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Teamwork at Accounting Firms Makes the Dream Workby
The first two articles in this series identified the benefits of leverage to firm owners and partners when you create a system while dreaming big and how making things easy for clients is beneficial to all. This article is, quite simply, about how teamwork makes the dream work.
While many businesses treat employees as disposable, the most effective accounting firms recognize that employees are the firm’s most valuable asset.
Accountants tend to be intelligent and thoughtful. Therefore, leveraging your team’s skills is wise. However, you must be able to delegate to them while still being able to monitor quality. As management, one of your roles is to ensure your staff can operate as a team by removing barriers and breaking down data silos.
Employees want to feel empowered. What information do they need to help clients? Help them be more proactive by giving them access to the information to act when clients need help.
Of course, some confidential client information should only be visible by a relatively few assigned individuals. You can set your systems up for this needed protection. But if you are going to work effectively as a team, trust is a crucial factor.
While you may or may not be a sports enthusiast, there are countless examples of a superstar receiving much acclaim after being recruited by a team. But then, the team underperforms. Why? One star doesn’t make a team. There are other examples where a team exceeds expectations, but there is no star on the team. How does that happen? Teamwork.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch a group of stars work together as a team. That’s when you have a dream team. And a dream team can make both your clients’ and your dreams come true.
We’ve all heard that there’s no “I” in the word “team.” That includes the partners and owners of firms. If you want to run an “I”-centric firm, that is your choice since you own the firm, but your firm will struggle to live up to its potential.
A Growth Path with Balance
Besides empowering your team to act, most people want to grow in their careers, personal lives, and family. They appreciate the recognition that comes from these successes.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak from the main stage at the Scaling New Heights conference this year. My preparation reminded me of many fundamentals of my career and critical items I learned along the way.
One of those items was the Wheel of Life from Zig Ziglar. This concept helps people keep things in balance. The idea is that you should have one to three goals in each of these areas to maintain balance in your life.
I’ve watched many professionals have excellent careers and destroy their families or health along the way. You can choose what you like, but I like balance. I suspect your team members generally want balance, too. (see below)
Additionally, it is wise to create new opportunities for each team member to thrive in your firm. Ensure they can see an upward growth path for them. For many, this will mean less administrative work.
For example, many of you came up through public accounting. Remember how much admin work we had to do the first couple of years? Hopefully, there is less administrative work for you today.
For me, maintaining balance requires downtime, quiet time, and some isolation for reflection. We all need time off. In the U.S. market, we are far too prone to work excessive hours, believing the mantra that working hard will bring success.
On the contrary, I think that working smarter will bring the type of success that you want. Further, for most accountants, a client-centric whole-of-client advisory approach can be rewarding personally and financially. You can use your accounting skills for the good of your clients, your community, your firm, and yourself.
Put your team and yourself in a position to win by making yourself replaceable for a couple of weeks a year. Mike Michalowicz, in his course Clockwork CORE, calls this Operation Vacation. In some industries, such as banking, it is required to be off at least one whole week as a method to detect potential fraud.
For attitude and style, I prefer the old Mae West movie title “Every Day’s a Holiday” because recognizing each day as special and a source of pleasure is far better than each day being drudgery as you drag yourself to work.
When our family was younger, I scheduled many years with one week of vacation per month and one vacation that involved three weeks. Somehow all the work got done, and our family was better off for it.
Eliminating silos, such as text messages to personal phones, email silos, etc., allows team members to cover for one another. Conversely, if the information is only on one person’s phone or in one person’s email box, how do we communicate that to others? Forward the text or email?
That sounds like a recipe for more text messages and emails, less clarity, and poorer communication, not better. And since you might in the middle of that mess every day, you can’t shut off. When was the last time you took a real vacation?
Coordinating your team, protecting and improving your firm’s culture and developing the right service offering that your team can and wants to deliver are noble management tasks. But you can get a little technology assistance, too.
Tech That Helps
Coordinating a team takes a productivity platform. We can coordinate our team with one of the major platforms choosing from Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, or Zoho One with their current technologies. All three platforms have group calendaring, collaborative co-editing capabilities, web meeting software, and many more features.
For example, suppose you pick a tool like Microsoft Teams. You’ll quickly realize that the Teams platform has many useful and integrated capabilities with the traditional Excel and Word productivity software.
You’ll likely need a practice management tool like Karbon and a document storage solution like SmartVault to control your practice and your documents. Optimizing your stack of tools with the proper workflow is paramount to your team’s success.
Consolidating all client communication into your firm’s single, collaborative channel with a great client experience will be a competitive advantage. Liscio is an excellent example of a platform that can accomplish this goal. When you consolidate and centralize requests to and from your clients in Liscio, you further optimize your workflows.
Bringing all client communications, including all PBC (Prepared by Client) requests into one secured and shared space for staff gives your team the ability to cover for each other, provides leverage, and eliminates silos of information. Visibility by your entire team of all documents, requests, and communications is a crucial benefit of the Liscio platform.
Teamwork = Dream Work
Your firm has many opportunities with clients, and you can build an excellent practice as a sole practitioner. But real leverage comes from a highly skilled team working in concert together. When your dream is to provide superior client service with an excellent client experience, a team must do the work. An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Can you pick and coach the right team? Can you help your team work together? The very best firms are using teamwork to make the dream work! You’ve got this!
Randy Johnston is a nationally recognized educator, consultant, and writer with over 40 years experience in Strategic Technology Planning, Accounting Software Selection, Paperless, Systems and Network Integration, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning, Business Development and Management, Process Engineering and outsourced managed...