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Employee Spotlight: Bill Harlow

Posted 12:00 PM by

Bill Harlow, the Director of Business Development at Katz, Sapper & Miller, competes in the 2012 Ironman Wisconsin

Bill Harlow approaches the finish line of the 2012 Ironman Wisconsin, which he describes as his biggest achievement as a triathlete since he began competing in 2008.

Bill Harlow knows a thing or two about the importance of perseverance. Bill is not just Katz, Sapper & Miller’s Director of Business Development with more than 20 years of experience in professional services, including 14 in tax and audit. He is also the firm’s resident Ironman.

Bill says there are definite parallels between winning new business opportunities for the firm and successfully finishing one of the world’s great endurance events. The key to both is having a sound game plan, focusing on results, and, above all, always staying the course.

You went to Ohio State University. What did you study in college?

I graduated from Ohio State in 1987 with a B.A. in communications. It was a classic liberal arts education, so I was able to take classes in business, marketing, and oral presentation. It made me something of a generalist, but my education has served me well.

What motivated you to follow the business development track?

I’m wired to do it. My dad had a successful career in business development. He would share stories of the cities he traveled to and the clients he visited. All of this was impressed upon me when my I was a youth. My brother (who has also completed Ironman) is also in business development. It runs in the family. I’ve also always loved the dynamics of the B2B relationship.

Can you describe your typical day?

My days are spent promoting KSM in the marketplace. This involves researching companies, reaching out to owners and decision-makers and securing meetings with them, bringing in and leading pursuit teams that are focused on problem solving, and building relationships. We are active in a number of sectors, including manufacturing, life sciences, real estate, and technology, so a big part of my job involves staying on top of these fields. Every day is a new challenge.

What do you like best about your job?

Representing a strong brand like KSM and going to market with a great team, opening new doors, solving problems on a client’s behalf – these are all things that put wind in my sails. The best part of my job, however, is winning new business. Whether it takes three months or three years, when we get someone new to make a commitment to the firm, those are the absolute best days in my world.

What would you say is your biggest challenge?

Educating clients about opportunities they may not be aware of. At KSM, we work primarily with privately held businesses. Many times, a client's needs will end up being more complex than we initially thought. Conveying the full range of services we make available to them can be a challenge, but it can also lead to some pleasant surprises.

When did you become a triathlete?

I was a longtime runner. When an injury in 2008 required me to take several months off, I bought a bike and soon fell in love with cycling. A few months later, I started swimming. I competed in my first sprint triathlon in 2008 (800-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike ride, 5-kilometer run) in Bloomington, Ind. I completed my first Half Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run) in 2010 and then completed the Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run) in 2012 in Madison, Wis.

What’s the hardest part about competing in a triathlon?

It will lift you up. It will break your heart. That’s the mystique of the Ironman. There’s also a saying that very much describes the difficulty of competing in one of these events. “Whether you’re feeling good or bad, neither will last.” Pacing yourself is critical. It can also be difficult “finding your legs” during the run after being on the bike for so long. Having a solid nutrition plan in place is also vitally important. You have to keep your fuel level up and stay hydrated.

How does KSM’s emphasis on career/life/balance feed/support your passion for fitness?

We have a great culture here, and the wellness program is just one part of it. The program encourages fitness but will also pay a percentage of employee’s race entry fees or the purchase of a piece of exercise equipment. There’s a running club. The Corporate Challenge is popular. It’s a great example of a company not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk.

What are your biggest achievements to date as a triathlete? What are your personal goals?

Completing the 2012 Ironman Wisconsin. In terms of personal goals, I would like to beat my Wisconsin time (15 hours 16 minutes) someday, but time really isn’t the most important thing. I participated in last week’s Ironman Louisville but had to drop out during the run due to the heat and humidity – but I’ll be back.

Being a positive role model for my 15-year-old daughter is important. Staying active is important. I’d love to do an Ironman when I’m 60. I’d love to do one when I’m 70.

Does being a triathlete help you identify new client opportunities and build relationships with the firm?

Being a triathlete has opened doors for me and for the firm. In fact, we’re currently involved in several pursuits that were initiated through triathlon introductions. I’ve become good friends with several training partners, and we assist each other in the marketplace when possible. I’m always meeting new people.

About Katz, Sapper & Miller
KSM is a nationally recognized consulting, tax, and audit firm. Through our deep experience across multiple disciplines and industries, we leverage emerging technologies, combined with our people’s differing perspectives, ingenuity, and creativity, to help our clients solve their most difficult challenges.

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