Careers, not jobs

Rea & Associates Inc.’s recruiting brochure states, “We’re hiring
our future partners,” reflecting the up-front attitude that President
Tim Michel takes when bringing on new employees.

Rea’s hiring process at the New Philadelphia-based accounting
services firm includes rigorous testing to ensure a cultural match,
and the company’s 245 employees in 11 Ohio offices are encouraged
to participate in Rea’s continuing education classes and leadership
training.

“Bringing people in, not training them and not getting them
excited breeds turnover,” Michel says. “Turnover is so much
more expensive than the dollars you spend in training, showing
people they have opportunities and giving them responsibility so
they can grow and shine.”

The firm posted 2006 revenue of $23 million, up from $18 million in
2004.

Smart Business spoke with Michel about how he hires future
partners.

Q: How can other executives grow their companies the way you’ve
grown yours?

We have always been a growth-oriented firm. It’s deep-rooted in
our tradition. Either you grow or you die. We then translate that into
the way we manage our business and the decisions we make.

If we want to grow, we need to have good people. In addition to
hiring the best and brightest, we want to treat them well, and that
goes not just in salary and benefits. The money we spend in technology is significant. We also spend a lot of money and time training them in the soft skills, things like listening, effective writing, the
art of delegation, supervisory and management-type skills.

We also have a two-year leadership program, the Rea NextGen
program. We put our managers through a very structured program
of teaching them a lot of the things that you just don’t learn on the
job.

We are looking to create opportunities for our younger people so
they don’t hit a ceiling. At some point, they can actually become a
partner, and they can run an office or a service area.

We also want to keep our eye on profitable growth. It’s just one
of our goals.

Q: What is the difference between growth and profitable growth?

It’s not hard to grow if you’re willing to take on any type of business
service. You can become what is known as a bottom-feeder, and go
out there and underbid your competition just to get work in the door.
Pretty soon, you’re just hiring a lot of people to do a lot of work, but
the profits aren’t there.

Profit is important because that allows us to invest in our people
and new services. If you just go out and grow as quickly as you can,
without the eye on profit, things will fall apart because you won’t
have the leaders in the organization to manage it well.

You’ll find that you’re running into situations where you’re not
servicing clients well because you don’t have the dollars to train
your people.

I would rather have 15 percent growth profitably than 20 or 25

percent growth and not bring profit into the company.

Q: How can companies afford employee training?

It’s an investment. You have to have a long-term view. If you want
a company that is going to be successful and grow, you have to
invest that time and money into those people and it will come back
many-fold. You’re going to have people who are very effective and
efficient at what they do and they’re going to be able to manage
other people, go out into the marketplace, bring in new business and
manage it well.

You get what you pay for. It’s a very exciting and refreshing philosophy because most people want to be part of something successful. When you take the time to invest in your people, it keeps
the level of excitement high and your people react positively to it.

Q: How can business leaders make good growth decisions?

You have to sit down, analyze the opportunities and be honest
with yourself. A lot of businesspeople will evaluate an opportunity, see potential hazards, and just place them aside and wish them
away. When they actually get into it and they start getting faced by
all these things that they passed off, (the hazards) become overwhelming.

You have to do your due diligence, and you have to be willing to
walk away from something if it doesn’t fit in your overall game
plan and doesn’t make sense for you.

Q: How do you create a successful growth strategy?

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about where we want to be.
Something you do today will have an effect on where you’re going
to be five years from now. If you define where you want to be five
years from now, then you can better act today to make sure you
get there.

HOW TO REACH: Rea & Associates Inc., (330) 339-6651 or www.reacpa.com