Overheard At The 1st Annual PRIME Symposium

The Platt Group, publishers of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), thanks all the dedicated professionals who joined us in Indianapolis Nov. 15-16 for the first PRIME Symposium. Your enthusiasm, wisdom and inspirational energy led to a successful event, and we are sincerely grateful. Suggestions and comments from firm leaders, presenters and guests will help us put together an even better event next year.

Mark your calendars for 2012 ­– Nov. 8-9. Below is a sampling of insights shared by The PRIME guests.

“You need one throat to choke.” IPA Most Recommended Consultant Sam Allred on the need to have one person accountable for a task. Group accountability doesn’t work because there is always an excuse why the group couldn’t get together.

“If you can’t solve accountability issues at the partner level, you’re never going to solve it anywhere else.” Sam Allred.

“We whack ‘em!” A Top 100 MP addressing the question of what to do with a rainmaker partner who doesn’t play by the rules that the firm sets for partner performance.

“We naturally drift towards being good managers. We don’t always drift towards being good leaders.” Lisa Cines, of Dixon Hughes Goodman, on the challenge of addressing leadership development.

“There is a point for some partners where the next $50,000 or $100,000 is no longer a motivator.” Bob Bunting, Moss Adams, on partner compensation and motivation.

“We have an overriding belief that one year doesn’t break a career. Nor does one year make a career either.” Neal Spencer, MP of BKD, on the long term view of paying partners what they are worth.

“It’s about what their legacy will be in the firm.” Larry Autrey, MP of Whitley Penn, describing what has become a major motivator for some of their younger partners.

“You change your firm for the future by predicting and adapting before it happens.” John Malone, MaloneBailey.

“We’re steady and consistent. In horrible times we do phenomenal. In good times we do well.” Lou Grassi, MP of Grassi & Co., describing his firm focus on identifying and capitalizing on market opportunities.

“You don’t keep clients by being the lowest bidder. You keep clients by bringing value to the marketplace.” Neal Spencer, lamenting the ugliness of the pricing wars.

“Be bold!” John Malone on how to engage people in a vision and capture the imagination of the firm.

“YOWIII. (Your Opinion, While Interesting, Is Irrelevant!)” IPA Most Recommended Consultant, Gale Crosley, on the tendency for firms to have an “inside-out” view of the market. You need to undergo a 180-degree shift – know what the marketplace is thinking and doing and how you can respond, not what you are thinking and doing and who is going to buy what you are selling.

“Make it optional.” Sam Allred on how to ensure greater partner participation in long term planning. By making participation optional, partners understand that if they are involved it will advance their career opportunities, and if they are not, it will inhibit those opportunities.

“Everyone needs to be using the exact same ingredients for whatever you are making to come out the exact same way all the time.” Lou Grassi on the importance of having a defined playbook on how the firm will operate.

“Up until this morning I would have said that once firms get to a certain size (12-15 partners) you should move to a closed system. But in the group I was just in only one firm had a closed compensation system and it was working well for everyone.” Tim Michel, Michel Consulting.

“We have an open compensation system with 250 partners. Everyone says we must be nuts. But it’s all about trust.” Neal Spencer.

“The interesting thing about organic growth is that the market doesn’t need to be going up, up up. Shifts in market cause changes in market conditions.” Gale Crosley refuting the myth that organic growth isn’t possible in bad times.

“Look at the business community in your marketplace. Nothing stays the same. You can create a differentiator, a value proposition and a vision at one point in time. But as the years go by, that HAS to change. If you stay ahead of the curve, you can regenerate and maintain the passion. The vision changes as the marketplace changes, your employees see that leadership, they know you’re going somewhere, and they want to be on that bus.” John Malone on how to adapt to changing times and keep employees motivated.

“Seeing where the marketplace is going is so critical, that’s why it is vital you’re in the marketplace on a regular basis. It needs to be part of a routine.” Lou Grassi on making sure firms stay in touch with what the current realities are by asking questions and talking to clients.