It’s Time to Get Intentional about Firm Culture

We work with many firms that say they get that business models are changing. But when we really look at their firm culture, it’s evident that they’re not changing. The way they hire, fire and train is the same as it was a decade ago. If we’re really honest, they’re hoping to simply ride out the upheaval in the profession. But it’s time to stop talking and start doing. It’s time to get intentional about firm culture.


The only way to prepare staff for the future of the profession us to take people out on engagements early. Waiting three to four years to get staff members involved in business development, consulting and pricing used to be the norm, but it just won’t work anymore.

It’s crucial to take your people out on engagements with your clients and let them talk – not just listen – while they’re there. It’s the only way to get your employees up to speed.


The people we’re hiring need a different set of skills than we may have been looking for a decade ago. The old-fashioned “ideal” accountant was analytical and process-oriented, but if those are the only skills we seek out today, we’ll miss out on some really valuable talent. Today’s firm needs people who are creative. We need people who excel at marketing and business development. We need math and finance majors that can dig into big data analytics. We need people who know our niches well. For instance, if your client base includes a lot of medical practices, someone with experience running a medical office is ideal.

Ignoring great people

Of course, along with hiring the right people, we also need to focus on keeping the great people we already have. Too much talent is leaving the profession because they don’t fit the old talent models.

In fact, we see very few exceptional people leaving for another firm. They’re either leaving to start their own business or going into private practice. Who on your team right now has gifts that aren’t being utilized? If we can’t recognize the unique talents that diverse people bring to the firm, we could be letting terrific people walk out the door.

Keeping people who won’t take you forward

While you’re considering the talent and potential of your people, you’ll probably identify some who simply don’t have the skills or ability to move forward with the firm. We’ve been talking about keeping employees engaged for so long, but engagement is not just a buzzword. It’s time to take action.

At a recent Kolbe Certification, the following question was posed:

Q: When is time spent on engagement a waste of time?

A: When it’s a wrong fit employee.

When people are the wrong fit for your firm, whether they can’t or won’t change their behavior, we need to let them go sooner. Nobody likes being fast to fire, but we have to make that commitment if we want to bring our firms to higher levels of success.

It’s time to get intentional about what and who you will be. These aren’t just words; it’s the new normal. The firms that embrace it will rise to the top. The ones who don’t will sadly go down with the ship.

Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.

Sandra developed the P3 Leadership Academy and hosts regional training sessions throughout the country. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant’s Alliance and a certified KolbeTM trainer, advising firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.