IN OUR OPINION, PERSPECTIVE #101 — January 20, 2020
(A Continuing Series for Leading CPA Firms)
“Are You a STAND OUT or STAND DOWN Firm?”
“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights,
the raising of a person’s performance
to a higher standard”. —Peter Drucker
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one
who does great things. He is the one who
gets people to the greatest things”. —Ronal Reagan
This is the eighth and final perspective in a series about successfully transitioning to a STAND OUT Professional Services Firm. In previous perspectives, we discussed three of the necessary five Pillars to build a STAND OUT firm – the importance of a STAND OUT team, a culture that supports excellence and finally the absolute criticality of creating a client-centric firm. In this perspective, we briefly touch on the remaining two principles (leading-edge technology, being confidently courageous) and conclude with what leadership needs to be in a STAND OUT Professional Services Firm.
Every firm has a choice – do you want to be a top-performing, STAND OUT firm or will you choose the road that so many have which is to be a STAND DOWN firm – a firm that remains mired in inefficiency, lack of growth and a firm and partner group that will be satisfied to remain in the pack. Each firm Managing Partner (CEO) must ask this question and if the decision is to be a STAND OUT firm, congratulations. And if your decision for whatever reason is to remain a STAND DOWN firm, well . . .
Our Managing Partner is now ready to discuss her thoughts on the final two principles to becoming a STAND OUT firm and an issue that will drive them to success or failure – leadership. The morning has arrived and all the partners and senior staff are assembled.
“The fourth principle for becoming the STAND OUT firm is we need to excel at and be leading edge in our use of technology, both internally and as it relates to client service. I am not going to spend a great deal of time on this principle other than to state that to remain leading-edge, we first need to become leading-edge. We will examine every internal IT platform as well as every way we utilize technology in service delivery and client communications and make the investments necessary to make us leading-edge. Our clients should expect us to use technology to be as efficient as possible and to also have the talent to help them become leading-edge in their business. I have created a Technology Innovation Group led by our CIO who will take on this challenge and get us to leading edge by the end of this year – no excuses, no delays”.
“Now on to the final principle – being confidently courageous. What on earth does that mean? Simply put, we need to constantly be testing the edges of who we are, what and how we do our work, how we interact with and support every client, how we develop our team’s talent and finally the face we show the market. Every member of our team needs to have the confidence to step out onto the edges and look for ways that we can be better at everything we do. We collectively need the confidence to get outside of the box and question everything by asking can we do “it” better and provide more value to our clients and to our firm. If the answer is yes, then we need to courage to change”.
“This is where leadership comes in and why we want that topic to be the final in developing our roadmap to being a STAND OUT firm. What is real leadership and how do we recognize it in ourselves and in those for whom we work? A STAND OUT firm does not have one leader, one person who drives everything. A STAND OUT firm has a team of leaders who work together to deliver greatness in everything that we do. Leaders don’t intimidate. Leaders don’t look to lay blame. Leaders look to and drive exceptional performance by allowing others to achieve. The primary job of us as leaders is to help every team member exceed their own expectations, to help every team member succeed beyond their limitations. Leadership and leaders are not recognized by stating we are a leader to having a title – leadership and leaders are recognized by their actions and their positive impact on the firm’s success. Great leaders are like the operating system of a computer, operating in the background but facilitating the ability of the computer to do its job”.
“So, our journey to exceptionalism and to being a STAND OUT firm begins today. We know what we have to do, we are committed to getting it done and we will lead the way through example, transparency, clear communications, coaching where necessary, setting expectations and finally being confidently courageous in creating the firm that we want to be – a truly STAND OUT firm”.
In Our Opinion, when you look at a truly standout firm versus a STAND DOWN firm, the difference has less to do with talent and so much more to do with commitment and execution against a well-communicated road map and vision. It also has a lot to do with leadership and the culture that leadership creates – a culture of exceptionalism that is focused on client success and ensuring that all interactions with clients are centered on delivering value and that all team members are empowered to succeed.
As we stated in previous perspectives, creating a client-centric, STAND OUT firm is not an easy or a quick transformation, but it is a road every firm that aspires to STAND OUT must travel. It requires positive and empowering leadership. It requires that everyone understand expectations surrounding being a STAND OUT firm and that there is an accountability model that is focused on motivation and coaching and not penalties and blame. It requires a shared responsibility to excel, shared by every single team member in the firm starting with the CEO. Enjoy the trip.
Tony Zecca (CPA and retired CohnReznick partner and National Director of the Advisory Group) is an ESPOSITO CEO2CEO consultant who is brought into client assignments for his skill in strategy, growth, and transformation. 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.