Know Your Industry
From a profit standpoint, being 100% chargeable will put you at the top of the list in your firm in a multitude of practice management reports and spreadsheets. In many partners eyes, you’d be a hero; however, only for the short term. CPA’s are producers – some with chargeable hours and some with bringing clients in the door or best case scenario – a balanced mix of both.
While both these roles bring success to the firm, there is a third aspect that indirectly brings success to the firm. It is a means for you to grow in your role and advance into leadership. It is simply knowing your industry inside out, upside down and backwards. This is not just for the revenue producing accountants, but for those in administrative roles as well.
Starting fresh out of college at a firm is challenging enough - applying what you’ve learned in school with how to put it into practice. Days will come and go and you will feel overwhelmed with information about taxes, audits and the like. This however, is priority – getting adjusted to the firm, pass the exam and learn the firm’s policies and procedures on getting client work out the door. While you’re doing this though, make sure you interject time in the day to get to know your industry, not just your firm.
It is easy to start, you already have the means with social media. Use this avenue to build your network of peers and other firms – not just the ones in your geographic area that you interviewed with in college, but firms across the country and across the world. Yes, they need to reconcile cash accounts in Kathmandu too and you might learn something from how they do it. Note to partners reading this – even though you might think these peer networks are just a means for your staff to move to a different firm in the future, focus on making sure your firm is the “place to be” because LinkedIn will not be going away any time soon.
The benefit of getting to know peers and other firms includes the sharing of best practices. This is more difficult when the firm is right down the road from you and a direct competitor; that is why it may be best to work with firms outside your geographic region or get involved with CPA firm associations or alliances, i.e. BDO, McGladrey and even on the practice management side with AAA and AAM. Getting involved in this aspect of knowing your industry will keep you and your firm from reinventing the wheel when it comes time to implement a new practice niche or new software tool. It will also be a source for possible merger and acquisition discussions down the road – M&A activity is not slowing down at all and we will continue to see consolidations.
If this all sounds to overwhelming, start small – get the daily email sent to your inbox from AccountingWEB. Take two minutes in the morning when you are downing the Starbucks and cereal bar and get a heads up on current events in your world. If you don’t want the email in your inbox, sign up for some RSS feeds or get an aggregator to bring all your media directly to your desktop. Technology makes it too easy. Best of all, this stuff is free – that is my kind of price. Now, go put .25 on your timesheet….
Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members. He is also in charge of talent management and retention at his firm. A background of IT and Human Resources helps Jim bridge the gap of technology complexities with end users who just want their computer to work so they can be chargeable. Being a very cheap (frugal sounds better) person himself, he is always looking for ways to save dollars at his firm. He is Director of Education for the Association for Accounting Administration and past Technology Committee member of the Ohio Society of CPA's. He often leads industry CPE events on the topics of Information Technology, CPA firm practice management and human resources/recruiting. Find out more about Jim on LinkedIn.