Steven Harris, CPA, CGMA

Partner-in-charge of RubinBrown’s Entrepreneurial Services Group and a partner in RubinBrown’s Assurance Services Group in St. Louis.


‘We need a conversation about collaboration …’

Forming connections builds trust: Early on, I struggled in connecting with people. To overcome it, I had to open up. I had to let people get to know me. I let my fun side come out, but I also showed my vulnerability. That developed better pathways to connect and helped me build a foundation of trust. I could give feedback, and I received feedback at the same time because I let myself be vulnerable. That built my confidence, and now I'm involved with organizations and getting on boards. I'm not afraid to raise my hand. And that gets you noticed.

Engagement, retention, and maintaining productivity: Flexibility is almost a guarantee now. But we need a conversation about collaboration and engagement and how we make that happen in a hybrid environment. We're fortunate that our people are even more productive in this environment. At the same time, our profession is losing some of the cultural battle — what makes firms unique. Firm culture is, in part, about connecting with people. We're working to find that balance. It's not just the responsibility of the leadership and partners. The engagement piece comes when everyone makes it intentional. A lot of organizations are scaling down their physical footprint. Our firm is considering a similar approach across many of our locations, but we are focused on enhancing the connectivity among our team members and will utilize our new office layouts to make this a priority. I want us to continue to be known as an organization that values our people and the relationships that exist within the firm.

Filling the pipeline: We need [to give young people] a better introduction of what we do and what our profession is evolving into, and we need to do it earlier. Competition is so fierce for career paths. Entrepreneurship is huge. So many young, talented individuals feel they can go out and do it on their own. We need to market the entrepreneurial spirit of our profession. We don't do the best job of telling our story. People see and experience it in internships, but we need to tell the outside world. We must be excited about being in accounting and all the things you can do with an accounting major — show them they will set themselves up to be on a tremendous trajectory.

Recognizing racial justice issues: There's a tremendous opportunity right now to really leverage the current environment in regard to heightened awareness of racial justice issues in this country. Firms can teach our people about what's going on and do self-assessments as an organization. People are looking at who they identify with and what the firm they work for identifies with. Organizations need to be courageous about what they stand for and make statements. Not saying anything says a lot. We also need to be united as a profession. There should be more collaboration to solve some of these issues rather than going it alone. We're not going to win that way. It's not about who's first; it's about how we all finish as we go through this together, trying to open minds and change hearts rather than just get results.

Favorite movie: The Godfather.

Favorite app or technology: OneNote.

Favorite item to travel with: AirPods and phone charger.

— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Virginia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien at


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