When I was in boot camp or basic training there were four platoons in my company, each with their own drill sergeant. Additionally there were other sergeants in our group who seemed to be specialists in certain areas. Obviously we got to know all of them.
There was one sergeant who ran the daily PT, among other things. Every morning we began with a workout under his tutelage. When it began it was a struggle, but as I got into better shape it became routine for me. I noticed that whatever he told us to do he was also doing on the platform he led us from. The platoon drill sergeants stood around and watched—taking a smoke break if they wanted.
One day the PT sergeant had the day off and my drill sergeant covered for him. He got up on the platform and led us exactly the same way as the specialist, with the same words and same moves. I then realized that everything we did was scripted, with nothing left to chance. The goal of basic training was to make us into soldiers. They had eight weeks to teach us the skills we needed to acquire, how to work in a team, and march, handle a rifle, hike, camp out, throw hand grenades, engage in hand-to-hand combat and many other abilities. For those who would end up in combat, their lives would depend on what they learned. And the teaching had to be right on.
Years later I had my own accounting practice and needed to train staff. Some of this seemed far harder than my basic training that was done in groups with very little individualized attention. What was the difference?
1. Every step of the basic training was scripted, planned and deliberately and consistently done.
2. Everyone involved in the training followed the procedures. There were no lone wolves doing it their own way or cutting corners.
3. The recruits listened. You had to learn and keep up with the group.
4. Deadlines were met—no extensions were permitted.
5. Those who fell behind had to work on the training after hours and on weekends on their own time. We all pitched in to help the laggards and the sergeants were also available to see that we kept up.
6. The training was a group effort.
7. The culture was to get it done and to get it done right.
Running any organization or business with staff requires proper and well-organized training. After basic I had training in my military specialty and the process was repeated—different steps and different skills, but the process was similar. A great takeaway for someone like me who always wanted to have his own accounting practice was the successful “commoditization” and “individualization” of the training process. I tried to duplicate as much as possible and used what I learned to train staff to perform at the best levels they were able to. The process I learned in basic training carried me throughout my professional career and still is valid. Deliberate organized training works.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by www.CPATrendlines.com and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.