This article was written by Sean McCabe for Accounting Today’s December 2015 issue. Santos, Postal & Company, P.C., one of Topline’s co-founders, was awarded first place in the annual Best Firm to Work For program.
While it’s (hopefully) true that every firm is aware of the Golden Rule, how many can actually tout it as a means of firm policy? When you trust in your staff, your staff trusts in you, and this concept is alive and well at the No. 1 Small Firm to Work For in the country, Rockville, Md.-based Santos, Postal & Co., where the staff of approximately 40 professionals are enjoying a flexible work/life balance, with management reaping some of the benefits.
Managing partner Charles Postal notes that his firm implements every-other-Friday off during the busy season — rotated among the firm to prevent lopsidedness in the office — allowing the professionals to work longer one week and less the next during the notoriously stressful stretch of the year. This flexibility helps create a more relaxed staff.
“We have a third-party anonymous survey that goes out called OfficeVibe,” said human resources manager Jennifer Hough, “and what comes up time and time again is that we care about our employees. We care about work/life balance, the flexibility.”
Whether it’s through complimentary Chinese food on rainy days, or staff members aged everywhere from 25 to 65 talking everything from new tax laws to politics at lunchtime together, a sense of community is an integral part of the firm and its workforce. “It’s hard to define our culture here,” said principal Bob Greenfest, “but everyone knows and feels it.”
Established as a family business in 1971, Santos Postal was founded by the children and grandchildren of merchant immigrants, and with that came ideas of customer service and working with other family businesses. It’s this neighborly notion that has continued to define Santos Postal’s clients and staff, and both its past and its future.
“We’re very dedicated to remaining independently owned and operated,” said Postal. To ensure this, Santos Postal has been very involved in succession planning for its current generation of young professionals. Strategic moves include Baby Boomers transitioning their client base and expertise to the next generation; internal and external training programs; and working with top-notch consulting firms and the Maryland Association of CPAS to teach the next generation essential leadership skills.
With the firm grossing close to $10 million during its current five-year plan, effectively doubling its last effort in that amount of time, Santos’ leadership realized that reaching their next goal of $20 million requires their young professionals to get involved now.
“[Our] 25-35-year-olds who show they’re leaders [are] getting involved in the process,” said Postal. “We give them a seat at the table and say to them, explicitly: ‘You are our future.’ We’re telling this generation we can’t do it without them.”
To secure those young leaders, Santos Postal recruits strategically, knowing its limitations as a smaller firm. Instead of the pseudo- buyouts that bigger firms use to secure their share of talent, Santos Postal purposely goes to smaller colleges to pick out surefire successful candidates who would also prefer Santos’s smaller, closer-to-home feel.
Greenfest talked about hiring a younger person in the firm who didn’t have accounting experience early on, but worked his way up with a “sparking personality” and has been working for three months now. “We have a history of taking people from another business,” he said. “The clients love them, and when they get established, they’re great at training the people right out of school and truly appreciate the opportunity.”
That opportunity, of having a “community, [a] family here that exists every day,” according Postal, is what has kept Santos Postal such a powerful punch in a small package. “They’re not headed to work; they’re going home.”