Tim O’Neill: Serious about fun and games
Tim O’Neill says regularly making time for fun is the secret to having an engaged team. Rubber duck debugging is a problem-solving tool used by software coders that Tim has adopted to use with his team.
Senior manager Tim O’Neill handles a variety of accounting needs for select Wipfli clients and has been central to growing the brewing services client base in St. Louis and beyond. Dedicated to building relationships and expanding his local network has helped him thrive in the business development aspect of his job.
“The flexibility and entrepreneurial side of Wipfli has enabled me to pursue an area I’m passionate about, which is craft beer,” he said. “If you’ve got a particular interest in an area and a game plan, the firm is all for you exploring new opportunities.”
Tim has another role at Wipfli’s two St. Louis area offices that he’s no less passionate — and serious — about. As co-chair of the Fun Committee with Wipfli partner Natalie Tocco, Tim spends a great deal of his time and energy devising and implementing ways to keep associates engaged and happy at work.
He spearheads half a dozen initiatives with the goal of bolstering team spirit for more than 100 associates year-round. His efforts are an embodiment of a Wipfli core value: commitment to teamwork.
Not coincidentally, those activities really crank up early in the year during busy tax season. The St. Louis office designates one week in particular during that time to double down on fun.
Relieving pressure during tax season
Remember spirit week back in high school? During the last week of January, Tim’s spirit week at Wipfli featured distinct themes:
- Come to work in the office dressed as a Zoomer (e.g., wear a collared shirt or nice blouse plus pajama pants or shorts)
- Favorite Sports Team Day (wear merch that shows your pride for your No.1 squad)
- Monochrome Day (dress in a single color from head to toe)
- Gratitude Day (send well wishes or compliments to coworkers)
Tim also organizes Friday Frolics during busy season, which involve a 30-minute, energy-boosting activity to provide a diversion from the pressures of the moment. He makes sure, whenever possible, that activities are inclusive of all associates whether they’re in the office or working remotely.
Friday Frolics events have included Super Bowl-themed trivia, a chili cook-off and a Penguin Popper foam-ball shooting game. “We’ve found that people who are good at beer pong do especially well at this game,” he said.
Senior accountant Cindy Cook won bragging rights against stiff competition during the February chili cook-off.
Teambuilding throughout the year
To keep the fun going throughout the year, Tim gathers music playlists created by associates and adds his own insightful commentary.
“When people who might never talk about music with each other get these playlists at work, they’re connected on a whole new level. It helps to increase enjoyment for the place they work,” he said.
The commentary helps unofficially fulfill Tim’s dream of becoming a music journalist. “I enjoy accounting for the opportunities to solve problems, but I started off really wanting to write for Rolling Stone,” said Tim, who’s been with Wipfli for his entire 10-year accounting career.
Tim also rarely lets a holiday or other important celebratory day go by unacknowledged. For example, on Saint Patrick’s Day, Tim and the team celebrate with a scratch-off card game and a refreshment cart that makes the rounds. And to celebrate the Cardinals’ opening day, Tim serves up ballgame fare like hot dogs and nachos.
A few minutes of fun goes a long way during busy season.
And for the athletically inclined, the office also participates in bowling, softball and volleyball leagues. All associates are welcome to join.
“The Fun Committee in our office really helps to bring our community closer together, especially during tax season,” said staff accountant Sara Nolte. “The activities they plan every Friday help to boost morale in such a busy time of the year and bring us together through a little friendly competition. It’s something I look forward to every week.”
Manager Theresa Cosey agreed. “During the most stressful time of the year as tax professionals, the Fun Committee is a bright spot in our week. It lifts our spirits,” she said. “It gives us a reason to take a break and gather together for a laugh or two. We appreciate the thought and effort that goes into the activities.”
Tim made his colleagues smile recently with the decidedly analog tool that he introduced at the office, a solution that software coders swear by to help solve thorny problems: the beloved rubber ducky.
Talking aloud to an eminently squeezable duck can help anyone sort out difficult situations, Tim explained, adding. “I grabbed about 50 from Amazon, had people come to my office, pick a duck and name it.”
In a note to the team, he wrote: “While a rubber duck has absolutely no accounting prowess, nor does it speak, it is cute and will never judge you. I think you’ll be surprised by how much they can help.”
Tim’s says that all the fun and games energize the team to do better work and it motivates him to be a better leader.
“We want to create a culture where people don’t to want to leave,” he said. “I am extremely passionate about recruiting and retention and getting associates to become their best selves from a career standpoint. These opportunities to spend time together help set us apart from other firms. We are a team.”