The recent news about the economy is not as significant as how you react to it in determining your future. CPAs are the most trusted business advisors, and clients look to them for leadership, relationships and creativity. They also look to you for confidence, direction and new capabilities.

In other words, they need you!

Too often, firms head immediately for the bunker and dwell on any negative news. Some even conduct partner meetings that lead to poor decision-making and short-term layoffs. These actions are typically short-sighted, and those critical to the firm's future are the first to go (while mediocre leadership remains). Many firm partners are motivated primarily by personal income and tend to be conservative.

As a firm leader, the challenge for you is to maintain your own personal confidence while building the same in your staff and clients. New challenges can either defeat you or unmask personal strengths. The same is true for your clients and employees. You have a responsibility to help them overcome these times while focusing on their greatest opportunities.

Concentrating on others will make you a stronger leader and strengthen your relationships. It is a fact that you and many of your clients may have recently sustained losses related to the weather or the markets. Focusing on today's needs and what needs to be done now offers assurance and produces positive results for you, your firm and its clients.

Change elicits opportunities and makes creative thinking indispensable. Assist your clients in the process of change by conducting a conversation we refer to as "new opportunities." It's important that you and they take time to reflect upon and be grateful for what you have - as well as to focus on today's dangers, opportunities and strengths. New opportunities will arise from this conversation, and clients will perceive them as more valuable than traditional compliance or commoditized services. Focus on the client relationship, and the opportunities will take care of themselves.

Progress is important, and it builds confidence. Confidence is the single most important factor in learning and growing. I do not say it is easy to maintain confidence, but it is rewarding to take a proactive approach and contact your clients immediately - demonstrating your concern for them.

In summary, take the following steps today in order to instill and maintain confidence.

* Have a "new opportunities" conversation with your clients. Discuss what they have and are grateful for.

* List each client's current dangers, opportunities and strengths - then select and focus on the top three.

* Develop an action plan. Be creative.

* Focus on progress and not perfection.

* Agree to speak again with the client within the next 30 days.

The uncertainty of the times is real. Fear should not cause paralysis, however, but rather motivation to take positive action. While some things are out of our control, how we react is not. Take time to think, write down your thoughts and act. In doing so, you will devise a remedy for the present and a plan for the future.

Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.

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