This time of year, most CPAs and accounting professionals are likely more focused on long days in the sun than long-term firm goals during the fleeting summer months.
But while it’s important to give your staff some time to relax and rejuvenate during the “off season,” summer is also an ideal time to refocus team efforts on firm vision and growth strategies, says Maureen Schwartz, executive director of global accounting association BKR International.
“Accounting deadlines are lighter in the summer, so it is an opportunity for CPAs to use their time to focus on items such as achieving the firm’s mission and growth,” Schwartz says. “In an ideal world, CPAs are doing this even through busy season, but a concerted effort by staff during the summer season is often the boost needed to move the firm forward, obtain new clients, and retain existing ones.”
BKR International provides these 10 tips to help firms inspire action and energy during the summer months:
1. Acknowledge successes
Without looming deadlines, teams can celebrate individual and team achievement with a party or fun activities built into the work day. Communicate how team member efforts make a difference to clients. This time also provides firm leaders with the chance to properly acknowledge the impact each staff member is making for the firm, through team development, client service, marketing and business development, and mentoring events.
2. Reinforce the vision
Your firm must have a vision and every team member must know what it is. People are inspired by a purpose. Your vision should reinforce why people love working at your firm and how each professional can ensure that it remains your firm’s highest purpose. It can’t be just about revenue.
3. Clarify how each team member contributes
Include all departments, not just billable staff. Whether this is communicated through individual performance plans or acts of recognition, make sure each person is clear on how they can and do support the firm’s vision and growth plan.
4. Review baseline and stretch goals
Challenge each individual to create specific baseline and stretch goals. A baseline goal might be to respond to client calls within the same day. A stretch goal might be to expand services with three of them. These goals should be discussed monthly and quarterly.
5. Provide examples of effective activities
It’s fine to have goals, but often non-rainmaking types could use some guidance on how to reach them. Take technical professionals on a sales call to demonstrate consultative discussions. Share your “ideal client” profiles so they know whom the firm wants to attract.
6. Revitalize pipeline meetings
Do you have regular pipeline meetings? If so, these meetings might need some fresh energy. Invite emerging leaders to share what they heard in the field during busy season. Create your own version of “Dilly! Dilly!” when someone lands a new client.
7. Schedule client debriefings
The best way to keep a client is to keep talking to that client after busy season. Schedule client debriefings during the summer months to show you are thinking about them all year. Use the debriefing to see how you’re doing and if you can improve. Suggest two or three new ideas that could help the client. Include senior members of the client’s team and encourage them to share client feedback with everyone else on the team.
8. Schedule training
Are there areas for improvement that came to light during busy season? Now is the time to close those skill gaps when the challenges and shortfalls are still fresh in your mind. Identify the skills needed for more efficient workflow and identify the team members best suited to add those skills.
9. Follow through on incentives
If incentives are part of client cross-servicing or business development activities, make a big deal about team members who achieve them and bring in new business. However, incentives should be designed to inspire action rather than make people compete against each other. Offer both individual and team incentives.
10. Explore gaps and invest in new resources
Maybe the lessons learned during busy season revealed gaps in systems or technology (CRM or email marketing systems for example). The slower months of summer give your firm more time to address gaps and needed resources and where you need to improve. Make sure your firm vision includes regular analysis of foundational processes and solutions that can help your firm achieve more and your team to feel supported.
These tips, Schwartz says, are applicable to all firms – whether you have multiple offices and a sprawling staff or just a handful of employees – because every firm needs to make time to formally address long-range planning with their staff. Small firms, in particular, she says, should never simply assume these goals are being communicated through everyday interaction or proximity to leadership.
“No matter your firm’s size, always communicate the vision and goals to each staff person – from administrative professionals to partners, and everyone in between,” Schwartz says. “When each individual is aware of the firm’s vision and growth strategies and how they can assist in achieving them, they will feel more connected to leadership and their coworkers.”
Deanna Arteaga is a professional freelance writer and public relations specialist who for the past six years has covered CPA industry trends for AccountingWEB. She also writes about CPA firm marketing, higher education and professional development for CPAs, and workplace trends in the accounting profession. She has more than 20 years...