4 minute read

Partner POV

Bill Hagaman, CPA, CGMA

CEO and Managing Partner, Withum

Bill Hagaman has been a member of Withum’s management for more than 40 years and specializes in merger and acquisition services and international business. He will transition from his role of Managing Partner effective June 2023. During his tenure as CEO, the firm has grown by six times in revenue and expanded into non-traditional advisory services, becoming the 25th largest accounting firm. Part of Withum’s success lies in its unique culture and team member retention rate.

Withum is well known for its out-of-thebox marketing videos, and you’ve had a large role in them. Where did the idea come from?

It actually came from our marketing team. We hold an annual State of the Firm where the entire firm attends, and it was right after I became CEO, so 2010-ish. To open the event, we were using videos that were still pictures set to music. One of our partners had seen a group lip sync to a Black Eyed Peas song on The Today Show and shared it with our Marketing Director (who is now CMO). She convinced me this would be a fresh approach to our opening video, so that was actually our first video, and we pulled it off. The second was the one that got the most attention — the flash mob in New York City.

How have the culture videos benefited the firm?

It’s one of those efforts that is not easily measurable. You feel it. College and university students have gotten excited about working for us because the videos certainly relay we’re a fun place to work. Our clients have enjoyed the videos, too.

Your culture videos are off the hook. What was it like being a part of all of videos as managing partner?

The way I look at these videos is I’m playing a role for the benefit of our firm, the benefit of our partners, the benefit of our team members. I have said to the marketing team from the day I took this job they should use me as they see fit. They’ve used me in ads and different places, and I’ve often had to go out of my comfort zone to do that and participate.

Public accounting is changing with the shift to advisory services, the rising role of technology and automation, and growing challenges with recruiting and retention. What do you see for the profession’s future?

I think the future is incredibly bright. There is a lot of growth in the country and a lot of new entity creation. Our advisory practice is growing at 35-40% a year, but our traditional practice is also growing in the double digits. We are definitely seeing the traditional compliance practice grow by leaps and bounds. There are huge opportunities for anyone who has ambition, is willing to work hard and has a service mindset. It’s very important we consider ourselves to be in the service business and in service to our clients. That mindset enables us to distinguish ourselves as trusted advisors, which allows us to compound growth.

What factors and traits do you believe are important for emerging leaders today?

I like to follow the servant leadership mindset. Our job as leaders of professional accounting firms is to make our team members successful; to provide that platform for their success, to be entrepreneurs, and to not create a lot of bureaucracy that’s going to slow them down. That is a key to success. The other biggest quality is the ability to see around corners, what’s coming up, what’s next. Have vision, create a strategy that will fulfill that vision, then execute that strategy. One benefit of Withum is that we’ve had a marketing person since 1989 or 1990. We were an early adopter of hiring marketing professionals. We’ve always done better than most of our competition, and I credit a lot of that to investing in our marketing team.

Interview by Katie Funderburk