’t always play to the coaches, to the donors,” Hollis said. “That’s not to say those are bad people or that they’ve made bad decisions but intercollegiate athletics is unlike anything else out there. … Every day I will talk to a coach, a board member, a booster, a fan, a donor, a student-athlete. Every day. If I’m the CEO of Plante Moran I don’t necessarily have that sort of interaction, nor do I need to. But as an athletic director, it’s imperative to understand that you have to talk to those people every day.”

A shout out to Plante Moran. From ESPN! Now there’s something we can cross off our bucket list!

Mark Hollis has been a friend of the firm for years now, and we have great respect for him and the MSU team, including Tom Izzo, Mark Dantonio, and Lou Anna Simon. They have an uncanny ability to connect with people—whether students, faculty, alumni, or donors—and their ability to build effective teams both on and off the field has led to an incredibly successful period at Michigan State. They understand the importance of balancing financial goals with the traditions and cultural legacy of the university—something we also balance at Plante Moran.

In fact, our firm has much more in common with MSU’s philosophies than Steve Patterson’s. Yes, we’re here to endure, and to endure we have to be profitable, but we do that by serving our clients to the best of our ability and by adhering to certain longstanding firm traditions and beliefs—our culture. We balance the bottom line with philosophies like “money doesn’t lead, it follows,” “we care,” and “optimize, don’t maximize.” These may not sound like the typical operating principles of a thriving business, but they’re key to how we operate and endure.

You know what else is key? Spending money on things that matter, like our staff. For example, each summer, we invite our 2,200+ staff to Detroit’s beautiful Fox Theatre for our annual firm conference, a day of staff appreciation and information sharing. It’s very expensive; staff from all over the Midwest travel to Detroit and stay overnight, and we provide entertainment (this year we had a block party). Is that something that makes good business sense? According to some, maybe not, but to us it’s an integral part of our culture. The impact it has on our staff and how they feel about working at Plante Moran is priceless.

I’ve worked at Plante Moran for all of my 35-year career because I love it here. I have the greatest job in the world! There’s so much variety built into it, and I meet so many great people, from our clients and their advisory teams and boards to managing partners at other firms to others active in our business communities. And I love interacting with our staff, whether formally via meetings or informally at ice cream socials and parties. Next month, I’ll visit Beijing for a conference, and I’ll stop by our Shanghai office to spend time with the staff and their families—I know it will be an amazing experience.

Andy Warhol once said that being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. I think he’s right. Because true success takes so much more than a laser-like focus on the numbers

What about you? What do you think makes a successful business? And how great is it that Plante Moran was referenced in an ESPN article?


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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Got Team Spirit? We’ve Got an Award for That!

June 22, 2015

Recently, Bill Bufe, a retired partner and former HR director of the firm, reminded me of the origin of our Morrison award, which we give out each year at our firm conference to the one or two staff members who best epitomize firm spirit. It’s an interesting story, so I thought I’d share it with […]

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Sorry, Not Sorry

June 5, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me how creative Plante Moraners can be. Check out this email that Marketing Director Kim Greenspan recently sent to her female colleagues: I’ve noticed that women substitute “sorry” for any number of stronger and more appropriate words, thus running the risk of being perceived as the weaker gender — and […]

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17 Syllables for 17 Years

May 25, 2015

Each year, Plante Moran celebrates our inclusion on FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list with a contest. This gives us something fun to do during busy season, and it adds an element of celebration during the post-holidays winter lull. We’ve hosted trivia contests, photo caption contests—you name it, we’ve probably done it. This […]

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