Voices

Leaning in to community to grow and prosper

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There’s an African proverb that I’ve learned to live by in both my personal and professional lives: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Most firm owners know that feeling of isolation. We put our heads down and dig into the work — rarely taking the time to look around us at what others are doing or asking for input on how to do things better … to do things differently. And while this tactic allows us to build a book of business fairly quickly in the short-term, it most often comes back to bite us — distancing leaders from true entrepreneurship and turning us into hourly technicians.

Many of today’s practitioners still run their firms in this manner — on an island to a great degree. It’s not an intentional decision for most, but rather represents the way it’s always been done … the traditional way of operating.

This is how I started out. Head down, taking on any client who walked through the door, and doing most of the technician work myself. At one point, I had to ask myself: “Is there a better way? Is there an easier way?”

The answer was a clear “yes.” I needed to change the way I operated my business. I needed to move away from being a mere technician in my own enterprise to serving as the visionary — the one who would take the firm to an elevated level of efficiency, culture and profitability.

At the heart of this big transition was community.

Look around at what you’re missing

The accounting profession is huge — made up of thousands of firms and hundreds of thousands of professionals. The accounting community represents an expansive pool of shared expertise that goes well beyond technical knowledge.

Many firm owners are on the same path as you, having set the same goals in terms of technology, client experience, staff satisfaction, culture, brand and growth. But no one firm owner can possess all the experience and creativity required to meet their goals in all areas of operation. This is where leaning in to community is so important.

If you aren’t taking advantage of all the collective expertise and innovation available within the accounting profession, you are really missing out. Take a few minutes to consider just three key advantages of harnessing the power of a bigger community:

1. Get some perspective. If you never look outside the four walls of your firm, it’s tough to see the changes required to elevate your business. Most often, inspiration comes from an external source because it allows us to see things outside the confines of our own business. It removes the trees of sameness so we can see the bigger forest. By continuing to simply work the way it’s always been done and in isolation, it means that you are at a higher risk of overlooking when your business model becomes rusty, the customer experience grows stale or your technology stack fails to support modern and highly efficient operations. Looking to other firm owners to ensure you make the changes required to maintain a sustainable and profitable business is imperative. Getting a little perspective is always a good thing.
2. Experience the energy. You would be amazed at how one new idea can spark a high-powered current of energy and inspiration. There’s something about being part of a group … a think tank of professionals … that can really get the creative motor running. For firm owners who “live on an island,” it’s often hard to summon the energy required to take on big, firm-altering changes because, in the end, they know they have to do it alone. When you’re a part of a larger group (or groups), the energy generated around big ideas lasts longer because you can rely on a collective as you move through the process of change — asking questions and calling for support along the way.
3. Feel the fulfillment. There is great fulfillment when you find others who share your vision and passion for the profession. Working within a dedicated community, big or small, enables partners and their staff to collaborate with those who hold similar business interests and goals. This means that not only are you getting the support you need to grow and prosper, but that you are helping others do the same. One of the best ways to experience great fulfillment is to add to the common good of the profession we all love.

The core goal here is to help firm leaders understand that you don’t have to go it alone. There are plenty of organizations and associations out there that are dedicated to building a strong community and aligning the great minds that comprise it. Take the first step toward making positive change in your firm by leaning in to an established and passionate base of practitioners.

For a deeper dive on the topics discussed in this article and more, listen to Darren’s "Better Every Day" podcast on iTunes or listen from the Rootworks website at rootworks.com/podcast.

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