Monday, March 7, 2011

Harry Steindler discusses SLSF, philanthropy and taxes

Taken from Harry Steindler's prepared remarks at this year's Skokie Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, February 4, 2011.

I am a partner with Silver, Lerner, Schwartz & Fertel, SLSF, a forty-person, Skokie-based CPA firm. I take care of business owners’ and leaders’ worries about their financial and tax reporting needs so they can concentrate on creating financial and personal success. At SLSF we strive to be the best firm to work for in Chicago. We take care of our staff...and they and our partners promise to take good care of you.

For the second consecutive year we are proud to be one of the sponsors of the Skokie Chamber of Commerce Annual Board Installation and Member Awards Luncheon.

SLSF is a 29-year-old firm, born and bred in Skokie. We currently have seven partners. Unlike many of our competitors we have survived and thrived as we moved to our second generation of ownership and leadership. Luckily, in the room today, and back at the office, we have some of the people who will successfully move our firm to a third generation in the years to come. We work with closely-held businesses and non-profit organizations of all shapes and sizes from mom-and-pop shops to companies with over $100,000,000 in revenue. We are really, really, really great accountants, tax professionals, business consultants, best friends and life coaches to our clients. Although we work successfully with almost any industry, we spend a large amount of time working with manufacturers, distribution and logistics companies, restaurant groups, real estate organizations, health care companies and with all sorts of individual clients.

Besides the importance of treating our clients well, our people have a great time working with each other and we care about our community immensely. We have a Fun Committee and great food that helps us through tax season. We have a Community Cares Committee that is committed to giving back. In the past year our firm has donated time, money and leadership to many organizations:

The following are groups to whom we donated through the efforts of our staff-run Committee –
  • Catholic Charities Adopt-a-family,
  • Niles Township Food Pantry,
  • Soldier’s Angels,
  • The Lymphoma Research Foundation,
  • Little City,
  • St Phillip’s Church Clothes Closet,
  • WINGS - Women In Need Growing Stronger,
  • American Cancer Society,
  • Libenu, Housing for Jewish young adults with developmental disabilities
  • Greater Chicago Food Depository,
  • PAWS,
  • St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital,
  • Susan G Komen and
  • Ronald McDonald House.
As a firm and individually we realize how important it is to give to give to those in need.

During the past year, we have also taken on a lot of exciting initiatives at SLSF.
  • We have renewed our lease and will be taking additional space at 8707 Skokie Blvd.
  • We have increased our staff count by almost 7 percent.
  • We recently joined AGN, an international association of accounting firms, to expand our ability to serve clients around the globe.
  • We are working with a marketing consultant to continue to expand new business opportunities. 
  • We brought in renowned Loyola University professor, WBEZ radio personality and philosopher Al Gini to teach all of us about ethics and leadership.
  • We formally reviewed our managing partner and our entire partner group; one of the only professional firms our size to do so. 
  • We did all of this so that we can continue to grow to best serve our clients and to continue to strive to be the best firm to work for in Chicago.
It has been a very good year at SLSF. We very much appreciate the support of the Chamber and of our local business community.

I am going to talk about a Skokie institution. One that stands out for what they do, but may not be familiar to everyone here. I’m talking about Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center.

Turning Point which began serving our community in 1969 is an outpatient mental health center that, according to its website “exists to provide expert care and relief, no matter who you are or what your situation might be. They guide you through the most frightening and difficult steps and decisions you face and help to ensure that you maintain your legal rights. They provide solid support, every step of the way, recognizing each client’s efforts to change, stabilize and grow.

My firm is lucky enough to be Turning Point’s auditors. Whenever I am at their building I see patients that could be my children, or your children. I see people who through no fault of their own need a level of service and support to keep going, to maintain a level of independence. I see people who may not make it if not for Turning Point and other organizations like them. Here are a couple of comments from Turning Point clients:
“I have friends here. They are good people who don’t want to cause
trouble. They just need extra help to stay well. I don’t want to be
marginalized in an institution. And I’m willing to fight tooth and nail to
prevent that.”
“My life has really changed. I don’t cry every day; that is only because I
have somewhere to come […] I’ve been here almost two years, and I can
count how many days I’ve missed other than going to the doctor on one
hand [….] I need the people around me so I can change and continue to
get well. By being a mirror, maybe someone can see me and say, I can
get better like her”
And finally, a telling comment from a Turning Point staffer:
“I have a client right now who is facing homelessness, and in the past we
would have been able to help her out. We’re working as hard as we can to
find the resources, but they’re just not there.”
For the year ending June 30, 2010, 75% of Turning Point’s funding--the funds that pay professionals to help these people...the funds that help their clients, our neighbors, friends and family become productive members of our society--came from Illinois taxpayers. That’s 75% of the Turning Point budget: Turning Point’s clients need the state to be solvent. The over 2,100 clients served by Turning
Point need the state to be able to pay their bills.

Turning Point and their clients are not alone; there are hundreds of similar organizations, helping the developmentally disabled, mentally handicapped, victims of domestic violence, people recovering from substance abuse, people diagnosed with crippling physical illnesses that are funded by state and federal tax dollars.

Governments, as representatives of our society, and we as individuals, through fundraising efforts like we have at SLSF, and as I’m sure many of the businesses represented here today have, need to be there to make sure that those that may not have been born with equal opportunity, are given every opportunity to be full, contributing members of society. That’s why it’s important to support organizations like Turning Point and other of our non-profit clients such as SHALVA, National Association for Down’s Syndrome, North Center for Handicapped Children, the Lawyer’s Assistance Program and the Rory David Deutsch Foundation – organizations funded by taxes and individual contributions that give people that opportunity.

In his final speech, Hubert Humphrey said,
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in
the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly;
those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. "
I don’t know how much we should pay in taxes. I don’t know how much is overspent. I don’t know how much is wasted, but I do know there is a big role for government to play and there are people who truly need our help to be all they can be, or to merely make it to tomorrow. That’s what good governments and great societies do. By looking after our neediest, by making the least able, more
able, we pull everyone up, bring us all to a higher level. That’s why our taxes do matter and why the work that government does matters.
A graduate of Niles East and University of Illinois at Chicago, Harry Steindler has been in public accounting for just over thirty years; he joining SLSF in 1988.

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