The Buffalo Niagara Partnership represents nearly 2,000 members and a quarter of a million employees in the Buffalo Niagara region.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Rocco Surace, Partner with the firm, to learn more about what they do and why they’re happy to be a member of the Partnership.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I’m eager to learn more about The Bonadio Group and your relationship with the Partnership – but before we get started, I wanted to congratulate you on being ranked No. 50 on the list (released by Accounting Today) of the 100 largest CPA firms in the country.
A: Thank you, Julia.
Q: So, tell me a little bit more about your firm. What’s the mission of The Bonadio Group?
A: Our mission is to serve our clients with the best quality and efforts that are humanly possible. We always try to go the extra mile for our clients by listening to their needs and desires, and providing them with excellent customer service.
We are now likely the largest firm in upstate New York, with more than 500 people. With our 150 people here, we are a Buffalo firm; we’re Buffalo people and we take care of Western New York.
It’s the synergies of a large firm that enable us to serve our clients better, with many areas of expertise we can call on. So, we say that we have big firm capability with a small firm personality.
Q: I love that slogan. So, how long have you been a member of the Partnership?
A: Well, our membership under The Bonadio Group name might only date back to 2010, but I am the former managing partner of Gaines, Kriner, Elliott, which was a Partnership member for years, back when you were still referred to as the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Bonadio and I had been talking about possibly merging for quite some time and we decided to go forward to see what it would look like. As we met, there was never a reason to go back and say “no.”
We realized there were a lot of synergies in joining together, so we merged in November 2013 – not out of necessity, but rather out of opportunity to both become better and stronger.
Q: Since the merger, what benefits has The Bonadio Group received or experienced through its membership?
A: We belong for a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is the Partnership is an organization that helps unify a single voice for matters of great significance to our area – everything from Unshackle Upstate, to elections, to the well-being of the business community. The Partnership is clearly the leading organization of that effort.
Similarly, the strength of the advocacy initiatives and efforts comes from the strength of the members – the business community. A healthy business community means a healthy environment for jobs and for growth.
What we want is to be fair – to allow businesses to sustain themselves, to be profitable, and grow. Then you throw the educational and networking opportunities on top of that and you have a very good forum to interact with the rest of the community. There is nobody as fully regional as the Partnership.
One of the things that is important to us, and we want to do more of this, is providing our young people with avenues to learn how to network and become involved in the greater community, not just at their employer.
The Partnership enables our young accountants to take the next step in their careers and personal development to get involved with the business community.
Q: It’s great to hear how passionate you are about providing young professionals with opportunities to get involved in the community. We actually blogged about the importance of doing so last week! So, what current challenges or opportunities do you face that you think the Partnership might be able to play a role in?
A: We see a large opportunity in becoming involved in the Advanced Manufacturing Council and look forward to seeing how we can further support the manufacturing community.
One reason why I’m a big believer in the manufacturing industry and council is due to the multiplier effect – every $1 invested is spent at least four times over, and long term manufacturing means good jobs and better benefits – especially when a business is doing well.
I think that’s what the manufacturing council is all about. They are trying to reverse years of a bad reputation and turn it into a positive spiral, which by the way, I think they have!
Things are getting increasingly better and that is why we are excited to be a part of that now.
Q: We are happy to have you involved! Are there any recent accomplishments that you’d like the community to be aware of? For example, I know you recently had an office move and were also rated as one of the top 10 firms for woman.
A: Yes, that’s correct. We recently did some remodeling and we had the opportunity to take over the rest of the floor at 100 Corporate Parkway, so we will soon be moving all of our employees under one roof at that location.
Similarly, we recognized a long time ago that we would be foolish to not recognize the growing number of women in our profession and make sure that they realized they have equal opportunities. We feel strongly about everyone being treated equally, so we are very proud to be recognized for that.
This recognition is all about the professional development of our people along with our results – we have a large number of female partners who have risen through the ranks.
Bonadio & Co. has a history of being nationally recognized as a Best Place to Work as rated by our people. That was another great synergy we had, as Gaines, Kriner, Elliott was also consistently rated as a best place to work.
I think that speaks to how important we think our employees are. It’s not an effect to buy happiness; it’s about being successful, responsible and having fun. We recognize that to have fun, you need to treat your employees and your clients well – it’s a focus on all three legs of the stool: leadership, employees and customers.
Q: I agree. So, can you tell me a little bit about your decision to become the presenting sponsor of our Advanced Manufacturing Council? As one of the founding members of this council who helped us get to where we are today, what would you say you’re most excited about in regards to this opportunity?
A: Just to be back with the group! Timing is everything and we are looking forward to being involved as the presenting sponsor. We have a lot of experience with manufacturers – we know their pains and opportunities, so we are excited to be back with them.
Q: Are there any other current opportunities for employment or involvement with The Bonadio Group?
A: We’re always hiring. With 500 people, that’s a continual process.
I have a group that I’m responsible for to serve our commercial clients and we are currently looking for two experienced hires in the commercial world – everything from supervisory to management level.
Q: That’s great. So, what benefits are you most looking forward to experiencing in the upcoming year through your involvement with the Partnership?
A: The benefit comes from the networking. The more people we get to know, the more encouraged I get and the more doors it opens. The networking aspect is huge.
We say that we are a big firm with a small firm personality, and that’s really what Western New York is. You don’t need to go through six degrees of separation here.
As you go out there and know more people, you are at an advantage to be able to help other people and it’s a win for everybody. That’s what we are about – building up the business community to be stronger, and we accomplish that by building relationships.
It’s great working in a relationship-based environment where everybody has an opportunity to win: our clients, our people, our firm, the business community and all the people who work there who in turn support the rest of our community – it’s quite the positive spiral.