Our Killer App? Collaboration that builds Trust

  • May 29, 2014

Never before has the trustworthiness of our global corporations been more important to the global economy, to the public who invests in these global companies, and to the regulators who oversee our businesses. And never before has there been so little trust in our global institutions – both government and business – and our institutional leaders, according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer survey report.

I’m concerned that trust has become a major challenge for many companies and their stakeholders. While there were some bright spots in this research (the technology industry once again figures as the most trustworthy business sector), many of the results are disappointing.

When investors don’t have confidence in business leaders or their companies, regulators tend to take action by enacting more rules. Understanding and complying with these rules creates the need for more overhead, which hammers away at efficiency and conspires to drive down profits and valuations. And that hurts all investors, from the big institutions down to those of us with 401(k) plans, as well as the overall economy.

That’s the simplified version, but not by much. It’s all tied together – and so is our take on trust at Vertex, where we have structured our company, developed our culture and guided our decision-making with one underlying objective in mind: to become trustworthy in the eyes of our stakeholders.

This commitment to being trustworthy is reflected in how we collaborate with our customers and partners; and these relationships are ultimately enabled by our internal collaboration. As a community of professionals who engage diverse perspectives in everything we do at Vertex, we’ve been committed to bringing that same level of engagement to understanding the needs of our customers and partners. The singular purpose in this ongoing exchange of ideas and perspectives is to optimally apply advanced technology to best meet our stakeholders’ needs, for today and tomorrow.

This ongoing collaboration with employees, clients and partners has been the foundation of everything we have created at Vertex. We have seen signs that tell us we are headed in the right direction. Our employee turnover rate has held steady at only 5 percent for the past 17 years. Our partners and clients continually bring us a steady stream of insights and opportunities to help us better serve the industry. As a result, our customer retention rate, after adjustment for mergers and consolidations, exceeds 93 percent.

Involving our stakeholders, internally and in the marketplace, takes time and effort. But the knowledge we gain, and the trust that results, leads to innovation that will meet the needs of our industry for decades to come. Collaboration is nothing more than being committed to honoring, respecting and engaging stakeholders in the decisions that affect their lives, careers and businesses. We believe that our commitment to collaboration is what makes us worthy of our stakeholders’ trust. Collaboration is truly the killer app at the heart of our leadership philosophy.

Please remember that the Tax Matters provides information for educational purposes, not specific tax or legal advice. Always consult a qualified tax or legal advisor before taking any action based on this information.

About this Contributor

Jeff Westphal Headshot
Jeff Westphal

Jeff Westphal is co-owner of Vertex and serves on the Vertex Board of Directors. In 1988, he joined the company founded by his father, Ray Westphal. During his tenure, he has served as Director of Marketing, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and later as Executive Vice President. He was promoted to President in 1996 and to Chief Executive Officer in 2001. Under Jeff's stewardship, Vertex has established consulting and implementation service offerings, established European and Brazilian operations, and expanded to become the global leader in Enterprise Tax Performance solutions. During his tenure, Vertex was also awarded one of the "Top Workplaces" in the Delaware Valley and "The Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania.”

Since its start in 1978, Vertex has grown to around 900 professionals at its headquarters in the U.S. (King of Prussia, PA) and its global offices in Europe (London), Brazil (São Paulo), Dallas, Fort Collins, Naperville, Phoenix, San Francisco, Sarasota, and Seattle. Jeff is a member of the Institute for Professionals in Taxation (IPT), World Presidents' Organization (WPO), the Conference Board, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Middle Market Executive Council and is also a frequent speaker to business and community organizations.

Jeff served as Chairman of the Board of Open Connections, Inc. (a not-for-profit open educational organization) for 15 years and remains a trustee. In addition, he is Co-founder with his wife, Jenifer, of Kyle's Treehouse, (kylestreehouse.org), a web-based resource for families seeking hope and guidance for the treatment of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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