Generational Viewpoints: A vision across the generations

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This edition of Generational Viewpoints features two professionals from Katz, Sapper & Miller, a 416-person firm with locations in Indiana and New York, and a “Best Place to Work in Indiana” honoree for 12 consecutive years. We asked Baby Boomer managing partner David Resnick, born in 1959, and Generation X partner Erin Eberly, born in 1978, to share their perspectives on the following question: “How important is your firm’s five-year vision in assuring generational unity in firm leadership and management?”

Resnick’s Baby Boomer Viewpoint

Our five-year vision has helped form a bridge between the generations in our firm. Through our vision planning process, we have been able to openly discuss the older generation’s way of doing things and how that compares to the younger generations’ expectations of the best and most effective way to conduct business. Back in the day, my generation didn’t need a vision plan — we worked hard, served our clients well, and we grew when they grew. A simple strategy. However, with our industry facing numerous challenges — from disruptive technologies and talent shortages to delivering more value-added services and addressing a changing regulatory environment, firms must be willing to adapt to continue to grow.

The biggest difference in my leadership style has been an awareness to provide more transparency so our team members understand the “why” behind the action. Younger generations want to know what is going on “behind the scenes” so they can contribute and engage more effectively. The ideas of our vision plan were generated from all levels of our organization, including many from our next generation of leaders, and have provided more unity to help us work toward a common goal. Like many other businesses, our firm is facing new challenges that we have not experienced in our history. Millennials make up about 50 percent of our workforce and it is imperative that we engage them and allow them to provide meaningful contributions to the firm — they are excited to do so and want the experience!

The vision plan has also helped us remain competitive in attracting and retaining talent. We created our mission, vision and values to be a well-rounded representation of our culture and to act as a roadmap for meeting our goals.

We realize that Millennials are our leaders of tomorrow and it is their responsibility (and desire) to challenge us with new ideas just as we challenged the generation before us. I am confident that our five-year vision plan will keep us on track and will help mentor those who will be a larger part of creating our next vision plan.

Eberly’s Gen X Viewpoint

As a member of Generation X in today’s business world, I am in a unique position to see and appreciate the “way things were” with the Baby Boomer generation and “where business is headed” as Generation Xers and Millennials take on leadership roles. The Baby Boomers have taught us so much both personally and professionally, from the importance of genuine relationship-building and forming long-term client partnerships to our responsibility to give back to our communities. Their mentorship continues to inspire younger generations to challenge the norm.

Although each generation’s business approach may be different, the core values behind each mindset are not far apart. Our firm realized this early in the vision planning process and made a concerted effort to involve employees from each generation as we discussed and crafted our plan. One major theme of our discussions was the availability of information, which was driven in large part by Millennials’ expectations. This generation has grown up in the Information Age where data is readily available whenever needed. Their input greatly influenced our direction and helped us fine-tune our definitions of transparency and communications. The open dialogue throughout our vision planning process was key to our final five-year plan, which merges both innovative and traditional goals.

Additionally, we realized that having a five-year vision plan is more relevant than a longer-term plan. It allows us to better track how our firm is measuring up to the metrics we outlined and to change course if needed. This shorter-term plan helped us define how we want to grow — and at what speed. We generated excitement for the plan by unveiling it at our 75th anniversary celebration, where our entire firm came together to honor our past and look forward to our future.

As for my leadership style, the vision planning process heightened my awareness of the things I could do to make a difference in bridging all levels of the generation gap. As part of Generation X, I intend to embrace my mentors’ leadership while marrying it with our Millennials’ perspectives to push forward the updated vision of our firm.

This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Johnson, the Millennial consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner, of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and management consulting and coaching firm that helps leaders achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at brianna@convergencecoaching.com.

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Strategic plans Strategic planning Practice management