March 30, 2009 | last updated May 26, 2012 7:10 am
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A Division Of J.H. Cohn | Creating A Nontaxing Workplace

Staff members raise money for the United Way by participating in an ice cream sundae social. Pictured, from left,are: Kevin Gokey, Erica Pansius, Debbie Hilton and Kristen Devnew.
Haggett Longobardi staff, with family members, are pictured above at Rentschler Field last fall following their participation in a fundraising walk to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Haggett Longobardi tax manager Brendan Healy, his wife Irene, and their four children participate in the firm's Staff and Client Appreciation Night at a Rock Cats game.

For the average accounting firm, January 1 through April 15 is normally a very taxing period as client demands, stress levels and work hours rise sharply in the race to meet Uncle Sam's annual deadline. Glastonbury-based Haggett Longobardi, however, this year's No. 1 winner of the Hartford Business Journal's Best Places to Work in Connecticut among small- to mid-sized businesses, is anything but average. To the management team at Haggett Longobardi, a division of J.H. Cohn, employee satisfaction is critical to servicing clients and meeting their needs.

"Two things drive us," said Frank Longobardi, who along with co-partner Robert Haggett, founded the firm in 1984, "One: Our clients. Two: Our people. We think about the impact on both before we make any decisions. This helps ensure we do the right thing for our clients and for our employees. In a service business like ours, you're only as good as the people you have working for you."

Setting proper expectations from the beginning is key, according to Longobardi, and is in keeping with the firm's long-held philosophy established when the partners launched the firm. "We set a tone from the beginning that if our names were going to be on the door, we were going to make sure that our people found the firm to be high quality, highly ethical and community minded, and we've never veered from that vision, even as we've grown larger," he said.

New employees spend four to five days in orientation, not only learning about the firm's administrative needs and new technology but also about the firm's culture, its work life, its tradition of community involvement and the means to providing good client services. Coaches help guide junior employees' careers as they progress.

"We try to engrain our philosophy from the start," explained Longobardi. "It's about creating an atmosphere to benefit our people and our clients; working together and having fun."

That includes providing employees with excellent benefits and compensation, promoting career development and education, and encouraging a balanced, work and family life environment in the office. The result is a low, below industry attrition rate, firm stability, and very satisfied clients and employees, according to Longobardi.

The firm ensures it leaves plenty of room for diversion. With its high stress and long hours, peak tax season provides a perfect example.

Chair massages, Ben & Jerry ice cream breaks and cappuccino bars are common activities at the firm that bring much needed tax season stress relief. Fat Tuesday breakfasts and March "Luck of the Irish" lottery tickets add to the fun and keep morale high.

As the firm grew to 90 employees, Longobardi explained, the partnership made it a top priority to ensure they stayed true to their business philosophy.

He explained that even while searching for a merger partner, they committed to finding one that held the same spirit.

"We didn't want to lose that," he said.

They found it in 2007 through their merger with J.H. Cohn, a nationwide accounting firm established in 1919. Cohn's uncomplicated business philosophy states, "If you do your best to faithfully serve your community, your clients and your associates, the rest will take care of itself." For Haggett Longobardi, the merger closed the books on devising the best way to grow and continue serving clients for years to come.

Type of business: Accounting and business consulting

Connecticut employees: 90

Connecticut locations: 1

Headquarters: Glastonbury

HR contact: Mary Kirchoff, director of human resources

Top local executive: Frank P. Longobardi and Robert M. Haggett, co-founders

Founded: 1984

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