Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Paul Yoder, a nearly 92-year-old retired Plante Moran partner, at his home in Northern Michigan. Married 71 years to his wife, Winnie, Paul has been an avid golfer all his life, shooting his age at age 78 and frequently thereafter until age 90. He’s an amazing man in good health with a razor-sharp memory, to which he credits good genes and a positive outlook. Spending that time with him was really something.
I’d like to share a couple of stories courtesy of Paul. The first is around the decision of Frank Moran, one of our original founders, to hire Bob Petz, who became the firm’s first human resources (HR) director. Paul and Frank met Bob through a client, and Frank was taken with him. “I think I’m going to hire him,” he told Paul. “You’re crazy,” Paul responded. “We only have 15 people at our firm, and Bob’s not even an accountant.” “No,” said Frank, “but he’s a really smart guy.”
Bob came to work at the firm and tried to help out on a few audits; it was a disaster. Quickly, however, Frank realized that Bob was better at interviewing staff than he was. Frank sent Bob back to school to get his psychology degree, and shortly thereafter, Bob became the head of HR. This was in line with Frank’s “Wheel of Progress” philosophy, which began with hiring good people who do good work. This philosophy served him well and continues to serve Plante Moran today.
Another interesting fact about Paul: he was among the first group of partners to be promoted at the firm beyond Elorion Plante and Frank Moran. It was natural, then, to consider expanding the name to include Paul and the other new partners. Elorion and Frank were open to the idea, but they ultimately concluded to stick with the brand “Plante & Moran” and see where that took them. In retrospect, it took them pretty far, from 15 people then to more than 2,000 today.
Paul told me several stories that day, and I was struck not only by how different the firm was back then but also how much it was the same. It’s obvious that our culture was as alive and well in the 1950s as it is today (although they didn’t call it “culture” back then—it was just “Frank’s way”). Toward the end of our conversation, Paul expressed his enjoyment at watching all the firm has accomplished over the years. “I feel proud,” he said, “to think that, in some small way, I was part of building that.”
Thank you, Paul, for your tireless contributions toward building the firm I feel so fortunate to call my home. Here’s to you and Plante Moran’s other retired partners. I hope you feel as proud of what’s we’ve all built as I do.
How about you? How has your organization evolved in the years since it was founded? What common threads exist between then and now, and what’s changed?