Living by the Golden Rule

Recruiting firm sticks to its principles

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Print this page by M.J. McAteer

Principals and principles are homonyms that regularly trip people up, but there is no need to sort them out at the firm named the commonwealth’s best large company at which to work in 2013. Accounting Principals-Richmond embraces one of the world’s oldest moral principles — the Golden Rule — and that, say its employees, is central to what makes it a great place to work.

“The culture emphasizes ethics, fairness and good communication, and it permeates our office,” says executive recruiter Lydia Smith.

“Our moral compass is set in the right direction, and that sense of integrity feels good to me,” says Melanie DuPriest, senior manager of the firm’s consulting division.

Accounting Principals-Richmond, lo­­cat­ed in Glen Allen, is a 15-member branch of a 2,000-employee company based in Jacksonville, Fla. The company helps businesses find accounting, financial, human resources and marketing personnel. Its “do-unto-others” approach, its employees say, informs their relationship with the one another, the corporate office, their clients and the community.

First and foremost, Accounting Principals treats them as individuals and lets them play a central role in shaping their own careers. “It’s not our way or the highway,” Smith says. “The company has allowed me to be who I am. I have been able to customize my role” — she enjoys interviewing and recruiting — “and do what I excel at.”

“There are lots of ways to move up in our structure,” DuPriest says. “I like how the company puts people on a path to be successful in life.”   

As a point of policy, Accounting Principals tries to make communication a two-way street. The corporate office sends out emails daily to keep employees abreast of developments. It also listens to what employees have to say by conducting regular opinion surveys and offering them the opportunity to interact with the CEO in an open chat room.

The company’s sensitivity to the individual combines with the atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect that it nurtures, employees say. “No one has that ‘It’s not my job’ mentality,” says Managing Director Jennifer Dodge. “Everyone pitches in.” If that means covering for someone who has to take a child to the doctor, that is what gets done.

News “I work with nice people,” says Smith, who has been with the firm since 2004. “I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, and believe me, they are not all like this.”

Accounting Principals employees also value the firm’s understanding of their need to balance their professional and personal lives. It allows for flexible schedules with extended lunch hours and demands little or no overtime. All business meetings take place during normal working hours.

The recruiting firm offers an array of other attractive perks, too, including generous compensation plans; bonuses, dinners, trips and prizes; educational and training opportunities; an above-market health-care package; four weeks of paid vacation the very first year of employment; a 401(k) plan and subsidized gym memberships. All are appreciated, of course, but employees seem to put as much value on the company’s dedication to public service.
Accounting Principals gives its employees three or four paid days off annually to work for charity. Corporate causes include Win 4 Youth, an international initiative that the company combines with its commitment to employee wellness. Its Win 4 Youth fundraisers generally feature a fitness event such a bike ride or foot race.

On Sept. 11, 2012, the firm closed early so that employees could join a 5K walk that its branch offices were hosting simultaneously across the country.  The Richmond office also has a three-day “build” each year for the local Habitat for Humanity and supports Meals on Wheels programs.

“It’s good for our image, but it enriches us as individuals,” Smith says. “The company is giving me a gift by having me participate.”

Clients often participate in in these charitable events, too, in part because Accounting Principals gives them the employee treatment.

“They are not looking to score every day,” says Tim MacAleese, CFO of Elephant Auto Insurance of Richmond. “It’s a relationship built over time.” He describes Accounting Principals-Richmond recruiters as collaborative, personal, high-energy and passionate about their jobs.

Brian Paliotti, senior financial officer of the NewMarket Corp., seconds MacAleese’s opinion. In the past four years, he says, Accounting Principals-Richmond has found 10 to 15 new employees for his company, which is involved in the petroleum additives industry.  “They’ve done a nice job of getting to know us,” he says. “We don’t have to go through an articulation of who we are.”

Accounting Principals-Richmond, he adds, “is the kind of company you’d want to join.” Given the high rating it gets from its own employees, recruitment probably wouldn’t be hard.

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