Overheard At The 2010 ‘The Winning Is Everything’ Conference

Leaders from across the profession attended the annual 2010 “The Winning Is Everything” conference in Las Vegas in January, presented by The Advisory Board.

Here’s what we heard:

“We’re seeing price wars like we’ve never seen, and it will continue well after the current recession ends.” – Allan Koltin, on firms giving work away at fees as low as 30% of standard rates.

“It could go through the roof.” – Allan Koltin, referring to the spike in professional liability claims during a period of rock-bottom fees which could lead to substandard work.

“You are the conscience of America. You are the sound judgment needed in American business.” – Joe Theismann, Super Bowl champion and former Washington Redskins quarterback, on the accounting profession.

“Don’t be afraid to place demands on your people. If you don’t ask them to be great, they won’t be.” – Joe Theismann.

“You would be surprised how many would follow them!” – Joe Theismann encouraging firm leaders to create a set of rules in their firm to help younger stars get the discipline many of them lack.

“Character, intelligence and ability – in that order.” – Joe Theismann on what firm leaders should look for in new recruits.

“This is not a good time to not return phone calls!” – SS&G CEO Gary Shamis, referring to the need to be closer to your clients than ever before.

“So, so attractive. So, so hard to pull off.” – Gary Shamis on the desire by many firms to bring in Big Four partners and regional firm partners fed up with their current situations.

“For many of us, we let the wrong people go.” – Gary Shamis, describing the initial rounds of layoffs last year and voicing the realization that the decisions weren’t always the most strategic.

“Don’t compromise your core values. Ever.” – Carl George, former Clifton Gunderson MP on one of the most important lessons he learned during his career.

“Firms are finally taking the time to determine, in advance, if it will work.” –Don Scholl, industry consultant, describing the more deliberate approaches being undertaken by many firms to analyze cultural compatibility before considering a merger/acquisition.

“Never accept talent above character.” – Carl George on his recruiting philosophy.

“We’ll see more in the next 10 years than we have in the past 30.” – Consultant Chris Frederiksen on the acceleration of firm acquisitions in the near future.

“Get focused. Get very, very close to your clients.” – Carl George on what firms should be paying attention to in 2010.

“Some BIG opportunities will arise from this.” – Bob Martin, industry consultant, adds a perspective on the size of the recent federal stimulus packages and the likelihood of fraud, which will provide opportunities for firms.

“I never would have done the deal if I had seen the canaries and the parakeets flying around the office outside of their cage.” –Gary Shamis, emphasizing the importance of seeing the working environment of a firm you are considering acquiring.

“I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.” – Gary Boomer, technology consultant, discussing the technology outlook for 2010. The good news is that many firms will not have to spend any more money than they did in 2009. The bad news is that they will have to manage change and may not have the right IT people in place to accommodate that change.

“Innovation and revenue production.” – Gary Boomer, describing the top two activities that should appear in the job description of an IT director.

“What’s happening in your firms now is NOT the Baby Boomers’ problem to solve alone.” – Next Generation consultant Rebecca Ryan on the need to include Gen-X and Millennials in strategies to solve current problems in firms.

“Are you building something that tomorrow’s partners want to buy?” – Rebecca Ryan, challenging firm leaders to make sure they include rising stars in the decision-making process to ensure that the firm can be passed to the next generation.

“A wave of turnover.” – Chuck Allen, Crowe Horwath MP, expressing one of his biggest concerns for the profession, regarding staff, as the economy pulls out of the current recession.

“It will be a while.” – Jack Cotton, SVA MP, reflecting that while we may have seen the bottom of the recession, significant economic growth will continue to be elusive for a period of time.

“There’s a two- to three-year lifecycle for everything you do. After that you have to change it.” Bill Tapp, MP of Kirkland, Russ, Murphy & Tapp, on the need for constant change and innovation.

“How am I doing for you?” – The most important question every CPA needs to ask his or her client, according to sales coach Hal Becker.

“You are only as good as your worst employee.” Hal Becker on the need to hire, train and evaluate employees, and remove the ones who don’t uphold the expectations of service that your firm prescribes.

For more information, go to: www.winning-is-everything.com