Smashing the Clock: Conference Focuses on Results-Only Workplace

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By Deanna C. White

On April 29, forward-thinking CPAs attended the THRIVEal +CPA Network online conference to explore a revolutionary idea in the accounting world: replacing the profession's conventional billable hours and "presenteeism" work culture with a results-only work environment (ROWE).

The guest presenter at THRIVEal's first conference of 2012",Redefining Work", was Jody Thompson, principal of CultureRx, LLC.

Thompson and Cali Ressler were the innovative founders of the ROWE movement originally implemented at Best Buy. Their book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution, is their treatise on the problems they see in today's work environment and how to fix them.

Their goal is to do away, once and for all, with the outmoded work myth: Time + Physical Presence = Results. Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson explains in the book's foreword that the results-only philosophy was tested at Best Buy with encouraging results. Best Buy's ROWE experiment resulted in a 35-percent increase in productivity, a vast reduction in voluntary turnover, and a much happier workforce.

The ROWE model can:

  • Replace a sense of "oppression with a sense of freedom" by ensuring employees are trusted to do their work.
  • Allow people to develop a better understanding of their job.
  • Eliminate office space time-wasters like "fake meetings."
  • Eliminate the illusion of productivity created by the "come early, leave late" mentality many firms require for promotion.
  • Increase productivity by placing the focus on results instead of punching the time clock or logging desk time.
  • Create a greater sense of autonomy and responsibility because employees know they are being evaluated on performance instead of "kindergarten rules", such as tardiness and absenteeism.

Members of Blumer's own Greenville, South Carolina, accounting firm, Blumer & Associates, CPAs, PC, wholeheartedly agree. Stephanie Kuchle, CPA, financial reporting and cloud-technology manager at Blumer, said the firm's results-oriented culture offers several advantages:

  • It gives her the flexibility to work part-time and work from home, which is a critical issue for many working mothers like herself.
  • It provides a heightened sense of loyalty to the firm because she knows her boss trusts her to do her job.
  • She's more productive because she's solely focused on work instead distractions like break room chitchat.
  • She no longer has to waste her time trying to track and input her billable hours as she did at previous firms. Kuchle estimates she used to spend 5 percent of her week simply trying to "sew together her time sheet" at previous firms.

Kuchle also said there are several key factors necessary to make a results-oriented workplace work:

  • Employees have to be able to prioritize their workload.
  • They have to be vigilant about managing their time.
  • The firm has to have the proper, cloud-based technology platform to allow CPAs to communicate seamlessly with their clients.

Blumer's firm administrator Jennifer Blumer sees advantages from a supervisory perspective as well:

  • ROWE meshes well with value pricing, the "next logical step" in customer pricing.
  • Supervisors don't have to micromanage their employees.
  • Firms can cut costs by closing their brick-and-mortar offices and moving to a virtual office model (provided they have a secure wireless connection).
  • Firms have the flexibility to hire more part-time workers.

Thompson told the THRIVEal audience that despite the fact hundreds of teams outside of Best Buy have adopted the ROWE model and seen positive results, the idea of "smashing the clock" can still be intimidating to those entrenched in a traditional business mode.

"The stereotype is that if you give people the opportunity to work in a flexible, results-focused environment instead of punching a clock, they'll do whatever they want to do. They'll sit on the beach drinking margaritas, but that's not the case", Thompson said. "The idea is so radical people either love it or hate it."

Thompson said the ROWE is most attractive to people who are interested in big change. "They are system buckers. They are future oriented", Thompson said. "They realize the world is changing, but the workplace is still stuck in 1952."

ROWE's iconoclastic emphasis on flexible, technology-based work environments, and proven results versus time sheets, is exactly what makes it so appealing to the THRIVEal audience, said Jason M. Blumer, CPA, CITP, founder of the THRIVEal +CPA network. The network is a place where cloud people come together to focus on four foundational tenets: community, collaboration, technology, and innovation.

"Jody and Cali are doing the things THRIVEal loves – disrupting things that have always seemed to be the right way to operate. THRIVEal believes the professional accountancy space is broken and major changes must occur to breathe life into the industry again", Blumer said. 

Thompson told conference attendees",smashing the clock" and shattering the idea of the conventional brick-and-mortar workplace, can produce several positive results for small- to-mid-sized accounting firms and their employees.

Visit THRIVEal +CPA Network for more information and future THRIVEal events.  

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