Locking In Employee (and Partner) Loyalty

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Perhaps in these difficult times, more than others, the firm that is going to succeed needs the hearts and souls of their employees – and even the partners.

In the fat years we could be happy of our people just got good work out. We were so busy as a profession that was a worthy goal. But as the economy drags into its third year of recession, and our clients continue to lose their businesses or beat us up on fees – we need more. Here’s why our people regularly comment about how much they enjoy working for us and what they do (and why they go the extra mile):

  • Everyone has a sign saying “Make me feel important”: so said Mary Kay Ash, one of America’s most successful businesswomen. Use this as a guide to managing and interacting with your people (try it at home, too – it works).
  • Stop being so harsh and critical: this has always driven me nuts about CPAs and I think it is more endemic to our business than others. Have you ever tracked how many positive comments you give an employee, or partner, versus when they mess up? No wonder they leave. Who wants to have their feelings hurt day in and out? Mary Kay believed there should be at least a two to one ratio and negative comments should be sandwiched with positive ones: “I appreciate the effort you put into the Farblongit tax audit. Next time remember to pull every document away from the agent the moment they are done with it and store it out of sight. I told the client I thought you did an outstanding job. Congratulations.”
  • See more in them than they do: Grow your people by asking more of them than even they think they are capable of. Give them new responsibilities and the authority that goes with it. Stop trying to do everything yourself.
  • Constantly thank them: Dale Carnegie said appreciation was a human’s most important emotional need.
  • Teach them: Take every opportunity to share your knowledge. Stop what you are doing and gather some together for a teaching moment you have experienced so they don’t make the same mistake or avoid it altogether.
  • Involve them in managing your business: Retreats and meetings are great ways to get to know your people on a personal level and then come to some conclusions about what is needed in the business. Delegate responsibilities in getting these things done and make sure they are recognized publicly when something great happens due to their efforts on behalf of the firm
  • Surprise bonus: The CPA’s natural inclination to be cheap (that is never remove a dollar from the bottom line unless absolutely necessary) is a tremendous disadvantage to having your people be emotionally involved in your business. Recently one of our young people purchased a new home with help of the $8,000 refundable tax credit. We gave her an unexpected check for $1,000 to buy some living room furniture that wasn’t in their budget. The next day she took me aside and told me she wants to personally visit every business in the area to secure their work – all on her own time.
  • Ask about family: Remember their kids and spouses. Take a personal interest in their family. Buy their kid a present on his or her birthday.
  • Have fun: We have a gas poking fun at ourselves in a way that does not hurt one’s feelings. I make certain to be a primary target as managing partner. I get comments like, “You’re in a good mood today, Allan. Did you remember to take your medication?”
  • Tell them how much they mean to you: We have a valued employee who has a troubled home life. She often comes in upset or crying. Often, one of us will take her on the side and ask how she is doing – and then tell her how much she means to us, how important she is to our success. Her work performance is excellent, and this makes her life better

Above all else, be grateful for those people who have been sent to you to work for you and with you. Pray for them and ask God to bless their lives.

By Allan Boress, CPA, CVA – author of The “I-Hate-Selling” Book”, available at amazon.com

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