“The world breaks us in places but we grow back stronger in those breaks.”
These powerful words provide a renewed sense of optimism as we start 2010. To grow stronger, it is essential to learn from the difficult lessons of the past year as you move forward.
The new strength that some CPA organizations find in the process will enable them to gain market share and even market dominance while the complacency of other firms will cause them to lose their footing and hard-earned profits. Success will no longer come from long hours alone but through careful planning, thoughtful leadership and new ways of doing business. Before you get swept up in the chaos of the New Year and busy season, take time to consider how you can put painful lessons of the past year to work for you and move your organization forward. It may just be the most powerful investment you make in 2010.
Five Successful Tactics
Consider these five lessons as you develop your New Year plans.
- Don’t just react, take control — Reaction and a lack of discipline are a big part of what got us in trouble in the first place. Be mindful that 2009 was not bleak for all professional services firms. In fact some experienced record-breaking profits. Yes, they were the ones that took control by planning for the future while they experiencing growth and jubilant times. Although the economy is turning around and business is likely to grow, don’t leave your actions to chance this year. Take control by charting your course for 2010.
- Move past the “same old” ways of doing business — “We’ve always done it that way” doesn’t cut it anymore. After all, antiquated systems and outdated policies were a major culprit of the recent economic woes. If you have systems and strategies that have been in place since the 1970s, it’s time to develop new best practices. For example, not everyone wants to be a partner in your firm so be careful about using it as a motivational tool; your professionals want more out of life than working 75 hours a week during tax season so be mindful about giving that “same old” pep talk about getting geared up to work long hours this busy season; and if you expect your professionals to bring in new business this tax season you must show them how, through training, coaching and recognition. If your firm wants to be a leader in the field, you must operate like a leader. That means new ways of thinking and operating. Start today.
- Re-engage your team — Now more than ever, employees are disengaged from organizations. Whether they just don’t care or they feel their efforts don’t matter, employee disengagement is a real issue in today’s workplace. Corporate Leadership Council’s study — Improving Employee Performance in the Economic Downturn — Research Brief — revealed the following results:
- Employee Performance Is Declining. The number of employees exhibiting high levels of discretionary effort has decreased by 64 percent since 2005.
- The Disengaged Are Staying. The disengaged are 31 percent less likely to quit now than in 2006.
- High-Potentials Are More Likely to Quit. One out of four high-potentials plans on quitting in the next 12 months.
To be competitive in 2010, it is important to hone in on this growing trend and get your team involved again. If not, you risk losing your high potentials to competitors, and being left with the disengaged. The choice is yours.
- Build an amazing place to work — While just having a job these days is a privilege to many, it does not make your organization an amazing place to work. Your firm’s environment has a tremendous effect on your bottom line, not to mention employee engagement. Its affects are widespread and include productivity, client’s decisions to do business with you, prospective client’s decisions to retain your firm, potential employee’s decisions to join your team and referral source’s decisions to send new business you way. Unfortunately workplace attitudes are strained due to factors ranging from fearful employees afraid of losing their jobs to burnout and work overload caused by layoffs. Rebuilding your workplace environment will take time. Start with some basics like recognizing that your employees are not machines — professionals require more than the “you must work longer hours this busy season.” Show employees how much you appreciate them. Find new ways to express your gratitude for their service. This might include a simple “thank you,” recognition in front of peers or a gift certificate to a popular restaurant or an electronics store, to name a few.
- Really listen to your clients. A firm’s clients are golden, and these troubled times are when they need your advice and counsel the most. Unfortunately many professionals have not lived up to client promises. A number of professionals have demonstrated through their actions that they are more burdened with internal struggles and work overload than taking good care of their clients. It’s no wonder that client service is at all-time lows. The interesting part is that it doesn’t take much to “wow” a client these days. Start the year off by sitting down with your clients. Find out their concerns. Take care of them like never before. Show them you care with your actions, not just your words. If you say you are going to help them find new ways to refinance their business, then do it. If they need you to restructure a business deal, do it. If they need assistance with succession planning, make it a priority. If not, they are going to find another CPA firm that will take care of them in the manner in which they expect.
Take control by charting your course for 2010. Use new wisdom from the past year to propel you forward. Let your renewed strength help you achieve new heights.
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Tracy Crevar Warren is the founder of The Crevar Group. She is a sought-after consultant, facilitator, author and speaker. Her practical, results-oriented approach helps professional services firms build more profitable practices. She advises clients on practice growth, culture development, sales and marketing. She inspires and empowers local, regional, national and international audiences to grow their practices by doing more of the work they love. Warren can be reached at 336-889-GROW (4769).