IPA Launches 2020 Survey Focused on Employee Transformation and Development


“Transforming while performing” is the mantra of many firms today, ensuring current performance while re-tooling and re-engineering the firm for the future. “Transformation” refers to many areas of business, including employees, technology, business model, business processes, partner activities, governance, pricing models, new performance metrics and even definitions of success. This month, we begin capturing information on employee transformation.

Throughout the year, INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) will be collecting and reporting on information on the theme of Firm Transformations. This month’s focus is on employee transformation and development. Please consider taking the survey, which should take no more than 5 minutes to complete.

All survey participants will receive a complimentary copy of the results when published. The survey is open from Jan. 23 through Feb. 21.



Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success

Without the support of the partner group, MPs can’t move their firms forward. The realities of gaining consensus among hard-driving professionals with different working styles, skills and drivers can be more challenging than even the most insightful firm leader could anticipate. One MP says, “It’s like herding cats, and it’s very difficult to get all partners on the same page because not everybody has the same value proposition and not everyone is motivated by the same metrics.”

No MP owns a how-to guidebook on juggling the multiple – and sometimes competing – priorities demanding their attention every day. INSIDE Public Accounting, therefore, asked more than 70 MPs to offer anonymous insights on the frustrations, challenges, joys and rewards of the top job. In a 12-question survey, they offered unfiltered, candid insights. Here are responses to just a few of the questions.

What are two of your biggest frustrations with the partner group? Two themes – egos and complacency – immediately emerged from MP responses to this question. Some MPs say partners think their way is the only way. They fail to see the benefit of trying a different approach, close themselves off from other points of view, second-guess decisions (after failing to participate in the discussion), and stay in their comfort zone of client service without committing to professional development, marketing, timely billing and collections.

One MP said two or three partners are so negative “they’re like a cancer.” Some partners think they’re “too busy or too important to follow the rules,” says another.

However, with the success of the partners goes the success of the firm, and MPs are quick to acknowledge the massive amounts of work they handle, the numerous clients they serve admirably and the demands they address without fail.

Frustrations With Partners IncludeLack of Participation “They don’t speak up. When we need them to vote it’s like pulling teeth to get them to respond on time.”

Lack of Accountability “Partners like to measure others but don’t like to be measured.” Another MP says, “Too many of our partners are cruisers. Some of these, though, think they are dynamos and they aren’t.”

Self-Centered Thinking One MP is frustrated by “getting them to work together as a team, and not be so concerned about themselves.” Another says, “Partners think they are suited for all jobs because they are successful in one or two areas.” Another disappointment? “Partners who occasionally want to be MP, but only when they don’t like something specific but don’t want any part of the running of the firm on a daily basis.”

Hanging on When it’s Time to Retire “They seem to want to continue to come to the office, take up a large office, and distract staff and have no desire to step away. This can hold back some of the younger partners and potential partners.”

Failure to Use Time Wisely – A top-notch partner, one MP says, should “discuss issues with other partners when they arise and not behind their back, seek to interact more with fellow partners, be joyful in what you do and how you carry yourself, and help others at all times when asked.” Another MP comments that partners often complain about being overloaded with work. “As a result, they can’t hit their goals, or do this or that. What I find is that they’re not looking inside and prioritizing, pushing down or making good choices.”

“What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would share with an MP?…Don’t try to be popular, say many MPs who responded to this question. “You have to make what you feel is the best decision for the firm and don’t take unhappy partners or staff personally,” one MP says. “They will get over it.”

MPs, in various ways, advised new executives to make the tough decisions, but be respectful. Communicate clearly and often, and put the long-term best interest of the firm above selfish or short-term gains. Always.

More advice from the trenches…

  • Don’t Rush – “Be patient. Making changes is like moving a battleship so take it slow and do it right.” Another MP says, “Think more. Do less.”
  • Be Direct – “Establish up front that you’re not going to put up with negativity, complaining, etc., or they’ll be brought up before the executive committee.”
  • Think ‘Big Picture’ – “Communicate, communicate, communicate. There has to be someone in charge that creates the vision and rallies the employees behind it.”
  • Get Support – “Find four or five other managing partners or consultants that they admire and respect and build close relationships with them. That gives them a sounding board outside his or her own partner group. Other MPs are also great sources of new ideas that can be implemented.”
  • Learn the Role Before Taking It – “Just because you’re a good accountant doesn’t mean you know how to run a business.”
  • Watch the WIP – “If you don’t bill, you don’t collect money. If you don’t collect money, you can’t pay the bills.”
  • Manage Your Time – “Block off chunks of time to work on administrative duties and client duties. Constantly switching back and forth is difficult and draining.”
  • Stay Focused – “Work hard, never lose the trust of the partners who are willing to trust, and don’t let the naysayers distract you.”
  • Be Open – “Understand you need to learn as much as you can about how to work with different types of people.” Another MP agrees. “Get to know all your partners, and determine what really motivates them, and what is it that they care most about at the firm. Do not play favorites, and don’t allow little partner groups to form and break down the vision of the firm. Rather, bring their concerns to the table, and resolve them.”

If you’re not a current IPA Insider, click on the image above to become an IPA Insider for free!

INSIDE Public Accounting Launches 2020 Culture Assessment

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), the accounting profession’s benchmarking leader, is offering a new tool to help partners better understand their firms’ culture and how to improve it.

IPA has measured hundreds of financial and operational metrics for firms for 30 years. IPA is now partnering with CultureIQ, corporate culture experts, to take the seemingly intangible aspects of culture and measure the key qualities that research shows lead directly to business results.

Today success means more than a healthy bottom line. With staffing a top concern for accounting firm leaders every year, culture can’t be left to chance. A desirable culture attracts talented professionals and encourages the best performers not only to stay, but also to drive the firm forward.

IPA’s Excellence in Firm Culture Assessment – launching in May or November – will provide insights into whether firm culture is keeping pace with expectations in a rapidly changing professional environment. Consider it a “culture audit.” The all-staff survey will help leaders see whether the culture described in the mission statement and core values matches the real behaviors, beliefs, interactions and attitudes at the firm.

Participants in the assessment will receive:

  • A customized report. It includes an overall score, aggregated employee data, and strengths and weaknesses by key demographics. The rankings cover agility, alignment, collaboration, customer-centricity, empowerment, engagement, growth development, innovation, quality, recognition rewards, trust integrity and work-life balance.
  • An Employee Net Promoter Score. Like the well-known Net Promoter Score, this data shows how likely staff are to recommend working at your firm.
  • Benchmarking Information. Compare your firm’s scores to that of other participating firms. All data is aggregated by firm size and region. All data on individual firms is confidential.
  • Eligibility to earn the IPA Excellence in Firm Culture award. Firms of distinction that rank highly will receive the award in December 2020.

To participate in the 2020 Excellence in Firm Culture Assessment please complete an online application.

IPA Editor Featured on Ingenuity Marketing Podcast

Chris Camara

Chris Camara

IPA editor and journalist Christina Camara has been featured as an influencer in professional services marketing on the INGenius podcast.

Ingenuity Marketing Group produced the episode as part of its new Ingenuity Masters Series. Host Dawn Wagenaar, principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group, interviewed Camara about trends in the accounting profession and opportunities for accounting firms to gain visibility. (Spoiler alert: focus on experts and firm culture.) The podcast also touched on the changing media landscape, reporting on public accounting and building better relationships with the trade press.

Camara discussed IPA’s 2020 cultural assessments, offered in May and November, which can help answer the question, “What does it feel like to work here?” The data can help firms bring culture top-of-mind, develop a well-defined, positive culture, boost brand awareness and increase retention. Interested? Contact culture@plattgroupllc.com.