From the earliest days of his career, several mentors played pivotal roles along Bruce Zicari’s career path that led him to the CEO position at The Bonadio Group. The lessons he learned from each of these role models continue to inspire, influence and shape his leadership approach and priorities at The Bonadio Group. At the top of the list? People and culture.
Bruce’s focus on people and culture traces back to his years with his family’s small accounting business. Upon graduation from Syracuse University in 1990, Bruce interviewed with the Big Four accounting firms but decided to join Zicari and Co. instead. He became immersed in the practice and business of accounting, especially how to relate to people and bring in new clients, by working with his grandfather and father.
“Most importantly, they taught me how to build relationships and that respect is the key. My grandfather used to say, ‘You’re better than nobody and nobody is better than you,’” Bruce says. “The value of respecting and focusing on each individual really stuck with me.”
Bruce also observed first-hand what it takes to be entrepreneurial from his grandfather, who started Zicari and Co., and his father, who left the firm in 1995 to start the restaurant franchise Cheeburger Cheeburger. Bruce then took over the seven-person Zicari and Co., which served small businesses. Bruce met Tom Bonadio in 1996 and six months later merged his company with The Bonadio Group, with Bruce joining as a principal.
“Tom was a mentor in many ways, involving me in the management of the firm from day one,” Bruce says. “He provided me with opportunities to grow and encouraged me to create my own opportunities.”
With his small business client experience from Zicari and Co., Bruce initiated Bonadio’s Small Business Advisory Group, which is now a $23 million practice. He also founded the Bonadio Leadership Academy, started the company’s former payroll services division, and was involved with numerous strategic projects.
“I came here 23 years ago with a small practice. Thanks to Tom Bonadio’s guidance and the firm’s willingness to let me take on new responsibilities, I’ve had incredible opportunities and gained tremendous experience by working with such talented colleagues,” Bruce says. “Now, I’m looking forward to similarly supporting our people in achieving their career goals through our culture of purpose, promise, opportunity, and growth.”
Over the next five years, The Bonadio Group intends to double in size, expand its footprint, offer new and expanded services, and provide more professional growth for its people. The direction for achieving these goals and a clear vision are included in Bonadio’s five-year strategic plan, which will roll out at &More Day in June.
“Because &More Day is such an important part of our culture, it’s the ideal venue for introducing the strategic plan,” Bruce says. “While the strategic plan provides the roadmap, it’s the combination of our people and our culture that will take us where we want to go.”
Bonadio’s culture reflects the firm’s purpose, which is to provide opportunity, strengthen community, and inspire growth. Indeed, opportunity and growth are what The Bonadio Group is all about, and the two go hand in hand with Bonadio’s purpose.
“We believe that great things happen when we deliver on and stay true to our purpose,” Zicari says. “There are incredible opportunities for our people because we’re always growing, and we’re always growing because we’re always investing in our people.”
Those investments take many forms, such as providing employees with the best technology and technical training to help them stay ahead of the digital curve. Professional growth and development programs include Bonadio University, which allows employees to self-select a curriculum based on their interests and career path, and the “Maximizing Your Career” series of eight webinars through Upstream Academy. The firm is also bringing in two of the accounting industry’s top change-management experts, Sam Allred and Gordon Krater, to present a three-day change-management course for team leaders.
In addition to providing top-notch training and development, Zicari says the key to Bonadio’s culture is its emphasis on the growth and success of each employee. The firm puts a strong emphasis on understanding an individual’s interests and aspirations in order to provide tailored resources and support based on that input.
Among the innovative ways The Bonadio Group will bring this individual-centric approach to life is through a formal mentoring program that will roll out as a key initiative of the five-year strategic plan. From day one, every person in the firm will be connected with a partner who helps with career planning, serves as a sounding board, and provides other guidance. To ensure they’re well-equipped in their roles, partners participate in training on how to be an effective mentor.
“As someone who benefited from mentors in my career, I’m excited about the positive impact this program will have for our people,” Bruce says.
Underscoring his commitment to each individual’s growth, Bruce recently visited all of the firm’s offices to talk about the new strategic plan and the opportunities that each person has at Bonadio, including the benefits of being a partner and what it takes to get there.
“It’s all about helping each employee develop and follow a path from where the person is now to wherever he or she wants to go,” Zicari says. “We want people to think entrepreneurially about creating opportunities for themselves and pursing what they love.”
Encouraging individuals to follow their unique path means embracing flexibility and creativity. For some employees, flexibility might mean moving into nontraditional areas of the firm or transitioning from one team to another as ways of gaining new experience. For others, it could be a truly customized work schedule. The firm also provides unlimited PTO as another way it demonstrates its commitment to supporting the unique work-life needs of each individual.
In fact, “maintaining balance” through features such as unlimited PTO is one of several shared core values, along with people, respect, opportunity, integrity, service “& more,” and entrepreneurship, which contribute to another guiding principle of the firm’s culture, the Bonadio promise: At the Bonadio Group, we promise to deliver the highest-quality business advice to individuals and organizations by consistently exceeding our clients’ expectations in the tradition of our “&More” philosophy and by providing our people with a rewarding professional environment. In doing so, we create business growth opportunities for our clients and professional growth opportunities for our employees.
“Through our culture, we’re saying to each employee, ‘You’re already good at what you do; we’ll give you the tools to make you better,’” Zicari says. “Our goal is that our people are happy and really want to be here.”