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8:17am EDT January 30, 2004
Are your employees your best marketers?

If they're not, it might be worth the effort to encourage them to don their sales caps.

Accounting firm Alpern Rosenthal did just that and hit a home run in developing new business, as well as winning accolades for its human resources policies and an award for marketing from a national association of accounting firms.

The World Series of Practice Development, an effort to enlist all of the firm's employees in its marketing effort, has generated leads of more than $250,000 in 2002 and 2003. The firm says it invested $10,000 to implement and promote the program internally.

"Our goal was to involve all types of employees in the firm, not just the accountants," says Elisabeth Leach, a partner and director of marketing for Alpern Rosenthal.

Leach says the World Series of Practice Development was inspired by a similar effort implemented by an accounting firm in another city.

Employees gain points by participating in a variety of activities, including attending networking events, volunteering for a charity, sitting on the board of a nonprofit organization, participating in trade association events or taking a client or referral source to lunch. Points accumulate to earn prizes, including spa packages, tickets to sporting events or items including Palm Pilots.

Some adjustments have been made in the program since it was launched in mid-2001. Point awards for some activities had to be adjusted or capped to accommodate employees in various positions. A support staffer, for instance, would have fewer opportunities to have one-on-one contact with a client, for instance, while a partner would have more frequent direct contact with the firm's clients.

And a partner, for instance, would be limited in how many points he or she could accumulate for participating in some kinds of activities.

Approximately 75 percent of the firm's employees have participated in the program.

To ensure continuity, the firm conducts orientation sessions to introduce new employees to the program. A practice development column in its weekly internal newsletter keeps employees up-to-date on the program, suggests ways to accumulate points and lists networking and professional events where attendance can result in earning points.

As the World Series of Practice Development has reaped plenty of benefits for Alpern Rosenthal internally, it has earned kudos from outside organizations as well. Last year, Alpern Rosenthal received an award for marketing from the Leading Edge Alliance, a national association of accounting firms.

The firm also won a People Do Matter Award, a recognition of outstanding human resources practices among Pennsylvania companies. How to reach: Alpern Rosenthal, www.alpern.com