Employees’ Choice Awards: At Collins Barrow, ‘We have each other’s back’

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As a public accounting firm and a training office for students preparing for careers as chartered accountants, Collins Barrow recruits many of its employees straight out of school.

Collins Barrow has won its fourth Employees' Choice Award.

By Jacob Serebrin

For many, it’s their first professional job, which makes training an especially important component of creating an engaged workforce.

“It’s more than just professional development,” says Ken Tammadge, Collins Barrow Ottawa’s managing partner. He notes every new employee is encouraged to find a mentor to “help them make good career decisions.”

That early-stage HR investment pays dividends down the road. According to Mr. Tammadge, several of the company’s current partners worked at Collins Barrow early in their career, left for a period and gained other experience outside the firm before eventually returning.

“It’s very telling,” he says.

Because the firm is constantly hiring, first impressions are important.

“We want to make them comfortable from day one,” says Mr. Tammadge.

Communications is also an important factor, says Rosa Maria Iuliano, a tax partner at the firm.

“We try to set that tone at the top,” she says. “That this is a good place to be and a fun place to be.”

Ms. Iuliano says the company works to support its employees’ work-life balance by letting employees have flexible hours.

“Balance doesn’t mean that every day is the same,” she adds. Because the company’s work is deadline-oriented, employees can take some time away from the office if needed provided they meet their deadline.

We have a really genuine concern for our clients and our staff. Rosa Maria Iuliano, tax partner at Collins Barrow Ottawa

As well, all of the clients have multiple contact points at Collins Barrow, so that if a particular staff member is out or can’t be reached, the client will still get help.

“We have each other’s back,” says Ms. Iuliano.

She points out that this attitude applies to everyone at the firm. “It’s not hierarchical; we work together as a team.”

Part of that is thinking of the first partners as colleagues, rather than bosses.

“A long time ago, I said, ‘I work for so-and-so and I was corrected, ‘You work with them.’”

Collins Barrow

Founded: Predecessor firms go back 51 years; operating as Collins Barrow since 2003

Employees: 105 in Ottawa

ECAs: 4

What they’re doing right:

Focus on career development and mentorship

Team attitude

Supports work-life balance

Geographic location: Ottawa

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