Developing as a leader and empowering through delegation.
Client Spotlight: Kate Thigpen, Tax Supervisor
Firm Name: Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore, PC
Location: Fairhope, AL
# of Offices: 4
# of Partners: 5
# of Employees: ~60
One of the most challenging transitions for emerging leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. Early in your career peers and partners admire your willingness to “roll up your sleeves” to get a job done. But as responsibilities become more complex, your ability to delegate determines the ceiling of your leadership impact.
These are truths that Kate Thigpen has taken to heart in her role as a Supervisor at Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore PC.
When the firm kicked off their Five Star Client Service initiative in 2015, Thigpen, a Staff Accountant II at the time, was chosen to lead one of the eight teams that met monthly. The team leaders, in turn, would meet once a month to discuss ideas and progress. When it came time to choose someone to head up the leadership group, Thigpen volunteered. “At the time, I’d only been with the firm for two years,” she says, “Nobody else really had the time, but I was really passionate about the project and didn’t want to see it fizzle out.”
That passion paid off. Two years later, the Five Star Client Service program is still going strong, and the firm credits it with improving training, retention and respect among team members. It was also instrumental in encouraging the firm to invest in an automated workflow solution, Thomsen Reuters FirmFlow. Thigpen says FirmFlow has improved communication around assigning and prioritizing work. “It’s awesome for our paperless workflow,” Thigpen says.
Thigpen remains involved in Five Star, but it no longer in charge. As her work responsibilities increased and she was promoted to Supervisor, it became clear that Thigpen needed to delegate the role to another member of the firm.
The importance of effective delegation.
Having participated in the P3 Leadership Academy, Thigpen knew that it wouldn’t be enough to simply pass leadership of the Five Star Client Service committee off to another person. It had to be the right person. In other words, effective delegation is based on talents, not on convenience.
The right person was Kari Wolfe, the firm’s Receptionist at the time. Wolfe had approached Thigpen and asked to be more involved in the Five Star Client Service program. She was excited about the project and had time to take it on. Plus, Wolfe teaches public speaking in her spare time, so Thigpen knew leadership and communication were right in Wolfe’s wheelhouse.
The program continues to flourish under Wolfe’s leadership, emphasizing one of the seven principles of Five Star Client Service each month. They recently focused on ‘Offering Dessert’ and the firm paid for a dessert party celebration in each office.
Thigpen says if any firms are on the fence about whether they should schedule a Five Star Client Service training, “Just do it. If you want to see your firm work better as a team and provide the best service to each other and your clients, definitely.”
Get to know Kate
Thigpen grew up near Fairhope and attended the University of Alabama where she majored in accounting . . . eventually. “I grew up in a family of accountants, so I used to say I wanted to do anything BUT accounting,” Thigpen jokes. She tried majoring in education, pre-dental, and general business, but took an accounting class, loved it and aced her final.
Thigpen started out in the audit department at HBK, but when she married her husband, Van, they moved four hours away. HBK allowed her to work remotely, but during that time Thigpen made the switch from audit to tax because she found it impractical to stay in audit when she lived four hours away from any of her clients. She’s since returned to Fairhope, but she’s remained in tax. “I like to say I didn’t choose the tax life. The tax life chose me.”
When she’s not living the tax life, Thigpen enjoys spending time with her Goldendoodle, Henry, and traveling with her husband to watch PGA golf tournaments.
Boomer Five Star Client Service
The Boomer Five Star Client Service training will help your firm develop better working relationships and improve communication. This program will help your firm build a culture based on the same principles that Five Star hotels and restaurants use to achieve high-quality service. We know how difficult it can be to build a culture of consistency and helped hundreds of CPA firms do just that.
The Boomer P3 Leadership Academy
The Boomer P3 Leadership Academy focuses on developing and elevating the middle of your firm to cultivate astute leaders in the areas of People, Planning and Process. During our three-year program, your Emerging Leaders will develop skills in self-management, client management, team management and practice development.