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Annual Retreat: Moving Forward

This Sunday starts the annual Marcum LLP partner retreat. Every year, we gather all of our partners from around the country, as well as our team leaders from such support services as marketing, internal technology, human resources, internal accounting and legal, and spend three days together in South Florida.

Now while this may seem an unnecessary junket to some of you, I can't stress enough the importance of taking time out of our busy schedules to actually focus on our own business, including strategic planning and team building, to make sure we all are on the same page, rowing in the same direction. I believe this is critical to ensure that we remain focused on doing the best job we possibly can for our clients, and that this is as true for every other business as it is for us.

Our business model may be a little more complex than most. The approximately 150 people who will be attending the Marcum retreat work in 15 different offices in seven different states. We don't see each other every day, every week or even monthly. Some of us don't see each other at all except for our annual November get together. It's so important that we get together and remind ourselves that our Firm is more than just the people we see in our own offices every day; rather, that there are 1,200 of us spread throughout the country, plus several international locations, and we're all in this together.

So what do we do for three days?, you may ask. It's all about strategic planning and team building. We start off Sunday afternoon at 3:30PM with a re-cap of the year to date. How we're doing, what's going right and what we can improve on, and there's always something. We then have an outside motivational speaker, who, if it weren't a surprise, I could reveal. If you're really interested, you can email any of us on Monday, and we'll let you know who it was. We then have cocktails and dinner and call it a night.

Monday we break into four separate groups - assurance, tax, advisory and administration - and have full day departmental meetings geared to technical and client service issues. The whole thrust of the day is how we can improve the way we do things, service our clients better and add more value to a service that is all too often commoditized. We start at 8AM and go straight through to 6PM, with a break for lunch; it's the real heavy lifting day of the retreat. The recurring theme of cocktails and dinner ends the day for us.

Tuesday we meet for half a day in the morning, then spend the afternoon doing some team building activities. Among other things, we usually have a prominent accounting industry person give us an update on what's happening globally in the accounting profession. Tuesday night is not just cocktails and dinner; we add entertainment into the mix. In years past, we have had performances by Whitney Cummings (really good), Robert Klein (really good) and Richard Lewis (downright awful). As it's always a surprise, email one of us on Wednesday if you care to know who took center stage this year.

We end on Wednesday at noon, having spent that morning making sure everyone in the room knows where we'd like to go and how we intend to get there as a Firm. There's nothing like having the whole team buy into our strategic plan and how we're going to execute it.

The reason I chose to write about this this week is two fold. First because I think it's important that our clients and friends understand how our business works. We try to run our Firm the way we advise and advocate that our clients run theirs. And in order to run a successful business strategically, without relying on sheer luck, you need to plan and to have everyone on the same page, pulling in the same direction. We feel it's well worth the time, effort and cost of taking three days out of a year to ensure that happens. Second, I've spent most of the last two weeks actually preparing for and organizing the retreat. I need to make sure that all 150 attendees find value in the time we spend and leave pumped to make Marcum a better place to work for our people and make sure our clients are serviced at a level that exceeds their expectations.

If you have difficulty reaching us between Monday and Wednesday next week as quickly as you would normally expect, please understand where we are and what we are doing. We will certainly make time to get back to you, although it may take a little longer than usual. I am hopeful you will agree that any short-term inconvenience will certainly pay dividends for us all in the long run.

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Jeffrey M. Weiner and do not represent those of Marcum LLP, its partners or its employees.

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