Blog Archive

Thursday, December 7, 2017

On the move: Principal helps three team members grow their careers through internal transfers

At RSM, we work hard to ensure our clients and our employees are successful, because that makes the firm successful. Karen Wiltgen, technology and management consulting (TMC) principal, is a big believer in that theory and a great example of how to make it a reality.

Over the last year, Karen has helped three high-performing team members transition to other parts of the firm, based on their career aspirations and interests, as well as the needs of the firm.

"I think that a big part of our role as leaders is to help our employees and clients achieve their goals and be more than they ever imagined they could be, " said Karen. "If that means encouraging one of our team to move on to opportunities in other areas of the firm, then that's what we will do."

Karen admits that it's not always easy. When there was an opening on RSM's infrastructure team, Karen knew that, then TMC Director, Drew Faries would be great in the role of infrastructure director. "Drew didn't ask for the move, we went to him," explained Karen. "Selfishly, I didn't want him to leave. I knew it would set my team back a bit. But there were such clear growth opportunities for him and he had the right experience to be successful in the role. It was the right thing to do for Drew and for RSM."

Little did she know that Drew would ask another TMC resource on her team, Patricio Cadena, to join him on the infrastructure team. "Drew wanted Patricio because he had the right skills and knowledge to move the infrastructure team forward. Again, it was the right thing to do," said Karen. "It's really been a win-win for all of us. Collaboration across consulting teams continues to grow, providing greater opportunities for success and growth."

Not long after Drew and Patricio moved into their new roles, Alex Stone, an associate in TMC, came to Karen to share an opportunity he wanted to pursue to move to RSM's international services office (ISO). The ISO never had a team member join from the TMC area and it would open up a new dimension for them.

"Alex came to RSM right out of college and has been an asset to our team since day one," said Karen. "He steps up, raises his hand, comes up with ways to improve processes; he's an out-of-the-box thinker. You look at someone like that and see this great experience ahead of them; you can't hold them back. It's going to be good for him, the firm and our clients."

Karen's mindset is that she would much rather have employees move on within the firm than leave RSM to achieve their career goals. "These people are great assets to the firm. They can help us build bridges between groups and prevent silos that can keep us from collaborating," said Karen.

"I want them to stay and make their career here. To do that, they need to see opportunities. And they need to know they can come talk to us and tell us what they want for themselves and that we will

This is a great example of how RSM employees are encouraged to talk about their short- and long-term career aspirations with their leaders, including interest in rotation programs, global work and flexibility.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Living our Values: Birdies Fore Love

Stewardship is a value that RSM has held throughout its 90-plus year history. Through stewardship, we better our firm, develop our people and support our local communities. Each year, RSM partners with the Davis Love Foundation, the host organization of The RSM Classic, a PGA Tour event, to raise funds to assist children and their families through our Birdies Fore Love (BFL) program. Over the last eight years, RSM has donated more than $9 million dollars through BFL to charities where our employees work and live!

This year, RSM employees, partners, and friends, with a generous match from the RSM US Foundation, were able to donate more than $2 million, which benefited over 70 local charities.

Employee champions in each of our 90 local offices organize the fundraising for Birdies Fore Love. In the Chicagoland offices, employees planned bake sales and silent auctions to help raise funds. All funds raised benefit the three charities the office is supporting this year: Greater Chicago Food Depository, Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, and Ronald McDonald House.

“I am deeply proud and taken aback by the generosity of RSM’s network of donors,” said John Davitt, the 2017 Birdies Fore Love national co-leader. “I truly believe that the stewardship culture at RSM transcends charitable programs and is woven into the very nature of our client service.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

The American Dream Continued...

Editor’s Note: Hunter Pearson was one of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Hunter’s dream? Help his grandfather live his dream of returning to Normandy, to revisit life-changing experiences he had during World War II. Read Hunter’s story:

On September 12 2017, the Pearsons embarked on their journey to Normandy. The crew consisted of Harvey Pearson (Grandfather and World War II veteran), Rebecca Pearson (my sister), Miriam and Dennis Pearson (Harvey’s son, Rebecca and I’s parents), Brian Hoysa (grandson), Gary Pearson (my uncle and Harvey’s son), Jay and Renea Pearson (cousin and wife), and Linda McLelland (cousin). We flew over in two waves with a rendezvous location of Charles De Galle airport in Paris, France. It was here that we united with 25 other participants, from 12 different states, and began our mission to Normandy.

Pierre-Samuel Natanson, “battlefield guide,” and Stephane Lamache, “tour manager,” met us at Charles De Galle with an itinerary and words of encouragement, knowing we were jetlagged. We were then told to “load-up” and the crew was off to our home base in Bayeaux, France.

Bayeaux is a small town in Normandy, which provided a central location to rest and rejuvenate each day. The wonderful staff at Hotel d’Argouges created one of our fondest memories. They quickly learned that my grandfather was a World War II veteran, and presented us with a complimentary cheese and cracker plate during happy hour. Toothpicks were placed in the cheese with the United States and French flags. As they presented the plate, they shook his hand and said, “Thank you for allowing us to be French.” We experienced moments like this throughout our trip and for that we are very grateful.

On the first night, we had a group dinner at a local restaurant in Bayeaux. The restaurant had a quaint ambience, which encouraged communication between the tour members, and enabled us to tell our stories. Stephane requested everyone’s attention and asked that a member of each party introduce themselves. I was voted to do this for our family and informed the additional 25 members of our journey who, why and how we were there. It was an emotional evening for me as I realized I was not only making a dream come true for my grandfather and I, but this was my family’s passion as well.

It was at this moment everything started to settle in. I imagined if it were 1944, I was 18 traveling across the Atlantic, removed from my friends and family, meeting new people, not knowing what the next would bring, not knowing if I would make it back from that day’s mission, etc. I maintained this mindset for the remainder of the trip in an attempt to understand what my grandfather and the men who fought in World War II experienced.

The next morning quickly came, and the tour was officially in motion. Each day had approximately five stops and the days were set in chronological order until the liberation of France. To help my grandfather conserve energy, we made sure a wheelchair was readily available. He didn’t think too highly of this and refused to use it the entire time. At age 92, he completed every stop and fully enjoyed the tour. (For a complete overview of the tour please read Pilgrimage to Normandy, written by Gary Pearson.)

Each day, we learned new details about the war, and gained new perspectives as we walked in the same footsteps of the brave soldiers in 1944. The final days quickly approached, which brought us to the most influential sights of the Invasion of Normandy concerning the United States, Utah and Omaha beaches. If you’re familiar with Saving Private Ryan, the opening scene is a depiction of what took place on Omaha Beach on D-Day. It was chilling to see the German defenses that remained and the superior tactical advantage they held. As the United States soldiers arrived on the beach they were sitting ducks. German cross-fire easily mowed down thousands of American soldiers. However, with superior arial support from the Allies, German defenses were overcome and the Atlantic Wall was breached.

Visiting these beaches created a few more family memories that are important to us. There was a small bar by the museum at Utah Beach named “Le Roosevelt.” The owner of this bar allowed veterans to sign the wall, tables, chairs, etc. When he found out about my grandfather, the owner gave him a special place to sign above a Marilyn Monroe picture. Little did he know, she was a favorite of his.

The final memory I’d like to mention took place at the American Cemetery by Omaha beach where nearly 10,000 American soldiers were buried. One of those men was my grandfather’s best man’s brother, Granville Payne. Prior to departing on our trip, we determined the location of Granville’s grave to take my grandfather there and lay flowers. Once located and respects were paid, he looked at me and said, “Hunter, I am officially done with Normandy.” It was not necessarily a happy moment but an emotional moment that needed to be had. I feel it brought closure concerning World War II, and fulfillment to my grandfather.

Massive amounts of people from all walks of life, different cultures, different languages, different beliefs, etc. came together for the common good. Many died but by believing in a common goal they were able to work together and change history. The resiliency shown and the sacrifices made by the United States, English, Dutch, Canadians, French, and all other Allies from June 6, 1944 to August 16, 1944 should never be forgotten.

The Pearson’s would like to sincerely thank the RSM and the RSM US Foundation for enabling this opportunity and helping to provide my grandfather his dream, for his influence in providing us the American Dream.

In addition to Hunter’s story, his uncle shared in what it meant to the family to pursue their passions.

The American Dream

PILGRIMAGE TO NORMANDY Pearson’s Relive D-Day Thanks to RSM US Foundation

Thanks to the RSM US Foundation and its essay contest “Pursue Your Passion,” our third-generation nephew, son, and grandson, Hunter Pearson, won the prize. It’s true Dad had tried to get to Normandy twice before. September 11, 2001 grounded his flight to Europe. On the second try Mom’s health started to fail and the trip again was cancelled. My brother and I revisited taking the trip time and time again, but never got past the talk stage. But with the contest prize money in hand there was no excuse and this third try was a charm for Dad’s dream.

He was stationed with the 15th Air Force in the Italian campaign and flew 50 highly dangerous missions over Europe from May 1944 to August 1944 as a left waist gunner on a B17 bomber. On June 6, 1944 his mission record shows the target was a marshalling yard in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The crew knew something was up because bomber command had sent up everything that would fly that morning, and he remembered the sky was dark with planes heading to their targets. When the crew returned that evening they were given the news that the invasion of Europe was on.

Our guides emphasized that one of the singular reasons for success on D-Day was the overwhelming superiority of aerial support. The battle for the skies was over and the bombing campaigns prior to D-Day played a great part in the victory at Normandy. Dad’s targets over places like the Polesti, Romania oil fields destroyed a large part of the Nazi war machine and its efforts to resupply planes, tanks, and other mobile units with critical petroleum supplies.

Our guides were honored to have a World War II veteran on the tour and a soldier who had served in the European theater on D-Day. They said that in their four years of conducting tours throughout Normandy, they had yet to guide a World War II veteran to the D-Day sites. I liked their comment that they didn’t know what was worse, “participating in the day to day slog through Normandy, spending the night in a foxhole, or returning to base and safety at night in your bunk knowing you’d have to do the same thing again the next morning.” In 1944, at 18, Dad was stationed in the square middle of the bomber armed with a 50 caliber machine gun. The Wehrmacht instructed their fighter pilots to strafe the bomber through his open window where it could do the most damage to the plane. As Hunter related in his essay, he is a true American hero, and at 92 he was in a condition to fully enjoy this tour.

The Tour Participants

There were ten of us on the tour. The guest of honor, Harvey Pearson; our first cousin, Linda McClelland; my brother, Dennis Pearson, whose family scored a 100% attendance; his wife, Miriam Pearson; daughter, Rebecca Pearson; and son, Hunter Pearson, the famous essay winner. Brian Hoysa represented my sister’s family, and I, Gary Pearson, was the eldest son. James and Renee Pearson, our first cousins from Lavonia, Georgia, rounded out the group.

So, with the generosity afforded by the RSM US Foundation, Hunter and Dad booked the Normandy tour through the World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, from September 12 to September 20, 2017. The rest of us piled on and arrived at Charles De Galle airport and boarded the tour bus with 25 other souls bound for Normandy.

Our guides, Stephane Lamache, “Tour Manager”, and Pierre-Samuel Natanson, “Battlefield Guide”, would be with us the whole tour and deserve accolades for the wonderful service the Pearsons received.

What follows is an attempted brief synopsis of our journey through Normandy, the epic events of D-Day, and the aftermath of the invasion through France.

Where, When, and How

German intelligence knew an invasion was imminent. After all, three million troops were stationed in the British Isles and they weren’t there just for sightseeing. In preparation for the inevitable, in late 1942 the Germans started construction over what they called “the Atlantic Wall” along the Atlantic coast from Norway to Spain. Not one massive line of concrete, but a series of strong points making the most of the natural defenses hugging the coast.

How would the Allies penetrate these defenses? They had learned a few lessons on what not to do. The failure of the commando raid at Dieppe was one example. In 1942, British forces conducted a raid on the port of Dieppe and most of the forces were killed or captured. Invasion of any heavily defended port was doomed to disaster. The beach had to be packed sand, not a rocky coast where equipment could get bogged down. This seemed to indicate the Allies would try for the Calais sector, close to England, and consequently the Atlantic Wall was heavily fortified there. Normandy seemed to rise in the planning stage with its intermittent sandy beaches, its potential for surprise because of its distance from England, and the fact that its defenses were still in the construction phase and not yet complete. Then there was the when factor to consider. There had to be a full moon for the paratroopers, favorable tides and stable weather for the landing craft.

The Germans monitored the weather daily, the Allies hourly, and on June 4th the meteorologists informed the Allied high command that a break in the front was approaching on June 6th. The next window would be toward the latter end of July and Ike knew any further delay would sap morale. The order was given.

A surprise of sorts was achieved. Rommel was in Germany and most of the German brass could not imagine the invasion would occur under these weather conditions. The ships, planes, and men moved toward their staging positions.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

The British and Canadian Sectors

There was no better place to start than the Pegasus Bridge that spans the Orne River. The Bridge was taken by surprise, with just one casualty. The three British Horsa gliders stopped within yards of the bridge entrance and this key objective was taken without a fight. It would not be so easy for some of the other sectors on the longest day. The British and Canadian flanks were secure with the taking of the Pegasus Bridge, but the hard work for the frontal assault would be through Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. Today there are many vacation homes on the British and Canadian sectors but those beaches came under heavy fire resulting in heavy casualties. One surprise for me was the statistic that the Canadians in the ratio of their population when compared to the other Allied countries took the highest casualties.

The Commonwealth cemeteries were laid out next to the field hospitals and are cared for by the English and Canadian governments. The thought was to create a garden like the internees would know in their native countries, and the grounds are beautiful, remote, and peaceful. Each tombstone is etched with a legend chosen by the decedent’s family. Another highlight on the day’s tour was the artificial harbor at Arromanches, known as Mulberry Harbor. Churchill backed the project, which entailed filling barges with concrete and sinking them off the beach to create an artificial harbor for the ships to unload badly needed supplies. The capture of ports would come later and these artificial harbors were crucial for the success of the invasion.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

Utah Beach and the Paratrooper Landing Zones

The next day would bring exploration of the sites captured and held by the paratroopers of the 101st and 82nd Airborne. To seize bridges and crossroads, the Allies had invested resources in creating paratrooper units to land behind the lines to hold strategic areas and then link up with the forces coming from the beach.

The Allies had been impressed by what they thought were successful operations by German units in the battle for the island of Crete, but what they didn’t know was that the Germans sustained high casualties in that battle and had given up on creating new paratrooper units. The technology to guide a parachute had not yet developed and there was a high probability the landings could not be concentrated.

The drop zones were missed and the units were scattered. This, however, may have contributed to the success of their mission because the Germans got reports of landings from all over the area and were confused about the ultimate strategy of the invasion.

One unforeseen success of this operation was the ambush at Chateau de Bernaville of the highest-ranking German commander in Normandy on the night before the invasion. Thinking that his communications trailer would be more secure if it was separate from his comfortable lodging at the Chateau, he concealed the trailer in the woods. When the first reports filtered in, he drove from the Chateau straight into an ambush set up by the paratroopers and was killed. This delayed counterattacks the next day when the Germans did not know that he had died and there was no one in charge.

The heroics of the paratroopers at the bridge approaching La Fiere was a worthwhile stop where it was explained how the troops stopped five German tanks that tried to destroy a bridge needed to move the Allied forces inland. It is hard to imagine the ferocity of the fighting there overlooking this bucolic scene.

Then the towns of Ste-Marie-du Mont, taken by the 101st Airborne, and the tale of the 82nd Airborne at Ste-Mère-Eglise, where the parachute still hangs from the church steeple, were riveting, as well as the museum with its restored C-47 aircraft.

Eisenhower was asked what three weapons won the war. He replied, “The Jeep, the bazooka, and the C-47,” being the workhorse aircraft, which I always thought was a surprising choice.

The stained glass window in the chapel at Ste-Mère-Eglise, showing the descending paratroopers, was very moving. All throughout the square you could still see the pockmarks on the buildings from the shells and bullets that were shot that night.

The guides emphasized that the area behind Utah Beach was marshy and the Germans had flooded the area so it was imperative the paratroopers take and hold the exits from the beach, which they did.

At Utah Beach the heroics of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the son of the President, were recounted. The troops missed their landing zones by half a mile and the decision had to be made whether to fight back to the planned landing zone and not confuse the expected reinforcements of the second wave. General Roosevelt gave the command, “The war starts here,” and there was no delay in moving off the beach and making their original objective.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

Pointe du Hoc

The fighting for Pointe du Hoc would not be as easy as the frontal assault on Utah Beach. Pointe du Hoc was located between Utah and Omaha Beach and was a narrow, elevated peninsula that jutted into the ocean with cliffs of 250 feet above the water. From this vantage point you could easily observe Utah and Omaha Beach and it was critical that the guns located there be neutralized for the safety of the invasion fleet. A squadron of 500 Army Rangers was assigned the task of scaling the cliffs, capturing this German strong point and neutralizing the guns thereon. The plan was to shoot grappling hooks to catch the cliff’s edge and then scale the cliffs under heavy fire from the machine guns above. This was the most heavily fortified position we saw on the tour, with the narrow peninsula covered with concrete pillboxes and, at the very tip of the peninsula, a heavily fortified observation post looking out over the open ocean. With casualties of fifty percent, the Rangers took the position, but found none of the guns that intelligence said were located there. The Germans had instead moved the guns inland a short distance and had substituted logs in their place where aerial reconnaissance would mistake them for the real thing. Shortly after the capture of Pointe du Hoc, a patrol was sent out and found the five naval guns and destroyed the trigger mechanism so they could not be reused.

German Panzer units counterattacked the small Ranger force, but they held their ground.

Historians in hindsight counted the Ranger effort as a futile one because the reputed guns on the site were not there. But as Pierre astutely observed, the Germans wanted this position because they could see the entire battlefield from Pointe du Hoc. The position could serve the Germans as a central brain system to launch an organized counterattack and the Rangers never let this happen. In that light, their heroic effort was a success.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

Omaha Beach

It is difficult to describe the ferocious fighting and the Allies’ effort that occurred at Omaha Beach. The only comparison I can make is the Confederate General Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, which did not succeed, and the invasion force at Omaha Beach, which did succeed. Both were fortuitous events in the history of the American experience. There were three exits off Omaha Beach and high cliffs in between those exits. We visited the exit at St. Laurent-sur-Mer, the seawall where the American force was pinned down all morning a mere 100 yards from heavily fortified German positions. All morning the troops could not advance because of the murderous fire raining down from above. General Bradley, from his command ship, considered a re-embarkation of the invasion force because of the stall. He reconsidered when he saw the battleship Frankfurt that had disobeyed orders to come close into the beach making headway with its artillery barrage. Then, as Pierre again so astutely stated, events started to evolve. At the Lieutenant and Captain level, American officers on the beach used their training to improvise, so envied by the British High Command, and started to find weaknesses in the German defenses. In some places they gained positions on the ridge overlooking the beach. Slowly the troops moved off the beach but never reached their goals for the day. It truly was one of the most heroic efforts by any of the Allied forces on the first day.

I liked Pierre’s observation that you wanted experienced units, but not too experienced, because then the experienced units would be too cautious. The divisions picked for the first wave on Omaha were the 1st Division, the Big Red One, and the 29th Division, the Blue and the Gray. The first American division had experience in North Africa and Sicily. The 29th Division, comprising units from Maryland and Virginia, called up from the National Guard, had never experienced combat. Having visited the D-Day Memorial at Bedford, I was anxious to see where they landed. I will never forget seeing a pillbox that would catch the Bedford Boys in a crossfire. Nineteen Bedford Boys died in the first sixteen minutes of the landing. As is well known, Bedford, Virginia took the highest casualties per capita of any community in the war. I was pleased to see the exit off this beach named the Rue de Bedford.

The Stall

Once the Allies successfully established the beachhead, they moved into the Bacoge country with hedgerows that grew on the field boundaries. The French resistance had tried to warn the Allies that these hedgerows would create natural defensive obstacles benefitting the Germans. But the Allies either didn’t understand their significance or disregarded the intelligence. In any event, the troops were unprepared.

The hedgerows were thick, matted vegetation to fence in the livestock, and there was a trench at the bottom which created plenty of camouflage and cover for troops and their guns. Every time one hedgerow was taken, there was another defensive line behind it and this caused the Allied push to stall.

This was aptly displayed on the tour when we met a French farmer who took us to a field on his farm where five German 88 artillery guns were captured. Through an interpreter he told us that, while he was not born at the time of the invasion, he would relay what his uncle and father told him about the battle. This particular hedgerow was one of the scenes in the film “Band of Brothers” and the American platoon started at one corner of the field and moved down the hedgerow, capturing all five German 88 guns. I had read about the 88 artillery pieces in some of Ernest Hemingway’s dispatches from Normandy and these guns were feared by the Allied troops. Originally used as anti-aircraft guns, they were found highly adaptable as field artillery pieces and were easily disguised in the hedgerows. The Allies slogged it out in the Bacoge country for three weeks, falling behind in their invasion timetable. The troops devised ingenious field blades that they welded to the front of their tanks, which helped in moving through the hedgerow country.

Perhaps this is a good juncture to relay some of the sights we explored in Bayeux, where we lodged in the Hotel d’Argouges. The staff was impeccable and served us an excellent breakfast in the morning and a wonderful Happy Hour every evening.

The Bayeux Cathedral dated to the time of William the Conqueror, the victor in the battle of Hastings in 1066, a beautiful medieval cathedral that soared above the town. Bayeux was spared the devastation suffered by the rest of Normandy and was quite lovely.

I had heard that church attendance in Europe was nonexistent and all the famous cathedrals just served as tourist destinations. On Sunday morning I tested this proposition and the cathedral was packed with worshippers. I was there when the service closed and the cacophony of the bells was beautiful. Thinking that most of the congregation were tourists, I hung around and was pleasantly surprised that they were locals, as I saw them walk down the street and enter their flats wearing their Sunday best.

We also took the opportunity to view the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230 foot long embroidered chronicle of William the Conqueror’s cross-channel invasion of England. The tapestry told the story of Harold, who had taken an oath to support the coronation of his half-brother, William, after his father’s death. Instead he crowned himself and William built a fleet in Normandy, crossed the channel, and defeated Harold at Hastings. It was fascinating to see this thousand-year-old tapestry describing the battle, the oath, the ships sailing across the channel, the coats of mail being loaded on the ships, and the horses with smiles on their faces, happy to take part in the drama.

This is also a good time to describe our visit to Colleville-sur-Mer and the American cemetery located there. We had the coordinates to find the grave of Granville Payne, Latham Payne’s brother, who died after running over a land mine in a Jeep at St.-Lô. The cemetery was everything we expected and was immaculately kept. Granville’s resting place reflected the gravity of his sacrifice and it meant a lot to all of us to remember a Warrenton boy who gave his all. Dad remembered Granville as a teenager and his brother, Latham, was Dad’s best man at his wedding and our next door neighbor all those years growing up on Lees Ridge Road.

The average age of the GIs buried at Colleville-sur-Mer was 23 and 9,387 Americans are interred there on the bluff above Omaha Beach.

I could not help relaying to Pierre a story I remembered about the cemetery. I asked if Charles De Galle was revered in France.

He replied, “He was regarded as a great liberator of the French people, but as a political figure, not so much.”

I then felt secure in relating that in the 1950’s when John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, he requested an audience with the French president De Galle. The French president in a fit of nationalism had ordered all non-French individuals out of the country. Secretary Dulles told De Galle that President Eisenhower requested a clarification, “Did the order include exhuming all of the remains of the American GIs buried at Colleville-sur-Mer?”

Charles De Galle withdrew the order.

The Breakout

In one of my favorite remarks from our guide, Pierre, he relayed that after three weeks of slogging through the Bacoge, “events evolved.”

The Allies could replace their casualties, the Germans could not. By June 30th the British objective, the city of Caen, fell. Then the port of Cherbourg was cut off, and finally on July 5th the strategic city of St.-Lô was taken.

The Allies started to move and General Bradley and Field Marshall Montgomery started to see an opportunity. If the British pressed from the North and Patton swung to the South, the Germans could be encircled in an envelope, so the Allied strategy changed to take advantage of the opportunity.

The Corridor of Death

By August 16th the Allies had 150,000 German troops encircled in what was known as the Falaise Pocket and Hitler finally ordered the first retreat of his armies.

The pocket shrunk to a corridor known to posterity as the Corridor of Death, only 3 miles wide. In that area the remaining 50,000 German troops that had already not escaped attempted a breakout near Hill 262.

A brave Polish armored unit near Chambois had sealed the Falaise gap and was attacked on both their rear and front by the Panzer units attempting the breakout.

One of the most moving sights was the ford over the Dives River, a stream really, where the entire German army retreated, clogging the little country road with abandoned equipment and dead horses and men.

At this point the censors of RSM US Foundation may see fit to strike the following passage from a family publication. It was said that the ground turned white from the maggots coming out of the shallow graves. Then the sky turned black with the flies produced from the maggots.

It was hard to visualize the suffering while viewing the beautiful Normandy countryside from Hill 262 spread out before us. What a beautiful place to end this epic trip.

Pierre said that historians view the battle of the Falaise Gap as a tactical victory, but a strategic defeat. The 100,000 German solders that escaped would later show up at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. But the war was over in France, where the enemy only fought short rear guard actions that did not impede the Allied advance.

The scenery at Hill 262 made me yearn for the hills of Fauquier County and our pilgrimage to Normandy drew to a close. Thank you, RSM US Foundation, for making these memories for the Pearson family possible.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Meet Shaz Mian: RSM Technology and Management Consulting Manager

Shaz Mian | TMC Manager | Chicago, IL
What is your role at RSM?

I am part of our management consulting group where I lead our Great Lakes practice for the Performance Management & Analytics team. The focus of this group is IT tool specific; we utilize applications such as Prophix, Host Analytics and Adaptive (to name a few) that we implement in order to resolve clients’ budgeting/forecasting, reporting and consolidation challenges.

How did you get into that role?

I worked directly at one of our Corporate Performance Management (CPM) vendors in Toronto. At that time, RSM CPM was growing rapidly and the former CPM national lead was looking for someone to help her manage and grow the team. With the expectation of the role to wear multiple hats, my experience (support/consulting/sales engineer/direct sales) seemed to fit what she was looking for.

What do you like most about our Technology and Management Consulting practice?

Today, we are miles from where we were five years ago, which shows the success of CPM and potential of more growth ongoing. With the firm’s focus on an integrated approach, it has gotten me more passionate about a practice where moving away from a tool focused approach to an integrated approach with Financial Transformation team. This is what separates RSM from other firms and vendors, allowing us to continue to work toward leaders in the CPM space.

What are some of the challenges that you face?

Joining a relatively new practice, there were areas of improvement such as standardization and consistency across regions. It allowed me to learn and contribute to the practice from day one.

Any memorable client stories?

I flew down to meet the CFO of one of my clients for a lunch meeting to just touch base with him on the project. The client’s team was running behind on the project and the CFO thought I was coming into town to make sure they were on target, but I was just there for a friendly check-in. That gesture really stood out to the CFO and it helped him get a sign-off on another project. It helped me develop a great relationship, which lead to referrals in his network.

What are 3 of your favorite things that that aren’t work-related?

  • I love watching Kevin Hart and I think he is one of the funniest comedians out there. His stand ups on Netflix are hilarious. 
  • I love Hawaii, it is absolutely beautiful out there and my favorite place in the world.
  • I am not a Bulls fan, but a diehard Lakers fan. Even though I’m from Toronto, we didn’t grow up with an NBA team, so I watched the Lakers.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career?

I would advise someone to constantly take everything in and try to get involved in areas outside of your scope if there is that opportunity. It will allow you to grow and find other avenues in which you have interest. Never stop wanting to grow. Because in your career, you will always learn something and constantly chase new knowledge no matter where you are in your professional development.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Surviving and Thriving

Editor’s Note: Shelley Moreno was one of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Shelley’s dream? Provide travel packages and professional makeovers for seven breast cancer survivors for the 2017 Breast Cancer Thrives Cruise. Read Shelley’s story:

For most of us with a breast cancer diagnosis, we just put our heads down and fight, not really thinking of what it will be like when years of treatments and surgeries end. Lost hair, lost time, altered physical appearance, depleted, overwhelmed with permanent painful side effects. “Who was I now? How do I go forward from here?’” I asked myself. Bridging the gap from cancer fighter to cancer survivor was something I didn’t have a rule book for. I tried to get my old life back. But that was no longer there. Then a fateful meeting with two powerful breast cancer survivors, Jan Ping and Beverly Vote, and the opportunity to appear on TV to tell my story and receive a makeover, changed my life. A path to healing rolled out in front of me. I began to see a new self-emerge. I experienced depth and meaning for life that made the past years not just a hardship, but a gift. Transforming hardship into growth and learning is what life is all about. But we can’t do it alone. It starts with just one person who takes the time to understand like Jan and Beverly did for me. I knew I had to share this with other women who were suffering in silence as I once had. When I saw the 90-90-9: Pursue Your Passion contest announcement, it took my breath away, and everything in me knew I had to put myself out there. Even if I could just help reach one woman, it would all be worth it. But we ended up reaching so many more.

Beverly and Jan were immediately game to help! Jan, an Emmy award-winning makeup artist specializing in post-treatment cancer beauty would do makeovers on chosen survivors, and Beverly, who founded The Breast Cancer Thrivers’ Cruise where over 200 survivors come to heal, would help me secure spots for more women.

When I started calling the women we chose, I don’t know whose mind was more blown – theirs for hearing they were getting an all-expense-paid cruise to the Caribbean along with a makeover, or mine for knowing I was the catalyst. The days of meeting the women over the phone and spreading the message of hope were joyous and surreal. Our hearts connected over the miles on these calls. We shared our stories of heartache and triumph. Some of the survivors included: Julie from California - like me a two-time survivor and single mom of young children, Jo from Colorado - whose little sister was diagnosed within one week of her, and Laurie from Minnesota - who lives on an isolated ranch where local support groups don’t exist.

As the women shared their concerns of medically-forced physical changes, which made them no longer feel like themselves, Jan and I planned to do the makeovers for the Captain’s Dinner on the cruise. Then the makeovers took an exciting turn when the TV show Jan worked for heard about RSM’s Pursue Your Passion contest and wanted to feature two of the survivors. What a special day! Survivors Julie and Deanna showed up to set with their whole families. As they shared their stories on camera, I saw them melt as I once had. The magic of the makeover is not just a wonderful result, but the process of being truly seen and cared for was amazing. I felt so proud to say the RSM name on TV and be a part of broadcasting a message of hope. I have met people who saw the episode and said it helped them.

Next we had the cruise to look forward to, but getting there wasn’t easy! Each of us had our ailments, kids to plan around, doctors to okay our travels, etc. But when we all finally arrived in Miami, the feeling was electric as we all met and embraced. For the entire week we lived in a state of, “Pinch me; I can’t believe this is happening!” Special moments were spent snorkeling in crystal waters, laughing late at night until our sides hurt and letting out stored up tears over chocolate lava cake. Despite our many physical afflictions, one night we all made it to the dance floor. As we let the past anguish wash out of us and the music move through us, we shared an all-knowing glimpse in our eyes that we are living on a second chance and with an unearthed strength. We truly were survivors.

With tears left behind on the ship, we stepped back into our lives owning our strength, embracing our imperfections and honoring our vulnerabilities. I am still in touch with all the women, and we continue to share our lives. Last month, I had a recurrence scare and Julie and Deanna were right there with their support, giving me right back what I gave to them. All the women expressed their gratitude to RSM. And so did my mom when she saw me thriving through this process of Pursue Your Passion. My mom said it best, “RSM rocks!”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Helping Others- It's a Stitch...

Danielle and fellow RSM co-workers during one of her classes
Editor’s Note: Danielle Montes was one of nice RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Danielle’s dream? Take quilting classes to fine-tune skills to make and donate 24 quilts and 50 receiving blankets to Threads of Love, a nonprofit focused on premature babies; Setton Home, an organization that teaches parenting and life skills to teenage mothers; and Quilts for Kids, which focuses on children with lift-threatening illnesses, children of abuse and children living at or below the poverty level. Read Danielle’s story:

Before I begin to share my quilting journey, let me explain the quilting process. A quilt is like a sandwich in that it has three layers. The first is a quilt top, which is comprised of fabrics (typically cotton) cut in different sizes and sewn together to create an overall quilt design – this is the side of the quilt that has all the decorative elements. The second (middle) layer is the batting, which is the filler and is typically cotton or polyester. The backing acts as the bottom layer and is made up of one type of fabric. Quilting is the act of stitching all three layers together, and can be done either by hand or machine. Quilt blocks are individual pieces of fabric used to make patterns on quilt tops. Multiple blocks are sewn together to create a quilt. The size of the baby and children’s quilts made for donation are approximately 36” to 40” x 40” to 46”. That said, I’ve learned that it takes about 10 hours to make a quilt from start to finish, with more or less time needed, depending on the intricacy of the quilt top.

I have committed to sewing 24 quilts and 50 receiving blankets for donation. In addition, I have committed to teaching others how to sew and quilt a combined total of 16 quilts and 50 receiving blankets. Both projects are currently still in progress, but will be completed by December.

I began my Pursue Your Passion journey by researching sewing machines, quilting supplies, materials and classes. I chose a nice computerized sewing machine that was larger than the one I originally owned (making quilting a much easier process) and began watching countless YouTube videos on quilting as I researched and signed up for lessons offered in the San Antonio area where I live. I signed up for my first quilt class at Joann’s Fabric Store. It was a three-hour quilt block class that taught me how to assemble one block (a small baby quilt is comprised of anywhere between four to eight blocks). I needed a lot of guidance at first, but, by the end of the class, I felt comfortable enough to cut and piece a quilt block, although the thought of assembling a quilt and completing it was still daunting. I signed up for a private lesson where I was taught the basics of machine quilting and binding. I took an additional four classes and bought and studied quilt books and TV shows. Through this study and training, I can officially say I am now a quilter! By the end of August, I had quilted and donated five quilts for Threads of Love and Quilts for Kids, and pieced an additional total of 15 quilt tops. I’m now in the process of quilting the tops, and starting the final four quilts to reach my personal goal of 24 quilts.

Once I became a confident quilter, I began offering classes at my local office to interested co-workers. The response was amazing! I held three learn-to-sew classes, and one learn-to-quilt class between August and September, teaching a total of 12 individuals, many of whom had never touched a sewing machine. Through these classes, a combined total of 30 receiving blankets and one team quilt have been made for donation. I’ve also had one private quilting class with a teenager at my church, which will aid in her completion of a personal quilt project. Experienced quilters in the firm have also offered their time and talent to make quilts for donation, resulting in three completed quilts and two currently in progress. I plan to offer additional classes in October and November at work for both coworkers and their children and at my local church to teach others and make additional items for donation.

It’s been a wonderful experience to see others learn how to use a machine and have fun creating something from scratch – and we had such fun doing it! Some feel comfortable only sewing receiving blankets, others are excited to learn to quilt, for both volunteer and personal reasons. One individual has borrowed one of my quilting books and has already begun sewing two quilts as gifts for her family, while another has sewn a quilt and has a class under her belt. Others are excited to learn what they saw their grandmothers or mothers do, but never tried themselves. And some have children who would love to learn. I am excited to have my passion become another’s passion.

I have not had the opportunity to interact with any direct recipients of the donated quilts or receiving blankets, as they are donated to individuals through the organizations I support, but I know from the coordinators with at Threads of Love, Quilts for Kids and Seton Home that the donations are needed and greatly appreciated. After receiving the Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) notification, a co-worker hugged me and, with tears in her eyes, said that she had given birth to a preemie and that during that difficult time, she herself had received love and comfort through donated receiving blankets, handmade clothing and a quilt from Threads of Love, and that it was such a blessing in her life.

I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to learn to quilt and share my knowledge with others to make an impact in my community. I am also grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from the firm and fellow co-workers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gone to the Dogs!

Patti Leonard was the first of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Patti’s dream? Establish the Sparky Foundation to help provide medical care for animals in need, and to rescue and re-home animals in high-risk shelters.

I can’t believe that I actually have my very own 501©3 animal rescue! When I sent in my submission for Pursue Your Passion, it was so different from others before me that I never thought it would go anywhere. The fact that my dream is now a reality blows my mind!

I received my IRS letter with my 501©3 approval March 16, 2017. I sat in my driveway and cried! So many years spent devoting my time to animals and various rescue organizations, and now I would finally be working for ME! Sparky Foundation would be MY rescue organization!

In May, we started the building to house the animals – a place specifically for their care. It’s still a work-in-progress, but we have the walls up, flooring installed, door hung and a ramp installed for special needs dogs. My awesome husband recently had the duct work done so we can run heating and air to the building and built a HUGE new dog house for my birthday! Now that it’s cooled off we’re able to continue work on the building, which we hope to have finished before the end of the year. We have two 10’x10’x6’ outdoor dog lots with houses and a half-acre fenced in yard.

Sparky Foundation works with a variety of shelters, rescues and vet hospitals in different areas in our region. We will drive up to two hours each way to save a dog. That’s what distinguishes us from most other rescues. We don’t take owner surrenders or animals from Craigslist or other social media sites. We take the “underdog cases” – the dogs that need us most.

Our first intake was Libby, a four-pound hairless Chinese crested/Yorkie mix from a backyard breeder. She was infested with fleas, and had toenails so long they curled up. She also had skin issues, was not spayed and had a hernia. Harley, a female pit bull mix, is a one-year-old pup who’d been chained to a bush with a cord and a shoe string as a collar. She was surrounded by trash. Cash, a full-blooded, boxer who went unclaimed at a nearby shelter, can sit, shake, and is house-trained. We saved him 12 hours before he was to be put to sleep. Bailey, a 10-week-old pup, was suffering from road rash and a broken femur after being hit by a car. Bella, a white shepherd seized by animal control due to neglect and possible cruelty, had been chained to a tree with no food or water and was missing a back foot. She was malnourished and full of infection. Darcy, a dachshund, was removed from a neglect situation. George and Lola were unclaimed strays. They’re all now being cared for through Sparky Foundation.

Working in rescue, you always have some cases that stand out – ones you’ll never forget. For me, one of those is Molly, a senior female boxer with the cutest little under-bite. Molly was found in a rundown part of town, malnourished and with her stomach hanging nearly to the ground, full of puppies. She’s about eight-years-old, which is about 50 in human years – too old to be having babies. She was picked up by animal control and taken to the shelter on a Wednesday evening. The shelter coordinator contacted me Thursday morning. Because of her age and size, she was a high-risk pregnancy, and the shelter isn’t a good place for a mama give birth! I arranged to leave work Friday at noon to pick her up. I was working on a proposal that day, though, and was running late, so I let the shelter know I would be there at 3 p.m. At 12:30 p.m., I got a call saying Molly was in labor and had already given birth to one puppy. By the time I finished work at 1:30 p.m. and made the hour-and-a-half drive to the shelter in the pouring rain, she had five babies. We waited another three hours for her to deliver the rest of the puppies but with the storm and construction on the shelter going on, she was too stressed. We decided she needed to be in a quiet place, so we loaded her and her babies into my car, and made the trip home in a downpour. It took two hours. Within minutes of getting her settled, she had the last two puppies. We had a total of seven – six girls and one boy. Unfortunately, three didn’t survive, but today we have four fat and sassy little eight-week-old girls. All four will be going to their new homes soon. Mama Molly will be with us a few more weeks, until she’s spayed – then she, too, will have a new home! She’s a chunky girl, wiggles from happiness all the time, is crate-trained, house-trained, and sits on command. She’s a sweet, loving dog.

To date, we’ve taken in nine cases – 13 dogs. We’ve had eight adoptions, placed two in foster care and have three attending an adoption event this weekend. Owning a rescue is more work than volunteering for one. There are days I ask myself what I was thinking. Then, something will happen: the first time a dog who never knew love licks me, when one that has no idea what a toy is finally starts playing with one or best of all – when a dog goes from being tied to a tree, neglected and abused –even had to have her leg amputated – finds her forever family. THIS is why I do what I do. Thank you, RSM, for making my dream come true! I am forever grateful that through your help I am able to save the lives of the hopeless, the neglected and the lost.

Sparky Foundation can be found on Facebook:

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