Platt’s Perspective: The Q&A That Just Might Save Your Firm $1 Million This Year

Any partner who brings in a new, million-dollar client would be considered a superhero – and rightly so – but MPs could save just as much money by paying closer attention to an investment they’ve already made.

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Consider the phrase, “We have great people.” It’s a statement I’ve heard hundreds of times from MPs describing why their firms are successful. And it’s true. People are any firm’s most valuable asset. Research shows if firm leaders nurture that investment just as intentionally as any client relationship, the payoff can be huge.

And here’s the good news: fostering a more engaged and empowered work force through improved communication costs absolutely nothing. But preventing these valuable assets from walking out the door can save thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

RTR imageUp-and-coming staff want to know the higher purpose of the firm, how the business of accounting works and their role in the firm’s success. INSIDE Public Accounting, in conjunction with ConvergenceCoaching, surveyed more than 700 CPA firm professionals aged 21-40, and repeatedly, they asked to be more involved and informed. Learn more in our research report, “Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young CPA Professionals.”

The report revealed seven fundamental questions young professionals are asking. Providing the answers can help shift the culture at your firm, and reduce unwanted turnover caused by a lack of communication.

What does the firm expect from me? – New hires are typically thrown into the deep end of the pool and told to swim, but they would benefit from a list of priorities from the firm. How should they focus their time every day? Client work? Business development? Give them guidance, they’re starving for it.

What is the path to partnership? – Define the building blocks to partnership, put it in writing and talk about it. Not everyone wants to become a partner, but those who do are not getting a lot of information on what it takes to get there.

How did the current partners ‘make it’? – Put your partners in front of your people, perhaps in a lunch and learn session, and have them talk about how they reached the level of success they’re enjoying now. Capture success stories and tout them. Hearing directly from the partners makes a big impression and can do a lot to inspire young staff with ownership ambitions.

How do I make more money? – Very few firms clearly define what it takes to get a promotion. Don’t make it a mystery. Outline what is required in terms of client work, staff mentoring, business development, etc. Make it clear, understandable and achievable.

Where is the firm going and why is the firm choosing this path? – Do your staff members know why the firm exists? And by this I don’t mean creating a vision statement that no one can remember; it should be something you feel in your gut. Answer this question: Why do we come to work every day? Powerfully communicating that message is the biggest thing you can do to help your firm in the next five years. Share with staff who the firm clients are, what they mean to the firm, and the clients’ visions, dreams and aspirations.

Are we growing? – Staff want to know that they’re on a winning team. Firm leaders are notoriously close-mouthed about financials, but even high-level numbers, on revenue, growth and new business development, would help educate and keep your team focused on the next milestone.

Are we on track for success? – Professionals want to know if the firm is meeting its goals and whether their department is on track. Only about half of firms in IPA’s annual Survey and Analysis of Firms share financial data with everyone in the firm. I believe more transparency, with context, empowers team members to work together to help the firm achieve its goals.

Every MP knows that it costs far more to replace a staff member than to keep the rising stars who are already on board. Help staff feel part of a team that is driving toward the same goal. Young professionals have told us that they’re craving answers to these seven questions. Give it to them, and you just might see turnover drop, morale increase and profits rise.