Wilkin & Guttenplan
In New Jersey, the little things matter
Open, caring and inclusive is how Ed Guttenplan, managing shareholder and “chief emotional officer” of East Brunswick, N. J-based Wilkin & Guttenplan, described the culture of his firm.
“It starts with trust and honesty,” Guttenplan explained.
“We need to make sure we are trustworthy and honest. We
tell the good and bad news and there are little and big things
in what we do so the staff knows that the partners and firm
administrator care about them.”
It’s the little things that firms do that go a long way, and
for W&G, it’s texting an employee if they are having a special
event or vacation to wish them well, or calling a staff person
at home when they’ve called out sick — all acts that could be
interpreted as intrusive, but, according to Guttenplan, are not
received that way.
“It’s not done out of prying, it’s out of caring,” he said, adding that he and firm administrator Janine Zirrith have been
known to pay for employees’ drinks or meals when they run
into staff unexpectedly out at neighboring establishments.
Gift certificates are also given out when someone buys a new
home. And when someone works extraordinarily hard on a
project, employees and management are encouraged to give
out American Express gift certificates worth anywhere from
$100 to $500. “We are oriented around rewarding people who
achieve and who go above and beyond,” Guttenplan said.
With 70 employees, the firm has an even split of men and
women on its management team. There are incentives for
employees to add business to the firm. Those who recruit
new employees receive bonuses ranging from $500 to $5,000
depending on the position, and employees who bring in new
clients receive 10 percent of the fees collected for as long as
the prospect is a client.
The firm’s expertise includes estate and trust services and
matrimonial litigation support services, as well as niche markets such as managed health care, professional athletes and
During busy season, employees are rewarded with tokens
of appreciation such as movie tickets, a bottle of wine, or gift
certificates, to make sure they don’t get overloaded with stress
or anxiety. On tax season Saturdays, the firm caters lunch,
which is generally based on a theme that is carried throughout
the entire day, complete with decorations, food, attire, token
gifts and games. In the past, these themes have included a pep
rally, Chinese New Year, beach and slumber parties, Mardi
Gras, and The Sopranos TV show. Accomplishments or suc-
cesses are also recognized by an e-mail sent out by Guttenplan
with the entire partner group copied.