Search

Managing Partner, Peter Reilly, Shares How Diversity & Inclusion Helped Him Build A Top-25 Firm


"If you're not a diverse firm, you're not opening the front door and walking outside. Everyone around is very diverse, right? So that checks the box [...] And now, there's the tough part. Are you committed to integrating? Are you committed to creating this vibrant community? And we are, you know, we talk about it all the time."

***


Welcome to 1st Floor Conversations, where the view at the top is only as good as the foundation which preserves it. On Episode 48, we were joined by Peter Reilly. Peter is an award-winning executive and the active President & Managing Partner of Councilor Buchanan & Mitchell, which the Washington Business Journal ranks as the #21 Top Accounting Firm in all of the DC Maryland & Virginia market.

In 40 years at CBM, Peter has played an integral part in growing the firm by positioning CBM as an industry leader, applying effective M&A practices, and taking industry challenges such as diversity & inclusion and making them CBM's competitive advantages.

Background

Peter was born, raised, and resides in Alexandria, VA, with his wife and three children. He graduated from Marquette University. After realizing he wouldn't become an NFL receiver, Peter completed a brief stint in construction and ultimately joined CBM as a staff accountant. At CBM, he became fascinated with the profession of public accounting, "because of the people. You got to meet really strong committed, thinking individuals and, and caring individuals."

Public accounting remained attractive enough to stay 42 years and rise from staff accountant to managing partner and president, completing seven mergers in the past five years. Peter's motivation can be traced to the early realization that there was a path to the chair. He saw the opportunity to run the organization, immediately looking to scale and find a way to navigate the landscape.

Every conversation we've had on the 1st Floor Conversations Podcast has shown the truth in certain fundamentals for building a productive career, scaling organizations, and thriving in the corporate world. It is no surprise Rainmaker Companies named Peter Managing Partner of the Year in 2019 because he is extraordinary evidence toward the final thesis.

So what makes a capable managing partner in a professional services environment?

Leadership Focus:

  1. Mentoring & Accountability

  2. Learning from employees

  3. Over communicating

  4. Culture

  5. Integration & Diversity

Mentoring

The state of work has evolved over the years. More specifically, the pace of play has changed and the standards for what employees expect our of their employer have evolved. Until recently, there were no mental health benefits or things like pet insurance. It was a different world. Peter cites mentorship as the differentiating factor that helped him breakthrough from being a grinder to holding a leadership position.

"I say mentoring is huge. And, I was fortunate to have really great partners, older and above me. They gave me an opportunity; they fed me the lines… mentoring me and then also willing to invest in [me]."

Peter took that same mentoring that allowed him to grow in CBM and implemented accountability. So, not only do newbies get mentors and partners get coaches, but each employee receives a personalized plan for career development and education where individual goals are aligned continuously and realigned with the firm's goals.

Consistency, quick action, and a dedicated Director of Professional Development are critical. Peter continued on to share;

"If one thing is slipping… we have some staff turnover or whatever. We got to get mentors reassigned quickly, get up to snuff on what the individual's game plan looks like, implement, and hold people accountable. You know, you've got to have those meetings, so you can advocate for the staff you're working with."

Advocating for staff leads us to the next key differentiator that has allowed Peter to excel with the effective management of a diverse company: the ability to learn from and engage employees.

Engaging Employees

The initial reaction to crisis often shifts to hierarchal management or external consultants.

Few people, when they see a massive shift, look to their employees to lead the charge. Peter made it clear that he understands the adage; people support what they helped create.

As soon as COVID-19 began shutting down business operations across the globe, he looked to his select few virtual employees and asked them to train the rest of the organization on "work from home" best practices. It was so successful that they offered the same training to their clients.

Different people step up and come together in these times. It's up to the management to utilize the diversity to its advantage.

Overcommunicating

Communication is critical if you want to accomplish seven mergers in five years and survive a global pandemic. Peter ramped up communication channels with weekly all staff and industry niche meetings, so people could slow down and stay connected.

It's the ability to overcommunicate that creates a true connection between the people in the company. This connection is going to contribute significantly to whether or not your employees want to come to work. Sequentially, connection breeds culture.

Creating Culture

Great professional development and performance management isn't one size fits all, "it's not so much the system that makes it work. It's how you apply it." Here, Peter mentions "The Infinity Loop."

The Infinity Loop is the result of a study conducted by ADP's Research Institute and Harvard to determine what employees truly want out of their work experience. After surveying a sample of thousands, they found people ultimately want four things:

  1. To feel inspired

  2. A sense of belonging

  3. To feel productive

  4. To feel uniquely valued

The things we expect from our work experience evolve as our life evolves. So, the findings from this study is designed, as it's labeled, as an infinity loop. The infinity loop represents the ongoing, ever-changing journey in and out of the four phases.

"Why I brought up that infinity loop is that it needs constant attention, just like the integration process. The integration process is consistent with individuals, each one of them is different, and they may want to feel value more than pay; they may want to feel a seat at the table… each individual is unique. And you have to take a unique approach on a customized plan for professional development."

Diversity

CBM values diversity in the workplace. Peter considers the company fortunate to have acquired two firms with woman majorities and women partners. Not only do they have female leaders, but they now have female equity partners - which not many firms can say.

"If you're not a diverse firm, you're not opening the front door and walking outside. Everyone around is very diverse, right? So that checks the box [...] And now, there's the tough part. Are you committed to integrating? Are you committed to creating this vibrant community? And we are, you know, we talk about it all the time."

The Wrap Up

Look at the state of the workforce and the society we're navigating right now. If you're not owning, diversity, inclusion, culture, and developing your people, your business will be incredibly vulnerable as automation, machine learning, and AI becomes more streamlined and accessible. CBM is leading and driving that initiative forward. It's because of a decade of work, instilling those values, making sure everybody's on the same page, and doing the hard work.

As always, this is 1st Floor Conversations, where the view at the top is only as good as the foundation which preserves it. And when it comes to scaling a business, building culture, and growing a successful company, it is always about people. In this case, Mr. Peter Reilly has done an exceptional job creating a culture at CBM by abiding by that universal principle and much more.