May 18, 2015
Executive Profile

Filomeno focuses on developing culture, people

HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns
HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns
Thomas Filomeno has a signed football from UConn coach Bob Diaco, whose coaching philosophy mirrors Filomeno's leadership style.

Thomas Filomeno

Position: President, Filomeno & Co. PC, certified public accountants, business advisers.

Highest education: Bachelor's degree in accounting, University of Connecticut, 1978

Executive insights: '...Collaboration is really critical and this idea of getting people aligned with the same goals and objectives and giving them say into where you are going so everybody's on the same page. I can't emphasize that enough.'

The football signed by UConn coach Bob Diaco displayed in accounting executive Thomas Filomeno's West Hartford office symbolizes his firm's culture more than his undying passion for UConn sports.

Last summer, as Diaco was preparing for his inaugural season, Filomeno, president of accounting and business advisory firm Filomeno & Co. PC, and his partners were re-examining the firm's vision and how they wanted to manage and run the business amid partnership changes internally and significant competition externally. They decided they could only control what happened inside their own walls.

"What we really need to do is focus on our people, develop our people, make our people great, make sure that they're highly engaged, and give them opportunities for advancement," Filomeno says the partners concluded. "If we do that, we'll have a superior product for our clients and for the marketplace."

Shortly thereafter, Filomeno heard Diaco interviewed on the radio, and the message was familiar. Diaco was asked what he'd consider a successful season. Diaco said it wasn't about wins, it was about developing his young and inexperienced student athletes, Filomeno recalls, adding that Diaco wanted his players to improve each week as people and players.

Developing people is among the three most important strategies for Filomeno & Co. The others, Filomeno says, are delivering projects and satisfying clients. Developing employees is best done one on one, he added.

"I used to think my job was to answer questions" as the boss, he says. "I've now learned my job is to ask questions and encourage decisions by other people. I thought I had to make all the decisions … answer all the questions. Our best role as leaders [is to] ask questions, let them come to the answers and encourage decision making — and then everybody grows."

Filomeno's father, Joseph, started the firm in 1966. Today, the firm's clients include individuals and businesses, mainly middle market companies with about $5 million to $20 million in revenue, Filomeno says.

Filomeno, 59, joined the firm in 1978 and succeeded his father as president in 1999. He says his father was all about client service, "doing the best that you can possibly do and deep appreciation of learning and knowledge and bettering yourself — all of that is still totally true."

"Where I've changed it a little bit is more of a focus on the people, on the development of the people, on the culture," Filomeno says. "[My father] was much more of a boss of that day, 'This is how we're going to do it.' … Here it's much more collaborative now. … Almost any decision we make we get people's input and ideas," which results in better outcomes.

Leaders must also pull the proper motivation levers, Filomeno said.

For example, most accounting firms are driven by chargeable hours, he says.

"Here, we realize that's not motivating, it's not inspiring," Filomeno says. "We have completely abandoned that as a way to motivate productivity. Instead, we're a project-driven organization where we have a monthly goal for what we want to get done in client projects … work out the door, just like a real business does."

That's more fulfilling and energizing for people, and satisfying when goals are hit, he says. Filomeno credited business consultant YardeZone Inc. in Wethersfield for guiding the firm's vision, welcoming its non-accountant perspective.

Paul Decelles, YardeZone co-owner, says Filomeno committed to the vision and hard work of getting the company where it is today.

"[Filomeno] is genuine, he's a man of values and integrity and his intentions have always been in the right place," Decelles says. "He's always wanted the best for his people, the best for his clients and he didn't see that as mutually exclusive. He understood that you can do both."

Filomeno & Co., with 27 employees, including one in West Haven, is looking to grow via acquisition. It has identified a couple possible in-state targets.

Outside of work, Filomeno loves to boat in Cape Cod, play guitar, racquetball, basketball, and tend a vegetable garden. Married to Madelyn, a math tutor at Webster Hill Elementary School in West Hartford, the couple has three grown children, two who are engineers and one nearing completion of graduate work for physical therapy.

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