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Top 3 Issues Keeping Firm Leaders Up at Night

Aug 11th 2016
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As part of my work with a variety of firms, one of the main questions I ask firm leaders is, “What is keeping you up at night?” Through their responses, I have discovered three issues that many firms are struggling with right now: lack of a one-firm vision, inefficient processes, and technology.

Below is an explanation of the issues they face, as well as some solutions that I try to offer:

Issue 1: Lack of a one-firm vision. The firm leaders who discuss the lack of a one-firm vision see that firm leaders, on multiple levels, have their own ideas about where the firm is going and how they are going to get there. While some of the visions can be similar, certain components don’t always line up.

Many of these firms have never gone through a true strategic planning session to bring all of the leadership visions together and come to understand what their true mission is as a firm. They describe the frustration that occurs when colleagues seem to have their own personal agendas and the lack of authentic growth when everyone focuses on a small portion of the bigger picture.

Solution: The best way that a firm can truly start working toward having a one-firm vision is through a strategic planning session facilitated by an outside party. This will bring the firm leadership together to identify the true vision and mission of the firm. The planning session will also help determine the strategic goals the firm has for future growth and success.

By utilizing an outside facilitator, leaders can have the challenging conversations needed to move forward in a nonthreatening environment. An outside facilitator is also able to bring in perspective that is unbiased to past challenges that the firm has faced, which will also lead to increased innovative thinking.

Issue 2: Inefficient processes. Many firms discuss their need to improve processes in multiple areas of their firms. The most common areas that we hear about are their tax and audit processes. During our discussions, leaders voice frustrations with slow turnaround times due to too many touches and the lack of a standard process leading to multiple team members following their own systems.

Other common process inefficiencies include not having a workflow program in place and lack of automation throughout the process, making it laborious and time-consuming.

Solution: There are several ways that firms can start to improve the efficiency of their processes, but we have seen the fastest improvement when firms bring in an outside process improvement expert, get team members CPA Green Belt Certified, and create a continuous improvement committee. The outside process improvement expert can listen to a firm’s current process and, through years of experience working with accounting firms, provide valuable feedback on multiple ways the process can be improved to solve inefficiencies.

Following the initial process improvement rollout, having a certified guru (or two) will improve processes in multiple areas of your firm. Establishing a continuous improvement committee will ensure that all areas of the firm continue to be monitored for improvement opportunities.

Issue 3: Technology. Change is a constant in accounting firms today, from mergers and acquisitions to hiring new employees to rolling out the latest software. In today’s world, technology should be an accelerator, but leaders are struggling with how to make that happen. Right now, firms have a hard time seeing where they currently stand with their technology, where they truly need to be, and how to get there.

Solution: Having an expert facilitate a technology review is an excellent way to start utilizing technology as a strategic accelerator. The expert will be able to review your current technology with a fresh set of eyes and facilitate a discussion on where your technology needs to be to support your strategic vision. The final – and most vital – piece will be figuring out how to proceed from where you are now to where you need to be without jeopardizing the end users’ capacity for current work.

The expertise brought in by this outside facilitator can guide this process while assisting with real-time feedback from end users as changes occur.

Note: This original post appeared on the Boomer Bulletin 2016 blog from Boomer Consulting Inc.

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