See beyond the numbers

What does a CPA firm have in common with Apple and MIT?

Steve Jobs convinced Steve Wozniak to help him start Apple Computers in the mid-1970s.  He knew there had to be a better way of doing business in the field of technology.  The success of Apple is built on his vision.

Put People First
Fourteen years earlier in 1962, two other innovative entrepreneurs also set out to change the way of doing business in their industry.  Jim Kaufman and Jay Rossin envisioned a CPA firm that was truly different from the others. They wanted to build a workplace where people wanted to come to work. If employees feel joyful, challenged and fulfilled, they believed, they’ll provide the best possible service for clients.  This vision led to profits and growth for the business, now in its 50th year.

Share the Vision
To realize his goal, Jobs assembled people who shared his vision and values.  At Kaufman, Rossin & Co., that common purpose is the basis for a strong company culture.

“For optimum success and power of people in an organization, you must have goals and values that are clearly defined and commonly shared with a culture that supports it,” Kaufman told 300+ team members at his recent semi-annual seminar. 

Pixar's atrium

The central atrium at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California

Foster Personal Connections
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s famous Building 20 became known as one of the most innovative spaces in the country.  Completely by happenstance, the building’s design and amalgam of experts promoted collaboration.  Walls were torn down and offices were constantly shuffled around to make space for more big thinkers during World War II.  Professors of all disciplines mingled with students in the long corridors of the building. People interacted, shared, and created like nowhere else! 

Jobs also saw the power in fostering personal connections to spark creativity and serendipitous problem-solving. As CEO of the budding animation studio Pixar, he designed the company’s headquarters with a central atrium housing essential services, so employees would meet, interact and brainstorm.

Likewise, Kaufman, Rossin’s main office in Coconut Grove encourages employees to meet in the central kitchen, gym, community center and other common areas. These chance meetings spark conversation, creativity and collaboration.

While modern technology makes it increasingly easy to communicate via email, text and social media, Kaufman reminded employees that there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions when it comes to developing and nurturing valuable personal connections with co-workers, clients, and other members of the community.


Lisa Cawley Ruiz is a brand journalist at Kaufman, Rossin’s Miami office. Kaufman, Rossin & Co. is one of the top CPA firms in the country. Lisa can be reached at Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.

See beyond the numbers

It’s all about the people!

Jim Kaufman put it best at this morning’s How to be a Best Place to Work seminar when he used the words “caring”  and “culture” to describe what makes Kaufman, Rossin & Co. a perennial winner of Best Place to Work awards.   He should know — he’s the real architect behind the employee-focused CPA firm that keeps clients satisfied by putting their people first.  For nearly 50 years he’s made sure that the firm never loses sight of  Joy at Work, one of its core values.

Marketing principal Janet Kyle Altman, HR Director Joy Batteen and the firm’s benefits broker, Sean Dugan from the Hays Companies, gave some tips that other companies could learn from.

  • Compensation is not the only factor that motivates employees. It’s  important, but only to the extent that you’re competitive in the marketplace.  Use salary guides for your industry (staffing companies often provide them) or to see where you stand.
  • Traditional Benefits should be customized to employees’ needs as much as possible.  Some benefits brokers provide Total Compensation Reports that help employees recognize the value of the benefits you’re offering.  If you have a cafeteria plan, make sure you educate employees well – some are afraid they’ll lose their money — and consider offering a debit card that helps make it easy to use.
  • Non-traditional benefits are where you can create a really special workplace.  At Kaufman, Rossin these include everything from our annual Weight Loss Contest and on-site gym to the firm’s fully stocked kitchen and subsidized yoga and massage.  Go to a Kaufman, Rossin party and you’ll see all levels – from managing partner to administrative staff – truly enjoying themselves together.  These special features create real camaraderie.
  • Community involvement helps build good feelings within the company and outside.  Kaufman, Rossin believes it should extend to all levels, and encourages all employees to get involved in causes they care about.  The firm demonstrates its support by budgeting an annual community contribution fund, and lets employees at all levels submit requests.  And of course big community events like the Corporate Run are fun, healthy, and good for the community.
  • Professional Development is an area where we get a lot of positive feedback.  Since 2006, Kaufman Rossin University has provided employees with opportunities to learn technical skills, technology, management techniques and even “life” skills.  We’ve taught everything from PowerPoint to Poker, Management to Music Appreciation, and much more.  For several summers the firm has offered voluntary Leadership programs for employees at all levels who want to be future firm leaders.  One year our Innovation Challenge (modeled on The Apprentice) created buzz, teamwork, and great new ideas for the firm.
  • Leadership is at the core of a Best Place. This isn’t something you can fake, or drive solely through HR.  Through open communication daily and semi-annual seminars that show all staff how the firm’s future is unfolding, Kaufman, Rossin keeps our leaders in touch with employees, and our employees looped into the vision.


Janet Kyle Altman is marketing principal for Kaufman, Rossin & Co., and responsible for many of the management and leadership training programs the firm offers.  She can be reached at

See beyond the numbers

Why in the world is an accounting firm attending SXSW?

As you’re reading this, I’m hopping on a plane to Austin, Texas. Why? I’m attending the biggest, most innovative, tech-savvy, social media and interactive conference in the nation – South by Southwest (SXSW)!

You may have heard of SXSW, as it refers to one of the most popular music festivals in the country. I will be participating in the 5-day interactive and film portion. Each day of the interactive and film section is filled with media-rich content relating to technology, social media, metrics, mobile apps, web development, forecasting and much, much more! This information is presented via panelists, speakers, workshops, book readings, organized meet-ups and social gatherings. It’s actually an incredibly overwhelming process just to prepare for this social highlight of the year! Each day  has programs that run from 8am to well past midnight including the film premieres. Sessions for each day are organized by topics, time and location (Austin Convention Center and participating downtown hotels). But within each allotted time frame, attendees must choose from one of the 30 – 40 different presentations to attend – all very useful and interesting! See for yourself by clicking here to visit the SXSW schedule. The conference ends with the Interactive Awards which has been phrased as the “Grammy’s” of social media. After all, Twitter and Foursquare were launched at SXSW!

So you may be wondering… why in the world is an accounting firm attending SXSW? Shouldn’t Kaufman, Rossin & Co., one of the top CPA firms in the country, be participating in conferences relating to accounting, tax, audit, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), etc?  While these conferences reap tremendous value for our accountants at Kaufman, Rossin, we also want to see beyond the numbers.  Our firm is dedicated to innovation and providing valuable resources for our clients, prospects and community.

One major way Kaufman, Rossin has embraced innovation is by hiring a full-time social media coordinator – me! The Firm recognizes the importance and value that an online reputation brings to our brand and its ability to strengthen relationships. Therefore, SXSW is the perfect opportunity to learn how to think outside the box and be fueled by the latest tech and social media trends.

I will be absorbing heaps of information within the next week, and I look forward to sharing it with all of you. Be sure to check back for a recap of my experience and some creative ways I’ll be documenting my trip!

Aubrey Swanson is the social media coordinator at Kaufman, Rossin’s Miami officeKaufman, Rossin & Co. is one of the top CPA firms in the country.  She can be reached at Connect with Aubrey on Linkedin. Follow Aubrey on Twitter.

See beyond the numbers

Get your brand in shape for the new decade

New Year’s resolutions about getting in shape, eating healthy or improving your life balance will likely fall by the wayside if they aren’t specific and realistic. Do you want to build strength, flexibility, or balance? Do you want to lose weight or add muscle? Jumping in before thoughtful planning can easily lead to disappointment.

It’s the same thing for your brand. As professionals charting our own careers and entrepreneurs managing our businesses, let’s look forward: What will the new year and new decade bring? How will I tone up my brand?

There are, of course, many factors we cannot control. But, as Regis McKenna wrote in the Harvard Business Review twenty years ago, Marketing is Everything, and assessment and planning of your brand strategy for the new decade is time worth spending.

What do I mean by brand?  Branding is a word that has been overused, poorly defined, and misunderstood for years. My good friend Jann Sabin defines it well.  She says “A brand strategy is a long range plan for the brand i.e. what the company stands for, how it’s different as a company, what the corporate culture reflects, what it will and won’t do. If the company were a person, this would be the description of the person who may evolve over time, but has certain core traits that remain.”

So what’s your brand, and what’s your strategy for strengthening it in the next decade? To assess, you’d ask yourself:

  • Who are we and what makes us special?  What are our values, and how do we demonstrate them?
  • Who are our clients, and what are their needs?
  • Who are our competitors, and what are they doing?
  • What are we going to do to stand out in a crowded marketplace?

Here’s a great post that asks you 125 questions – an exercise well worth the time as you start the new year!  I’d love to hear what other tools are out there, and what you’re doing to tone up your brand!

Janet Kyle Altman is marketing principal for Kaufman, Rossin & Co., one of the top CPA firms in the Southeast.  She writes and teaches about marketing, management, and innovation.  She can be reached at

See beyond the numbers

Think innovation’s just another fad? Think again.

My bookshelf is filled with the “latest” business gurus from the 80′s, 90′s and today.  I still have my Pet Rock, and I bet if you have kids you’re completely over Silly Bandz. 

So it’s a reasonable question: is innovation just another fad?  Is it a 2010 buzzword that will be replaced the minute the ball drops on New Year’s Eve?  It sure doesn’t feel that way to companies that have embraced it.  Making innovation part of your organization’s culture can be a real competitive advantage in any industry.   We know it’s true because, after 48 years of success, our CPA firm has made innovation an explicit part of our culture.   It’s taken our thinking to a new level. 

And if you snicker a little when you think of putting the words “accountant” and “innovative” in the same sentence, think again.  Over the last six months our management team has given serious thought to ideas that range from investing in clean energy technology to providing hotelling for startup hedge funds to developing resources that our clients can add to their employee benefits packages — at no cost.

Here’s how we got the bulb to light up.

This summer, as part of Kaufman Rossin University’s Leadership Development Program, we focused on innovation.  Dozens of our employees at all levels chose to participate, and all summer we practiced thinking innovatively.  The 2010 Summer Leadership Program showed once again how the Kaufman, Rossin family rises to an opportunity — and dispells the stereotypes about accountants. 

We started by doing fun things like imagining programming ideas for a new cable channel and strategizing about how superheros would solve business problems.  We practiced team building skills, learned leadership techniques, and developed complete business plans.    Some teams developed with winning business ideas that we will implement.   We’ll benefit significantly from these innovative ideas.

We’ve become an organization that is…choose your metaphor:

  • finding blue oceans
  • thinking out of the box
  • stretching our boundaries. 

And the long-term benefit to our clients, our staff and our principals is immeasurable. 

Inspired?  If you’re interested in learning more about implementing an Innovation Challenge program for an organization of any size — or just hosting a Blue Ocean Strategy seminar, let’s talk.

 Janet Kyle Altman is the marketing principal for Kaufman, Rossin & Co., one of the top CPA firms in the Southeast.  Her responsibilities include training future leaders for her firm, and for clients.  She can be reached at