"We were stretching our ranks much too thin and we simply couldn't hire people fast enough to keep up with such a rapid growth. I felt the substantial growth was causing us to get away from our culture to have a solid work/life balance. If we had kept letting market conditions run their course on our firm without taking action, we could have lost what made us great--our employees. So we slowed down this rapid escalation and staffed up to provide employees with a good work/life balance."
That is how Paul Argy, president and CEO of Argy, Wiltse & Robinson, based in McLean, Va., in the Practice Profile of October’s Practical Accountant, describes a problem facing many firms who have had multiple consecutive years of double-digit percentage growth.

These firms are finding that they no longer have the infrastructure in place to successfully handle this type of growth; such a substantial increase in work usually affects the quality of some work: and despite the high salaries that they are paying, recruitment and retention of staff is becoming an even bigger issue. And probably most disturbing, as seen by Argy’s comments, the culture of a firm   changes adversely.

This sustained growth has been a bit intoxicating, but some firms are putting on the brakes a bit. They understand that they have to develop a strategic plan for dealing with it. This includes a study of the changes needed in the firm’s infrastructure, adopting additional work efficiencies, and a more selective approach to capitalizing on growth opportunities--all with attention to the impact on its workforce. 

These firms’ management deep down know what they are just beginning to observe from the inside: If maintaining quality service isn’t properly dealt with, then it will be felt and acted upon by the exiting of some of their clients, especially their treasured “A” clients. Growth can be a double-edged sword and many firms are recognizing this.

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