In the accounting profession, the days between February 1 and April 15 have come to be known as “busy season.” However, given the times, I’m not sure we can afford to have that mindset anymore.

While it is true that 70-plus hour work weeks are common during tax season, as people dedicated to our trade, we must move to an ever-present “carnivorous learning” mindset in order to both sustain and enjoy profitability. By carnivorous learning, I mean acknowledging that all of life is a classroom and that there is always something more to learn, and embracing this idea to better yourself and your firm.

This mentality does not require 70-plus hour work weeks doing taxes, but it does involve learning to channel your thoughts through a certain lens and considering things like how you read The Wall Street Journal, why you abstain from watching reality TV, what blogs you follow, how you interact with your clients and how your clients interact with their clients, etc.

All of this should be done consciously through a strategic and proactive lens that considers how each factor affects the way you live and conduct business, with a willingness to adjust the factors you see are holding you back and embrace the ones that provide opportunity for growth.

Whatever your biggest initiatives for the year may be, tackling them effectively and economically isn’t easy, and requires thinking and execution both inside and outside the walls of your business. Your best idea could come while walking your dog or watching kids clamor for a toy at the neighborhood pool, not just in a meeting or behind your desk. This is why thinking in terms of “carnivorous learning” is essential. The big idea could come at anytime, while you’re doing anything.

I am excited to see what this year holds despite these hard economic times. “Why?” you may ask? Because with the bad news comes good news— reprioritization. It causes the once comfortable business model to reengage with all of its once held assumptions. This means a firm’s marketing, technology, operations and other areas are once again under scrutiny. For any business owner the thoughts of change can be overwhelming; however in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.”

Firms that are able to embrace change and avoid being paralyzed by the fact that big decisions must be made will win the battle for local and regional market share. Firms that not only meet, think and talk about ideas, but that actually put plans into action will gain a step up on firms that instead busy themselves by billing as much as possible, worried they may not have “bread for tomorrow.” What good is insight unless it leads to a decision?

That said, we should leave our understanding of traditional busy season as is; we’re not going to get away from the 70-plus hours of tax work a week any time soon (or are we?). However the subsequent months beg to be treated with a zeal that rivals April 13 at 2 pm. What does this same zeal look like when not doing taxes? It will vary based on your particular firm; however marginalized efforts won’t cut it on April 13 and they won’t on June 13 either—this is the first step toward developing a “carnivorous learning” mentality.

Here are some other ways to develop and maintain a “busy season” mindset all year round:

• Align the Team
o It takes a team working in unison to accomplish any real progress, which in business also means (but is not exclusive to) profit. Ensure everyone is marching to the beat of the same drum.

• Revisit the SWOT Analysis
o Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats. We all did this in school—it’s time to revisit the thinking matrix and meet actions that come from doing the exercise.

• Collaborate with Clients
o Ask introspective questions of your client base. Find out how you can serve them better and areas you could improve, etc.

• Use the Internet
o Consider how you can best leverage the Web for networking and company awareness.
Not sure where to start? Ask someone who is well connected on the Web to point you in the right direction.

• Schedule Think Time
o Schedule some “think time” on a regular basis, individually and as a team, to focus on the big picture and about where you are as a firm, where you want to go, and how to pass the vision on to the team.

Roy Keely is the marketing director at Xcentric LLC, a technology-consulting group that specializes in network technology consulting, hosting and implementation for accounting firms. He can be reached at rkeely@xcentric.com.


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