Acquiring information in a timely manner is important for all professions, but for tax professionals, it’s especially critical.
“Tax professionals live and die on obtaining information they need,” said Michael Hainkel, executive vice president and chief tax officer for Lionsgate Entertainment, which includes a range of subsidiaries and projects in film, television, home video, music publishing and interactive video game development.
Hainkel, who graduated from the University of Houston with a BBA and master’s degree in accounting in the 1970s, says the longtime challenge has only gotten worse in recent years.
“Companies are running leaner and leaner,” Hainkel said. “Many people do not have the time to do their jobs, much less provide information to people in another group. We had to change the culture by convincing people it was in the company’s and their best interest to assist us.”
Here, in his words, is how he and his staff created that change at Lionsgate:
- First, we built relationships with the people in other groups so we could create the opportunity to explain how we could work together to minimize tax liabilities.
- Second, we gave the credit to whomever brought us the documents, analysis or raised the question that allowed us to optimize our tax position.
- Third, we bragged on those people to their bosses, their bosses’ bosses, their colleagues and Human Resources. I brought officers down to people’s desks or offices to thank them for their contribution. We tracked the savings generated from these efforts and reminded people to include the savings in their accomplishments prior to their performance evaluations. People soon realized that helping us made the company more profitable, increased their bonuses and they could obtain more recognition helping us than for doing their job.
- Fourth, we showed department heads how we could help them stretch their budgets.
- Fifth, we presented the results of these efforts to management, with a list of the people who helped, to demonstrate how many ways the company could save money. At every step, we said, ‘Thank you,’ to everyone who helped us.
“The result of our efforts was that almost everyone in the company wanted to work with us on our projects and seek our advice on theirs,” Hainkel said. “Earnings have been materially increased. “
By Julie Bonnin