As most firms in any type of professional service know all too well, the retirement of partners is not something that takes place overnight. It takes multiple years of careful thought, strategic planning, and sensitive conversations to assure the future of the firm is in the appropriate hands going forward.
When I came to GBQ almost 15 years ago, the firm was in growth mode and had just recently exceeded 100 employees all housed in our old office in the Brewery District. We didn’t have many partners back then, maybe 9? And this week we’re celebrating the retirement of three of those individuals, more or less the Gen. 2 of our founding members Groner, Boyle and Quillin.
Without the G, the B and the Q, I myself would consider these the Mt. Rushmore of the firm. Having not had the privilege to work with the original founding members, Jim Bechtel, Mark LaPlace and Rich Lundy are essentially the firm’s Mt. Rushmore to me. And here’s my tribute to each of them (without their prior knowledge):
Jim Bechtel – JGB No. 1
About a week after I started at GBQ, some old gray-haired guy walked up to my cube and said, “I want you to know there’s only one JGB in this firm.” I stood up, looked around to see where this arrogance was coming from, figuring I’d been set up, and looked back and said, “I’m sorry, do you own this place?”
Not a great choice of words since the answer was undoubtedly yes. That’s the abbreviated version, but Jim will tell you that story has been told a hundred times, and maybe (just maybe) tweaked for entertainment value more than once. Come to find out, there was actually another JGB in the firm, my man Jeffrey Brown. And from that point forward I became known as any one of the following: JGB No. 3, Three, or simply no one important.
Jim is a relationship guy, people love him, people love being around him. (Don’t just take my word for it!) And if you don’t have fun around Jim, then it’s probably your fault. Jim and I took a very memorable trip down to Chapel Hill, NC, pre-Covid to witness Ohio State throttle my Tarheels, joined by a very special client and Tarheel alum, a night that ended with an early morning trip to Waffle House. That trip sealed the deal for Jim’s place on my GBQ mountaintop.
Mark LaPlace – Compassionate Leader
Old school and by the book, Mark has left more of an impression on me than any partner at the firm. No one at the firm is harder on you about understanding your own value to your clients, but in a very positive way. Rarely have I made a decision at the firm without asking myself, “what would Mark do?” (And I’m not the only one!)
Like several of our other current partners, Mark has a tremendous combination of backbone and compassion, both of which are integral for the type of leadership that defines Mark. For as long as I’m aware, Mark has held quarterly breakfast meetings with all tax managers in the Columbus office, and he always made it clear the agenda “was yours.” In SALT, we didn’t work as intimately with the tax partners as you might expect. As a result, and eager to show my value to the tax PIC (“Partner in Charge”), I enjoyed preparing for those breakfast conversations with any number of topics that I felt capable of challenging Mark’s wealth of knowledge.
Back in 2012 when my Grandma passed away, I had a breakfast meeting with Mark scheduled that week. Several people at the firm knew this was not easy on me, and I took a good chunk of the week off. However, I kept the scheduled meeting and we spent well over the typical allotted one hour talking about nothing but family. I’m not sure I ever told Mark how much that meant to me, but at the end of the day, that’s the kind of guy Mark is. Mark’s grin and sleek grey wind-blown comb-over no doubt deserve to be carved in GBQ stone.
Rich Lundy – Tax Technical Guru
Oh, the vocabulary of Rich. For most of you, enough said, I could stop there. But for as colorful as Rich’s everyday language was, the guy is literally a genius. A tax genius. Rich told me one time, he just liked to “think shit up.” How does one do that exactly in tax? Aren’t we all playing by the same book? I’d still like to know the number of times Rich has read the IRS tax code front to back. If someone knows, throw it out there.
It took me a while to figure this out, but there were no short trips to Rich’s office. (Don’t believe me?!) Once you were there, you were sucked in either by the story, the laughter, or the fact that staff and seniors don’t get to pick and choose when it’s the right time to walk out of a partner’s office. At the old office, I sat right outside Rich’s very spacious office with a view, and had there been a charge code for those conversations, I would have set some type of record in charge hours my first two years at the firm.
For anyone aware of the Firm Meeting Fun Committee and the skits we perform to liven up the Annual Firm Meeting, you’ll know Rich has played a large role in several of the very best skits we have ever published. None more memorable than the “Rich Lundy Internal Email Interpretations.” Unfortunately, because of the colorful “script,” that puppy is locked up on the internal network drive somewhere where only a few worthy souls can find it. But if you were one of the lucky few to see the original screening of it, you’ll remember that was the production of a lifetime. Rich, no doubt the firm’s Mt. Rushmore has a heater waiting for you!
Bittersweet, obviously, by a lot. There are many, many bright days ahead in the future of this firm. But for anyone that thinks this firm will ever be the same without those three big wigs walking the halls, then you weren’t around for the ride. Thank you, Jim, Mark and Rich!