In this edition of Generational Viewpoints, we posed thesame question to Baby Boomer and managing partner Deborah Lambert, born in1956, and Gen X Principle Jason Sandner, born in 1977. Both hail from the Raleigh, N.C., office of Johnson Lambert & Co. LLP (www.jlco.com), a multi-office firm headquartered in Northern Virginia. We asked Debbie and Jason the following:
"What degree of involvement should young people have in the decision-making processes of a CPA firm?"
SANDNER'S GEN X VIEWPOINT
Our younger professionals should be extensively involved in the decision-making process of our firm. That statement would likely persist regardless of the environment, but I am far more ardent given our current economic climate.
I entered the labor force in the summer of 2000. The economic ride throughout my short career has not been without turbulence; the run-off of the bursting dot-com bubble certainly caused economic pain, and being a CPA during the days of Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Anderson felt, I suspect, eerily similar to the current-day "banksters" who seem perpetually engulfed in scorn. However, the speed bumps of those early days, coupled with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, were the catalysts for what became a five-to-six-year heyday for the CPA profession. During that time, growth rates for CPA firms were moonward-bound, jobs for college graduates were plentiful, and compensation for CPAs was at levels never before witnessed.
Because of the fallout and difficulties from the current recession, we, as a firm, find ourselves navigating rough waters. I suspect that times like this will crush some firms, while opening the door wide for others to capitalize on the opportunities they present. History suggests that this will not be the last economic storm, so who will be at the helm to navigate the next one? Today's young professionals, of course.
We currently find ourselves in what could possibly be the best training ground for future leaders. As firms dig deep to keep afloat, develop strategic plans, and attempt to envision three, five and 10 years out, input from the younger professionals, at all levels, is critical. Execution of strategies, whether they relate to marketing, recruiting, client service or geographic expansion, is far more successful when those involved have a vested interest in the outcome. That interest and "buy-in" is developed through active involvement in the planning phase.
This is why I have such a passion for the extensive involvement of younger professionals in the decision-making processes of our firm. I don't view it as an option, but rather as a critical component of our firm's long-term success.
LAMBERT'S BABY BOOMER VIEWPOINT
At Johnson Lambert & Co., personnel aged 35 and under make up 82 percent of the firm! It is critical to the firm's success, now and in the future, that these younger professionals have a role in the firm's decision-making processes and gain practical decision-making experience themselves.
Young professionals often bring a different perspective to a decision than I might offer. I attribute part of the difference to generational differences, but I also think the difference can be summed up as "experience versus a fresh look."
I have a perspective on how the profession has handled issues and opportunities in the past. I also have wisdom gained from years of making decisions - some good, and some I wish I could do over. It can be hard for me to think "out of the box." A young professional is not tied to how something has always been done, and often provides a creative, fresh perspective or idea. Working collaboratively with young professionals results in significantly more creative outcomes. An added benefit of collaborative decision-making is that the implementation of decisions is facilitated because the decision comes from broad-based buy-in and has younger voices to support any change.
It is critically important to put young professionals in a position to routinely make decisions to build their own decision-making experience and confidence. This should not be limited to putting them in increasing roles of responsibility in technical client assignments. Young professionals should also be placed in positions to make business decisions, and as they become more experienced in decision-making, they should be given assignments that will have more impact.
Young professionals thrive on a collaborative culture, and they also demand transparency. I may make a decision against the advice of a young professional, but as long as I take the time to articulate the basis for my decision, the young professional will respect the process and my role. The significant benefit of a collaborative and transparent culture is the strong level of mutual trust and respect that develops between the seasoned professionals and the young professionals.
This column is facilitated and edited by Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner, and Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, at ConvergenceCoaching LLC (www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success. To have your firm's generational viewpoints considered for a future column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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