Posted By Sandra Wiley,
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
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As we approach the end of 2012, I hope you are taking time to think about the strategies that will improve your firm as well as your own professional growth in the year ahead. One of the most effective strategies for growth is to delegate tasks that you have outgrown and give up full control of those tasks to others.
After reading an eye-opening book–E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, I began to work hard to give up tasks that others could do as well, and in many cases, better than I did them. I fired myself. The decision was a spectacular one because it allowed me to move on to other projects that were better for Boomer Consulting and more fulfilling for me personally.
The main message of E-Myth Revisited is that you should turn your company into a franchise–not literally, but in the sense that you make sure each and every job function is documented well enough that you can turn it over to someone else if you need to. The key here is to teach, push work out and let go!
You should fire yourself from tasks that don’t fit you any longer, especially from the jobs that, with your handling them, stand in the way of your company's growth. Because of E-Myth Revisited’s teachings, I believe this is an ongoing process that everyone in the firm should take part in each year.
Before I read the book, I believed that if I delegated I was failing to do my job and I was unable to handle all of my responsibilities. I closed deals, created intellectual capital, presented and did the majority of the follow up for all of my client engagements. This practice was, quite frankly, crazy and unnecessary because I am surrounded by an amazing and very capable team. All of them are highly educated and experienced and they possess a strong sense of the work that needs to be accomplished. Still, I felt that I was the only one who could properly divvy out the projects. What's more, I was somehow afraid that handing over many of these important functions would cause our company to lose two of our strongest competitive advantages–speed and agility. The truth was, I realize now: I didn't want to give up control.
By being unwilling to give up control, I was spending most of my time working in my business, not on my business. In other words, I was in the weeds every day and I had no time left to think strategically. I was also keeping others on my team from using their unique abilities and in essence I was holding them back. This was creating a vacuum of lost information as projects were passed one desk to another and everyone was waiting for direction from me. On top of that, I found my time consumed in unfortunate ways that did not fit my instinctive capabilities. I also found that I was spending personal time working on firm projects instead of time where I wanted to be with my family.
Today, I'm proud to say that I have turned over many tasks and projects to other leaders at Boomer Consulting. I believe the act of delegating and letting go of both the responsibility for the task and the authority to make decisions was a real gift to me. I am more focused, I produce more and in the end I am far more satisfied today then I was "B.D.” (before delegation). One more important note is that it has only affected our client relationships for the better.
Of course, I still know what's happening at the company. I can easily find answers if I need an update on a specific project. I gave up control, not knowledge.
So what about you? Are you working in your business, or on your business?
Review your task list today and fire yourself before the end of the year! Select, train and then give away both the responsibility and authority for tasks that could be done better by someone else. Enjoy greater efficiency and effectiveness. Focus on what your firm needs you to focus on: strategic direction and vision.
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Posted By Sue Thiemann,
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
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How are you feeling about your job today? Are you burned out? Do you do an incredible amount of work just to keep your company competitive? What frustrates you most? Are you underappreciated or undervalued? Respect, do you get the respect you feel you deserve? How can you get more respect? What else can you do?
I really love my job. I believe in our company and the services and products we provide. It’s a great company but maybe there is another opportunity somewhere else? Wait, if I love what I am doing and the company I work for, why would I consider looking anywhere else?
We all like to feel that we are of value and productive within our company and among our co-workers. So what can I do to get the respect I desire? The answer is, make myself invaluable to the company, even irreplaceable. So, you don’t like everything about your job? If you make yourself invaluable, your boss may eventually take notice and a new opportunity will come. Be the person your company can’t live without. Be a top producer. Be different. Be the "go-to” person. Make yourself irreplaceable!
In the book Invaluable: The Secret to Becoming Irreplaceable by Dave Crenshaw, he follows a fictional character who is unhappy with his new job but finds wisdom from his visits with his mentor who challenges him to become invaluable, even irreplaceable to his company.
What are two things that would need to change for you to love your job? More money? More respect? More authority? More responsibility? What have you done to merit any of those changes? First learn all you can about your current job. You went to college to learn your industry and field, however, you did not learn how to work in your position in your firm. Learn all you can about your current position and about how to become more valuable within that role.
It’s important to understand that the amount of respect, money or responsibility you want will be in direct proportion to: 1) the demand for what you do; 2) your ability to do it; and 3) the difficulty of replacing you. You can only control the job you do and the quality at which you do it. So do your job better than anyone else.
How do you become invaluable or irreplaceable? Reduce the less valuable activities you perform and focus on the most valuable activities. Your most valuable activities are the things you do that provide the most value to your company. When you focus on your most valuable activities, both your ability and the difficulty of replacing you are increased.
Which activities are you doing now that are wasting time? Which activities are just busywork and aren’t really contributing to the overall success of the company? You may need to discuss this with your manager/boss. Get their opinion. What is it that you do that makes you of most value to your boss? What separates you from all the other employees? Dave Crenshaw referred to these as:
- MVA’s: Most Valuable Activities
- LVA’s: Less Valuable Activities
An example of MVA’s and LVA’s are expense reports. Expense reports for my boss, Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder at Boomer Consulting are LVA’s. For Sandra, time spent on expense reports is a non-revenue generating activity, a low priority activity and not in line with her best abilities. For me, as the accounting administrator, they are a MVA. In order to invoice clients in a timely manner, I need to receive the expense reports. Solution: I create and maintain the expense reports for Sandra; submit them to her for additions and approval. We both get what we need in a timely manner and we both become more efficient by focusing on our unique abilities. Now that makes both of us more valuable.
Again, the 3 things that determine how valuable we are:
- Demand for what you do
- Ability to do it
- Irreplaceability or difficulty of replacing you
You have little control over demand, so you need to focus on your ability to do something (_____ you fill in the blank) and the difficulty of replacing you. When you focus on your MVA’s, both your ability to do whatever it is and the difficulty of replacing you are increased.
Have you considered how your firm is replaceable? How can you make your firm irreplaceable to your clients? What are you doing to make your firm the accounting firm of choice? What can you do today to make your client’s view your firm as irreplaceable?
Traps you may encounter are anything that causes you to spend more time than you should in an LVA. Things like interruptions, random assignments, getting caught up in minor details and just not knowing how to delegate properly. You’re naturally drawn toward them because they are usually simple and easy to replace and take less effort. MVA’s take more effort to get going, more practice, more skill and more inertia. The LVA’s are like a sand bag pulling your balloon down vs. the MVA’s which are lifting you up as you focus on your unique abilities and activities. So when you have more activities, it’s harder to focus on the most valuable ones. How do you get out of this spiral? You may need to offload some sandbags.
Offloading activities to consider:
- Personal systems: Review your daily mode of operation. Arrive at work; login to your computer; check with a co-worker (chit chat); make coffee; check with another co-worker, etc. Early in my career with Boomer Consulting, I started the habit of chit-chatting with Sandra first thing in the morning until finally she said, "Sue, I am into my work day and this chit-chatting takes away from my productivity.” What a slap in the face and I thank her for doing so. I realize I was doing one of those "just wasting time” activities mentioned above that is not adding to my value with the company and certainly not making me irreplaceable.
- What about busywork activities? Many are a necessity but prioritizing and combining several busywork activities into a set time period increases your productivity. An example is email. Everyone receives notices daily, hourly, etc.; I could stop every time I receive an email but this would be an interruption. Interruptions reduce efficiencies in work produced. Schedule a time once an hour to review and respond to emails. When you focus on your MVA, both your ability to do whatever it is and the difficulty of replacing you are increased.
What are some of your busy work activities that could be more efficiently managed? Other activities to review for offloading would be business processes, time management and delegating specific jobs. The last and most costly would be to hire additional staff.
Striving to be irreplaceable is about taking control of your own destiny. It’s up to you to evaluate your position within your firm and determine what needs to be done to increase your value. Take charge and start becoming irreplaceable today!
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Posted By Tina Greim,
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
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When thinking about what ambiance means, you might refer to a local coffee shop with a quaint atmosphere that serves you your favorite coffee. When I think of ambiance, it’s deeper than just your surroundings; it ties directly into every aspect of your business. However, your ambiance can change quickly with poor client service. Dictionary.com defines ambiance as "The mood, character, quality, tone, atmosphere, etc.., particularly of an environment or milieu.” When you think about your client service ambiance what atmosphere is it creating for your clients?
When visiting a local business recently, I realized then that ambiance is more than just an atmosphere. It’s about all the pieces that complete any business from client service, innovative ideas to a great product. You can have innovative ideas and a great product, but without excellent client service and experience, all the other aspects of your business may continue to fall short.
Your client service ambiance reflects who you are as a company internally and externally. With that being said, your clients have options to do their business elsewhere. As your company moves forward in 2013, what can you do to have an overall client service ambiance that keeps clients coming back?
Client Service or Customer Experience
Client service is so important and can easily set you apart from your competitors. Did you know that your clients will pay more for a product or service just to have a better customer experience? Client service has to be consistent from the first person who answers the phone or greets your clients all the way to service delivery. Each person who has client contact creates an everlasting impression, and you want to ensure that each person is leaving a positive one. How to rejuvenate your client service for 2013:
- If you do not have a customer service vision for your company in place – create one that stands behind the client service you want to represent. Think about how you want your company and services to be represented.
- Think innovation – how can your company continue to excel in customer service or to improve customer experience? Allow your employees to make decisions and to generate value to your customers.
- Throw out the rule book – too many rules and restrictions are like a deflated balloon. Allow your employees to provide true client service vs. what’s written in the rule book. Zappos is a great example, not only the culture they have created but their first core value is "Deliver Wow Through Service.” Zappos believes in doing things in an unconventional and innovative way to go above and beyond just "average” service but to create an emotional impact and to leave them with a positive story. Think about what kind of story you want to leave with your clients.
- Do your homework – What kind of client service are your competitors offering? How can your firm’s be better different or better?
- Think small – If one person in your firm made the commitment to improving 1% per day, the firm would be 37x better, not 365% (3.65x) better at the end of the year. What incremental changes can your firm make to improve client service?
- What client service do you expect? Treat your clients the way you want to be treated. Most importantly, be proactive and listen to their needs.
Client service and customer experience are so important and might be the determining factor whether a client stays or moves on to another competitor. Continue to allow client service to be a part of your overall business growth and make it a priority. Allow innovation, always room for client service growth and learn from mistakes. Make yourself the envy of your competitors by going above and beyond in creating the overall client service ambiance that keep your clients coming back for more.
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Posted By Scott Morrill,
Thursday, November 15, 2012
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are worthless, but planning is everything,” said President Dwight Eisenhower. Having served as the Supreme Commander of the
Allied Expeditionary Forces during the invasion of Normandy, the largest
amphibious invasion in world history, he should be considered an expert on
planning. Eisenhower explained that a
plan’s weakness was that it couldn’t account for the unexpected. In contrast, the ability to plan was indispensable
because it prepared you for dealing with change as it occurred over time.
Eisenhower’s point was obviously not that plans were
worthless but rather that the bigger value exists in the process, not the
outcome. The outcome (the plan) is usually
a list of assigned tasks with schedules and a ration of resources. It’s like a map and if it’s perfectly
constructed and completed, then perhaps you at arrive where you want to be. But what if the world changes as you execute
your plan? A map can’t anticipate road
closures due to emergencies nor can it guarantee that your destination will
still offer what it promised when you set out.
In this article I hope to resell you on the value of
investing time in developing a plan for your company and also give you three
tips which will make your plans more effective.
As a first step, let’s consider some of the features a plan.
A plan is a tool for communication. It communicates goals and priorities. It can be used for marketing and to attract
resources such as talent and investors.
At the end of its life it can be used to measure accountability and serve
as a historical record.
Now think about some of the benefits that the planning
process delivers regardless of whether or not you accomplish all the goals of the
- Since it is a proactive process rather than a
reactive process, it helps you to identify and achieve what you really want –
in part by prioritizing goals so you aren’t wasting resources on, or being
distracted by, less important tasks.
- It gives you an opportunity to address and solve
issues that otherwise would be too easy to ignore – at least until they festered
into bigger issues.
- It provides an opportunity to brainstorm new
innovations and discover new opportunities.
- Participation in the process develops ownership
– the more inclusive your process, the more buy-in you develop. When your team feels ownership they are
inspired and motivated to be more productive.
There are many techniques that can be used in the planning
process in order to increase the return on your investment. I want to remind you of three that are sometimes
If your plan involves other people then its main
purpose is to serve as a tool for communication – and the easier it is to
understand, the more people you will be able to attract as an audience. In math it’s called solving to the lowest
common denominator. In pop music it’s
called finding a hook. In sales it’s
called giving an elevator speech.
It is our practice to simplify any plan into something that
can be printed on just one page. Since
you really can only effectively work on one thing at a time, the one page plan
serves as a constant reminder as to which tasks should be prioritized the
highest – especially if it is displayed in a prominent location on your desk!
detail should it contain? While
multi-year planning is conducted by our owners with the input of key staff
members, our entire company works together to develop an annual company plan. We allow one level of "nesting” initiatives
within the annual plan but each team member must develop and execute a personal
90-day plan that relates to the initiatives of the annual plan. Each plan keeps the detail level to about one
page – any more detail than that and you’re just boring each other.
"Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly,”
attributed to Plato.
Another related quote is easier to document:
"The business schools reward difficult
complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more
effective," attributed to Warren Buffett.
An important benefit of this process is that your plan
becomes a protective shield to keep you from being assigned "pet projects” that
don’t benefit the entire company.
"A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his
tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his
goals,” attributed to Larry Bird.
We live in a society that expects immediate and perfect results. It would be disingenuous if this article led
you believe that there are simple steps which guarantee success at developing
or executing your plan. The process of
planning and the execution of the plan are both skills that can be improved. The value of practice is often overlooked.
The process of planning is an exercise in change management
and conflict resolution. To thoroughly
capitalize on the strengths of a team, participants must be willing to consider
thoughts that are different from their own and be able to build a consensus
that first serves the group – which often requires concessions from the individuals
involved. A skilled, independent
facilitator will maximize participation – and thereby buy-in – so don’t
miscalculate the value of a practiced, professional facilitator.
There’s also a tendency to be optimistic during planning
sessions – in part because it’s an opportunity to express innovation and in
part because it’s easier to quantify tangible rather than intangible costs. It’s easy to build a plan without remembering
that many new ideas require training and practice in order to become
efficient. If you neglect the need for
practice, your resulting plan may exceed your capabilities and better ideas may
be abandoned because of faulty comparisons.
"I had to spend countless hours, above and
beyond the basic time, to try and perfect the fundamentals,” attributed to
"There are no secrets to success. It
is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powells
quoted in The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (2003) by Oren Harari.
Repetition alone does not guarantee improved results. If you practice something badly you will just
become good at doing that thing poorly. Frequent
review and evaluation helps you to stay on the course you desire. Reviews and evaluations are inevitable but it
is our experience that frequency and attitude affect effectiveness.
An evaluation should be a positive experience. If you take the time to review completed
tasks you will normally have more accomplishments than failures – and even a failure
in the short-term may actually be an important step in a long-term success.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work,”
attributed to Thomas Edison.
At the end of its lifetime a plan serves as a template for
accountability – which is good – but evaluations during the plan serve as
opportunities for coaching and accurate improvement. The more frequent the evaluations, the less
the likelihood of major errors.
"My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are
content with your failure,” attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
Plan to Grow
Simplify, practice and evaluate. Add these tools to your planning process and
continue to grow.
plan. Follow the plan, and you'll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don't have a plan. That's why it's is easy to beat most folks,”
attributed to Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Posted By Arianna Campbell,
Thursday, November 15, 2012
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As firms are slowly recovering from the recession that we
experienced in 2008, some employees may be tempted to become comfortable and
complacent in their positions. The layoffs have subsided, the sense of urgency
has dissipated, and old habits have returned. However, as the economic
uncertainty continues, there is even more of a need for talented employees who
can demonstrate their value to the firm. Firm leadership is looking for people
who are committed to the firm and prepared for whatever the future may bring. Here
are several changes that you can make right now to showcase and increase your
value to your firm.
- Get back to the basics: Showing
your value as an employee takes more than just completing your tasks. It starts
with reinstating a few simple practices that are centered on making
professionalism a priority. Show up on time and keep a positive attitude. Take
pride in your work. Be a team player. Treat your coworkers with respect. Go
above and beyond in every project and task. Be dependable, consistent and
trustworthy. Making small changes to improve your character, behavior and
attitude can have a large impact on your value to the firm.
- Identify your professional Dangers,
Opportunities and Strengths (DOS): Taking the initiative to evaluate
dangers, opportunities and strengths (DOS) is an excellent way to define areas
where you can be proactive in your professional growth. This will make you
aware of your dangers, ready for your opportunities and confident in your
strengths. You can identify your DOS by completing the DOS
Evaluator. This tool will assist you in making a plan to address challenges
and opportunities as they arise while maximizing your strong points. This in turn will make you more effective in
your role at the firm.
- Define your goals: Professional
stability and progress rarely happens by accident. It is usually the result of intentional
planning which creates a path to achieve your goals. Having 90-day, one-year
and five-year professional development plans will help to keep your focus on
your priorities. A 90-day
Game Plan is an effective way to track short term goals and
accomplishments. The one-year and five-year plans are necessary to keep the
bigger picture in sight while also creating boundaries for future plans. It is
important to share these goals with your supervisor so you can ensure that you
are in alignment with the firm goals. Once goals are defined, they can still be
refined as needed.
- Be accountable: Once you have
defined your goals it is important to hold yourself accountable and follow
through. Be committed to completing your tasks and meeting your deadlines. Encourage
feedback from your peers and supervisors. Ask what you can do to improve and solicit
constructive criticism. Review your progress quarterly to document your
accomplishments and areas for improvement. The Accountability
Review is a tool that can be used with the 90-day game plan to guide the
discussion about your progress. The combination of setting goals and holding
yourself accountable will help you avoid becoming stagnant in your position.
- Training: A willingness to learn
new things is a prerequisite for growth. It is difficult to advance or increase
your value without increasing your knowledge. Training and learning goals
should also be included in your short and long term professional development
plans. Work with your supervisor to identify the appropriate learning
opportunities that will benefit you and the firm. There are multiple training
options to explore including online courses, books, seminars or finding a
mentor or other resources in your firm.
- Expand Your Network: It is not
just about what you know; it is also about who you know. Social networks,
mobile devices and other technology make it much easier to connect with
contacts and stay in touch. Create a profile on professional social network
sites such as LinkedIn and keep your profile up to date. Also reach out in
person by attending professional events or joining associations or groups.
Building your professional network is a way to increase the visibility for you
and your firm. This can also be a potential way to discover new business
opportunities for the firm.
- Be open to change: As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted
hundreds of years ago, nothing is constant except change. Technology is causing
change to happen at an even faster pace and the ability to adapt to new
challenges and situations in a key factor for success in any position. Stay
open to new ideas; be willing to try new systems and processes. Do not get
stuck in the past as the firm moves forward into the future.
Now is the time to make steps to increase your value and
showcase your talent. Make a commitment to evaluate the areas where you can
make changes, then set your goals and follow through. The end result will put
you in a position for professional growth and future success.
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Posted By Sandra Wiley,
Thursday, November 15, 2012
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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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
Posted By Eric Benson,
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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Marketing and internal technology have, in the past, been
two departments that were adversarial in many companies. The gap was easy to define. Marketing was full of art professionals who
used feel to improve the image of the firm.
Technology was full of logic minded, security and data focused
professionals that were concerned about keeping compliance high. Many times, the marketing professional would
make choices with company data that compromised that data’s integrity. The marketing department wouldn’t see it this
way, though – they were trying to build niches and increase prospects.
While these stereotypes do have a grain of truth (don’t all
stereotypes?), it is increasingly necessary that the two areas work closely
together. Marketing has transitioned
into a highly sophisticated business intelligence endeavor with a technology
profile that is complex. In fact,
Gartner’s Laura McClellan suggested that marketing may spend more on technology
than IT by the year 2017.
Technology professionals are in the midst of a transition
from hardware maintenance to service delivery.
This requires more interpersonal communication and targeted messaging to
key stakeholders in the firm.
Why marketing should
look to technology for help
The marketing industry has experienced a considerable shift
in the past ten years. Social media,
blogs, collaboration and other methods are used to engage prospects in a
conversation. With this shift, marketing
has increasingly taken over the selection and purchasing of the software to
accomplish these tasks.
Many of these products were the first introduction of cloud,
or hosted, products into the firm. This
was often driven by two factors: speed and requirements. The speed to implement a solution if a
campaign needed large scale email or social management skills is much faster
with a hosted solution. In addition,
sending out high volume email campaigns needs special care and maintenance that
many IT departments were ill equipped to support.
However, as this portfolio of products increased, two things
- The technology portfolio was not managed
Marketing professionals often select products to do the job, but don’t
regularly evaluate the solutions used to see if the licensing is correct, or if
others products may do the job that are already owned. In many cases, costs are high because they
are not evaluated by someone who is trained to make sure that technology costs
are in line.
- The amount of data generated exceeds marketing’s
ability to manage.
Many marketing solutions are excellent at generating data. They even provide proper funnels for this data
to be used to increase the number of opportunities a firm has for new
business. However, there are two areas
where it may not be managed effectively.
The first relates to the client and prospect lists. The solutions implemented may have been put
in place without proper integration to other systems, creating a silo of
valuable information to the firm. Also,
moving opportunities from marketing to sales (or production) may be difficult
because of this silo. In addition, much
of the information that is generated may be useful in business intelligence
platforms to evaluate performance of the entire sales cycle.
In both instances, IT has a central role for the firm. The alignment of business analysts or
technology professionals in both areas could help marketing manage two areas
they were not trained for.
Why technology should
look to marketing for help
IT professionals are in the midst of a shift from hardware
to services. This does not mean that
hard technology skills will go away in every firm. However, over time many of the break and fix
jobs will be outsourced for the same reasons that marketing shifted to the
cloud; speed of implementation and requirements that exceed the current
As this shift happens, the value of IT must transition from
the hardware used to managing the data that is produced. Although the common practice in this area is
to look at security and compliance, the shift beyond these to value added
services will keep technology skills in demand in the firm.
One of the best ways to communicate this shift in services
and the value to the firm is a positive, educational campaign. If done correctly, this can open IT’s doors
to working with all departments to improve processes, help with effective
project management and use the evaluation methods honed by software & hardware
selection to evaluate many business aspects.
These are valuable skills that are underutilized in many firms.
Most IT professionals only communicate when the status quo
is restored. This is a net zero communication
approach and marketing can help. In
fact, it would be a pretty simple project for a department that often conducts
multiple campaigns to thousands of potential prospects.
Marketing can help IT:
- Define the value of IT to the firm
key marketing concepts to develop a campaign of education
the firm for maximum impact
- Use the very tools used to communicate outside
the firm to maximize the value of IT within the firm
- Raise the perception of IT from hardware to high
value service provider
In closing, this alliance may take some time to hammer
out. Each department will need to
understand what the other side can provide, and this means laying your cards on
the table. What do you need help
with? What can you help the other side
with? The continuation of this
relationship in the firm will benefit both sides. However, it does come with sacrifice. There is a reason tensions have existed
between technology and marketing. Make
sure to acknowledge this, and work on the next steps together. Keep diligent in future decisions to involve
the other side. It may have rough bumps
but you can’t build alliances with practice and trust. The results will benefit both sides, and most
importantly, the firm.
Posted By Jim Boomer,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012
| Comments (0)
This article was originally published in the August 2012 issue of CPA Practice Advisor.
We are headed toward a massive transition in leadership at firms
across the country as the current leadership gets closer to retirement. Some firms have already successfully
transitioned, others are preparing, and then, there are those that don’t yet
have any plans in place. The transition
discussion is abuzz at the conferences I’ve recently attended – both among
attendees and speakers. And, tensions
are high between the very generations whose roles are about to shift, which is extremely
of the State
Current leadership often complains they can’t find quality
candidates to fill the pipeline.
Pointing to a generation that doesn’t want to put in the hours or work for
it. They use words like lazy and
entitled to describe them and say they waste time using technologies like
mobile and social media. The younger
generation uses terms like out-of-touch and archaic to describe the people they
will succeed. They point to a need to do
things differently to succeed in the future and some suggest throwing out the
old model completely.
So who’s right? I’ll show
you here how the correct answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I’ve been hearing an increasing number of people from my
generation (the emerging partner group) spreading a message that the old model
is antiquated and needs to be replaced by completely new thinking. I agree that we need to do things differently
but a complete reboot isn’t necessary.
Emerging leaders needs to step back and understand a few things about
those that have come before us.
- First, they have years of wisdom and
professional experience that we can and should tap into if we are smart
- We also need to appreciate everything they’ve
done to set up the opportunity that is currently ahead. It would not exist if not for the hard work
they put in throughout their careers.
- We need to realize it’s hard to let go of
something you’ve been doing your whole life.
We may have to temper our expectations of how quickly we are going to
ascend in the firm.
- We also need to present our new ideas with
respect and ask how they fit in with current leadership’s view of the
- Finally, don’t push too hard. This is an emotional transition that takes time. They need to work through it personally
before they can work share the plan or roadmap with anyone else.
Seasoned professionals must think back to earlier in their own
careers so they can better empathize with what the emerging professionals are
thinking, feeling and doing. A few years
ago I listened to Bill Reeb speak on generations – he read an article to the
audience that listed all the gripes current management had with the next
generation. Only after the audience
(made up mostly of seasoned professionals) had finished their wave of head nods
in agreement did he reveal that the article was from many years ago and was
actually written about the Baby Boomer generation. Truth be told, you’ve been in their shoes
and, likely, someone judged your perceived intentions (or lack thereof) at some
point in your career. So let’s look for
the positives that we can leverage to move forward toward a successful
- First and foremost, the up-and-coming leaders
bring a fresh perspective that is important to the future of the firm. They also bring new ideas and skills to the
table as well; especially in the area of technology. Leverage these to the firm’s advantage.
- Open your mind to new ways of thinking and
doing things. Considering how these
ideas might fit into how you’ve traditionally done things.
- Coach & mentor young professionals but
also challenge them. This involves
stepping back, which can be emotional and difficult to do but is necessary to
Although Thoreau wasn’t referring to the accounting industry when
he said "things don’t change, we change,” I think this quote is a great way to
approach the coming of ages. The
sooner we stop throwing daggers at each other based on what the other perceives
to be wrong and start focusing on the positive aspects we all bring to the
table, the quicker we can start blending our perspectives and planning the
transition – together. This building tension and divide must
stop. It will derail, delay and even destruct
the impending and important shift in leadership, and we must all come together
now to ensure a successful transition.
Put an action plan in writing that spells out the transition
timeline, what/when activities will be transitioned and how approaches can be
melded. This will probably require many
emerging leaders to ‘tap the brakes’ and current leaders to ‘hit the gas,’ but working together you can figure it out.
Posted By Eric Hunt,
Monday, October 15, 2012
| Comments (0)
According to Accounting
Today’s annual "Top 100 Report”, the Top 100 largest firms grew by a total
of 7.89% in 2011. This comes after 2
years of declining revenues. How did
your firm perform in 2011? How is
trending in 2012? Some of those numbers
can be attributed to mergers and acquisitions, but many firms were able to grow
organically as well. Growing the firm
without the use of M&A is an important component to firm health. Here are ways your firm can increase revenue organically.
Build a Business Development
The very first thing your firm needs to do to increase
revenue is to build a one-page plan of action.
Your firm needs a business development plan for the same reasons it
needs an overall strategic plan…organization and accountability. You can’t expect to grow revenues if you
don’t have a plan to support your growth goals.
My tips for a successful plan are:
- Make sure you address new
client acquisition, current client retention, selling strategies for
current services and ideas for new services.
- Work diligently to keep
the plan simple and to have someone responsible for each item on the plan.
This increases accountability and improves the likelihood of goals being
- Follow-up regularly to
ensure items are on track to being completed. Flexibility and being open to adjustments
are important for firms during these follow-up sessions as you will need
to address issues and changes as the year goes on.
The business development plan represents the foundation for
the firm’s revenue growth.Ensure that enough time is dedicated to the process.
Relationship Management (CRM)
One of the best ways to increase revenues is by utilizing a Customer
Relationship Management (CRM) system.
Many firms still use excel spreadsheets with contact info and many
others have separate contact lists for each partner or department. Utilizing a CRM system allows firms to better
organize and focus on revenue opportunities due to efficiencies gained.
If your firm already has a CRM system in place, continue to
keep the data clean, train your team to use it properly and track your
important interactions with clients and prospects. If your firm is looking to implement a CRM system,
or if you are new to the idea of it, feel free to download a free copy of The e-Guide to Implementing CRM in Your Firm. Keep in mind that choosing, implementing and
utilizing a CRM system properly is not an easy task. As with any new software, growing pains,
culture change and push-back can be experienced. Used properly, a CRM system is one of the
best ways to increase revenue and decrease lost opportunities!
Training in all areas of the firm is important and in
business development it is no different.
Many people have trouble "selling” and hope that the firm’s rainmakers
will bring in the business. Help your
team understand they don’t have to be rainmakers to increase revenues. Some areas where training can make a
difference to the entire team are:
- CRM - Train your team on
how to properly track conversations with clients and prospects so that
action can be taken if needed.
- Your services - Every team
member should be well-versed in your firm’s services so they have the
ability to talk about them with confidence when the opportunity
- Referrals - Do your team
members know how to ask for referrals and listen for referral
opportunities? Don’t take this for
granted. Teach them to identify
opportunities for referrals and how to take that referral to the next
- Sales basics - Develop a
basic sales training session in house or go to an outside source if
needed. Providing even basic sales
training to your team members will help to build confidence as they
interact with clients and prospects.
The value of training is rarely in question, but too many
firms focus on the CPE and technical side of it. Taking the time to work on some basic sales
training can pay huge dividends in the long run.
Look at Outside
Great firms often look to the outside for assistance in
areas they aren’t experts in. Sales,
marketing and niche development are three areas firms can find exceptional
companies right in our own industry.
Some of the top companies assisting our industry in these areas and ones
that I regularly recommend are:
Even if you have in-house experts, these outside sources
specialize in helping top firms become even better in their business
development areas. Don’t be afraid to
take a look at how they can assist.
The best firms in our industry utilize some if not all of
these items. This is not a complete
list, by any means, but they are four areas I have seen that have the best
long-term impact on organic revenue growth.
Start with the overall business development plan as the foundation and
integrate the other areas to create a positive effect on revenue!
Posted By Sandra Wiley,
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
| Comments (0)
leaders throughout the country look for ways to increase employee engagement and motivation, they are frustrated when they hear reports that the only answer
is increasing their employee’s compensation.
While compensation is certainly important, I believe if we focus
strictly on compensation we will miss some of the most important drivers of engagement
is certainly a short term motivator, but ultimately, employees look for a firm and a position where their values are
met, core skills are utilized and work tasks align with personal
interests. Compensation does help
attract and retain employees but "sustainable engagement” requires much more
than money. Sustainable engagement is a combination of:
engagement—employees’ willingness to expend discretionary effort.
tools, resources and support employees need to do their jobs effectively.
work environment that supports employee well-being.
discovered in a recent survey of top talent by the PCPS, the top retention
factors for 2011 were:
- Salary - 95%
- Career Growth Opportunities - 93%
Personal/Vacation Time - 90%
management - 89%
challenging client projects - 88%
salary is the first item on the list, the next 4 are strong contenders for
retaining your top talent and certainly should not be ignored. Often firms spend enormous amounts of time,
energy and resources working on the compensation increases and bonuses and no
time on other retention factors. If you
want to make engagement truly sustainable, a substantial amount of time and
energy should also be spent on the remaining 4 addition factors.
Making Engagement Sustainable
engagement is an important evolution in the science of workforce behavior. It recognizes that employees need support
from their employer to continue to give discretionary effort on the job. Unfortunately, employees are not getting the
level of support they need. Enablement
and energy are critical factors in this equation. Engagement will only hold over time with
these elements in place. Think about
your firm. How much time are you
spending as a leadership group working on the full list above? If you think you have the answer, you might
be surprised if you ask you team what they think.
Understanding Engagement Gaps
important for leadership to understand the gap between what they are thinking
and what the team is thinking in regards to engagement. There are several ways to accomplish an
effective engagement evaluation in your firm, including focus groups and
surveys. The more anonymous the group or
survey is the better results you will receive.
Identifying the gaps that exist between what leadership is thinking and
what the staff is thinking and then building goals that will narrow the gap
will increase the trust in your firm.
And when trust increases, so does engagement!
everyone’s role in the firm to help close the gaps in employee’s feelings of
enablement and energy – from partners to managers, to administration – they
should all be included.
Money is Important, But So Are Other Factors
of the PCPS Study, there are many other studies and experts who agree that
money matters, but they are not the end of the story. In March 2012, PsychTests.com, an online
personality, career and IQ assessment company, released research on the top
motivators for employees. The data collected between August 2011 and February
2012 revealed that out of a list of 23 work motivators, "financial reward” was
ranked 12th. For men, financial reward was eighth on the list; for women, 15th.
Seventy percent of the 1,194 employees surveyed were from North America.
Sixty-four percent of respondents were under the age of 30.
top five motivators reported were:
orientation—the desire to make customers happy.
desire to work in a goal-oriented and challenging work environment.
desire to inspire others through one's work.
- Identity and
Purpose—the desire to work in a company/field that is in line with one's
values and ethics.
- Fun &
Enjoyment—the desire to work in a position/corporate culture that is
about how this survey intersects with the PCPS findings. PCPS said career growth opportunities, paid
personal/vacation time, open door accessible management and interesting
challenging client projects are highly important to our top talent. They are very similar to the study that you
see above. It proves that what we are
hearing has merit, and the great firms seeking their vision for future leaders
don’t have much further to look than right here.