IN OUR OPINION, PERSPECTIVE #80 — April 1, 2019
(A Continuing Series for Leading CPA Firms)
“MOVING FROM TALK TO RESULTS”
|“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change”. — Bill Clinton|
(Talk is easy, results are the challenge. Why? What should your firm do?)
At most professional service firms, talking about what the firm and partners need to do to drive growth, improve profitability, create a better culture, create a link between goals and accountability ends up being just talk. Talking about the things that need to change is easy. Discussing and agreeing on how to change, what needs to change and whose responsibility it is to drive the change is where the gap between talk and results just never ends – it’s like being on a treadmill where you keep stepping but stay in the same place. This perspective helps you get off that treadmill and move your firm from “Talk to Results”.
The major challenges blocking most firms from achieving success are fairly common. When we talk to partners in six or 150 partner firms as part of our diagnostic model, those six or eight “challenges” blocking success are so common among the firms. So, the challenge is never seeking and gaining agreement on
“WHAT” needs to change. Why then is it so difficult to actually do something to create the changes that everyone agrees need to take place?
The CHALLENGE that most firms encounter is the lack of “POWER”. What does that mean?
P is for purpose. To move from “Talk to Results” everyone has to understand the PURPOSE – the big WHY. No one commits to change unless they understand why the change is needed. Without understanding the WHY, it becomes too easy for partners to let day to day things get in the way. Result is just talk.
O is for ownership. Change does not happen unless someone owns the change and commits to getting it done. Ownership can be assigned by the Managing Partner, but true ownership happens when someone steps forward and asks for the responsibility. Ownership does not always have to reside with a partner – there are so many benefits to allowing a senior staff person take ownership.
W is for willingness. There has to be a willingness to change. To implement an effective model of goals and accountability tied to partner compensation is a huge challenge in many firms and can only be successfully implemented if the partners are willing to change and be held accountable. Another often used term for willingness is “buy-in”. The truth is, if there is no buy-in to the change, it will not happen, and most firms can look to their past to find all the skeletons of past changes that never got implemented. Willingness to change is like the air that we breathe.
E is for environment. In firms we work with, those six or eight major strategic initiatives (changes) that are critical to future success only get implemented when the environment exists to drive implementation. If the focus on and commitment to implementing the agreed upon changes takes a second seat to billable hours or the excuse “I am too busy with client stuff” and the Managing Partner and/or Executive Committee buy into that, then no change will ever take place. The bottom line is that there are way too many excuses that partners make, and management accepts that creates the environment of “let’s get through today” versus “let’s create the tomorrow this firm needs”.
R is for resolve. The road to change is not easy and there are any number of obstacles that will rear their ugly head as you walk down the road of change. You need to just keep walking down that road and not let all those distractions get in the way of successfully implementing the changes you agreed to. Clear and effective project management focused on results contributes to the resolve to get it done.
At your next partner retreat that is focused on strategy and growth, change the paradigm of the past where talk was plentiful, but results were scarce. Talk through the changes or strategies that need to be implemented to achieve the goals that the firm is seeking. But, move from talk to POWER by addressing each of the components of the
POWER model. Leave the retreat with all the partners understanding the P (purpose), the O (creating ownership), the W (commitment and willingness to change), the E (focus on results and accountability) and the R (does everyone have the resolve to see it through).
So, the question is — does your firm have the “POWER” to move from “Talk to Results”? Simple really, if you don’t, the firm will just continue having partner retreats or summits or meetings to talk about what needs to change without ever driving the firm and partner performance to where it needs to and should be. You can’t embrace and win in a future that is paralyzed by inaction versus harnessing the POWER to create the future your firm needs to thrive.
The commitment to and clear understanding of the POWER you create, will always move your firm from “Talk to Results”. You have to change the paradigm if you are going to change the result. The lifeblood of any accounting firm is growth – gaining more clients, building revenue and profits. No firm can stand still and just keep doing what it has always done. You have the POWER to change and create the future your firm deserves. The question is do your partners share the POWER or are they happy to just stand on the sidelines.
In Our Opinion, far too many firms are stuck doing the same old things and expecting different results. The model for creating real and lasting change in your firm is to harness the POWER, create the environment of success and create the firm that you want.
In most firms, like in life, you can learn from the past or continue to do the same old things that have not worked for you. The past is written – the future is yours to create. Creating a future based on the past will just keep you on that treadmill to nowhere. Or as Managing Partner, you can begin to create a more successful future for the firm by harnessing the POWER to break from the challenges that continue to block your firm’s potential.
Tony Zecca (CPA and retired CohnReznick partner and National Director of the Advisory Group) is a ESPOSITO CEO2CEO consultant who is brought into client assignments when needed. ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC — a boutique advisory firm consulting to leading CPA and other professional services firms on strategy, succession planning and mergers, acquisitions and integration is actively led by Dom Esposito, CPA. Dom, voted as one of the most influential people in the profession for two consecutive years by Accounting Today, authored a book, published by www.CPATrendlines.com., entitled “8 Steps to Great” which is a primer for CEOs, managing partners and other senior partners. In Our Opinion, is a continuing series of perspectives for leading CPA firms where Dom and his colleagues share insights, experiences and wisdom with
firm leaders who want to “run with the big dogs” and develop their firms into sustainable brands. Dom welcomes questions and can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.292.3277.