- August 14, 2015
One aspect stood out a few years ago when John Nicholas and Robert Lane glanced at the employee roster of the $15 million accounting and consulting firm they oversee: The 110-employee firm, according to Nicholas, was Baby Boomer heavy and light on young stars.
Not that there was anything wrong with a business full of experienced professionals, but Nicholas wanted to mold a company for the future, not only the present. So the firm, Sarasota-based Kerkering Barberio, “went on a hiring boom to try and grow leaders,” Nicholas says. “We are trying to create an atmosphere in the firm that is casual yet professional.”
The move seems to have worked. Now, says Nicholas, the firm, which is broken down into a CPA unit, a wealth management entity and a retirement plan consulting company, has about 40 employees under 40. In order to mesh the two cultures, the company combines number crunching with the occasional indoor golf-putting tournament and summer ice cream social.
Most of the Kerkering Barberio employees under 40 say the company has become a destination employer — not the type of firm people work at for a few years and then jump to another company. The core of those employees say one big plus they have found is the ability to make decisions on their own without having to run it through meetings and multiple chains of command.
“We have the flexibility to make our own mistakes,” says Ben Jones, 26, a portfolio manager for Kerkering Barberio Financial Services.
Kerkering Barberio has been recognized locally and nationwide for its workplace ideals and environment. In 2007, it won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Flexibility; it's a national award co-sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for companies that have high job satisfaction and retention rates.
The workplace environment fostered by Kerkering Barberio has also produced some under-40 stars. Belinda Holmes, for instance, is one of the leading local experts in assisting health care businesses and medical providers with complicated Medicare laws and regulations.
Holmes, who speaks and writes nationally on the topic, considers her job similar to that of a white-collar crime defense lawyer whose responsibility is to protect a client from ever even being indicted or arrested. Holmes protects Kerkering Barberio clients from being audited by the federal government.
“It's really fascinating,” Holmes says. “I love what I do.”
That sentiment is shared by many of the younger set of Kerkering Barberio employees, who work out of the company's downtown Sarasota headquarters. Revenues at the firm grew slightly last year, from $14.98 million in 2007 to $15.38 million in 2008.
Another integral aspect of Kerkering Barberio's young workplace philosophy is its commitment to an entrepreneurial spirit. Several employees own small businesses on the side, which they say helps them incorporate real-life experiences into their day-to-day work.
Jennifer Glassmoyer, an auditor with the firm, is one of those entrepreneurs, as she owns a candle company with her husband.
The couple has a prominent booth at the Sarasota Downtown Farmer's Market.
And Patricia Entsminger, a CPA and shareholder in the firm, co-owns Garden Creations, a family business that sells silk flowers and other interior design accessories from a Sarasota storefront. She says working at the store on nights and weekends has given her a front-row seat to the recession.
“It's easy to read about,” Entsminger says. “But when you are living it, it hits hard.”