Advisory, technology and accounting firm Withum recently held its annual State of the Firm at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Team members from all over the country gathered to hear the latest updates and projections across advisory, tax and audit services as well as firm operations.
As is tradition with the event, Withum debuted its highly anticipated culture video, announced its Strength Award winners and hosted a cocktail reception for team members.
Different this year, however, is that the event kicked off the firm’s yearlong celebration for its 50th anniversary, which is officially March 21.
Pat Walsh, managing partner and CEO, moderated panels of firm leaders in a new fireside chat-style format that gave attendees a front-row seat to conversations and insights about the future of Withum relating to artificial intelligence and technology, talent and strategic growth.
“I’m proud to continue our longstanding tradition of our entire team gathering in person to interact and build on the personal connections that are the foundation of our firm culture,” Walsh said. “As Withum has grown, it is traditions like our State of the Firm that keep our entrepreneurial spirit and small firm feel intact.”
The milestone anniversary theme was prominently displayed within the culture video and the décor at NJPAC.
“We were especially excited about this year’s planning,” Rhonda Maraziti, Withum’s chief marketing officer, said. “It offered the opportunity to interview several legacy partners, including two of the firm’s founders, in order to identify and create a timeline spanning five decades, which pinpoints the key people and events that made an impact along Withum’s growth journey.”
The annual video, “Our Culture, Our People: Withum Celebrates 50 Years!,” was created as a parody of the famous Billy Joel song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Using the timeline created by Maraziti, the video’s song lyrics were written and performed by Withum’s Seattle-based team member Matt Swanson. Viewers take a journey through time, recapping both world and Withum history as team members display workplace and street fashions in decades from 1974 to 2024. Founders Ivan Brown and Len Smith introduced the video, featuring team members from over 15 offices and work-from-home locations.
“We dug into our archives and utilized tech hardware that our IT team kept from our past,” Matt Basilo, senior interactive marketing manager and project lead, said. “We also used our vintage swag and past logos to really replicate what our offices looked like in those time periods. It was a blast recreating our work hard/play hard mantra over 50 years, honoring our ‘special culture before it was a thing.’”
Additionally, a special tent was erected at the venue, in which installations, such as the 20-foot-by-11-foot timeline wall of key moments and photos, were displayed. Several screens played past culture videos, along with photo montages of each decade, featuring Withum team members, offices, events and leadership throughout the years.
One of the fireside chats led by Walsh included Brown, co-founder and former managing partner from 1989-2009, and Bill Hagaman, former managing partner from 2010-2022. The trio of MPs discussed the firm’s growth journey throughout the years, and the importance of “putting our people first,” referencing the strong culture that has endured.
“I was thrilled to help start the celebration of our great firm’s 50th anniversary with the Withum family at this year’s event,” Brown said. “It’s incredible to think of what Fred, Len and I started so many years ago, how many people we’ve impacted, families that have been raised at the firm, and how much we’ve touched business communities across the country. The success of Withum should be credited to its team members — the State of the Firm is a celebration of that, and I am honored to be part of it.”
(Brown references the late Fred Withum, the third founder, who retired in 1987. The firm was once known as WithumSmith+Brown.)
Withum’s Strength Awards winners were also announced. The program celebrates individuals and teams for living the “Withum Way” in and out of the office. Team members nominate each other for their exceptional efforts and remarkable results in outstanding client service, promising leadership capabilities, exceptional community service efforts, innovative mindsets and more.
This year’s Strength Award winners are:
- Administrative Strength: Stephanie Riley, office manager, Los Angeles;
- Bill Hagaman Emerging Leader I: Breea Boylan, senior accountant, Whippany;
- Community Strength: Mylarappa Vannale, senior accountant, Bengaluru;
- Emerging Leader II: Mike Markgjonaj, manager, New York;
- Frederick S. Withum Outstanding Achievement: Kevin McElgunn, senior manager, Philadelphia;
- Innovative Strength: Alex Holderbaum, senior manager, New York;
- Ivan C. Brown Withum Way: Albert Leech, partner, San Ramon;
- Leonard. H Smith Strength of Client Service: Rob Schneider, senior manager, Whippany;
- Marketing Strength: Judy Doyle, senior manager, Red Bank.