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Pruning the branches that bear no fruit

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We just moved into a new house. It’s only a few minutes away from our old house, but it’s still a big job to unpack and reorganize. Looking at all the boxes we still need to unpack, it seems we’re still holding on to a lot of extra clothes, toys and other possessions we really don’t need.

Ironically, the pastor at our church just gave a (virtual) sermon last week about trimming the branches that bear no fruit. It comes from a passage in the Bible called the Gospel of John. Since this pandemic took over our lives, it’s gotten me thinking about what’s really important in our lives, and what isn’t.

If any of you are gardeners, you know you have to trim back the branches of your fruit trees from time to time. If you don’t, the branches get overgrown and won’t bear fruit anymore. You have to give the branches plenty of room to grow.

The same goes for CPAs and other professional service providers. We all need room to grow and get better, but you can’t do that if you are constantly bogged down by “less fruitful” branches. With so much of the world on pause, now is a great time to ask yourself: “What are the things we really need and what can we do without?”

Evaluate your relationships

Two key areas are staff and clients.

1. Staff: Do you have someone on your team who’s not flourishing and developing? If they aren’t growing personally and professionally, you may be doing them a disservice by keeping them onboard. If your firm isn’t a good fit for them and they’re not a good fit for your firm, you have to prune them from your staff. Give them the opportunity to go somewhere else where they can be more effective and flourish.

When you’re keeping someone who is not a good fit for the needs and values of your firm, you’re putting them at risk, you’re putting your clients at risk and you're putting your strong performing team members at risk because they feel the negative energy around someone who is not a good fit.

2. Clients: At our firm, the first core value is “client obsession.” This means we want to do everything we can to help our clients achieve their goals. That being said, the way we work isn’t a great match for everyone. Sometimes, clients come on board who, for one reason or another, would be better served in a different environment. If that’s the case, it’s our responsibility to find them a better home.

As with clients, we all have personal relationships that go back many years but which are no longer bearing fruit for either person. It might be a professional colleague, a strategic partner or just an old friend. If too much has changed over time, and it’s no longer a productive relationship, then it may be time to go your separate ways. Doing so is hard, but it will be better for all parties involved in the long run.

Again, you need to prune the branches that bear no fruit, because if you don’t, the fruit won’t grow. Your team members need to be in a fun, stimulating environment. The same goes for your clients; if they’re not having a great time working with you and finding it rewarding, they’re going to let lots of other people know about it. It’s your responsibility to make sure everyone is on the right track.

Now more than ever, your staff needs mentoring and your clients need a trusted advisor. Once you’ve pruned your staff and client branches, your time will be freed up to better serve your remaining staff and clients — and to find better-suited people to replace the ones who just left.

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