The Holy Grail Of Professional Services: Fostering Creativity And Entrepreneurship

Firm leaders who urge their business clients to focus on the future know they must follow their own advice – not only to stay ahead of the competition, but also to attract and keep talented up-and-coming firm leaders.

Consider data from the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Two-thirds of the 7,700 survey respondents expressed a desire to leave their organizations by 2020; 44% say they’d leave in the next two years if given the chance.

Those who did report work satisfaction cited an inclusive culture, open communication, a strong sense of purpose beyond the bottom line, and active encouragement of innovation among all employees.

“In the Millennials’ ideal work week, there would be significantly more time devoted to the discussion of new ideas and ways of working, on coaching and mentoring, and the development of their leadership skills,” the survey says.

With innovation being a business imperative, firm leaders are committing time, effort and money into embedding inventiveness into their work culture – no matter the size of the firm.

INSIDE Public Accounting spoke with leaders at Baton Rouge, La.-based Postlethwaite & Netterville (FY15 net revenue of $53.2 million).

A few years ago, the marketing department was spending a lot of time updating resumes and pulling together marketing materials for proposals, so the team approached MP Bill Balhoff with the idea of developing an app. “They said, ‘We want to be entrepreneurial in this practice, and will you support it?’ ”

The result is Pounce™, a web-based central location for sales materials and resumes. CPAs can edit and update their resumes, prepare customized sales packets and put them in the hands of prospective clients “before they even make it back from their meeting.”

Balhoff, who spoke during the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) annual conference last month, says the firm’s technology subsidiary, P&N Tech, developed the app and it is now being marketed to other professional services firms: business consulting, legal and architect / engineer / contractor industries. “It’ll be a revenue center for us, but it also solved our problems,” he says.

Balhoff acknowledges the dilemma of taking time away from client service to allow for experimentation, but the risk of doing nothing is too great. As former chair of the AICPA, he has seen creative ideas become successful programs, and he encourages leaders to expose themselves to the entrepreneurial ideas at other firms.

If staff present ideas they believe will make the practice stronger, and if a diverse team of people are examining ideas, the risk of failure is reduced. “Success breeds success.”