Key takeaways from the Accounting Business Expo 2017
Staff Centricity

#fact – Our Practices are nothing without our staff.

How many accountants do you talk to that are really excited, super pumped about where they work and really motivated to get out and deliver services for clients at the practice where they work??   How many say ‘hey, yeah, I work at XXX and it’s awesome! You should come work here too!”  Its not as many as we’d like.

If we continue to treat our staff like robots (and I’m not saying we all do), feeling like ‘just a number’, then robotic, ho-hum output is what we’ll continue to get.  Whip cracking over traditional production-based metrics just doesn’t work.  Nor does the attitude – “Oh pesky millennials should just get on with their jobs and stop whinging.  I had to work crazy hours to get ahead when I came through the ranks – so should they!”  Its time to get. over. it.

If your staff yearn for better communication – improve it!  Ditch 1000s of emails and embrace collaborative tools like Yammer, Slack, Hangouts, etc.  Watch your emails diminish, your staff engagement improve, and (drumroll…..) productivity improve.

Investing (yes – time and money) in staff engagement will be the magic bullet for your Practice.  Happy staff deal with change better, they perform better, they impress clients more – and yes yes yes, they make the firm more profitable.

I’m sorry for the rant, but this is extremely critical, easy to improve and will immediately improve your bottom line.  A couple of quick tips:

  1. Replace traditional productivity KPIs with value based metrics.  Heck, throw out chargeable hours and write off reporting all together.
  2. Say thank you. A lot.  Yes, with your mouth (#beahuman).  In front of others even.  Its free, and 1M x more effective in influencing staff engagement.
  3. Map the preferred communication styles within your Practice (yes, some #EQ testing). Align each staff member’s role with their talents – watch them thrive, productivity soar and margins increase.
  4. Stop salary banding. Pay people on demonstrated merit, on result, on talent – on VALUE.  This will alow you to promote leaders for leadership skills (rather than promoting strong technical staff just because they need to advance) and still reward high achievers.
Value Focus

Critically, all services to clients need to add very clear and obvious value.  Accountants are traditionally very poor at articulating value propositions, which makes selling services really difficult.

Some pointers:

  1. Create capacity. Offshore, onshore, outsource. Reduce the hack work.
  2. Slow. Down. Stop and think about opportunity every day, every job.
  3. Shut up and LISTEN. Clients don’t see value unless they have pain.  Ask questions and listen for pain – then heal.
  4. Do some training. Sales is not a dirty word and there is so much EQ we can develop to exponentially improve relationships with clients so that new services (and yes, fees) come almost effortlessly.
Ditch Traditional Models

Traditional practice models are normally very tax effective – because they’re created by accountants!  But in reality, they tend to breed dysfunction, *insert word for un-collaboration*, and waste huge amounts of time/energy/productivity in menial, often petty partnership issues.  Even those that are actually corporates still think and operate like partnerships.  It’s amazing that Partners in our Practices tolerate this inefficiency and resource wastage, when they are normally so obsessed with productivity.

It’s a big one, I know – re-think your structure beyond the tax effect.

Build a structure to effect success.  We do this for clients, right?  Build a model that respects the variable contributions of different partners at varying stages in their careers and rewards the high achievers.  A model that is appealing to new entrants, that doesn’t require huge outlays of cash for absolutely no reason (is goodwill even a thing?).  One that is supportive, successful, and future fit.

I highly recommend the Accounting Business Expo.  Vendor agnostic events are extremely valuable and a really efficient way to get across the front-of- market trends in a short period of time.  Look out for the 2018 event