The non-partner track Featured

9:02am EDT February 27, 2003
While achieving partnership with an accounting firm is considered a mark of prestige and a key to higher earnings, at Wilke & Associates, no one is interested in becoming a partner.

Instead of a partnership track, Wilke & Associates has adopted a structure of compensation that rewards accountants strictly on the basis of hours worked, individual seniority and the firm's overall profitability.

Its eight full-time and six part-time employees receive no paid vacation or sick days. Instead, they are paid for each hour they work, which creates an incentive to put in extra time during tax season, when their number of weekly hours may increase by 50 percent or more. During slow periods, they can take time off as it suits them.

When the firm's profits reach a predetermined point, incentive payments kick in for employees according to a formula based on hours worked and seniority.

"It encourages people to stick around, and the people who do stick around get rewarded," says David Wilke, managing partner.

Wilke says the design came out of a desire to compensate employees based on their individual efforts and by taking into consideration the experience that employees had at other accounting firms.

"We listened to our employees and their comments about other firms they had worked at," says Wilke.

Wilke says employees wanted flexibility in their schedules. At other firms, employees worked long hours during tax season, yet were required to keep a regular schedule even during slow periods. At Wilke & Associates, employees can work as much as they like during tax season, then apportion their time off as they prefer.

Employees who want to guard against a loss of income that would come as a result of an extended illness can purchase short-term disability insurance. Wilke & Associates also offers a health plan for employees who desire it.

Wilke says the structure makes it easier to budget for expenses and reduces administrative tasks associated with tracking vacation or sick time.

"There's never an administrative moment spent on a sick day," he says.

But while it may work for his firm, Wilke acknowledges that the arrangement won't work in every case and for every employee.

Says Wilke: "Anyone that's looking for a free ride will never make it." How to reach: Wilke & Associates, www.wilke&associates.com