Platt’s Perspective: 25 Years And Counting

I never thought I would be old enough to say this, but this month marks my 25-year anniversary of working with the accounting profession. In 1985, I started with Associated Accounting Firms International (AAFI), which later merged with Moore Stephens N.A

Twice a year, the MPs of the member firms met to discuss the most challenging issues of the day. The discussions focused on the critical issues that kept the leaders of the firms up at night: partner compensation, succession planning, partner selection and training, A/R, implementing technology, niche development and the role of the MP.

Sound familiar? After 25 years, the list hasn’t changed all that much. Sure, the details may have changed, but the fundamental issues remain the same.

The “glass-half-full” side of me wants to believe that the profession has solved many issues over the past quarter century, and that new and more challenging ones have taken their place. The “glass-half-empty” side of me cries out that we haven’t really evolved much, and that each generation of leaders is destined to re-encounter and re-learn the lessons that should have been solved by their predecessors.

Those who practice the discipline known as “knowledge management” create systems to capture the “Aha!” moments learned during the life of a business and develop the processes to successfully transfer that knowledge to the next generation of leaders. As a profession, I think we have done a good job of capturing some of that wisdom, but if you look at the concerns of many individual MPs today, you can’t help but think that a lot of the institutional knowledge gleaned over the years hasn’t been appropriately transferred. It appears that many leaders were short-changed by those they replaced.

My hope for the future is that while we are training and mentoring those coming up in the ranks, we make a concerted effort to share the lessons learned, which will shorten the learning curve of the future leaders and give them a leg up.

Generational wisdom is only valuable when shared with and embraced by the next generation – otherwise it simply becomes a personal experience that does nothing to help those who follow in our footsteps.

So as I mark my silver anniversary – that’s still hard to say! – I encourage all of you to continue finding ways to share your knowledge, to mentor the next generation and to “package” your wisdom so that your firm can evolve faster and better while remaining strong long after you are gone. After all, if the list of issues that keep MPs up at night doesn’t change over the next 25 years, what will we have learned?