The Joy of Giving

by Gordon Krater on February 16, 2015

Several years ago, we formed Plante Moran Cares as a way to encourage staff to rally around a particular cause and donate time, treasure, and talent to those in need. This year, we approached things a little differently; we asked each office to select the charity it would support. Staff nominated the causes that were important to them, and those that received the most votes prevailed. This means that, for the first time since Plante Moran Cares began, we’re proud to support 17 deserving charities within our geographic footprint.

We’re about halfway through our 2014–2015 year, and I’m excited to report that staff have really amped up the creativity this year. For example:

  • To support Gift of Adoption Fund, our Downtown Chicago office is having something they call “Penny Wars” during tax season. The office is divided into four quadrants, and the partner associated with the quadrant that loses the war will be “pied” in the face during its end-of-tax-season celebration. How does it work? You drop money into the bucket of the quadrant you’d like to see lose. The more money a quadrant raises, the more likely that partner will have a face full of pie come April 15.
  • To support the Make-a-Wish Foundation (MAW), our Cincinnati office has organized a building-wide chili cookoff. (This includes other companies in addition to Plante Moran.) During the cookoff, the office plans to show a video of a MAW child’s story whose wish was to feed the hungry. In doing so, she used a specific chili recipe that the office will feature in memory of her. The office’s 50 staff also wrote letters to Santa in December, which Macy’s then mailed to the North Pole. Macy’s donated $1 per letter to MAW.
  • Our 70-person Detroit office has set a goal to raise $10,000 for its charity, Alternatives for Girls (AFG). The office has coordinated a number of activities to meet this lofty goal: clothing drives, donations for the privilege of wearing jeans on Fridays (this alone has raised nearly $2,500—staff love wearing jeans), 50/50 raffles, and a “giving tree” during the holidays. The office asked AFG which groups of girls were least likely to receive gifts; whereas children often receive gifts from the general public, older girls and young women tend to be less represented. Staff put together care packages for these girls composed of a duffle bag, towel set, and a lady’s watch. The team is nearly 75 percent of the way toward meeting its goal, and I’ve heard rumors that something ominous may await Detroit office partners—possibilities include shaved heads and a dunk tank—once that goal is met.

I love hearing these stories that demonstrate how our endlessly creative staff are supporting the causes important to them. It’s amazing how doing something positive for others can awaken within you a desire to do more. Giving really becomes a joy, and seeing the effects of your efforts only makes you want to up the ante. It’s heartening to see our staff inspire each other and their communities with their ideas and generosity.

How about you? How do you give back to the community? Any particularly creative fundraising ideas you’d like to share?

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For IBM Watson, It’s All Elementary

by Gordon Krater on February 2, 2015

It beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in the 1990s. In 2011, it bested all-time winningest Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter (even if it did think Toronto was a city in the United States). Today, IBM Watson is using its cognitive computer powers in business for everything from determining which of a company’s employees and customers are likely to jump ship to identifying the best incentives to gain new customers. Doctors at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are even using it to make better and faster diagnoses by churning through millions of medical journal records and protocols to form opinions, and it’s being piloted by law firms and financial institutions to conduct research and answer client questions.

According to ibm.com, Watson is “a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer—by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes.” As it learns, it gets smarter. (I’m betting it no longer “thinks” Toronto is a U.S. city.)

So at what point will that intelligence have an impact on the accounting profession? It’s hard to say. It will never supplant accountants, but it will likely supplement us. Although it’s expected to be years down the road, the belief is that, at some point, Watson or Watson-like technologies will fulfill lower-level staff functions. This means we’ll have to rethink our training and learning programs and the apprenticeship model that’s prevalent in our profession. Many of the learning-ground activities will be automated and performed more quickly and efficiently with business intelligence technologies. These technologies will also present the opportunity to provide even greater insights, solutions, and value to our clients, and that’s exciting.

Technology does not progress on a linear curve. It’s exponential, doubling in power and sophistication every 18 months. It will be important for Plante Moran to stay on top of developments and pilots affecting our profession. It will be even more important to stay true to our people-first culture. Regardless of the technologies we use, people will always be our differentiator.

What are your thoughts on IBM Watson or similar technologies? How do you expect technology to disrupt your organization in the coming years? What plans do you have to make sure your product or service stays relevant?

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

January 19, 2015

Although no one knows for sure where the phrase originated, its best-known use was by Sir Isaac Newton in a letter to his rival, Robert Hooke: “What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much….If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Last month, we […]

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Work-Life Balance: One Cure for the Winter Doldrums

January 5, 2015

January can be a rough month. The excitement of the holidays is over, there are all those New Year’s resolutions to contend with, and the sun rarely seems to shine. Moreover, unless you work for the government, your next paid holiday is Memorial Day. It can be easy for the winter doldrums to set in. […]

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It’s a Small World After All

December 22, 2014

Several years ago, we formalized our charitable giving efforts and formed Plante Moran Cares. Each year, staff rally around a particular cause and give time, treasure, and talent to assist those in need. But that’s not the only way we give back to our communities; we also serve on a variety of nonprofit boards and […]

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Move Over, Culture. Make Room for Innovation.

December 8, 2014

On December 5, Plante Moran held a webinar to discuss the link between innovation and culture. Although we briefly summarized the results of our 2014 Innovation Report, most of the webinar focused on how to create a culture of innovation and actionable tips to help organizations become more innovative, courtesy of our three panelists: Xiao […]

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This Thanksgiving, I’m Thankful for Stewardship

November 24, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Vince Selasky, a staff member who, over nearly 20 years at Plante Moran, has progressed from working in our facilities department to managing our webinars and video needs as part of the firm’s marketing department. We were talking about his upcoming Plante Moran-niversary, and I asked […]

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Curiosity Is the Heart of Innovation

November 10, 2014

One of the world’s greatest innovators, Walt Disney, once said: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” It’s true — curiosity is the heart of innovation, but how do […]

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Staff Development Is Important…So Much So That We Created an Award for It

October 24, 2014

Back in June, I wrote a short blog about metrics and making sure that we’re measuring the right things—those that can effect positive change versus those that may inadvertently promote undesired behaviors (the law of unintended consequences). We approach awards at Plante Moran similarly. We don’t give out a lot of them, but when we do, […]

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Dedicated to Differences

October 6, 2014

Recently, I was interviewed by Inside Public Accounting for an article the publication is writing on women in leadership. The discussion touched on a variety of diversity topics, and at one point, the reporter commented on the lack of diversity she sees each year when it comes to partner promotions within the accounting profession. “It’s […]

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