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The Boomer Bulletin - 2012
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Firm Focal Points for The New Economy

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are you feeling more confident in the economy?  Many are saying they are cautiously optimistic and the overall barometer is edging up, albeit slowly.  Are you starting to have visions of the "old days” when you were so swamped with new clients that you could not keep up with the demand?  Remember also your desire to hire new staff and your inability to find anyone at any level.  We were hanging on to our staff by paying signing bonuses, increasing our benefit packages, insuring they had valuable training and even offering on-site massages during tax season. 

The climate changed and many of those benefits and good feelings went away.  Firms began to get more conservative.  We managed expenses more closely, laid off staff, the massages went away and we became more focused on solid firm management principles. Now that we are starting to feel a little relief, will you be tempted to let go of those solid management principles?  I would encourage you to relax, but not let go.  Keep your eye on the strategies that will become a part of your long-term culture, not just a part of a temporary strategy.  

Let’s look at the foundational strategies that might have become a habit over the past few years that you should hold tight to as the recovery continues:

  1. Focus on strategic firm initiatives:  Firms have worked hard to look at specific strategies that will drive firm growth, increase top talent, and improve processes as well as develop technology initiatives that support the overall firm strategies.  The plan was the roadmap that was used to maneuver through the tough times and now will guide you through the more prosperous ones.  
  2. Focus on internal and external relationships:  Leadership in firms have always known that the firm is built on strong client relationships and most have subscribed to the idea that strong internal relationships are necessary also.  That formula is certainly not retreating now that the economy is beginning to recover.  Emphasis on internal and external relationship building is essential to the continued growth of the firm.  
  3. Focus on creating value not just selling the next deal:  Growth is always a part of the public accounting practice, and during economic stress, the firms natural tendency is to have a laser focus on growth strategies.  The growth strategies must continue with the same intensity and commitment by the leadership group.  
  4. Focus on new opportunities:  When stressful times are in our midst, we search outside the box for new opportunities out of desperation to find new services and new streams of revenue.  Don’t let that intensity stop simply because the pressure is off.  Keep encouraging your partners and team to look for new opportunities that will give your firm a vision to pursue.  
  5. Focus on progress, not perfection:  When the whole world is spinning out of control and the firms stays flat everyone pats you on the back and says you are doing ok.  Now that the world is slowing down, some will have a tendency to move into the "we have to get back to 20% per year growth – NOW!”.  Slow down and remember that progress is good and some growth is far better than flat.  Perfection is a dream that can soon turn into a nightmare, so continued improvement is your goal.  
  6. Focus on your talents and your ability to collaborate:  We are a profession that started out as a group of rough individualists and have learned that teams, collaboration and groups are far more efficient and effective to complete projects.  The momentum exists, so continue the path and expand the groupthink that is working so well in your firm already.  
  7. Focus on being grateful:  Gratitude for team members, clients, projects, peers and partner group becomes much clearer when times are tough.  Work hard to continue to see the amazing resources around you and make a special effort to tell them how grateful you are to have them in your circle of influence.  
  8. Focus on creativity:  Creativity within the firm often comes from a position of stress, and the firm may have developed some creative new processes, services, task forces and projects over the last few years. Don’t let the creativity stop.  Encourage your entire workforce to look for ways to improve the firm creatively by finding ways to do things faster, cheaper, easier and better.  
  9. Focus on leadership:  Firm leaders have been forced to give up some control, responsibility and authority to other talented individuals in the firm with the reduction in workforce and the emergence of top talent at the manager level.  Leadership exists throughout the firm so don’t back off of that emerging trend now.  Continue the strategy of developing your top talent into the future leadership group in your firm.  
  10. Focus on technology solutions:  We all realize that technology is an accelerator for almost every initiative in the firm.  Technology sometimes will ebb and flow in the firm if the leadership group does not see it as an asset. Don’t let technology become a simple expense line on the P&L statement.  Insure that it stays on the asset column on the spreadsheet.  
The time for strategic thinking is now.  Take the focus challenge and continue to build on the habits that you have developed over the last few years. This continued focus will serve your firm well for the long-term.  

Tags:  Focus  Strategic Planning 

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