An Inside Look at How Friedman LLP serves its fashion and jewelry customers best with a motivated workforce
“Happy accountants make for happy clients.” That’s the driving force behind Friedman LLP’s people-centric philosophy. We sat with Harriet Greenberg, co-managing partner and leader of the Fashion and Diamond & Jewelry Practices, and Michael Sacco, partner in the firm’s Fashion Group, to learn how this mid-sized accounting and advisory firm’s award-winning culture motivates employees and expands its client base.
Despite its size, Friedman delivers impactful results with its more than 450 professionals. The firm provides services associated with the Big 4 and represents clients ranging from domestic manufacturers and importers of consumer goods, including apparel, textiles, home goods, accessories and beauty products.
But the key factor that differentiates Friedman from other accounting and consulting firms is the close and long-lasting client relationships, the result of a commitment to serving their staff as well. Friedman has been honored for its corporate culture by New York SmartCEO and its regular ranking among the “Best Places to Work” across the accounting industry and in all regions where they operate.
“Our people are happy and do a better job. They’re more interested in the client’s success and are more available for our clients’ needs. It’s a culture of giving, responsibility and client service. That was true 90 years ago and it’s true today,” Greenberg says.
The firm was founded with practices in fashion and real estate in 1924, and then rapidly entered the jewelry sector. Friedman is an approved auditor for sightholders of DeBeers, one of the world’s premier diamond mining companies.
“Our clients are some of the largest jewelry companies in the world. Financing and financial transparency are the top two issues impacting the industry and we give clients credibility in both those markets,” Greenberg explains. Friedman is an accredited auditor of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which establishes standards and practices for human rights, environmental impact and other issues.
Friedman’s specializations include a robust China practice focused on bringing Chinese companies public in the U.S. capital markets, and an SEC practice for U.S companies. The firm also has a substantial forensic litigation and valuation practice, as well as dedicated professionals who advise on complex state, local and international tax issues.
With the enormous growth of digital currency such as Bitcoin and Blockchain, Friedman has positioned itself on the forefront of this emerging industry. “We’re one of only a handful of firms to be in that space,” Greenberg says. “We’re not looking at what happened 10 years ago. We’re looking at what’s going to happen 10 years from now.”
The fashion practice has grown as well, adding expertise in import distribution and other services. The firm’s Fashion Service Network, membership grants access to elite providers to fashion industry clients, including banks, factors, attorneys, and logistics. “Our expertise goes beyond apparel,” Sacco adds. “Our services apply to any product that’s manufactured or imported and distributed,” including electronics, food and beverage, and more.
But the real value Friedman brings is the personal relationship the clients develop with the senior management and associates at the firm. The goal is more than just to track income and expenses but to provide strategies that will help clients become more profitable. Partners pick up their own phones and are available to clients as needed—it’s typical for a Friedman partner to email clients about opportunities and trends based on the previous day’s business news.
“We strive to be a valued adviser and business consultant to our clients that goes well beyond compliance work. Relationships are what define our business,” Sacco says. “We’ve helped clients obtain financing, identify third-party logistics companies to work with, consult on tax structure and streamlined client operations.”
Friedman boasts one of the highest retention rates in the industry by promoting a number of employee-centric programs that contribute to its award-winning culture. During the summer, Friedman closes its offices on Fridays, giving the staff long weekends, with the proviso that the client must always be served. Hours are flexible so that staff can accommodate family needs, and personal time off is liberal. And the dress code is basically to wear what’s appropriate for that day; jeans are find if no one is seeing a client. Employees frequently share glowing firm reviews and first-hand experiences on human resources websites such a s Glassdoor.
These practices offer opportunities for the next generation of financial professionals at Friedman, which is known for retaining its employees.
“When I joined Friedman two years ago, I told Harriet I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever leave the firm. The firm has a sense of trust in their employees. A lot of firms preach work-life balance, but Friedman lives it,” Sacco says.
Friedman’s focus on personal empowerment extends to its philanthropic effort and giving back to the community. Such efforts include supporting various causes such as Cradles to Crayons Ready For School Campaign in Philadelphia, the Timothy J. Piazza Memorial Foundation and Multiple Sclerosis Society. It also publishes white papers and holds webinars on business topics to educate its clients.
“Our employees and their families rely on us, as well as thousands of clients,” Greenberg says. “We’re not going to disappoint them.”
CPA, PFS, Co-Managing Partner