Whether navigating your firm through the choppy waters of today’s unstable economy or mapping out both long- and short-term strategies, a trio of CEOs from CPA firms in both the U.S. and Canada agreed that communication with staff members and an understanding of the competition are among the more critical factors in driving a firm’s growth and evolution.
“You need to understand that in creating change you will not get everyone on the bus from day one,” said Ken Baggett, managing principal of Atlanta-based Reznick Group. “You need to keep your people updated on your strategy and then continue to review and update that strategy,” he told attendees at the Winning is Everything confab here. “Managing your firm in an upmarket is fun, but in a down market it absolutely sucks.”
Baggett recommended reviewing controllable expenses such as travel and trade shows during the recession, but warned not to cut such areas as marketing and training. “Tighten up your staff evolution, but remember, you will never cut your way to prosperity,” he said.
Daryl Ritchie, chief executive at Meyers Norris Penny, of Calgary, Alberta, the 7th largest firm in Canada, told attendees who envision reinventing their respective firms, to first “step back and figure out who you want to be” and not just in the short term. “Our firm looks ahead 20 years,” he said.
“You need the right business model and right governance model, but you need to be able to embrace change,” he added. Ritchie's firm went from opening offices in smaller prairie towns across Canada to establishing a presence in Toronto. “Mergers are one strategy [to grow], but they are not the strategy. You must stay focused but also remain flexible.”
Mark Rudolph, president and chief executive at Yount, Hyde & Barbour in Winchester, Va., revealed that one major change his firm adopted was transitioning to an open compensation system. But he stressed that it’s still important to develop long-term plans and strategy, and ensure that every member of the firm understands their respective role in that strategy. “We need to motivate our people to move forward and develop into future leaders,” he said.
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