This issue of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from Clark Nuber (www.clarknuber.com), a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm with nearly 150 employees. Generation Y associate Kelly Favors, born in 1985, and Generation X shareholder Tom Sulewski, born in 1967, shared their thoughts regarding the following question:

“How do you believe the success of a partner or professional should be measured (billable hours, revenue, 360-degree evaluation, other)?

 

FAVORS' GENERATION Y VIEWPOINT

I believe that success is best measured for partners and professionals in a 360-degree evaluation. While there is merit in measuring billable hours and revenue, they do not highlight the key areas that I feel make a partner or professional successful: leadership ability, client service and education in their field.

While billable hours and revenue are good indicators of how much an individual is contributing, they can easily be skewed by outside factors, including the complexity and size of their engagements.

Three-hundred-sixty-degree evaluations measure partners on characteristics that are vital to their success. They allow a firm to assess and compare their abilities related to leadership and mentoring; their ability to provide valuable services to clients; their technical knowledge of accounting practices; and other important metrics. The assessment should allow a firm to ascertain whether the individual:

Motivates their team to provide high-quality client service;

Provides quality client service themselves;

Has the appropriate level of specific knowledge; and,

Translates their technical knowledge into professional development to progress their career.

When the 360-degree evaluation is performed by superiors, peers and subordinates, the firm can more thoroughly assess the individual's capabilities with input from the various groups. It is also important to include a self-assessment for comparison or baseline purposes and to enable the partner or professional to highlight the qualities that they believe make them successful.

The 360-degree evaluation can also include feedback from outside the organization. Specifically, asking for feedback from a few clients is great way to evaluate the person's success. In a profession where a firm's success relies heavily on attracting new clients and retaining current clients, client service becomes an essential aspect of the business. As word of mouth spreads regarding their superior service, the firm will likely gain more clients.

Billable hours and revenue can be good, but inconsistent, indicators of how successful a partner or professional is. However, the 360-degree evaluation allows for various leadership and behavioral qualities of that individual to be assessed, in addition to their technical ability. All of these factors are essential to their career success.

 

SULEWSKI'S GENERATION X VIEWPOINT

The highest-value work that can be performed by a partner is, unfortunately, the most difficult to measure with our standard data-collection tools. Success in our profession has historically been built on billable hours, books of business and sales dollars. All of these score-keeping metrics are rearview-mirror metrics and are probably outdated. These metrics are really the end "results" of a lot of foundation work that does not show up in any of our traditional reports.

The success of a partner should be measured by their ability to create additional leaders by effectively helping them see their future, including alternative paths for personal and professional growth.

Consider these questions that might measure success in a nontraditional way:

How many clients does a partner shed each year and transition to other, newer leaders in the firm?

How many personal referral sources has the partner introduced to managers and other developing leaders in the firm?

How many prospecting and proposal meetings has the partner actively involved managers in?

Is the partner allocating more time to running the CPA firm or developing others to run it?

Rather than measuring partner sales volume, can we measure the new sales activity of their direct reports or those they mentor?

How many speeches, articles, presentations, seminars, client meetings and other market-facing efforts did the partner's direct reports participate in, initiate or lead?

I believe that a partner who invests their time in leveraging the development of others will bring the greatest value to the firm in the long term and will leave the greatest legacy.

Measuring the expansion of skills and the development of people is not easily gleaned from the year-end performance reports in most firms. Yes, it is harder to report, harder to track and harder to articulate these new measures of success. But we know it when we see it happening. Those being mentored know it when they reflect on their careers and think about who is making a difference for them. They can all say without hesitation: "That partner influenced me, helped me gain confidence, and made me a better person and professional."

 

This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner, of 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 Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at krista@convergencecoaching.com.

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