Carl George, Carl George Advisory – Most Recommended Consultant

Carl George Advisory
Carl George

What has surprised you most in the client interactions / questions / engagements you’ve had this year?

Carl George

Carl George

Extraordinary next generation leadership. While I’m not surprised, I am so impressed that the future leaders of the firms are in place and ready to roll. More than one-half of the firms that I work with have passed the baton from the Boomers to the Next Gen. In my opinion, our new leaders are better equipped overall that our senior leaders were at the time they took charge. That tells me that the investments the firms have made in formal leadership training has and will continue to pay off. These leaders are equipped with the energy and enthusiasm, terrific vision, and the leadership skills to continue their firm’s legacy. Most importantly, they understand the changing profession and how to motivate today’s evolving work force. What I love the most is that our future leaders bring new ideas and skill sets to the table in their quest to attain their firm’s strategic objectives. They are not satisfied with the status quo, when the status quo is not as effective today.

In addition, the “glass ceiling” has disappeared in many progressive firms. The female leaders that I work with are great listeners and want to learn. For those I coach, sometimes I wonder who the coach is – her or me. I love their approach to leadership. My first piece of advice to our female leaders is this: “Have empathy for the way it’s been done, and the leaders who brought the firm to this point. With that empathy in mind, your No. 1 goal is to effect positive change going forward. How you do it, may be different. But, when the results arrive, everyone will be on board.”

What mindset would you like to see more or less of in the profession?

The final death of the “book of business” metric. What’s the opposite of the “team approach” in public accounting? Answer: Book of business. When the “book” is utilized as a leading metric in gauging the performance (success) of a partner, behaviors will change and most often be counter-productive to the team effort. The book mindset encourages individuals to build a personal client list that they “own.” Why? Because they are rewarded for that behavior. The most successful firms have eliminated this metric many years ago, but there are some firms continuing to utilize it. The fact is, while the metric may have been acceptable in the past, today I consider it a “counter-metric,” that is, one that works against firm success. It inhibits succession planning, creates silos within a firm, and drives rising stars to firms that are more team-based.

What do you think is the biggest blind spot in firms regarding M&A and how can that be rectified?

I believe there are two glaring blind spots.

  • Lack of a M&A Strategy. Develop a document that addresses the firm’s overall philosophy of M&A – the WHY; guiding principles (“rules of the road”) when reviewing an opportunity; the preferred target firm profile; if applicable, the preferred geographic targets; financial guidelines; research and target data.
  • Thinking the job is done when the documents are signed by both parties. Let’s face it, M&A is a high-risk activity – even if every facet goes smoothly. The entire cycle takes an enormous amount of resources from both sides, starting with the selection process, negotiation, due diligence, various meetings to discuss culture match and strategic objectives, and finally, the signing of the documents. In truth, the work has just begun! The integration and transition phase calls for all hands on deck, as it will take the efforts of both legacy firms to pull off success. After signing, unfortunately, many “go back to work on their regular job.” In fact, at this point all partners from both firms must take on additional responsibilities to assure that integration and transition of the people, systems and processes, and the clients are successful. I recommend: revised partner goals to reflect those additional responsibilities; a one-year business plan with two to three essential goals focused on short-term success; a three-year strategic plan for the longer term; and ongoing communications plans with consistent messaging regarding the business reasons and opportunities for the firm personnel, and the value enhancement for the clients.