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Expanding on excellence Featured

11:17am EDT February 21, 2011
Craig Donnan, managing partner, Cleveland, Deloitte LLP Craig Donnan, managing partner, Cleveland, Deloitte LLP

As Craig Donnan began his new role as managing partner of Deloitte LLP’s Northeast Ohio practice last summer, he recognized that the firm is top-notch and in a great position for future success. Despite that, his goal was to not rest on what it had accomplished but to instead build on the business practices the firm already embraces that will propel it for future success.

In taking over for the retiring Pat Mullin at the nearly 500-employee financial services firm, he’s focusing on broadening their footprint with current clients, serving small- and medium-size companies — those under a billion dollars in revenue — and continuing to expand the firm’s international tax capabilities.

Smart Business spoke with Donnan about how he’s planning to lead the firm.

As you focus on those particular areas, how do you communicate those goals?

My mantra to people is to speak to someone in person rather than call, call rather than e-mail, and e-mail rather than IM because I just think that the personal touch gets lost, particularly in today’s technologically advancing environment. I’m striving to meet individually with groups of employees across all functions so they understand that there’s a leader that believes in this and lives and breathes it every day and drives home the value that we should be focused more on client-centric benefits rather than function.

How do you craft your message so people listen and understand?

What I’ve learned over the 25 years that I’ve been doing this is that you have to be passionate and you have to believe in what you do. I sold household items door to door. I believed in the product. I believed then it was a quality product and people got a benefit out of it. When you’re dealing with employees or potential customers, if you don’t believe in a product or a service offering or you don’t believe in your people or your firm, people will see through it. You have to approach it with passion, and you have to be passionate about the delivery, and you got to know the product, and you got to know your audience.

I try to make sure that I know as much as, if not more, about what their needs are and how we can help them. Then break it down into bite-size pieces depending on the complexity of the matter and also the capacity of the individuals that you’re addressing and their knowledge base. And make sure whoever you’re addressing, it’s the appropriate level and that we can articulate the benefits of short-term, midterm and long-term of what we are talking about. I tend to use examples — people can relate to examples that are tangible and they’re recognizable, otherwise sometimes it goes over their heads.

How do you get buy-in?

I was in New York with a client that had traditionally been an audit client. We recently introduced five different new functions, and their board is extremely happy with that, and it gives our people a sense of accomplishment because they’re doing things in a friendly environment because we have an existing relationship. It’s not cold-calling. To the extent you can deliver tangible, real-life examples of where it’s worked, that’s when people grab on to it and get it and get behind it and pursue it with a passion.

It’s communicating to our people that there is a career path and there is a reward system. Those tend to be key to getting people motivated because people tend to follow the money. Making sure that employees understand that there is a clear and definable career path is one of the first efforts that you make to get buy-in because it gives people something to look at and shoot for.

Donnan File:

  • Education:

    Bowling Green State University

  • Resides:


  • Board Service:

    The First Tee of Cleveland

  • Experience:

    Donnan most recently led Deloitte’s audit practice for Northeast Ohio, a group that encompasses more than 130 professionals practicing in external and internal audits, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, information security and privacy, and international financial reporting standards, among others.

    He has been in public accounting for 23 years, all with Deloitte and has served clients in manufacturing, real estate, media and entertainment, and metals and mining. He has particular insight into SEC reporting matters and the broader challenges facing businesses today, having worked with global and middle-market companies on matters related to enterprise risk and mergers and acquisitions.

  • How to reach:

    (216) 589-1300 or www.deloitte.com