June 2016: London Accountant speaks to Philip Haberman, Senior Partner and Founder of industry-leading forensic accounting firm Haberman Ilett.
Whatever it is, people seem to respond to it. During his time as partner at EY, Philip came to know Frank Ilett, himself a partner at Deloitte. When the pair founded Haberman Ilett in 2013, Philip found himself being approached by former colleagues electing to leave the security and prestige of EY to join him at his start-up.
He talks about colleagues like family. Indeed, as he points out: “You spend more time with colleagues than with your family, so they’re relationships to nurture.”
Philip Haberman should not be confused with a sentimentalist however. He does not shy away from removing employees who are not contributing to the success or wellbeing of the firm. One person can have a very big impact, particularly in a practice of Haberman Ilett’s size. Should he see potential in an individual, however, he is quick to give them support, opportunity and responsibility, reasoning: “What better way for them to learn, and to find out what they’re capable of?”
It is no coincidence then, that Haberman Ilett takes training and development seriously. It is keen to invest in its people. So far it has sponsored three employees to attend ICAEW Academy’s Women in Leadership programme (WIL), which supports women aiming for senior management, partner or board roles, and one employee to take part in DLiP™, the Academy’s partner development programme.
“ICAEW Academy’s programmes have a real long-term benefit for individuals,” Philip affirms. “The participant meets a group of external peers who see them as a leader, and this helps them to feel like a leader.”
The Haberman Ilett founder believes that in order to be an effective partner, you have to feel like one. “Real self-belief is fundamental to success in a business environment,” he explains. “I need my team to go to their clients and tell them what they need to do with absolute conviction. WIL and DLiP™ build people’s confidence. I’ve seen the difference in employees: they come back from the programme with a belief in themselves, and it resonates with clients.”
WIL’s particular strength, as Philip sees it, is that it focuses on the participant’s assets, seeking to refine and craft their individual leadership style. He adds that its mentoring component is particularly powerful: “It can sometimes be hard to change the views of those who know you. A stranger is more objective, and you start from a position of strength, with no baggage.”
As for DLiP™, Philip declares: “It’s great that ICAEW is supporting small firms. Learning from other people is so valuable; you gain so much insight from other people’s experience.” Nor does the peer-learning end when the programme ends: the relationships formed over the course of this long-term and intensive training tend to be lasting, and continue to bear fruit years later.
When asked what he would say to people who are worried about the cost of these programmes, he replies: “I was pleased to sign them off because it sends a really positive message to the individual: that they’re worth it. It says: ‘We have confidence in you, your judgment counts.’ Everyone can see it’s not a box-ticking exercise. It gives them a sense of empowerment and creates a positive atmosphere among colleagues.”
Philip concludes: “If you consider the value these programmes bring to the individual and the firm, they pay for themselves. They help people move from one career stage to the next, and getting people ready for leadership secures the future of the firm. That’s return on your investment.”
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