Treating employees like clients

Accounting Principals-Richmond values relationships

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Print this page by M.J. McAteer
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Jennifer Dodge, the managing director at Accounting Principals
Photo by Mark Rhodes

Sometimes in business transactions, speed has become an end unto itself: Close the deal quickly and move on. Not at Accounting Principals-Richmond.

The business model for this professional recruiting firm is all about long-term relationships, not only in dealing with clients, but with employees as well. The ethos of its customer service — a commitment  to integrity, mutual respect and support services — also applies to its staff, and that is no common thing in the field of competitive sales.

In 2013, Accounting Principals employees’ positive ratings of their workplace propelled the firm to the No. 1 ranking among large companies on the list of Best Places to Work in Virginia. This year, the firm is a repeat winner.

Administrative assistant Dorothy Brooks is a good example of the loyalty that Accounting Principals fosters. She started as a temp at the agency 19 years ago and never left.  Back then, she was a single mother with a young son, but she says she was given the flexibility to be there when her child needed her, and, later, was given the same leeway to care for her mother.

Nearly two decades later, that humanistic approach remains at the core of Accounting Principals’ culture. The company’s latest hire, executive recruiter Shannon Patel, was seven months pregnant when she started work last August, which means she had to go on maternity leave after a bare two months on the job. Her newborn son then had serious health problems, which necessitated more time away from the office.

“The support I received was amazing,” she says.

“If someone has a health or family concern, it’s never, ‘What’s our policy’?” says Jennifer Dodge, the managing director at Accounting Principals. “Instead, we figure out a way to make it happen.”

The company extends that generous spirit to its community relations, doing three or four team volunteer events every year. Dodge says such endeavors are especially important to millennial staff members, who believe that work should be more than just a job. The enthusiasm of these young colleagues, in turn, gives their boomer and Generation X co-workers a boost, she says. The company also recently added a paid personal volunteerism day so that employees can give time to their pet causes. “We do a lot of community services, and I enjoy that,” Brooks says.

The company also supports its employees in developing their careers. Brooks was given the time to pursue her bachelor’s degree in business administration, and Natalee Rinaca, the firm’s senior business development manager, was able to change jobs within the company five times in  eight years until she felt she had found the perfect fit.  “There are a lot of opportunities to move around. Lots of potential for internal growth,” Rinaca says.

Accounting Principals is wise enough to understand the payback of longtime employees such as Brooks and Rinaca: The expertise they develop in their areas is a huge factor in retaining clients.

In 2001, for instance, Mark Koschmeder came to Accounting Principals in search of a job. He was relocating from Northern Virginia to the Richmond area and had talked to a number of head hunters. “But,” he says, “Jen and her team seemed more interested in placing me in something right, career-wise.”

Although Koschmeder ended up finding a position on his own, he did not forget Accounting Principals and called on the firm when he was in a position to hire at Capital One. “Accounting Principals always brought the best person to the table,” he says.

Last year, the best person they brought to the table just happened to be Koschmeder himself after the company found him a new position as controller of Fas Mart/GPM Investments.

Matt A. Schumacher, vice president and controller of The Brink’s Co., has worked with Accounting Principals for more than a dozen years, too, mostly with the same person. “They know the different flavors of accountant,” he explains. “They don’t waste our time by sending over people who don’t fit.”

“Our clients know we will do the right thing by them,” says Dodge. “At the end of the day there is the trust factor.”

That trust factor, obviously, also has been key to Accounting Principals’ track record in keeping employees, but the firm offers material rewards, too, such as competitive salaries and benefits. Superior performance is singled out.

For all these reasons, both intangible and concrete, Accounting Principals topped the list of best large companies at which to work this year, but Brooks perhaps sums up its attraction best in terms most people understand: “I don’t have to moan and groan when getting out of bed in the morning to go to work,” she says.


Best Places to Work 2015 list of large employers





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