Robin Baum has been in the public accounting field ever since she was a college student. Over the years, she hasn’t always wanted to stay in the profession, but something has kept her coming back.
Baum, who today is the managing partner at Zinner & Co., a full-service public accounting firm, at one time didn’t think becoming a partner was a possibility for her.
“Back in the day, there were no female partners, and the thought of actually being able to raise a family and still achieve partnership was something that I don’t think women thought was even an option,” Baum says. “It wasn’t necessarily something that I looked at and said, ‘My long-term goal is I want to be a partner.’”
So when Zinner’s previous managing partner asked Baum if she would step into the role, she couldn’t believe it.
“I thought they were crazy,” Baum says. “I laughed. I thought it was a joke. After I got over the initial shock of it, my question was, ‘Why me?’ There were people with much greater experience, there were people with bigger books of business, there were people that by most measures within my profession would have potentially been better candidates. When I said, ‘Why me?’ His response was, ‘You have the ability to communicate and deal with people.’”
While advancing her career to the top of the public accounting ladder wasn’t an early goal of Baum’s, she did take advantage of the opportunities that came her way.
“I’m somebody who has worked hard and I don’t want to diminish the fact that I’ve worked really hard, but I’ve also been somebody that’s been afforded a lot of opportunities that many other women and people in general may not have had,” she says. “I look at something and if I pose a personal challenge to myself, I’m going to see it through and that’s the definition of perseverance. I hold my bar higher than anybody could hold it for me.”
Although Baum has seen success and has the drive to accomplish what she starts, she has had to deal with self-doubt in her career.
“For me, self-doubt is probably my biggest motivator,” she says. “I wake up oftentimes in the middle of the night because I process issues that are in the back of my mind. When I have something that’s challenging to me, I look at the pros and cons and how I might approach it differently, and those are the times I’m either my own worst enemy or my own best advocate. It’s a fear of not only letting other people down, but it’s also a fear of letting myself down when I put my mind to something. Self-doubt has definitely pushed me to where I am.”
There are occasions when self-doubt can get the better of you or limit how quickly you take on a responsibility.
“If you focus too much on self when you’re being faced with a situation that involves a lot of other people, sometimes you lose perspective of what you’re trying to accomplish,” she says. “In those situations, losing yourself for the better of the organization is important because it can’t just be about me, it has to be about the organization. When you do give in to self-doubt and it becomes more about you and you lose the confidence, it becomes very difficult to put on the happy, successful face if you don’t see that you’re going to be able to achieve that goal. When people are looking for leadership through something that they know is going to be difficult, they’re not going to follow a leader that they don’t think believes in whatever the end game is.”
The key is to find good sources of people to bounce ideas off of and to confide in.
“Not trying to process everything on your own is important,” she says. “You need other people’s input. Secondly, you have to put a time limit on the decision-making process and you also need good metrics defined to measure success. Lastly, you have to trust in your gut. You’ve got to trust in that first feeling that you get. That usually carries me through that I believe in something from the beginning.”
HOW TO REACH: Zinner & Co., (216) 831-0733 or www.zinnerco.com