October 27, 2017

Relating to Relationships

Relating to Relationships

I don’t know where you buy your socks, but regardless, it’s pretty clear that online shopping has taken over the world. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are in big trouble. They are being forced to reinvent themselves or risk going the way of the Model T (Ron Friedman, co-leader of Marcum’s Retail & Consumer Products group, is a regular go-to for the retail trade press on this topic).

Lord & Taylor, the venerable department store chain, this week became the latest to succumb to the times. The chain’s owner, Hudson’s Bay, sold off Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue, a New York City landmark, to WeWork, an office-sharing company, which will use three-quarters of the building to house its global headquarters and to lease out office space. Lord & Taylor will scale down its retail operation in the remaining 25% of the building, which it will lease back from WeWork.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum of opinion about the future of retailing, this story is as much about how we work as it is about how we shop. WeWork’s website says their mission is to “transform buildings into dynamic environments for creativity, focus, and connection.” In other words, it’s not about the desk. It’s about the sharing culture. They already have locations in 23 cities in the U.S. and in 19 other countries. And they’re just getting started.

For the record, I am not a WeWork investor, and I’m not plugging their business. I’m just pointing out that they’re about workspace leasing about as much as Starbucks is about coffee. Talk about taking over the world!

However much success WeWork may be finding with their business model, they’re not alone in the push towards work environments that promote collaboration and open cultures. In fact, that’s Marcum’s master plan for our own offices across the country. Yup, even here in the traditionally conservative accounting industry, we are reinventing the way we work together – literally.

It makes all kinds of sense, because Marcum’s business is all about relationships. Relationships with our clients, and relationships with each other. We have a team-based culture. What better way to enhance access, promote cross-pollination, and enable collaboration than to do away with closed doors and open up our office footprint?

Our Boston office was the first to unveil the new open office design, in 50,000 square feet on two floors at 53 State Street. Through the use of glass walls, common areas, lounges, and other central spaces, we have replaced the traditional four-walls-and-a-door concept with an environment that encourages and facilitates interaction.

Our Deerfield, Illinois, office is next. In fact, that new office will be unveiled a few days from now at a grand opening party for clients and friends of the Firm. San Francisco is after that. Eventually, the master plan will roll out to most or all of our U.S. offices.

The most important thing to keep in mind about all of this is that work is not about your office furniture or even about your computer (I hate to break it to you). It really is about how we service our clients, how we think about their challenges, and the solutions we come up with to help solve them. And since no one has a corner on great ideas, that requires collaboration.

Moreover, as technology increasingly off-loads the data entry and other more routine aspects of accounting from staff, our associates will have the opportunity much earlier in their careers to become actively engaged in client relationships. An environment that nurtures relationship-building and resource-sharing is tailor-made for superior client service.

And that, my friends, is the business Marcum is in.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. Happy trick or treating!

P.S. Congratulations to Marcum’s Alternative Investment Group, which was just named the best accounting firm for hedge fund client service by HFM Week.