Successful companies like Porte Brown LLC build on the foundations established by their creators. They know how to balance adjustment to changing times with perseverance to the principles that made them successful in the first place. Porte Brown LLC is still going strong after 70 years by keeping abreast of new knowledge and technologies in the profession of accounting, while still giving their clients personalized service.
Focusing on client needs was the guiding standard of Jim Porte, who founded the firm in Chicago in 1946. Armed with his old-fashioned key-driven comptometer, Porte would take his accounting services directly to his customers’ locations in order to acquire the in-depth company knowledge and ongoing communication he needed to meet their business needs. Even long after Porte Brown moved to Elk Grove Village in 1974 to centralize its growing staff and clientele base, which was expanding to include the Chicago suburbs, the firm still stays true to Porte’s original premise of working directly with the customer.
“It’s a very hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves environment where we work directly side-by-side with the customer in most cases,” says Pam Metzger, director of marketing for Porte Brown. “We’re different from the Big Four accounting firms in that much of our work is on-site. Other accounting companies do all of their work at their location, but we do it at the client’s location as much as possible. It helps us understand who they are and what makes their business click. You don’t get that sitting at your own desk.”
Porte Brown’s dedication to personalized client services even extends to regular seminars and round tables for customers on topics in their particular industry. “Clients really appreciate this kind of added value,” Metzger says.
The bulk of Porte Brown’s business involves the traditional services of accounting, consulting, tax returns, audit reviews, and audit compliance representation for businesses and non-profit organizations, as well as individuals. Its business customer base encompasses various industries such as construction and contracting, manufacturing and distribution, grocery and food services, and professional services. Porte Brown prides itself on staying on top of all of the changing financial rules and regulations in these industries, as well as its high success rate of “no change letters” in its audit compliance representation.
In addition to these mainstays of the accounting industry, Porte Brown also provides valuation and transition planning, retirement and benefit services, wealth management, and technology solutions. This last division of the company helps customers identify their accounting and business software needs, then provides software and/or hardware selection, network setup, staff training and support, data backup and maintenance, disaster recovery planning, and remote technical support.
The training involved for this kind of service is an essential element of the Porte Brown culture.
“The appetite and demand for learning in this firm is insatiable,” says Metzger. “Everyone in the whole firm is not only encouraged, but expected, to keep up on topics in the industry and increase their professional knowledge. In fact, each month (outside of tax season), we take the entire team off-line for a full day of structured training and best practice sessions. This is a place where ideas really matter. The office has a, positive, ‘can-do’ energy which you can feel when you first walk in the door. I think the clients pick up on the positive environment and it has helped to foster further growth.”
This growth has been not only strategic, but also internal. Porte Brown now numbers over 105 employees in four locations, which includes numerous CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) and thirteen partners. The Porte Brown staff is fluent in eight additional languages: Polish, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, French, and German.
“We look for top talent in our staff,” says Bruce Jones, the current managing partner of Porte Brown for the last ten years. “We try to recruit go-getters who have perfected their particular expertise and who also want a long-term commitment to their careers with us. The perfect person for us would be a hybrid personality who not only knows their skill set but is also extremely personable and able to work well with clients.”
“The staff-management relationship is very much a two-way street at Porte Brown,“ Jones continues. “The management here expects its employees to contribute to the firm’s success and excel in its service to our clients, but at the same time the employees have certain expectations of management and look to them to help them progress in their careers.”
Porte Brown’s roster, until very recently, also included Tom Porte, the son of the company’s founder and a former managing partner. Although now retired from the firm, Tom Porte instilled his commitment to best practices and processes in the remaining employees, according to Jones. Porte also remains very involved in the civic life of Elk Grove Village, as well as being a member of the Village’s Industrial/Commercial Revitalization Committee (ICRC).
Porte’s example of active participation in community affairs also applies to the rest of the firm, employees as well as partners. Many of them hold positions in local organizations such as the Elk Grove Village Chamber of Commerce and the Greater O’Hare Association, devoting many of their after-work hours to these memberships.
This reputation for quality service to both customers and community has engendered many long-term relationships. Some of Porte Brown’s customers are family-owned businesses which have used Porte Brown’s services for several generations. The company’s experience in best-in-class processes has also made it a valuable consultant to other accounting firms who call on them for assistance.
Porte Brown is poised for more strategic growth in the near future. The firm expects to add additional sites to its locations in McHenry; Tinley Park; Evanston; and its company headquarters at 845 Oakton Street in Elk Grove Village. Many of Porte Brown’s customers conduct business across state lines. This means that although based in Illinois, Porte Brown employees also do their business in multiple regions as they follow the company tradition of performing on-site customer service.
“We are a locally focused firm,” says Jones, “with an international reach.”