Businesses create internships to meet specific needs

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the November 10, 2014 Daily Herald

                 There’s more than the prospect of low-cost labor that makes internships interesting to small businesses:

* Six smaller CPA firms have banded together to offer internships that focus less on accounting details and more on the positive cultural aspects of life in a small practice.

* A Naperville entrepreneur last year hired an intern as part of his own discovery of how to build a business.

The best internships, says Tory Nair, incorporate a “learning objective that is beneficial to the student and relates to class work.” Nair, director of career services at Aurora (IL) University, notes that Aurora students tend to like smaller companies partly because they’re already comfortable in a smaller educational setting.

The interns selected to participate in the Accounting Internship Scholarship Program that Jim Hechtman co-created with Allen Bolnick are not necessarily from smaller schools. They apparently are intrigued, however, by what Hechtman says is “the opportunity to make a difference” in a smaller company.

Hechtman is managing partner of The Hechtman Group Ltd., a Skokie-based CPA firm. Bolnick is managing partner at Weltman Bernfield LLC, Buffalo Grove.

The AISP intent is to convince collegiate accounting hopefuls that the Big Four firms which dominate the industry aren’t the only professional option. (Applications for the 2015 AISP internships are available now.)

“The problem we saw is an aging group of accounting professionals and an increasing demand for services,” Hechtman says. “We needed to get ourselves into colleges and show accounting students what working is like in smaller firms.”

So concerned were Hechtman and his counterparts that they decided to “not look for billable hours from the interns.” The goal instead is to focus on mentoring, educating and training interns around the core principle that “the culture in small firms is different. You have the ability to make a difference (sooner) in client businesses,” Hechtman says.

The internship process was more traditional for Bryan Schenk, president, Vantage Point Financial Consulting Inc. a year ago when he was “working on a project” and decided he could use some additional help.

“Growth is a hard thing to manage,” Schenk says. “I struggled. Can I afford to hire someone full-time? Part-time?”

For Schenk, whose business moved earlier this year from Naperville to Greer, SC, the solution was an internship. An Elmhurst College alumnus who had been an intern, Schenk turned to his alma mater.

The internship he developed worked two ways: Michael Olsson, then a junior I knew because we were paired in a mentoring program at the college, said at the time he “could see how everything in the classroom comes together” in actual practice. Schenk says, “I got to go through the hiring-interview process for the first time and learn all that.”

The internship, Schenk says, “gets you to understand what’s needed to get to the next level. What do I need infrastructure-wise to bring people on board?”

 

© 2014 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com.

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