2016 Powered by Women
DBusiness readers nominated eight metro Detroit women who hold leading positions in the automotive industry, sponsorships and event planning, health care, logistics, insurance, and nonprofit organizations.
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Stacie M. Kwaiser
Employees: 800 | Revenue: $116.4M
Stacie Kwaiser joined the CPA firm of Rehmann in 1996, intending to stay for a few years and then move to an in-house, corporate position.
“Obviously, it’s 20 years later and I continue to seek more opportunities — whether (that means) bigger, more complex clients; leading different teams; or rolling out new training programs,” says Kwaiser, who was named COO of the country’s 30th largest CPA, business consulting, and financial services firm in January. “I believe that if you work hard, you should enjoy what you do — and I do.”
Not only does Kwaiser enjoy the work, she strives to foster success in others through sponsoring and mentoring professionals, especially women. “I was raised to be a caring person, so it’s just an opportunity to help others,” Kwaiser says. “There’s nothing more exciting to me than seeing someone else’s success.”
She says reaching the C-suite and pulling up other women along with her will help to balance the gender gap that exists in the accounting profession. According to the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance, of 47 firms that participated in its 2015 survey of women in accounting, 22 percent of the companies had female principals or partners.
Also rare is having a female CEO. Among the top 50 CPA firms, only one has a woman at the top, Kwaiser says.
To help improve that statistic, she participates in two of Rehmann’s mentoring programs, and currently has six mentees within the company. “Often it’s helping them navigate the firm to achieve their goals, which typically is to become a principal, and looking out for them in their careers,” she says.
For example, Kwaiser may make a strategic introduction to a colleague for a mentee, or point out her special skill to a higher-up. One time, Kwaiser helped create new work opportunities by pointing out a mentee’s skills in information technology risk management to a principal from another Rehmann office (the firm has 17 locations in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida, including one in Saginaw, where Kwaiser is based).
Her mentoring activities extend outside of Rehmann through community activities at the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region, where she’s a past president and board member; and professional organizations such as the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, where Kwaiser started a three-year term on the board of directors last September.
“To me, there’s no bigger compliment you can pay to someone than to ask for their guidance or to learn about their success,” she says. “That’s what I often tell people; it’s humbling to me when people refer to me as a mentor.”
Randy Rupp, CEO of Rehmann, says Kwaiser is a key member in the 75-year-old firm’s strategic direction and is responsible for its operational management. “Stacie has demonstrated that she is a true leader — someone who understands what it takes to help us continue exceeding expectations for clients and associates,” he says.
Kwaiser says leadership skills come with experience. “I think a leader is built on many of the attributes that I display: Caring, compassionate, can provide direction and get others to move forward to achieve something, shows appreciation, and is a good communicator.”
She says many of those traits come naturally to her. She was captain of her volleyball and softball teams at Bridgeport High School in Saginaw, and she reads books on leadership and works at a firm that subscribes to Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” principles. “I think it’s also something you have to be cognizant of and work to be better at,” she says of leadership traits.
Kwaiser says she once asked her daughter Megan, 11, for her opinion on how well she passes leadership skills to the next generation. “(Megan) told me, ‘You’ve always taught me to lead by example,’ ” Kwaiser says, “ ‘and you don’t have to be bossy to be a leader.’ ” — Ilene Wolff