Innovation is important in today’s turbulent world, yet the ability to
scale innovation is more important than the volume of innovative ideas. Jim Collins in his most recent book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and
Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, outlines the importance of the 10X
approach and how it is a motivational advantage in attracting great talent.
Most firms are conservative by nature and tend to play stronger on the
defensive end of the court than on offense.
Collins does stress the fact that 10X leaders figure out when to go
fast, and when to hold back. They also
have the ability to scale innovation and to blend creativity with discipline. Another myth that Collins refutes is that
radical outside change does not mean you need to inflict radical change upon
yourself. Neither does this mean you
should resist change.
I have been in Strategic Coach Program, with Dan Sullivan as my coach,
for the past 15 years. Some may think I
am just a slow learner, but the program has evolved over the years into a think
tank for entrepreneurs and industry transformers. Two years ago and prior to the release of Jim
Collin’s most recent book, Dan started a new program called You X 10. His premise was that millions of
entrepreneurs limit their thinking ambitions by the fear of being overwhelmed
by the conflicts, and complications that accompany significant and rapid
growth. This thinking is limiting and
keeps many leaders from taking advantage of new opportunities, learning new
capabilities and satisfying their desire for greater personal freedom,
accomplishment and enjoyment.
About 95% of the CPA partners I know are financially more successful than
other people yet they are often frustrated by the fact they have hit the wall -
they cannot work harder and produce greater results. Deep inside they know they are capable, but a
different way of thinking is required in order to break through the
ceiling. In reality, all that is
required is a simple decision that only you can make. The 10X decision will change your life and
attract excellent talent and engage employees who are already on board. Thinking about a problem from an exponential
(10 X) rather than incremental (10%) perspective is a game changer for you and
Your first reaction to 10X leadership will probably be to come up with
objections. That is natural and how our
brains have been trained. Dan Sullivan
has addressed 40 objections and Jim Collins stresses the fact the 10X mindset
is one of the biggest differentiators between companies that are great by
choice and good companies. Don’t scare
yourself by only thinking of 10X growth in revenue. Not everyone is motivated simply by more
money. There are hundreds of 10X
projects ranging from client service, workflow, pricing, revenue per client, charity,
talent development and etc. The 10X
leadership approach transforms the capabilities, resources, and opportunities
for many other people. We no longer
operate in a linear and local environment so the 10X approach can quickly take
on a global perspective. Technology
plays a significant role due to the fact Moore’s law continues to exponentially
impact the processing power and cost of technology.
The 10X leadership approach requires a sense of urgency and from
experience accountants are driven by deadlines. I challenge you to address the 5 biggest
challenges in your firm by naming (5) five-member teams, (or fewer and smaller
teams if you are a smaller firm). Give
each team 5 weeks to come up with five ideas and a budget of $5k (or a number
you are comfortable with – don’t be cheap) to implement a pilot project.
For the past year we have utilized a program we named The $DEA Factory, where we award a
monthly prize for the best idea that will positively impact the firm. We have learned the taskforce or team approach
takes the idea beyond just an idea and drives results. Some of the best results have come from team
members focused on back office operations such as expense reporting, content
management – including email, number of sales/influencer calls and revenue per
client. Once you get over the initial
reaction that I don’t have a 10X idea, people find out they do have 10X
ideas. Many people just haven’t worked
in firms where people were encouraged and allowed to express their ideas, and
certainly not rewarded financially. Dan
Sullivan refers to this as a "bubbling company”. Leverage comes from the fact the entire
culture thinks in terms of 10X, not just the leaders.
Be careful and don’t think success is only based upon the number of
ideas. According to Jim Collins, the
success of great companies is drive by the leader knowing when to scale or go
fast. Every idea is not a great idea but
a culture that encourages 10X thinking will get more and better ideas.
Peter Drucker was the first person I heard say "the best way to predict
the future is to create it.” 10Xers take
an active approach in creating their future.
Some of the characteristics
of 10X Leaders are:
- They channel their ego
and intensity into something larger and more enduring than
themselves. They have passion and
- They maintain a
conservative financial position and retain resources that allow them to
scale when the time is right.
- They build the firm to
be great without them. They define
themselves by impact, contribution and purpose.
- There are many
individually successful people, but very few great firms make a 10X
- 10Xers know how to deal
with luck – good and bad. This is a
- Discipline – they
demonstrate consistency with values, standards and methods. This is not the type of discipline most
CPAs think of…obedience to authority, and compliance with bureaucratic
- They are extremely
vigilant, especially during good times.
- They are creative and
maintain a high level of confidence, which allows them to continually
learn. They are lifetime learners.
- They are innovators, but
not necessarily pioneers.
- They pace
themselves. This reduces risk and
In closing, Collins refers to one of the most important characteristics of
great companies as the strategy to fire bullets, and then cannonballs. He tells the story of a hostile ship coming
directly toward you. If you want to
survive, you don’t start by firing cannonballs.
You use rifle shots and when you hit, you scale with the heavy
artillery. The concept of the 10X leader
or entrepreneur is not for everyone, but as the most trusted advisor, CPAs have
more influence than you think. Along with
this trust comes responsibility. It may take awhile for 10X leadership to grow
on you or you may already be a 10X leader.
At any rate there are some great lessons for all firms and their leaders. I encourage you pick up a copy of Great by Choice and see how you and your
firm can thrive in a chaotic world.