Bill Reeb, Succession Institute LLC – Most Recommended Consultant

Succession Institute
Bill Reeb
www.successioninstitute.com

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

Bill Reeb

Bill Reeb

Most senior owners are conservative when it comes to changing how their organizations work given the large amount of money they make and their comfort in what they have to do to make it.  But even when those owners realize that some of their key ideas and processes are substantially flawed, it is surprising how long they hold on to the philosophy that “what got me here will get me there.” The sad part is that as senior partners get close to retirement, that is when they first realize that what they have built really only works well for them. Merger mania is not driven by a shortage of talent, although that is the most expressed reason, but rather it is about an organizational structure and culture that has long outlived the success the firm has been enjoying, as they have consistently traded off long-term effective initiatives for short-term efficiency tactics.

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

Succession isn’t about partners, although everyone wants to make it about them. Succession is about making sure everyone is living up to their entire job function, not just the parts they want to do. When partners get to do whatever they want, they often choose to revert back to manager-level work. Unfortunately, that dysfunction trickles down throughout the organization. Partners need to get out of the details of the work they are doing and spend more time in their higher-level client relationship and strategic advisory roles. When we consult with firms about succession, while there are definite issues that retiring partners need to comply with, like client transition, the solution is typically best found through leverage! By adding more people, learning to delegate, managing better, consistently training, most firms have enough partners, they just haven’t chosen to develop the kind of leverage necessary for seamless succession and sustainability.

What questions should firms be asking themselves if they want to grow as it relates to revenue?

Everyone wants to make business development into some complex magical skill set only possessed by sliver-tongued devils. This simply isn’t true. Organic growth is about holding partners and managers accountable to following basic fundamentals that should be clearly articulated in their roles and responsibilities. If you want to grow, stay visible with your referral sources and they will refer you. Even more important, stay visible and interested in your clients too, as not only will additional work come your way, but they will refer you to others as well. Make it your job to understand the strategic priorities of your top clients, including non-accounting focus areas, and good things will come your way. This simple, fun-to-do job function makes up about 90% of almost every firm’s organic growth, so stop making this harder than it needs to be … just make sure your people start doing their jobs!

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

Upstream Academy
Sam Allred, Tim Bartz
www.upstreamacademy.com

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.

Carl George, Carl George Advisory – Most Recommended Consultant

Carl George Advisory
Carl George
www.carlgeorgeadvisory.com

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.

Right Networks Acquires Xcentric

Hudson, N.H.-based Right Networks, a provider of cloud-based accounting and business solutions for CPA firms, accounting professionals and small-businesses, has acquired Atlanta-based Xcentric, a provider in managed IT solutions for accounting firms.

“Everything from Xcentric’s core business to their company culture and values are complementary to those of Right Networks. Our combined offerings will bring our customers an unparalleled set of solutions to choose from as they move along their cloud journey,” says John Farrer, CEO and founder of Right Networks. “The Right Networks cloud combined with Xcentric’s complete cloud offer gives the market a wide range of offerings to choose from.”

The company will continue to offer Xcentric’s complete cloud solution and plans to accelerate the growth of this customer base, while continuing to provide exceptional customer experiences.

“Our team was seeking the right partnership with a company that shared our mission, market focus and core values so we could offer our customers even more value and accelerate our opportunity for growth,” says Trey James, CEO and co-founder of Xcentric. “Right Networks has consistently demonstrated their leadership position in cloud-based accounting and business solutions by providing laser beam focus on the needs of accounting professionals.”

Guest Article: Navigating Through Preliminary Merger Discussions

Joe Tarasco

Joe Tarasco

Joseph A. Tarasco, CEO of Accountants Advisory Group

Most merger and acquisition deals typically go through five stages: preliminary discussions; transactional detail meetings and negotiations; an initial agreement outlined in a memo of understanding or letter of intent; due diligence; and the transaction agreement and signing of the partner / shareholder agreement.

Quite often, I am asked what are the pertinent types of questions that should be asked by the selling firm in a merger and acquisition transaction in the first few meetings. The following are some examples:

Vision, Strategic Planning and Future of the Firm

  • What is the vision and strategy for the firm for the next five years?
  • What is the culture of the firm?
  • Does the firm have an annual partner retreat and/or strategic planning meeting?

Partner Compensation, Management and Risk

  • How is partner compensation determined?
  • Do partners have annual goals and objectives? If so, how often are the partners counseled?
  • Are partners held accountable?
  • Describe your partner governance structure.
  • When was the last time you updated your partnership agreement?
  • Do you have partner meetings?  How often do you meet?
  • How is partner equity determined?
  • What are your average partner billing rates? Staff rates?
  • Has the firm gone through a de-merger or terminated any partners in the last five years?
  • Do you have any professional liability claims that have not been settled?
  • What has been your claim experience in the last five years?
  • What is the structure of your IT department?

Succession Planning and Professional Staff

  • How many equity and non-equity partners do you have?
  • Are any partners planning to retire in the next few years?
  • Do you have partner retirement payment projections for the next 10 years? Does the firm have a “cap” on retirement payments?
  • What is your staff turnover rate?
  • Describe your training program.
  • How often do you counsel staff?
  • What methods do you use to recruit staff?  Have they been successful?
  • Do you hold staff meetings?
  • What is your current staff-to-partner ratio?
  • Who oversees scheduling?
  • What is the structure of your HR department?

Partner Marketing Activity

  • What is the source of most of your new business? (If it is from referrals, what types of individuals and companies?)
  • How many partners bring in new business? How many are “rainmakers”?
  • For marketing purposes, is your firm organized into industry / service teams?
  • Are the partners held accountable for their marketing efforts?
  • Do you have new client acceptance criteria?
  • What does the firm do to identify additional service opportunities with existing clients?
  • Have you ever conducted a client satisfaction survey?  If so, what were the results?
  • What is the structure of your marketing department?

Service Offerings

  • What are the firm’s strongest niches?
  • Is the firm known as an expert in any industry?
  • What percentage of the firm’s revenue is compliance vs. consulting/advisory services?
  • What percentage of revenues is assurance versus tax?
  • Does the firm offer financial services? If yes, to what extent?

Building a Successful Membership Association: Part One

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

Steven E. Sacks

The world of accounting firm associations and networks (for the purpose of this paper “association” also means “network” and/or “organization” related to accounting) has rapidly evolved because of globalization, information technology, societal needs and changing demographics. Most associations, operated on a not-for-profit basis, irrespective of their mission, have learned, or are learning, that philosophies, assumptions and activities cannot remain static and serve the needs of their members. It is imperative to align goals and strategies with a clearly defined vision. This article addresses some of the more important aspects of operating a successful association.

Gathering Business Intelligence

No association can be successful without taking the pulse of its members – an environmental scan to determine whether the activities and initiatives are truly meaningful. To accomplish this, one of the most useful tools is an “outreach program,” a leadership communication and business intelligence undertaking to offer checks and balances among the board, senior leadership and the members – and not just those at the partner level.

Why is this important? Because it provides an understanding of the association’s strategic direction, new programs, the influence of new legislation and regulation, training and education programs, and cultural issues. This information can be used to determine trends, similarities and needs among cohorts. From this, new programs are developed and information is shared on a regular basis to keep members “in the know” and to elicit feedback. This results in a greater likelihood of the association retaining a strong bond with members and other interested parties. It creates a sense of esprit de corps and shared commitment to success.

Most associations offer 75% to 80% of the same benefits and services – conferences, intranet, newsletters, special interest groups, webinars, third-party discounts etc. – so why do certain associations have a long track record of relevance while others seem to constantly battle to maintain members?

The bigger question is, putting benefits and services aside, what  what comprises the remaining 20% to 25% that distinguishes one association from the others when all seek the affiliation of the same population? Two words: culture and commitment. While each accounting firm operates independently, based on structure and governance rules, members believe in the value of affiliation value through networking – between leadership and members and member-to-member relationships. In an ideal world, a member firm will treat another member firm’s client as if it were its own. This is the culture element. Promising to fulfill the needs of that client and actually doing so is the commitment element.

Understanding Member Demographic Differences

We are going through a generational change: Baby Boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 each day. In addition, 75% of today’s CPA firm leaders will most likely be retired by 2025. The next generation of leaders will decide whether to remain in their current membership organization or look elsewhere. While it is important to address the succession issues of Baby Boomers, it is equally important to be positioned to serve the younger professionals – those who have just reached partner or who are on an upward trajectory.

Associations must appeal to the varied needs of business or industry professionals, whether it involves assistance with client-facing matters or business operations (e.g., administration, IT, HR, marketing). The association should be able to identify and share best practices so that its members can experiment and implement new processes and policies. No one firm has a “lock” on the best practice (though some operate under this illusion).

Appealing to Young Professionals

It is up to the firm’s leadership to encourage membership in a relevant association or business group so the younger professionals can apply what they learned and bring more value back “in house.”

Three major areas of focus that accounting firm associations must address:

  • Promote professional respect that can increase interest and allegiance to the association. Treated as professionals, they are more likely to be engaged by the more senior members of the association.
  • Overcome resistance to getting the younger professionals involved. This means creating initiatives that go beyond the usual offerings to the more established members. Many young professionals have experienced a leadership opportunity within their firms – and this can translate into meaningful and successful involvement within the association.
  • Encourage relationship support. Associations need to identify the role of young professionals by developing program initiatives that meet their daily professional needs, such as training in management, communication and business development. If the focus remains solely on a legacy audience (MPs and partners with long-term participation) instead of future leaders, members and individual firms will be short-changed. Consequently, there will be an exodus of firms from the association when the next generation of firm leadership takes the helm.

Retaining Legacy Members

Let’s not forget, however, that the current and recent past leaders within association firms have their own needs. I have found that a very important membership benefit is in the form of a rapid and helpful response to a technical question or some other assistance. This is also accompanied by quality and quantity of information exchange between members. The latter, however, cannot be directly controlled. It is an element of circumstances – both domestically and internationally – requiring familiarity of the skills and expertise of other member firms and their representatives. This is why participation at conferences or on webinars and conference calls is crucial.

It is not onerous to regularly attend conferences and participate in special interest groups, to take part in discussion boards or to submit an article or a success story. Similarly, it is very worthwhile to offer a timely and helpful response to a request for assistance or to answer a technical question. A partner would not (or at least, should not) ignore a partner from his own firm for help. So why ignore a request by a member from to another firm? And if a request comes from an international member, it would be self-defeating to ignore it.

Confidence in the Peer Network

One of the greatest advantages that an association offers is an open and social network. This provides a “confident” environment, where members have a high degree of certainty they are communicating with a qualified community of peers. This vetting process has been traditionally used to determine a firm’s suitability for membership (and continued affiliation), as well as in the sharing and development of best practices, credentials and virtually all meaningful content that firms provide – from internal publications to training courses and conference presentations.

Appreciation and Understanding Behind Expanding Membership

Sometimes member firms view growth as a plus; sometimes they view it as a threat to competitive positioning. It is important to understand and convey the need for growth; it cannot be simply a matter of getting big to derive more dues revenue. An association, particularly one with global reach, must articulate the importance of growth and how it fits into a changing marketplace. The focus should not be on perceived low membership numbers; instead, establish a sensible and effective plan to recruit and retain member firms to rapidly benefit the entire group. Thus, it is important for an organization to understand why it pursues certain strategies.

Some methods of member recruitment resemble a sales process. An association needs to understand the purchasing life cycle of potential members. This is not dissimilar to building a client relationship.

Effective Member Recruiting

Before recruitment begins, an association needs to be sure that its information and message is creating a sense of awareness and understanding. If the leadership is centralized, then the member firms – through a regional archway – must be in alignment. If it is chapter- or regional-driven, then all participants must understand and embrace the vision and mission and articulate a consistent philosophy. This includes an effective methodology for bringing in new firms (e.g., creating awareness, recruiting, engaging, renewing). All regions’ marketing, branding and recruitment/sales teams should work in tandem to create cohesive messaging at every stage of this process.

Membership recruitment may be sales, but it’s not always about the dollars. Rather, it is about creating long-lasting relationships, engaging prospects and proving to them why they would benefit affiliating with the association.

The issue of differentiation, here, too, plays a role. The question of “What really is our ‘niche’?” needs to be defined and then shared with prospects. No association can operate as the solution for every type of firm. A careful assessment of the target market and how it can be infiltrated to gain new members is a vital step.

Continue reading part two of this article.

About the author:

Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC is CEO and founder of Solutions to Results LLC. His firm assists professional service firms and organizations to solve the challenges of human capital development and culture, and develop effective internal and external communication strategies and techniques. He has been in the forefront of the accounting profession for nearly 30 years, serving professional service firms and membership associations through the deliverance of leading-edge conferences, presenting to colleges and universities on careers in accounting, and creating workshops, webinars and webcasts on a variety of accounting and consulting topics.

Planning to Become a Better CPA

In an article by Bill Tsotsos, he discusses professional development specific to the profession. He believes that there is a natural human desire to improve professionally. Whether the reason is to earn more money, a firm promotion, peer recognition or the satisfaction that we are operating at a high level for our clients, most of us want to improve our skills to be the best we can be. Since professional goals may be in conflict with personal goals (spending more time at home with the family), the answer is not simply to work more hours. The question is: How do I become better at what I do; how do I become a better CPA?

Tsotsos maintains that becoming a better CPA involves designing an annual plan for professional growth.

The primary elements of his professional growth plan include:

  • Industry expertise. A CPA can add much more value to a client if they become an expert in that client industry. To become an expert, talk to industry leaders, read what they read, join industry associations and attend local chapter meetings.
  • Service niche or tax specialty area. You don’t want to be a tax generalist; select an area of tax law and “make your mark.” Similarly, identify a service niche you would like to pursue – forensic accounting, business succession, merger and acquisition, and develop expertise.
  • CPE/soft skill development. Soft skills are typically identified as leadership, management, communication, and business development. Plan to take courses in these areas even if there are no continuing education credits available.
  • Build your referral pipeline. With the advent of social media, it is no longer necessary to ask for a referral with the question “Who do you know?” Once you are connected to a client on LinkedIn, you can now ask for introductions to specific people by name.
  • Organizations to join or attend. Consider professional associations of referral partners like estate planning attorneys or bankers. Joining a nonprofit association gives you exposure and access to community leaders.
  • Mentoring. Ask a partner of the firm to mentor you and schedule regular meetings. Ask to be included with client lunches, meetings with prospects and referral or potential referral partners.
  • Plan to have a coffee, breakfast, or lunch each business day (200 times/year) with a client, prospect or referral partner. This will produce a solid referral pipeline and enable you to know your client on a deeper level.
  • Hire a trainer/coach. Executives hire coaches and take management courses on how to be better leaders. A coach can give you a different perspective, advice and help you get the most out of your efforts.

If you are serious about becoming a better CPA, design an annual plan for professional growth and enlist an accountability partner. Do not limit expenditures to what might be reimbursable by your employer – invest in yourself and in your career. Take personal responsibility for your career development. It will pay huge dividends.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Problem-Solving

By Arianna Campbell

Finding the best solutions to problems is a necessary skill for navigating the changes that are continuously affecting our profession. Firms that take a proactive and structured approach to problem-solving position themselves to overcome obstacles and take advantage of opportunities. This approach comes from making a concerted effort to avoid the following five common problem-solving mistakes.

Mistake No. 1 – Not involving the right people in the conversation

When the right people are excluded from the problem-solving process, the proposed solutions can be one-sided or limited. Different perspectives help to better understand the problem at hand. Resist the trap of allowing busy schedules and a desire for quick resolution to allow people to be excluded. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be involved. Progress may be slower when too many people participate. The most effective problem solving teams include representatives from various levels in the firm who share their perspective and insights.

Mistake No. 2 – Failing to get on the same page from the beginning

Certain people may agree that a problem exists, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has the same problem in mind. People often have different expectations, opinions on issues and goals, and potential solutions. Effective problem-solving requires getting everyone on the same page. When this doesn’t happen, there is a risk of running in different directions – this means that everyone may cross a finish line, but no one wins the race. Take the time to define and document issues and get alignment before attempting to solve a problem. The result will be better solutions.

Mistake No. 3 – Making improvements that don’t address the source of the problem

Brainstorming sessions are great for getting ideas flowing, but activity should not be mistaken for achievement. Finding solutions that don’t address the root of the problem only leads to more problems in the long run. We can avoid this by using a simple yet effective tool called the “Five Whys.” The website iSixSigma.com gives the following explanation: “By repeatedly asking the question “Why” (five is a good rule of thumb), you can peel away the layers of symptoms which can lead to the root cause of a problem. Very often the ostensible reason for a problem will lead you to another question.”

To complete the 5 Whys, identify a problem, ask why the problem happens, then discuss and determine the answer. If the answer does not uncover the source of the issue, ask why again. Repeat this process until everyone agrees on the source of the issue.

Mistake No. 4 – Not considering how technology could be part of the solution

The failure to leverage technology is a costly mistake. Some common reasons include negative experiences from a past software trial, the belief that clients will not welcome technology advances, lack of education about features and benefits, and fear of a learning curve slowing down internal processes. Firms are that are unwilling to include technology as part of their problem-solving toolkit are getting left behind. The rate of change for technology has accelerated dramatically, and solutions are customized to address the needs of the firm and the profession. Our people are smart, capable and often eager to use technology solutions that will allow them to provide a better internal and external client experience. With a few exceptions, clients have the necessary technical expertise that they already use daily while interacting with banks, mortgage companies, social media and other outlets. Discomfort with technology should not hold the firm and clients back from taking advantage of the best possible solutions.

Mistake No. 5 – Not having a framework for problem-solving

Finding the best solutions starts with having a structured approach to problem-solving. Developing the habit of having the appropriate team members ask the following five questions will help to avoid problem solving mistakes:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • Why is this an issue?
  • What are we currently doing to address this problem?
  • What could we do differently/better?
  • How can we move these ideas forward? What are the next steps?

Effective problem solving doesn’t happen by accident. Firms that take a disciplined approach find lasting solutions that lead to progress and growth.

Arianna Campbell, consultant for Boomer Consulting, helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The P3 Leadership Academy™. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Campbell also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.

Moving the Rocks on the Path to Growth

According to Dom Esposito, CEO of ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, a CPA firm must move many rocks that are on the path to growth. If a firm doesn’t effectively address these obstacles, it will not be able to grow at a satisfactory rate.

The following are six growth path rocks and how you can begin to move them.

Ineffective Leadership and Governance

The CEO has the broad responsibility to create a culture that drives revenue and profitability. In addition to the CEO, firms need two standing groups to drive growth and achieve success. The first is a senior management team that includes a COO and office MPs. The second group is an executive committee that oversees the execution of operating budget, addresses partner matters, makes sure that the partnership agreement is up to date and reflective of a firm’s needs, and evaluates the effectiveness of the CEO and the senior management team.

Need for a Broader and Deeper Menu of Services

A firm attracts and retains clients by adding value through industry specialization. The greatest growth and margin opportunities for a firm are in advisory and consulting, as clients outsource specialized skills to deal with business challenges that they cannot handle internally.

Lack of a Strategic Plan

A strategic plan provides direction and gets partners on the same page. It instills discipline. It is a vehicle for individual partner goal-setting, periodic monitoring, counseling and an annual evaluation that forms the basis for annual partner compensation adjustments.

Poor Strategy Execution

Many CPA firms undertake exhaustive strategic planning but don’t use the plan as a living, breathing tool that holds partners accountable through a performance management and compensation system. Some firms go through this exercise to produce a plan that eventually sits on a shelf gathering dust in partner offices. This is a missed opportunity because a sound strategic plan, if executed properly, is a great leadership and management tool that can enable a firm grow.

Inability to Align Strategy to Goal-Setting and Accountability

Actionable results need to be periodically measured against goals and modified if certain goals are deemed unrealistic. Compensation adjustments should be made according to progress made toward these goals. Partners know that a firm is serious about strategy execution if they can measure the impact their participation has in their wallets.

Price is Always Why We Lose

According to Esposito, the thought that price is main reason your firm loses clients or proposals is a myth. Price is a one-dimensional sales pitch whereas value creates motivation for clients to select your firm. Value is perceived benefits less perceived cost. Clients and prospects want a firm that will help their business grow and be more profitable – a firm that brings real value to the relationship.

5 Reasons To Go Paperless This Tax Season

Jesse Wood

Jesse Wood

By: Jesse Wood, CEO of eFileCabinet

Are You Ready To Go Paperless This Tax Season?

As tax season approaches, businesses of all sizes should be reevaluating workflow practices to improve office operations, efficiency and profitability. Electronic document management can create quick wins on an organization’s balance sheet, lower overhead 30% to 40%, and drive profitability and growth during this busy season.

Here are a few reasons why electronic document management will make a difference:

  • Create quick wins on your balance sheet. Electronic document management frees up administrative and productive time spent locating and retrieving documents. For example, a cloud-based document management system can reduce reliance not only on physical hardware and expensive server licensing fees, saving an organization’s office space and IT spending, but it also provides anytime/anywhere access to critical files and documents.
  • Lower key overheads. A well-designed paperless system not only frees up person-hours, it can lower several costs, including stationery expenses and document storage space, and it can even positively influence carbon credit.
  • Drive profitability and growth. The inherent efficiency of a paperless office can be maximized when combined with other productivity tools such as workflow management. Imagine an enterprise where work instructions for every step of a process automatically open when an employee performs the specific step. Secure, paperless offices see significant reductions in cost, turnaround time, risk profile and training periods, and they see better performance on key growth indicators. These growth indicators enable a business to do more with less time and money – another great reason to go paperless.
  • Provide security. Electronic document management and file sharing are the safest way to store and transmit sensitive documents, like tax forms. The security provided through these sophisticated systems protects your customers, your company and your bottom line. It reduces risk from compliance and regulatory requirements (SEC, HIPPA, etc.) and is an easier and safer way of transmitting information than email, FTP and physical document distribution.
  • Produce faster response times. Electronic document management and file sharing allow for faster and more accurate access to information, which not only increases workflow productivity, but also quality perception from customers (the sooner you respond to customers, the more organized you appear and the happier they are).

Jesse Wood is the CEO of Lehi, Utah-based eFileCabinet. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet began as a tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. Since then, eFileCabinet has developed into a full electronic document management solution designed to help organizations capture, manage and protect their data. www.efilecabinet.com