According to a survey conducted last Fall, only 44 percent of women in the tax and accounting industry agreed that their organization culture supports the elimination of gender bias and encourages dialogue when gender bias is observed.
Part of our collaboration highlights PrimeGlobal women leaders and champions to demonstrate how women are leveling up in the industry through articles and year-long webinars across the globe.
Our latest spotlight article is on Karen Mosteller, Partner at PrimeGlobal member firm Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co., P.A
Purple Porsche Inspires One Woman’s Rise to Accounting Firm Partner
As a high school student and member of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Karen Mosteller was introduced to a woman, who fast-forward would be her boss. Gail Markham, founding partner of Markham Norton et al. spoke at a FBLA meeting about investing in an IRA; following the talk and upon seeing Ms. Markham’s purple Porsche, 18-year old Karen decided her career – she remembered thinking, “whatever she is that’s what I want to be when I grow up.” Young Karen immediately introduced herself to Gail, who then offered her the opportunity to “shadow them at the office.” Upon arriving at the office, Karen was immediately offered a job, and recalls, “I didn’t bring my resume,” because as a member of FBLA, she was taught in her class how to be ready for an interview. Karen was hired on the spot. Through her tenure at the firm, Mosteller started in reception while in high school and worked her way up the ranks and worked across multiple departments within the firm while she earned her undergraduate degree.
"I found my niche in the consulting world… with help of a mentor, before that word was cool” Karen Mosteller, Partner, MNMW
Karen attributes her success to having been able to work with an incredible mentor, Ms. Markham who forward thinking allowed her the exposure to into the diverse world of public accounting. In fact, when she won ‘40 Under 40’ and during her presentation at the award ceremony, upon mentioning her mentor was Gail - Gail began to cry and Karen said to Gail, “How could you not know that?” she recalled. It was through the variety of work at the firm that she discovered her passion was consulting – which lead to her becoming a partner.
Markham Norton is a unique firm, in that it has a majority of women team members and partners - and believes in the development and investing in their team. The firm’s roots began in 1979 when Gail, its founder and talented accountant, was told by the firm she worked for at the time that she would not make partner, and so she set out to create a company where not only she would be partner but where other talented women would have a chance at becoming one as well. It wasn’t the firm intent to only hire women, “I think the world just evolved into more women majoring in accounting coming out of college than men,” says Mosteller. The firm does not exclusively recruit women and has worked with Upstream Academy’s Emerging Leadership Academy. The firm supports new hires from the start by providing a pathway to partnership for those who seek it, says Karen.
Cultivating Entrepreneurial Desires to Retain Talent
Having a team that is motivated and engaged is a key cornerstone of the firm’s success. Karen shares a story of an IT manager who felt restless in his role; he was great at what he did, and one day came in to give his two-week notice. After some discussion the firm allowed him to start his IT business inside the firm! Unusual, yes but “we would rather keep good people and let them be entrepreneurial with the security of us,” she says. Having a culture that exemplifies the importance of team and supporting employees’ vision, when there is a crisis, such as COVID-19 as a firm they are prepared not only technologically, allowing for the seamless transition to working from home but support each other and in service as an extension of their clients’ management team.
Seamless Pivot to Adapt to COVID-19
“We were paperless for 15 years,” says Mosteller. The team was able to seamlessly transition when working from home when required and were able to provide the much-needed help to their clients as they sought their guidance with the PPP and CARES Acts. Navigating 12 to 16-hour workdays were tough as they met all their clients’ demands. Prior to the pandemic, like most firms, the company has a 50-hour week policy during tax season, but they do not require employees to work all those hours in the office and everyone was setup to work from home. When stay-in-shelter took effect their employees were prepared for the transition – with a few needing equipment such as scanners for their home offices.
Being able to seamlessly move towards working remotely, the firm could immediately service clients. As a business owner, “our biggest fear is our clients surviving” say Mosteller, because many of their clients are small businesses and so providing most them with support was a critical element to their success. In fact, a banking taskforce asked Karen to join their calls and, she was able to provide ‘inside’ information about the SBA loans such as when they should go to the SBA website to apply for loans.
When You Are the Model…”is your management team willing to change”
It often seems like a myth that individuals can love the work they do with people they respect and enjoy being around. Markham Norton has effectively created an environment that consciously supports staffers to excel in their current position and provide a pathway to partnership. The firm currently offers clients’ leadership team consultancy services, working with their help them round out their internal talent and as a result, giving them the additional resources to help run a successful business. The biggest compliment is when our clients want us to mimic our organization on them,” says Karen.