Commitment to excellence

Larry Blum loves sports, both as a fan of
the world champion Miami Heat and
as an athlete who plays competitive basketball, tennis and golf.

That drive to win pushes Blum to succeed at Rachlin Cohen & Holtz LLP, and he
looks for that competitive spirit in his
employees, as well. The challenge for Blum
as managing partner is to maintain a culture of teamwork and camaraderie as the
accounting and advisory services firm rapidly grows.

“If you have a team of five people, it’s easy
to create a culture and a game plan,” Blum
says. “If you have a team of 210 people, it’s a
challenge.”

Blum has met the challenge by making
attitude a priority over skill when hiring
new employees at Rachlin Cohen & Holtz,
which had 2006 revenue of $36 million.
Smart Business spoke with Blum about
how listening contributes to a healthy culture.

Q: What are the keys to being a strong
leader?

You need a strong personality. Be open
and receptive to new ideas. Give freely to
others. Make yourself available when people need advice and mentoring. Embrace
change. The world today has become so
complicated and is moving at such a rapid
pace that if you stand still, you lose ground.

Listen to people with an open mind. A lot
of people, when they talk to people, they
are not listening. They are waiting for the
person to stop talking so that they can put
their viewpoint forward.

God gave you two ears and one mouth, so
you’re supposed to listen twice as much as
you talk. Everybody has the ability to teach
everybody else something, if you’re really
willing to listen and learn.

Q: How do you empower employees?

Delegate tasks to people and give them
the opportunity to succeed. If they don’t
succeed, you have to give them the opportunity to learn for future successes.

You have to have an immense respect
for everybody in whatever they do in their
walk of life. Whatever level they are in,
you have to show respect. If you do that, I
think you end up getting more from people.

When I walk in, in the morning, I try to
say hello to everybody. I know everybody
by their first name. I try to even know
what people’s personal interests are. If
somebody is not well, I try to check up on
them.

You have to genuinely care about the
people that work with you. I love nothing
more than to help somebody succeed, to
give to people without any expectation of
getting anything back.

I’m not afraid to give credit to people.
I’m not afraid to admit mistakes. If you
show people that you genuinely care
about their success and you are there to
help them and you empower them, I think
they work harder to help the team succeed. A team is only as good as everybody
working together, or its weakest link.

Q: How do you respond to failure?

We’re all going to make a lot of mistakes.
There was the great quote about Thomas
Edison … in 10,000 tries, he was unable to
create a light bulb.

You have Michael Jordan, who got cut from
his high school basketball team and became
one of the greatest basketball players of all
time. He basically said he is never afraid of
failure. What he will not tolerate is not trying.

A good leader is very proactive and not
reactive. He can’t be afraid to make the
change and he can’t be afraid to make a mistake and he can’t be afraid to admit if he
makes a mistake.

You can’t have your people afraid to
make suggestions for change. You can’t be
afraid to react on those. Give credit to people and praise people for taking the effort
to try and make recommendations.

Q: What makes attitude so important?

Attitude is something we control ourselves. You get up in the morning and
determine what your attitude is going to be
for the day.

I tell everybody that every day you should
learn something new, you should be better
today than you were yesterday, and not as
good as you will be tomorrow.

Q: How do you communicate that culture
to employees?

We have orientation programs as new
employees come in. We have outside facilitating trainers and team-building people
work with our organization on a regular
basis so that everybody understands the
team spirit.

We are constantly communicating our core
values and our vision. In our organization,
we try to have a learning environment.

The concept is with everybody having the
right attitude, the right values and the right
understanding of the nature of the team
and the vision, there is nothing we can’t
accomplish.

HOW TO REACH: Rachlin Cohen & Holtz LLP, www.rachlin.com
or (305) 377-4228

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