Julie Boland and Ed Eliopoulos keep the EY legacy alive in Northeast Ohio

 

A company heritage that goes back to 1903 doesn’t weigh down Julie Boland and Ed Eliopoulos. In fact, Boland, managing partner of Ernst & Young LLP’s Cleveland office and Eliopoulos, managing partner of the Akron office, feel a lift knowing that they have hired, developed and invested in the people who protect the legacy of a professional services firm founded in Cleveland more than a century ago.

Established as Ernst & Ernst, EY has grown to a global presence of 190,000 employees, with 1,300 employed at the Cleveland and Akron offices.

“We take great pride that our roots are local, but our reach is global,” Eliopoulos says.  “We have benefitted from this community and have given a lot back. Our job is really to step into the firm at a certain point, and we are going to leave it, but we ought to leave it better than when we stepped in. That’s the legacy of the firm.

“We’re proud of our legacy, we are proud of our people. We are proud that if you think about some of the bold steps that you take as a leader in the community in particular, investing in this East Bank of the Flats, moving down here from the old Huntington Bank Building in 2013, was a huge step. Nobody was doing much of anything except developer Scott Wolstein had a vision to bulldoze everything and put up an office building, and Don Misheff, the EY office managing partner at the time, took a bold step by signing on to become a significant anchor tenant.”

Boland, who on July 1 became the first female managing partner of the Cleveland office of EY, stresses how crucial it is for an organization with a proud legacy to protect it — and perpetuate it.

“We need to hire great people and put them in challenging positions where they’re going to continue to grow because Ed and I are responsible for developing the next leaders of these offices and the next leaders of the community,” she says.

“Our view is how do you make people, regardless of whether they’re here for a couple of years or they’re here for their entire career, to feel like they’re part of something really special and that their experiences here have a long-term impact on them. We want to keep that connection because most likely they’ll end up at a client or have influence in the market, and we want them to think very fondly and positively on their experiences at EY.”

Here’s a look at how Boland and Eliopoulos protect and perpetuate the legacy of a 112-year old firm, and keep a small-town feel in a global economy.

Local, but global reach

Being a global firm is an important differentiator for a business. With the instant connectivity that technology provides today, it makes it easier to provide different perspectives on how to address the challenges that today’s economy often presents.

Of the Big Four firms, EY is the most globally integrated.

HistoryEY

EY’s 28 regions are organized into one of four areas: EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa), Americas, Asia-Pacific and Japan.

This structure is designed to effectively cater to an increasingly global clientele that has multinational interests.

EY makes diversity and inclusiveness a major part of its very fabric, and the ability to draw upon expert viewpoints is not overlooked by clients.

“They want to see our firm mirror their own people,” Eliopoulos says. “They’re demanding more and more diversity from us than ever before.”

Research has found that diverse, high-performing teams are more efficient, they’re more productive and they develop better answers, Boland says.

“A global firm brings different perspectives to the table, whether it’s gender, or race or whether it’s just different perspectives, it brings more diversity of thought,” she says.

Experts don’t always reside in the local community, so in today’s world a firm has to be able to tap into that subject matter expertise globally.

“Clients want to get access to the best and brightest minds,” Eliopoulos says. “So to do that, you really need to be connected internally, not just externally.”

Connection ranks high

Many companies will confirm that connection is the name of the game. The skills to develop a relationship that connects, however, aren’t usually inherent and therefore have to be developed.

Exterior“You need to connect with the person you’re sitting across from; especially in this business, that’s what’s important,” Boland says. “You have to take the technical information and translate it so it helps people solve issues and problems, and communicate that.”

To do so means spending a lot of time with one another, so you also have to appreciate whom you’re with and like the people you’re working with.

While the hard skills are a must among accountants, it doesn’t overshadow the importance of the soft skills.

“You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t communicate, if you can’t express yourself, what good is that intellect?” Eliopoulos says

EY expects to hire about 100 new employees for its Cleveland and Akron offices this year. For new employees, EY runs what Eliopoulos calls the epitome of the ultimate apprentice shop.

“Our audit staff in particular receives quite a bit of oversight,” he says. “Your first two years on the audit staff mean somebody’s looking over your shoulder every day as you are being trained in methodologies and culture.”

An essential soft skill to cultivate is flexibility, if it’s not already in an employee’s toolbox, Boland says.

“We really value flexibility,” she says. “I’m not talking about flexibility solely in a flexible work arrangement but flexibility in the choices we all make. I think in a profession where things are moving fast, and we’re working hard, it’s important for people to understand and appreciate that.

“We want people to have hobbies, time for their family, time to travel, to do things outside so they’re very well-rounded people. I think that’s critically important as well.”

Every year, EY takes an employee engagement survey to give management an idea of how engaged employees are.

“The more engaged they are, the more productive they are, and our retention rate goes up,” Boland says.

“We ask are you proud to work at EY? Do you feel like you’re valued?  Do you get feedback? We take the pulse of how engaged are our people, and we look at the trend line, and if there are ever any challenges, we dive into it and see what we can do to make sure we keep our people engaged.”

Eliopoulos takes his apprentice shop analogy further, noting that another apprentice is always hoping to move up to journeyman.

“That’s continuous almost marching, if you will,” he says. “There’s that next person following in line behind you. You have to do that. It’s a business, and you have to get new people, and you have to give them appropriate experience so they can grow their careers.”

Building political capital

As the old adage goes, it takes a long time to build a relationship, and it can be lost in a second. But if a firm has built up political capital, it doesn’t just lose it when a challenge arises.

“I think we are very good at being transparent and authentic,” Boland says. “If there’s an issue, being transparent and authentic is part of a relationship. There’s no trick to it.

“It’s just going in and being honest, having integrity, doing the right thing, having courage to stand up to what you believe in and just being willing to have an open and honest conversation.”

How to reach: EY (216) 861-5000 (Cleveland), (330) 255-5800 (Akron) or www.ey.com

 

Takeaways

  • Think globally, but keep your feet on local ground.
  • Connect with the person sitting across from you.
  • Build political capital, and it will help in times of need.

The file

Name: Julie Boland
Title: Cleveland managing partner
Company: Ernst & Young LLP

Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, University of Vermont; MBA, University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Boland on being the first female Cleveland managing director:

I look at it as a privilege to have been asked to consider this position. EY has long offered leadership opportunities for all our people. Our diverse and inclusive workforce is one of our great strengths. I’m proud of this firm, I’m proud of the people we work with and how we serve our clients and the community. I look at that much more on what’s important than being a “first.”

Boland on the new EY tagline, adopted in 2013:

Our new purpose is ‘Building a better working world.’ It goes to how do we think globally but act locally, empower our people locally who know the market, who know the clients, but bring the global aspects of our organization to them. It’s also all aspects from how we serve our clients, how we develop our people and how we give back to the community. I think it’s a really powerful statement; it’s something that we’re getting a lot of positive feedback on.

Name: Ed Eliopoulos
Title: Akron managing partner
Company: Ernst & Young LLP
Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, University of Akron

Eliopoulos on the new EY building, on the East Bank of the Flats in Cleveland:

This obviously is a whole different feel from our old office in the Huntington building, which dates back to the 1920s. You just can’t retrofit a building of that vintage for today’s necessary use. This is much more conducive to how our teams work. After last year, we moved in and many people looking for space in downtown asked, ‘Do you mind if we come in and take a tour?’

Eliopoulos on the EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM community:

Each year we recognize those high-growth companies that are really making a contribution in this local community, in this local economy through our EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM program. Similar to how we want to stay connected to our firm’s alumni, we invite past winners, past judges and participants in the program to networking events to help build a community.