Reprinted with permission from CPA Practice Management Forum.
Teamwork is trending in business these days. From auto repair shops to Fortune 100 boardrooms—everybody is part of a team.
I have long championed the idea of collaboration as a growth strategy for CPA firms. Frankly, it’s a hard concept to oppose. But, how do you take a huddle of individual players and mold them into a single-minded squad?
I believe the key is the leadership of growth. There are three critically important leadership positions necessary to optimize growth:
- Managing partner (MP);
- Service/industry line leaders; and
- Partner in charge of your large client program.
MPs in the lead
MPs establish the structure and the business model that will point the members of the team in the right direction. They provide needed resources and support.
In addition, the MP leads a robust pipeline process. Pipeline management involves identifying and driving firm-wide significant opportunities. In all but the largest firms (where pipelines are managed regionally), the MP owns the pipeline, much as segment leaders own their industry or service lines.
Funneling opportunities through a pipeline forces a regular review of all open and active opportunities regardless of whether a proposal has been issued. The pipeline document is reviewed during bi-weekly meetings with the partner group and relevant segment leaders.
The document is succinct and well organized to ensure that no opportunities slip through the cracks and that there is no gap between what partners are doing and what they should be doing. Every targeted opportunity is assigned a quarterback who manages that opportunity and reports on progress during pipeline meetings.
When done correctly, successful pipeline management does not require a lot of time. However, it does require a good bit of discipline.
Line leaders provide strategy, accountability
In a CPA firm, industry and service line leaders “own” their particular business. They serve two functions:
- They are responsible for the overall strategic direction of their service line or industry; and
- They are responsible for the financial success of their service line or industry.
Line leaders are accountable for the entire process—not just delivering the service, but ensuring sustainable growth and financial success. It’s the same principle that is at work in a large corporation where the president of a subsidiary holds responsibility for both the growth of the top line and the health of the bottom line.
Segment leaders set and pursue the strategic direction of their segment. They study market conditions and calculate the impact of shifts in those conditions. They understand who the target buyers are, what they want to buy, and how to align interests with powerful distribution channels to find them.
Successful segment leaders operate on the strategy level and leave tactics to others. That means they think less about marketing brochures and more about new services and buyer groups. They care more about financial results than merely achieving high visibility in the market.
Large client program partner
An equally important leader role is the partner who develops current clients. Using a proactive process I call “Client Opportunity Planning,” a designated partner (in some firms the MP) and the client team actively monitor the status of clients who fall in certain categories (e.g., largest, strategically significant, or most at-risk).
The process brings visibility to each client, providing a forum for assessment and brainstorming that leads to action.
Evaluating existing clients on an ongoing basis sheds light on emerging issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. These can usually be resolved through planned interventions before they become large problems or lead to client defection.
As the saying goes, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” If your firm is ready to make the transition from a group of individual players to a cohesive team, ensure your leaders are clear about their roles and prepared to take charge. Their strength and purpose will earn you the highest sustainable growth.