Many of you know, in the beginning of May, Nashville saw unprecedented rain. The sewer systems became completely full.  Lakes, creeks and rivers were swollen beyond extremes. Nowhere for the water to go, the city and several residential neighborhoods began to flood.

This has been the worst natural disaster Nashville has ever seen.

During this time, families were stranded in their homes while the water continued to rise.  People were washed away and if lucky, ended up holding on for their lives to a tree or some other permanent object. Luckily for some, people also began to step up! Owners of boats began heading to the flooded areas and rescuing people from their homes; people with ropes started rescuing others stranded in the rushing water and others used air mattresses as life savers. It was truly a heroic sight.

Days following the crest of the water, even more people began to step up. Volunteers came out of the woodwork offering everything they could to help others.          

The situation
What are the lessons we can learn from this event and how does a natural catastrophe relate to the business world? The answer is simple, people need to step up! 

The accounting industry fell asleep in rising water.


Because business was good!  “A” level prospects were knocking on doors and firms hired everyone they could just to keep up with the demand. Hard decisions were not made and issues were swept under rugs because firms continued to see profit increases. Adequate non-technical training was not provided at all levels within firms. Employees were promoted (even to partner level) not because they earned it but because the firm either did not want to lose the employee or it needed another person with the partner title.

The answer
The industry finds itself in a flood (if you will); the waters are high and firms need their leaders to step up. Accounting firms need a solid leader and leadership. It is time to put on your boots and admit that there needs to be a change. It is time to make decisions that are best for the firm, even if that creates conflict within the firm. It is time to have critical conversations with the people who are unwilling to change or are sabotaging your authority. It is time to hold everyone accountable to the growth and development of the firm. It is time to put the firm first by providing a vision of the future that creates excitement and unity.

Stepping up is hard. Often times, I have seen people more willing to risk their lives than they are to risk their pride. I do not suggest this because it is an easy thing to do; I suggest it because of the serious consequences that will occur if firms don’t. Firms with a lack of leadership and vision will not make it.

Competition has grown fierce and the business world demands more. It is time to step up! It is time to take the destiny of your firm and mold it into a vision you want to see in the future. A hero is defined by others, no one in the recent tragedy that struck Nashville got on their boat to be a hero. It is because they did; others will look back and call them “heroes.” Be the hero your firm deserves by stepping up and doing what needs to be done.

Bryan Shelton, M.S. is a consultant with The Rainmaker Consulting Group in Nashville, Tenn. He can be reached at