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ACCOUNTING SPOTLIGHT – Business Casual Firms teaching staff the personal approach to communication

Heather Weber, partner, ParenteBeard.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Heather Weber had noticed the disconcerting trend for quite a while.

As a partner at ParenteBeard, she often saw firsthand how the younger accountants at the firm communicated with clients — and she knew there was plenty of room for improvement.

“More and more of our younger staff are going about dealing with clients just through email,” said Weber, who is based in the firm’s Clark office. “It’s important — we stress with everyone — that you talk to them and show them that we’re real people.”

She’s not the only one at ParenteBeard who felt that way. And it’s just one of the reasons why the accounting firm started its LEAP program — short for Leadership, Entrepreneurism, Achievement at ParenteBeard — which provides two years of instructional classes and seminars that help its employees do their jobs better.

Here’s the catch: The program is not built around the typical number-crunching side of the business. It’s all about communication.

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“We had ‘How to do an elevator speech,’ so that when you meet new people or new clients, how’s the best way to come across in selling yourself,” Weber said. “And we also had formalized projects where we had to give a formal presentation in front of a large group.”

The program was created by John Park, principal at ParenteBeard, which also has an office in Cherry Hill.

Participants meet four times a year, starting in May, for two- or three-day meetings. And they always meet away from the office. Park feels the change in environment is essential to allowing members to focus on the business at hand.

“We get everybody away from everything and really focus on learning and leadership,” he said.

Here’s how it works:

Accountants are often paired up in groups, given a case study and asked to present a response. This sort of hands-on learning allows for practical application in a controlled environment.

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