Sam Allred/Tim Bartz, Upstream Academy – Most Recommended Consultant

Upstream Academy
Sam Allred, Tim Bartz

Sam Allred

Sam Allred

What is the most common mistake being made in the profession today and how can it be addressed?

The most common mistake firms are making is a failed culture of investment. Firms focus too much on NIPP, distribute virtually all profit to stakeholders, and implement cost-cutting, not value-building, initiatives.

Too many Baby Boomers ask: What’s in it for me? They oppose long-term investments, believing a future upstream merger will solve everything.

The mastodon in the room needs to be confronted with hard questions:

  • How much profit should we invest in people, technology, new services, etc.?
  • How can we position the firm to compete?
  • What training do younger professionals need to replace, or supplement, current technical skills?
  • What non-accounting professionals and services should we explore adding?

These questions require not only discussion and planning, but real dollars and an attitude that investment is vital to the firm’s future.

Tim Bartz

Tim Bartz

What would you recommend firms do over the next two to three years to keep ahead of the game?

Firms should do three things:

  • Move away from performing as groups of generalists with everyone serving a smattering of clients in myriad industries. Partners/managers should pick two to three areas of focus so the firm can move clients to those who have expertise in that industry or technical specialty, bringing focus and expertise to the client table.
  • Have stakeholders move a block of compliance work hours to those junior to them; replace these hours with time spent in discussions with A- and B-level clients focused on the client’s strategic needs and objectives. Make the primary goals for the compliance areas efficiency and effectiveness (that is, maintaining quality, minimizing hours and dealing with requirements so you can focus on delivering strategic assistance to your best clients).
  • Become client-centric and ask: What do clients want and need? And, how will our firm address common client issues with new skills and services?

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

The biggest surprise is the unwillingness of so many professionals to commit to real change in the way they do business. They listen to the warnings of coming changes and agree that transformation is necessary, but they haven’t personalized it yet. David Maister’s article, “Strategy and the Fat Smoker,” could never have been more on point than it is right now. Firms have heard from multiple sources they shouldn’t stay attached to compliance as their primary focus, but they still haven’t come to grips with the fact that the status quo will kill their firm. Most seem more willing to die than to change.