RubinBrown: One Firm, A Tradition of Trust

At RubinBrown, the key to providing value has been an unwavering commitment to sustaining a "one-firm" culture - a spirit of team work, being your best for others, and a shared commitment to client service.




INTRODUCTION WHAT IS A ONE-FIRM FIRM? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


CHAPTER 2 GROWTH & INNOVATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

CHAPTER 3 ADVANTAGES OF THE ONE-FIRM CULTURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21


CHAPTER 5 CLIENTS BENEFIT FROM ONE FIRM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

CHAPTER 6 A TRADITION OF TRUST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47



What is a One-Firm Firm?

“A one-firm firm strives to achieve the highest levels of internal collaboration and mutual commitment in pursuing ambitious goals.” According to David Maister, noted author and former professor at Harvard Business School, the one-firm firm, as defined above, establishes “a set of concrete management practices consciously chosen to maximize the trust and loyalty that members of the firm feel both to the (organization) and to each other.”

To understand how a one-firm firm is unique, Maister compares it to a “warlord” or “silo” environment, interchangeable terms for a culture that emphasizes “internal competition, individual entrepreneurism, distinct profit centers, decentralized decision-making, and the



strength that comes from stimulating many diverse initiatives driven by relatively autonomous operators.”

Maister explains, “In extreme warlord firms, the productive senior members operate as chieftains presiding over their own territories, coordinating occasionally but fundamentally without a commitment to the institution or each other.” In contrast, a one-firm firm values the individual. “The key relationship is that of the individual member to the organization, in the form of a set of reciprocal, value-based expectations. This, in turn, informs and supports relationships among members…..If an individual is in trouble, the group will expend every effort to help him or her,” says Maister. For firm success, one of Maister’s maxims is to respect both the past and the future of the organization and its people. As a firm with a great understanding of its past and a strong vision for the future, RubinBrown’s mission is to inspire team members as well as help clients build and protect value, while at all times honoring the responsibility to serve the public interest. At RubinBrown, the key to providing value has been an unwavering commitment to sustaining a “one-firm” culture – a spirit of teamwork, being your best for others, and a shared commitment to client service.


Chapter 1

H arvey Brown was in his late teens as a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis when he met a fellow fraternity brother and business school classmate, Mahlon Rubin, who was a few years older and had just returned from serving in the Air Force in World War II. As fraternity brothers, Harvey and Mahlon got along well but were not close friends, and in a lot of ways, they couldn’t have been more different. Founders’ Values & Vision for One-Firm Culture

Tall and lanky, Harvey played forward on the Washington University basketball team, had an outgoing personality, and made friends easily. In contrast, Mahlon, a former state champion wrestler at 112 pounds from East St. Louis, Illinois, was small in stature, but possessed an imposing personality, steadfast determination, and unlimited ambition. His nickname from his wrestling days was “Grappler.” It also aptly described his approach



RubinBrown: One Firm

to life and business. The nickname stuck with him throughout his life (although sometimes shortened to “Grap”). After graduation, Harvey and Mahlon went their separate ways, working for different small local accounting firms. At their respective firms, they focused on completing the requisite three years of experience before taking the CPA exam, according to professional requirements at the time. Neither


Harvey nor Mahlon had the opportunity to work for what was then one of the Big 8 public accounting firms because those doors were closed to Jews even though Mahlon had finished at the top of his class in accounting at Washington University. A few years later, by coincidence both men ended up working in the same downtown St. Louis office building on Chestnut Street where a chance meeting one day in the elevator sealed their destiny. At the time, Harvey was still working at the same firm he had started with after college, but had recently decided to start his own practice. While excited about the prospect of building his own firm, Harvey was also concerned about having enough business to make ends meet for his young family. Ironically, Mahlon had recently started his own practice, sharing office space (but not clients) with Sidney Gornstein, whom he had connected with at a meeting of World War II veterans, and needed some part-time assistance. Mahlon proposed that Harvey could earn


Founders’ Values & Vision for One-Firm Culture

additional income by helping Mahlon part-time while building his own practice. Within a couple of years Mahlon and Harvey formalized their partnership, and Sidney Gornstein joined soon after. In its first year in 1957, the firm of Rubin Brown & Gornstein (RBG) recorded revenue of $13,000. The early years were tough but invigorating. All of the founders’ wives helped out during tax season, and each year, the firm was more profitable than the year before. Business was steady thanks to many friends, relatives and word-of-mouth referrals. While Mahlon tapped into his network of contacts in East St. Louis who owned small family businesses, Harvey became actively involved in a number of local Jewish organizations where he was able to make new connections. Serving small, independent and family-owned businesses sustained the firm and its growth for several decades.

Until the late 1970s, most of today’s commonplace marketing practices were forbidden by professional ethics. Consequently, Harvey and Mahlon pursued a networking strategy, becoming actively involved in the St. Louis community and the profession. In 1969, RBG was the only St. Louis firm accepted as a member of CPA Associates, a nationwide organization of small, local firms. Membership in CPA Associates exposed the firm to new ideas and different ways of doing business. It opened their



RubinBrown: One Firm

eyes to a fresh new perspective that created a strategic advantage for the firm. This included adopting innovative practices such as creating a formalized list of new client prospects, starting a client newsletter, and developing client seminar programs. Most importantly, Harvey and Mahlon learned to appreciate that CPA firms could do things differently and still be successful. What is evident from the stories of the firm’s early years is that Harvey and Mahlon did not allow the size of the firm to constrain the size of their ideas. Although Harvey was naturally more easygoing and may have been satisfied with remaining a small, local firm, Mahlon, the former WWII veteran and champion wrestler, had plans for growth.

From the beginning, although they didn’t know it as such, Harvey and Mahlon embraced a one-firm culture in which every client was “our client” instead of “my

client” and everyone contributed to one bottom line. The importance of fully embracing a one-firm culture struck home in a major way in 1974 when the firm’s co-founder, Sidney, suffered a fatal heart attack while presenting his opening remarks at the firm’s first annual tax seminar. While his sudden death stunned Harvey and Mahlon as well as the rest of the firm, all of the clients that Sidney represented chose to remain with the firm because they felt the other partners already knew them and their businesses.



Founders’ Values & Vision for One-Firm Culture

As the years evolved, RBG thrived by emphasizing open communication, trust, common language, and flexibility, as well as preventing separations between business units, often called “silos.” The results were good for business, yielding faster execution of strategies, better decision making, and stronger team dynamics. True to a one-firm culture, Harvey and Mahlon built a culture of teamwork in which business units were mutually supportive and had the flexibility to collaborate and respond to change. Stronger cross-organizational collaboration created greater value firm-wide, as well as an enhanced total client experience. Perhaps most significant in setting the stage for what now is known as RubinBrown’s one-firm culture was its appreciation for the value of the firm’s internal team. While recognizing that every individual is unique, the partners knew that anything was possible when everyone worked together. In a memorandum outlining long-range plans for the firm dated November 20, 1973, Mahlon Rubin wrote, “The perpetuation of this firm depends upon the development of young people with management ability. It is essential that we bring energetic, young and bright people into the firm...and continuously attempt to improve the quality of staff with continuing education and a diligent effort to continually motivate people.”


RubinBrown: One Firm

As the firm grew, its one-firm approach was enriched by a set of core values, which was formally adopted in 2000. Unchanged to this day, the core values are proudly displayed in every room and office across all RubinBrown locations. The firm’s reputation depends on adherence to these core values: 1. Superior Quality and Service 2. Devotion to the People of RubinBrown 3. Teamwork 4. Objectivity and Integrity 5. Competence

6. Devotion to Our Community and Profession 7. Innovation and Continuous Improvement 8. Vision 9. Having Fun


Founders’ Values & Vision for One-Firm Culture

With one firm as the foundation, RubinBrown’s nine core values are etched into the minds and hearts of every team member who is committed to achieving their personal goals through the firm’s continued growth and success.

Today, RubinBrown is proud of its one-firm culture. While the firm has a superior ability to select the right team members, markets, and services, its strength depends on its rigorous adherence to high standards through the consistent application of clearly stated values. Everything RubinBrown does is aligned with its one-firm culture.


Chapter 2

Growth & Innovation

D uring its first four decades, RubinBrown enjoyed steady and positive growth of clients, the firm’s bottom line and its reputation. Business owners and finance executives relied on RubinBrown as their most trusted business advisors. In 1975, RubinBrown had grown to nearly 40 team members. The firm more than tripled its number of team members by 1985 and by the mid-1990s was a dominant force in the St. Louis business market with nearly 200 team members.

Mahlon Rubin appointed Jim Castellano to succeed him as managing partner in 1989. Jim credits the foundation and values that were shaped by Harvey and Mahlon as the key to the firm’s sustained growth over the years. The founders believed that Jim’s keen leadership abilities and humble excellence made him the logical choice to serve at the helm.



RubinBrown: One Firm

The first decade of the new millennium proved to be a turning point for RubinBrown in terms of growth and expansion. Jim Castellano’s role as chairman of the AICPA from 2001 to 2002 had enhanced the firm’s credibility and visibility nationwide. In addition, RubinBrown gained access to different markets as the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 took effect. Among other provisions, Sarbanes-Oxley required new auditor independence rules which mandated that the

same firm could not handle both audit and consulting services.

It did not take long for RubinBrown to take advantage of the changed landscape. As the largest independent public accounting firm in St. Louis at the time, RubinBrown was able to attract talented professionals from Arthur Andersen who wanted to join a well-known and highly regarded firm, albeit a local one, with high professional standards. Their experience and expertise provided RubinBrown the unprecedented opportunity to expand into consulting, which paved the way for significant growth for the firm. In addition, the firm was able to attract many new large audit and tax clients. Everyone benefitted from the influx of talented senior-level professionals who joined the firm, yet it took time for some of them to adapt to RubinBrown’s one-firm culture since it was a departure from their background and training.


Growth & Innovation

“ Having spent many years at a large national firm, I wondered why RubinBrown was always talking about its culture so much. It took some time to adjust to the RubinBrown culture, including fewer layers of management. The big difference at RubinBrown is that everyone helps and trusts each other. ”

Partner, 15 years of service

“ Coming from a Big 4 firm, it was a challenge not to refer to ‘my client,’ because I still felt personally responsible. But I found I could still create ownership by structuring the best team, assembling the best resources, and having the flexibility to work together to problem solve. ”

Partner, 8 years of service

One RubinBrown partner who joined the firm from Arthur Andersen describes how Andersen initially adhered to a one-firm culture.

In fact, Arthur Andersen internally discussed the concept of a one-firm culture as early as the mid-70s, and having a one-firm culture became a cornerstone of the firm. At that time, all of the practice areas shared a common earnings pool, and there was no measurement of earnings by individual unit, which drove a firm-wide spirit of cooperation.


RubinBrown: One Firm

But in the late 1980s, Andersen’s one-firm culture began to disintegrate, in large part due to the emergence of the firm’s consulting business. That development led to individual performance measures, group-specific income reporting, and other reforms designed to encourage competition among individuals and business units in order to drive earnings. In addition to being divisive, the emphasis on individual performance, ambitious earnings goals, and sustained growth led to short-term thinking and taking undue risks. The rest is history. In contrast, RubinBrown has been able to sustain its one-firm culture by not allowing a drive for increased earnings to shape the character of the firm. Even as it has grown and expanded, RubinBrown has steadfastly resisted reporting earnings by office or service line. While the firm does have established metrics and values individual accountability, it has remained focused on the firm’s growth and success as a whole.

In the early years of the new millennium, RubinBrown focused on expanding services and areas of expertise, which was consistent with Mahlon Rubin’s memo from 1973: “Our clients expect more and better service from us. The innovative firm will continue to grow. We must not retreat to the familiar routine. Future success will depend on expanded services.”


Growth & Innovation

However, by 2004, RubinBrown’s leadership decided it was time to do more than expand services and expertise, it was time to expand geographically. While expanding geographically could potentially challenge the one-firm model, firm leadership believed that the benefit expansion offered of increasing growth and leadership opportunities for team members was worth the risk, and that the firm’s culture was up to the challenge.

The initial expansions, which involved merging with other firms, required first identifying firms that embraced a one-firm culture. In Kansas City, RubinBrown merged in 2005 with Henderson, Warren and Eckinger. Mergers in Denver followed, first with Saltzman Hamma Nelson Massaro LLP in 2010 and with Bondi & Co. LLC one year later. In contrast, an expansion into Nashville in 2015 involved relocating an existing RubinBrown partner to develop a specialty office to serve the real estate industry throughout Tennessee.

“ Having a one-firm culture limits our ability to merge with firms that don’t practice a one-firm philosophy. Cultural fit is essential. ”

Partner, 28 years of service


RubinBrown: One Firm

“ The change to RubinBrown’s culture wasn’t that dramatic. RubinBrown was very sensitive to the needs of our clients. Clients did not see any differences other than added expertise. The merger helped us pick up new clients that would not otherwise have been accessible to the Kansas City office. ”

Partner, 11 years of service The process of becoming part of a multi-office one-firm culture varied greatly in each market. While the newly merged firms welcomed the additional resources and access to new clients and colleagues, accommodating different technologies and internal operating systems was not always easy. Ultimately, however, a shared commitment to a one-firm system helped overcome these obstacles.

“ Despite taking a couple of years to truly bring our firms together, most of the Denver management group now feels a greater sense of collaboration and believes we can move mountains together. Trust and belief in the one-firm culture are the key factors. ”

Partner, 6 years of service


Growth & Innovation

The way people act and relate to each other across offices, industry groups and services lines demonstrates the effectiveness of the one-firm culture on a daily basis. “ St. Louis was working on a merger and acquisition project for a company in Kansas and subsequently won the audit work, which led to additional assignments for the business advisory services and tax teams. We were able to involve our Kansas City tax professionals. ” Partner, 5 years of service By continuing to emphasize and reward teamwork and collaboration rather than individual accomplishments, RubinBrown has been able to maintain high standards and distinguish itself in the marketplace.

“ One firm doesn’t come naturally for all people and sometimes requires coaching. But, in the end, it makes us formidable competition. ”

Partner, 14 years of service


Chapter 3

Advantages of the One-Firm Culture

A djusting to a one-firm culture may be easier for those who join the firm out of college and haven’t been exposed to any other workplace environment. But for those who join RubinBrown from other firms, the difference of a one-firm culture is immediately noticeable. That difference may manifest itself during an interview when a partner says, “RubinBrown is not concerned about what clients you may or may not bring with you. We are most interested in the expertise and leadership skills you can bring to the firm.”

On a day-to-day basis, a client situation or need for specific information brings home the practical advantages of a one-firm culture. Typical situations might involve spending a couple of hours on a phone call with a colleague from another office who has a question, or responding to a firm-wide outreach in support of a special project.


RubinBrown: One Firm

“ A real estate client in Kansas City is regarded as a client of the firm’s entire real estate group. Several RubinBrown partners and managers in multiple cities across the audit, tax and consulting departments serve the client in an integrated way. ”

Partner, 32 years of service RubinBrown’s one-firm culture inspires everyone to grow through shared experiences in an entrepreneurial, open, caring, and family environment. The one-firm culture creates opportunities to learn and grow for every team member. Those opportunities facilitate development of talent and enable individuals to learn and advance, which benefits the whole firm.

“ RubinBrown is devoted to developing talent. We all work to ‘Be Our Best For Others.’ Everyone is genuine and cares about each other and about our clients. ”

Partner, 13 years of service


Advantages of the One-Firm Culture

“ RubinBrown’s individual focus on career development is unlike other firms I have worked for. I feel that the partners here are dedicated to my success and work closely with me to help me grow through continuous coaching, opportunities for growth technically, and leading by example. ”

Manager, 3 years of service This team focus is distinct to a one-firm culture. In contrast, as Maister relates: “Warlord firms succeed when management keeps the ‘big hitters’ happy and productive. The environment at these firms tends to be politically charged, and a great deal of management energy is expended in modulating that charge.”

“ At the national firm where I worked previously, you always wanted to look better than the other guy so you could get assigned to a ‘show’ client, usually a public company, because there was a greater opportunity for more visibility and higher compensation. ”

Partner, 5 years of service


RubinBrown: One Firm

“ At my previous firm, self-interest and protecting the silos trumped the best interests of the firm. For example, sharing of generic memos or audit templates across audit engagement teams was frowned upon. Not only did this reduce the efficiency of the engagement teams who were constantly reinventing the wheel, it also discouraged sharing of best practices and technical improvements across teams. ”

Manager, 6 years of service

Many are surprised to discover how entrepreneurism thrives in a one-firm culture with the lack of internal competition.

“ As part of our entrepreneurial culture, we’ve remained flexible about changing business units. Over the years, as needs have changed, new business units have been added and others have been merged into larger units. ” Partner, 28 years of service While RubinBrown’s one-firm culture stands out among professional services and consulting practices, as well as other industries that operate under more of a “warlord” or “silo” culture, the one-firm model is not without its challenges. It is dependent upon its partner group to consistently live the firm’s values by delegating responsibilities, developing future leaders, and bringing value to the firm while providing exceptional service to clients.


Advantages of the One-Firm Culture

“ One firm can make accountability difficult. You have to have some metrics and some individual accountability. It’s important to find ways to make winners of as many team members as possible. Conversely, one firm and teamwork can’t be allowed to hide individual shortcomings. Leadership is essential—seeing past the statistics into the true nature of performance. ” Partner, 14 years of service In an atmosphere of “humble excellence,” where compensation is based primarily on group versus individual performance, everyone works across business lines and focuses on what is best for the client. This compensation philosophy is based on reinforcing performance and results that have the most impact on helping to achieve the firm’s (rather than an individual’s) objectives. It is essentially based on trust.

The willingness of RubinBrown team members to be their best for others and help one another underscores the firm-wide commitment to embracing a one-firm culture. While most day-to day situations involve short-term collaborations, there are some notable exceptions that test and stretch the collective strength and resourcefulness of a one-firm culture. Two client examples highlight


RubinBrown: One Firm

how team members have come together to achieve significant success in accomplishing a client’s objectives, as well as reinforcing the power of our one firm culture. In the final stages of Anheuser-Busch Company (AB) being acquired by InBev, Anheuser-Busch hired RubinBrown’s Wealth Advisors to manage an early retirement package it was offering to thousands of employees nationwide. The project involved large teams traveling to Anheuser-Busch locations across the country, presenting on wealth management basics and the specifics of the retirement package being offered, and then meeting one-on-one with any AB employees that desired additional information. In addition, all of it had to be done within a matter of weeks.

“ We embrace and see one firm as the right model and are happy to put the firm’s interest before our group’s own interest. We help teams and lead teams, so we have a broader approach to solutions. It’s all about what’s in the best interest of the client. ”

Partner, 25 years of service As the contract was being finalized, only two weeks remained until the project was to begin. Although the firm’s entire Wealth Advisory group comprised only 10 professionals and could never undertake such a large project on its own, the firm’s


Advantages of the One-Firm Culture

management team determined that with some training and coaching it had sufficient internal resources and talent to meet the challenge. To some degree, it was a leap of faith. RubinBrown had never undertaken a project of this scope and magnitude. Leadership announced a firm-wide call for volunteers to assist on the assignment and received an impressive response, particularly considering that everyone understood that working on this project would be in addition to their existing workload. The entire project needed to be completed in September, which posed challenges in meeting the annual mid-September tax deadline for corporate clients. The one-firm culture was the prime factor in keeping everyone focused and motivated despite the challenges. Training sessions were held to educate a group of team members who would do the presentations. In addition to learning the details of the retirement package and reinvestment plan options, they were coached on presentation and

interpersonal skills. The latter were required for one-on-one meetings that could become very emotional for the Anheuser-Busch employees who were losing their jobs. Fortunately, as an independent outside firm, RubinBrown could reassure those employees that it was focused only on helping them.


RubinBrown: One Firm

More than 70 team members from all geographic offices helped tackle the assignment – which included presenting local seminars in 24 regional markets coast to coast, meeting face-to-face for 30 minutes to an hour with each of more than 2,000 employees who were being impacted. A key component was the firm’s internal resources, which required managing a complex travel schedule for each of the 70 team members who spent an average of only two days in any location – all within a compressed 30-day timeframe. Aside from a few missed flights due to weather and airline-imposed situations, team members completed the entire project on time, on budget and without significant glitches. Manager, 12 years of service In a warlord or silo culture, colleagues recruited from other offices might have considered the extra work an inconvenient interruption that would not add to individual compensation or office revenue. However, because of RubinBrown’s “ The more quickly people understand one firm the stronger the organization will be. Working as one firm is key to being successful. ”


Advantages of the One-Firm Culture

one-firm culture, the project turned into a tremendous team-building opportunity as everyone rallied to support the special assignment as well as each other. At the end of the day, everyone firm-wide appreciated the strength of the one firm culture and knew the team could achieve anything.

The satisfaction felt by team members who had devoted countless hours and overtime was shared

by the client. RubinBrown sent surveys to measure client satisfaction with the seminars and one-on-one sessions upon completion of the project. Scores ranging from the mid- to high 90s on categories such as knowledgeable presenters and thorough, easy to understand information confirmed the success of the team in exceeding client expectations. Another example of one firm at its best was the State of Kansas audit engagement. Within a few days of establishing a Public Services Sector Group in the Kansas City office, a Request for Proposal arrived inviting the firm to bid on a three-year audit for the State of Kansas. Although members of the group had experience in audit and consulting for clients in the public sector, including state and local governments and special purpose government entities, the size and scope of this project exceeded anything ever done before.


RubinBrown: One Firm

The first hurdle was internal. While all agreed it was a tremendous opportunity, the competition included larger firms with more local resources, people, and expertise. There also was a lack of consensus within the firm that RubinBrown was big enough to win the contract or even rise to the challenge of completing an audit calculated to require 10,000 hours on time and on budget.

Ultimately, the firm decided to submit a bid and won the contract, despite being the smallest firm among the competition.

As the team prepared to tackle the work, they recruited approximately 40 team members from the firm’s offices in Kansas City, Denver and St. Louis for project orientation and training. Although most of this team had never worked together before, the group implemented a variety of strategies and tactics that were aligned with the one-firm culture and enabled them to maximize internal resources. This included making sure that at least one member of the management team would be present and working side-by-side with every on-site team for the duration of the project.

“ Every client has different needs, and our ability to identify those needs and assign them to different people sets RubinBrown apart. ”

Partner, 11 years of service


Advantages of the One-Firm Culture

While the team successfully provided seamless service to the client, the project challenged the firm’s work-life balance over the course of the three-year audit. In addition to the demands of the audit, which required constant travel back and forth across the state, team members also continued to work on previously scheduled engagements. The team did its best to find creative ways to have a little fun and at the end of the program, they had a new appreciation of the depth of resources and talent within the firm. At the end of the day, the project tested the resolve of a one-firm culture in which everyone shared responsibility. Ultimately it resulted in an appreciation that RubinBrown’s one-firm culture had played a major role in creating a bonding experience for the entire team, as well as the project’s success. “ Our group may not always have the answers, so we tap into other areas. We might just need to talk with someone in another office by phone for a couple of hours. There are no egos. We just do what is needed to help each other serve our client. ” Partner, 17 years of service Upon completion of the project, RubinBrown not only met the challenge of a 10,000-hour state audit, but the quality of the firm’s work has had long-lasting benefits in positioning the Public Services Sector Group to continue to be selected by other states for work with government agencies and state universities.


Chapter 4

T rue to RubinBrown’s one-firm culture, everyone shares resources and there are fewer layers of management than in other comparable firms. Cross-functional teams work together, and more than one partner is involved in every client engagement. While it may be the norm for professional services firms to measure profit and loss (P&L) by service lines and industry groups, RubinBrown’s one-firm culture exemplifies a firm wide commitment to collaboration with a single P&L for the entire firm. In fact, the very absence of P&L by office is a key attribute of one firm. Competing in the Marketplace, Not in the Hallways


RubinBrown: One Firm

“ At my previous firm, there was a lot more emphasis on P&L by office with each location evaluated against the others. If I helped another office or practice area, they were required to reimburse me for my hours. Managers isolated certain staff and made them inaccessible to other groups. An individual’s level of responsibility was directly tied to P&L. ” Partner, 9 years of service

“ My previous firm espoused a one-firm culture, but within limits. We were one legal entity and offices shared earnings. But P&L results drove compensation and we were measured by local office, by region and by partner. There was no sharing of staff or resources because everyone needed to take credit for as much revenue as possible. ”

Partner, 14 years of service RubinBrown believes that having one P&L inspires excellence. Team members achieve their personal goals through the success of the firm because they are rewarded for the firm’s performance as well as their own, not for personal ambition. The firm also embraces transparency, providing financial details to all team members through regularly scheduled team events like the annual Team Member Update.


Competing in the Marketplace, Not in the Hallways

Every office participates equally in the firm’s unique matrix structure that works across service lines and industry groups. This approach lessens competitiveness between individuals and offices and perpetuates the one-firm culture, thus avoiding internal competition. “ We accomplish more as one firm – new business and new clients without ‘I did this or that.’ With so many people involved, there is no way to isolate individual performance versus the whole group. ”

Team Member, 8 years of service

“ The entire firm benefits because team members can focus on competing in the marketplace, not in the hallways. ” Partner, 43 years of service While RubinBrown’s service lines plan how they’ll grow across industry groups, the industry groups also plan ways to grow across service lines. In this way, all team members receive credit and are lauded for helping their respective groups achieve their objectives.


RubinBrown: One Firm

RubinBrown’s long established compensation system takes into consideration the overall performance of the firm, as well as each service unit and individual team member. In addition, compensation is based on providing quality service to ensure totally satisfied clients. Other factors that are weighed heavily include: mentoring and developing other team members, living the firm’s core values and the one-firm culture, using all the resources of the firm efficiently and effectively and contributing to the firm’s increased profitability and growth.

“ The caring, collaborative environment takes the stress out of working here. Trust is the most important attribute that makes it work. People have to trust they’ll be appropriately recognized, rewarded and compensated for working across business lines. ”

Partner, 11 years of service

“ One-firm culture requires trust, especially among partners and managers. When partners and managers trust the one-firm culture, there is a trickle-down effect. People achieve their personal goals through the success of the firm. ”

Manager, 6 years of service


Competing in the Marketplace, Not in the Hallways

RubinBrown’s one-firm culture can also sustain the firm during tough economic times without jeopardizing its ability to serve clients with the most talented team of professionals.

“ When you practice as one firm you don’t experience peaks and valleys as severely. In the 2008 recession, management didn’t take increases to their base compensation so staff could

receive pay increases. We didn’t cut staff or rescind offers like some firms, and the profit-sharing contribution was not cut. The decisions we made then are really paying off today. ”

Partner, 17 years of service

“ We do not have formula-based compensation. Everything is heavily weighted on the success of the firm overall. This works well in a cyclical business environment where some business units have boom years and others have had busts. ”

Partner, 14 years of service


RubinBrown: One Firm

As Maister wrote, “Most one-firm firms run judgment-based compensation programs (with a studied avoidance of formulas). As always, the key to successful functioning of the system is agreement on values and ideology. This is because a successful compensation system requires trust: The members must believe that the compensation decisions are made by colleagues who have the firm’s best interest as their only agenda.”


Chapter 5

R ubinBrown’s commitment to “totally satisfied clients” is secured and protected by every team member. Underlying that commitment is a realization that the best way to ensure totally satisfied clients is to inspire team members to provide quality service. Clients Benefit From One Firm

With an emphasis on giving clients an exceptional experience, RubinBrown combines top notch technical and industry

experience with relationships that establish a true business partnership with clients. Often a single partner has primary responsibility for maintaining the relationship with a client and serves as the main point of contact for the rest of the RubinBrown team. Even so, all clients are considered “firm clients” with direct access to a second partner and


RubinBrown: One Firm

a team of professionals. This client-centered focus ensures delivery of the most innovative products and services.

“ We talk about one firm with clients. For those that have complex needs, we demonstrate that we have the necessary resources. In the past few years our larger clients have become more aware of one firm as we demonstrate it by bringing more resources to their companies. ”

Partner, 17 years of service

As Maister says about firms employing the one-firm concept, “Individual members who are rewarded through the overall success of the enterprise are more comfortable bringing in other parts of the firm to both win and serve clients with complex multi-disciplinary or multi-office matters.”

“ One firm manifests itself in three ways – serving clients, serving team members and serving the firm. Any time a client needs multiple services, one firm proves its value. ”

Partner, 43 years of service


Clients Benefit From One Firm

While all clients benefit from RubinBrown’s culture, many also understand and appreciate the value of a one-firm culture and respond positively when individual team members support rather than undermine their colleagues. For example, when RubinBrown was competing for a new client with another accounting firm, a partner from the competing firm asked the CFO for the prospective client, “Please make sure you

call me, personally, with any new projects so that I can get the credit.” The CFO later told RubinBrown that he was predisposed not to employ a firm where the emphasis was on the individual instead of the firm, so RubinBrown was awarded the work. With a business model based on relationships, ensuring client satisfaction is key to the firm’s success. Toward that end, team members frequently solicit input on the quality of the firm’s service during meetings and interactions with clients. In addition, RubinBrown periodically conducts in-depth surveys with questions ranging from satisfaction with the services and resources being offered to the level of responsiveness and the performance of specific partners and team members. If issues are identified, they are addressed immediately and changes are made.


RubinBrown: One Firm

“ The steadfast dedication of our clients, some of whom have worked with us for our entire existence, is a key to our success. This devotion can be directly attributed to our commitment to totally satisfied clients. ” “ If a client is unhappy we don’t think twice about changing a relationship. We do what’s best for the client and we do it seamlessly. ” Partner, 34 years of service Client planning meetings are held for engagements and all resources of the firm are considered in order to provide the best service. The one-firm approach can be a differentiator for clients who understand that RubinBrown is meeting their needs in a coordinated way. Partner, 28 years of service

Because RubinBrown has many different partners and areas of expertise, the firm works hard to make sure clients get the best team.


Clients Benefit From One Firm

“ If partner A brings in the business, he or she might hand it off to partner B if it makes more sense. With one firm, there’s no concern over who will get the credit. ”

Partner, 17 years of service This approach to client service is in stark contrast to the experience of some RubinBrown team members whose workplaces prior to joining the firm did not expose them to a one firm culture.

“ At my previous firm, there was no emphasis on ‘superior client service.’ Rather, we were only expected to get the job done right and accurately. We did not need to blow them out of the water, and often we never even met the client at all. ”

Manager, 6 years of service

“ It didn’t matter if you had specific industry experience, at my previous firm you were expected to just do the work so you could get the credit. ”

Partner, 14 years of service


Chapter 6

A Tradition of Trust

T rust, stewardship, and succession planning are hallmarks of RubinBrown’s one firm culture and vision for the future. These qualities permeate everything from inspired team members to totally satisfied clients. When team members put trust in placing the good of the firm above their own personal ambitions, the individual rewards exceed expectations.

During its first 60-plus years, RubinBrown has had only three managing partners – Mahlon Rubin, Jim Castellano, and John Herber. Each contributed a unique set of experiences, talents, perspectives, and management styles, but none wavered from the founding principle of trust that has grounded and guided the firm since its inception.

As noted author Stephen M. R. Covey asserts in his book, The Speed of Trust , the four principles


RubinBrown: One Firm

of trust are integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. According to Covey, integrity and intent reflect character, capabilities and results are tied to competency, and all four are necessary for credibility. “The ability to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and coworkers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy,” writes Covey.

Similarly, RubinBrown views its attention to succession planning as a critical component of trust. Having started out serving small and family-owned businesses, the firm’s founders experienced first hand what could go wrong without trust, succession planning and decisions made in the best interests of a company or firm. “ The future looks very bright because we have so much young talent and they will help us achieve our vision. ” Partner, 43 years of service Because the firm is organized along service lines and industry groups, members develop significant expertise and knowledge. Not only does this contribute to retaining talented staff, it also provides a means of natural succession, encouraging future leaders and retaining knowledge and relationships when partners retire.


A Tradition of Trust

In RubinBrown history, there are only ten partners, excluding the founders, who have spent 30+ years at the firm (including retired partners Ed Deutch, who is deceased, and Dan Bindler). Today, eight of these partners are still working for the firm: Steven Brown, Jim Castellano, Steve Hays, Mark Jansen, Judy Murphy, Greg Paulus, Ken Rubin and Jeff Winter. They continue to be their best for others and work together with all generations to make the firm what it is today.

“ The one-firm culture has made it easier to transition the firm to younger partners who can take our place. When partners are getting ready to retire, a discussion may begin three to four years in advance about how to best transition their client relationships. ” “ Many companies and professional services firms think of succession planning only in terms of their most senior level executives, while our focus is on every single team member within the firm. ”

Partner, 28 years of service

Partner, 19 years of service


RubinBrown: One Firm

RubinBrown’s expansion into new markets has positioned it effectively to compete in the future. A shared vision means everyone is heading in the same direction regardless of title or specialty. It’s about serving the client, not the individual…and being your best for others. And, just as the one-firm culture has guided the firm’s past, it will remain an over-arching principle for the firm’s future and its team of stalwart supporters.

“ A willingness to share is a key to one firm. An organization performs better long-term when there’s a sense of a team. Every team member in every department is valued, including our top-notch operational and support team members. ”

Partner, 17 years of service

“ Because of one-firm, we feel we’re stewards of the firm and have a duty to leave it better than we found it, so it will succeed in the future. ”

Partner, 43 years of service

More than six decades ago, Mahlon Rubin, Harvey Brown and Sidney Gornstein shared small office space in St. Louis and ultimately formed a


A Tradition of Trust

partnership. From day one, every client was “our client,” and every decision was guided by what was best for the firm. Despite not having a label, it was the beginning of a one-firm culture that is now the lifeblood of the firm’s DNA.

Today the one-firm culture is fully embraced by RubinBrown’s more than 500 team members in multiple cities across the United States.

The one-firm culture has enabled the firm to grow over the past 60 years, and it will continue to guide the future of the firm and its people.


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