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Editor’s Corner: What’s the Big Deal With Thought Leadership?

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May 29th 2015
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You have undoubtedly heard the term by now, but what is it and why should it matter to accountants? I’m talking about thought leadership; what it means, and what it could mean to your practice by the simple act of sharing what you know.

The initial impression is that the term is applied to experts in a given field and those who regularly share their wisdom through teaching, blogs, regular social media postings, articles in trade publications, and speaking engagements. I’m not saying all accounting professionals need to be so prolific, after all you do have a firm to run, clients to serve and – especially if it’s just you – administrative tasks to oversee.

But guess what? Being a thought leader or engaging in thought leadership activity does not have to mean all of that and, in fact, starts with the willingness to share what you already know. Moreover, this simple act can be the difference maker in not only better connecting with your colleagues (whom you can also learn from), but generating new business and having your current clients see you in a new way.

Think about it, if you take any sense of pride in what you do each day for your clients, there is no reason that can’t be shared with others. Your experiences in running your practice, however seemingly mundane or meaningless, can have an impact on other firms and practitioners going through the same challenges.

What’s more is that through engaging in thought leadership-type activities, if your current or potential clients see that you know what you are talking about -- be it through dealing with the latest sales tax compliance issues, wealth management, or the intricacies of running a restaurant, store, or nonprofit organization – you have a chance to shine. There is no advancement without learning (to borrow an overused phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know”), so sharing what you do know for clients and colleagues to see can easily be the difference maker in your practice.

Can’t write? Don’t have confidence you can share your thoughts in words? Find someone who can, a “ghost writer” if you will. Even simple replies to blog posts, responses in LinkedIn groups, or tweets on an issue you know or are concerned with can start you on your way. Heck, even participating in forum discussions in community groups is a step toward thought leader-dom.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to think they know better than everyone else, but it’s time to come out of the cocoon and look beyond your four walls because sharing what you already know is – in a way – a basic component of why you are in this chosen profession.

And if you want to get all marketing about it, you and everyone in your firm is your firm’s brand. By getting your thoughts, their thoughts, your overall expertise in a given area or issue out to the public, it can elevate that brand exponentially.

You are your clients’ trusted advisor. Why do they trust you? Largely because of what you know, or what you tell them you know, and if sharing that with the larger world (i.e., social media, blogs, your firm website, community sites, industry publications) can bring you more of the kinds of clients you want and help retain those you have, is that such a bad thing?

One could argue that our greatest purpose in this life is to collect and share all that we learn before we pass on, but perhaps that’s too philosophical for a weekly column on a community site. Maybe I’m totally off base with all of this, what do you think?

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