There is no time like the present for firm leaders to take a very hard look at their current team—from entry-level to senior manager and even at newer partners and ask: Are they adequately equipped to market, sell and provide the kind of relationship-building environment to acquire and keep new clients (and new staff)? Firms have been extremely busy in recent years simply serving clients, that more or less fell into their lap. Little effort has been expended to obtain new clients because the phone has just kept ringing. The bigger problem has been finding enough people to serve clients, not finding enough work to keep people busy. Firm leaders are beginning to acknowledge that even their young partners have never honed their skills in marketing and actively pursuing new business. Current leaders in many firms will naturally ask, “Did we make too many technicians partners?” Change is real. It always provides opportunity for those who have ambition, drive and the desire to take their career to new heights. Now is the time to refocus firm efforts from frantically hiring and training technicians to building a team that possesses professional relationship-building skills. Now is the time to instill more discipline and structure into your marketing, branding and sales efforts. The best part of all this is the fact that the next generation is waiting in the wings for opportunity and guidance from established firm leaders. The next generation, young Gen-Xers and Millennials, are looking for mentors and coaches who can help them achieve quickly. They have been asking for more direction and attention from firm leaders for several years. Now, firms have the critical need to pay attention and develop training programs to enhance smart skills like communication, business etiquette, listening, speaking, writing, marketing and selling. This next generation is also asking firm leaders to develop a more collaborative firm culture. It’s easy to get started, but remember, it takes discipline from firm leaders to keep it alive and healthy inside your firm. Here are some ideas:
- Focus on more accountability from your accountants as to what they are doing with their non-billable time. Ask them to submit a very simple marketing report to firm leadership on a monthly basis, chronicling their business-getting activities.
- Hold continual lunch-and-learn sessions on networking basics, how to ask for more business from current clients and how to spot opportunities when performing routine fieldwork.
- Conduct a panel presentation featuring your best rainmakers. Have them share their success stories and field questions from less experienced accountants.
- Consider a true marketing and selling training program for all managers and partners, especially if the firm has strong niches.
The biggest issue, as it always is with CPA firms, is getting started. Almost all firm leaders have good intentions and really want to invest in these types of activities. However, the day-to-day gets in the way and they are slow to roll out much needed training and development programs. Now is not the time to delay. Rita Keller is the president of Keller Advisors, LLC and one of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting. Check out her blog at http://cpamanagement.blogspot.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.