GROWTH, CHANGE & PROGRESS

Senior partner, Bruce Mair, started his public accounting career at this very firm over 27 years ago, and has worked at this same firm his entire career. Bruce exemplifies the progress of hard work, dedication, and loyalty, and is now senior partner. He has high expectations for himself and his team, while also encouraging a healthy, vibrant office culture and best practices in the best interest of our clients.

A CAREER-LONG PARTNERSHIP

Around the time Bruce Mair started his public accounting career here almost 30 years ago, Michael Shidell was made partner. Mike was about 10 years ahead of Bruce, in age and career. They were the sixth and seventh partners to be named.

CHALLENGING TIMES BRING TRANSFORMATION

Fast forward, after supporting the retirements of Schrier, Kosbab, Cornell, and Kahler, Bruce and Mike were the only parters left, and contemplating adding a third partner specializing in audits, as they both worked on taxes. Julie Richardson had joined the firm working audits in 2009, and four years later, Julie became that eighth named partner.

 

Within the next four years, Mike, the senior and managing partner, established a close relationship with Julie and increased her partnership share at an accelerated rate. At their 2018 summer partner review, as Mike looked ahead to his end of year retirement, Bruce was surprised to learn Mike would be setting new and unprecedented terms for the partnership: Bruce would have to accept all three partners as equals for 2017 and 2018, with no regard for seniority or workload discrepancies.

 

Additionally, upon Mike's retirement in January of 2019, Bruce would have to accept Julie as an equal partner, again, with no regard for seniority or workload discrepancies. If Bruce did not accept their terms, it was suggested Mike would attempt to put the partnership up for sale ahead of his retirement date. Bruce tried to negotiate at a minimum for an hours-discrepancy allocation, which Mike and Julie verbally agreed they would consider but refused to put in writing. He signed the deal under duress and set out to make the best of his new situation. There was nothing he could do: he was outnumbered two to one.

Although the terms felt like a shocking betrayal by his career-long partner and former mentor, Bruce did his best to focus on his own workload and his new position as managing partner once Mike retired. Although Bruce was now managing partner, Julie was extremely sensitive to any hint of inequality or an uneven power dynamic, and made it clear she expected for them to have their own separate spheres of work: taxes for Bruce and audits for Julie. Therefore, for the sake of overall office dynamics, Bruce attempted to have as little overlap with Julie as possible.

 

But when tax season 2019 ended, a majority of the firm's employees made Bruce aware of their extreme discomfort in their work environment. They disclosed that many were already looking for new jobs and made it clear they could not continue to work with Julie. They were in a dilemma: either Julie would have to leave, or a majority of employees would have to leave for work elsewhere. The employees shared that they felt great loyalty to Bruce and did not want to leave him without the staff he needed to run a successful business, but they simply could not continue to work in the office environment as it was.

Fortunately, with Mike's retirement, a large supply of business shares were freed and the decision for how to allocate those shares had yet to be determined. As senior partner, Bruce had the right to take as many shares as he wanted, and with all of them, he would control an interest high enough to terminate Julie's partnership. The wheels were set in motion for major changes. The staff was notified that Julie would be leaving, and they committed to staying with the firm through the transitions ahead and contributing to the creation of a healthy and supportive work culture.

With his retirement from the CPA firm, Mike negotiated to retain his office for one extra year to continue his own separate financial management company.  This meant that even after Julie was terminated effective July 1, 2019, Mike continued to use the office within the firm for his separate business. This situation made more challenges for the staff, but they managed as best they could. For instance, after Julie was given notice of termination, Mike, (no longer a partner, no longer their boss, no longer with any authority over the CPA firm's staff) called the firm's employees into his office to question what they knew about why Julie was terminated. He attempted to learn what they knew about Mike and Julie's relationship and to assert his narrative. This was fruitless, as the employees had many instances of first-hand experience with the two former partners, and had heard from Julie herself more than they ever wanted to know. It was an extremely uncomfortable and inappropriate breach of power and control exerted by their former boss, but they handled it as best they could. It wasn't the first time and wouldn't be the last. 

BREACH OF PARTNERSHIP 

Julie took physical files out of the office as she left. When office staff could not find them, Julie had to send scans back to the firm for them to have the information they needed to transfer their responsibility for their audits.

Mike used the privilege of his retained office access to share inside information with Julie. In at least three cases since her termination, the firm has evidence that Mike accessed internal office documentation and statistics and sent to them to Julie, all done after their tenure with the firm.

Mike also appears to have shopped the sale of his wealth management business by hosting members from competing firms in our office, and now those same firms are attempting to recruit our employees for their own firms.

3570 LEXINGTON AVE N.

SUITE 300

ST PAUL, MN 55126-8077

PHONE: 651-482-1698   

© 2019 Mair & Associates PLLP