[IMGCAP(1)]I recently attended a mixer for bankers, attorneys and CPAs in my area and I ran into a manager from a competing CPA firm.

During our jovial conversation, I asked about a specific partner from his firm, commenting that I hadn’t seen him in quite some time. The response I received was, “Oh, X, he doesn’t show up to these types of events anymore. He made partner. He doesn’t need to network.” Word for word, that was the response I was given. As the conversation ended and I walked away, I scratched my head in disbelief.

At another event I attended, I spoke with a partner of another local competing CPA firm. Again, our conversation was friendly. After speaking with this partner, I came away with a very good impression of him and his firm. He seemed to be motivated and have direction. And that great impression came to an end when I spoke to a colleague of his who advised me that this partner is incredibly difficult to work for. I was told by the colleague that the partner’s workplace demeanor had prompted many young accountants with great potential to leave the firm.

These two stories are not uncommon and are oftentimes not dealt with until it is too late. What do I mean by too late? The firm is doomed to failure by the lack of leadership. Whether failure constitutes the firm disbanding or whether it means not reaching the firm’s financial targets, either way the firm and everybody associated with it will fail to progress. Based on these stories, here are four tools to ensure that your firm doesn’t end up in my next article!

1. Lead by example: If you expect your colleagues to go out and network, you need to go out and network. If you expect your colleagues to follow firm procedures, you had better follow firm procedures. Just because you have the ability to override decisions or systems doesn’t mean you should use that power. Always act in the way you would expect your followers to act.

2. Mentor your people: Employee turnover happens, but a simple way to reduce turnover is by paying special attention to your employee’s needs through mentorship opportunities. As you build a mentor/mentee relationship, look for changes in behavior, ask about the mentee’s goals and how to ensure they are a part of the firms goals. Ensure that you follow up with the mentee to close any loops that have been left open during previous conversations.

3. Stay hungry: It is easy to say you are too busy. It is easy to say you are not interested. It is easy to brush off new opportunities. Consider this: how easy is it for your staff (who are in growth mode) to see you pass up opportunities that could  significantly impact the opportunities within their careers. You made partner or built your practice by working hard and being determined. Don’t expect your staff to stick around for long if they see that you are no longer hungry for success.

4. Enable others: The only way I can grow my practice is by giving up control. If I have hired people I trust, trained them about the appropriate issues they need to understand, put them in a system that does not allow for failure, then I have enabled others to act without fear. If your people are questioning themselves at every turn, consider improving the communication on roles and responsibilities as well, or strengthening the support system in which your staff works.

At the end of the day, if your leadership decides that mentoring their people is not important nor developing new prospects inside and outside the firm, don’t be surprised when the firm struggles to meet its goals. Leadership is the backbone of the accounting firm and will ensure success past the date that you decide to retire.

Adam Blitz, CPA, is a tax and consulting manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP in Fresno, Calif. Along with his CPA, Adam has a Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies from Fresno Pacific University. Adam authored a thesis entitled, "The Leading CPA—the value of the leading CPA." Adam is focused on working with his clients, colleagues, and industry professionals in enhancing the value of the CPA. For additional information, he can be contacted at Adamb@whhcpas.com or via Twitter @getblitzed.