Let’s talk about lean for a few minutes.

“Let’s not,” you’re probably saying, and I see your point. If you’re like most CPAs, chances are you think the lean movement applies only to (a) manufacturers or (b) cutting costs. If that were true, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about it, either.

But there’s more to lean – a lot more – than assembly lines and saving money.

The entire MACPA team recently spent two days boning up on lean with Flowtivity‘s Dustin Hostetler, and here’s what I learned: Lean is all about efficiency. It’s using your time and resources more efficiently to better serve your clients – and growing your business as a result.

Who doesn’t want to do that?

“Lean is about VOC – the voice of the customer,” Hostetler said. “It’s about the value you add to your clients’ lives. Our job is to meet our clients’ current needs and the needs they don’t even know they have yet.”

To do that, we have to be “crisp and effective” with our basic services so that we have more time for new opportunities. “If you can get more done with the resources you have,” Hostetler said, “you’ll be able to fill your capacity with new growth and new opportunities, and see more of your top-line dollars translate to the bottom line.”

In plain English: When we do our basic work more efficiently, we have more time to “wow” our clients with new and unexpected service. We’re able to do even more for our clients – and make more money in the process.


Sounds great in theory, but reality is another story. Who has the time today to stop everything and re-learn what they’re doing?

The short answer, says Hostetler, is this: You’d better make the time. It’s the paradox of lean: Sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.

“You can either take the time now (to build your capacity and grow your business), or you can say you don’t have time now and waste multiples of that time down the road,” Hostetler said. “Lean is all about taking a step back, finding where the waste is, and implementing solutions to remove that waste and focus on value. Now is the perfect time to do that. If you don’t, you’ll always be in a vicious cycle where you’ll never have time unless you take the time now.”

The benefits of lean extend well beyond your organization. The more CPAs know about lean, the more they’re able to help their clients adopt a lean mindset, too.

“(Your clients) are focused on adding value to their customers,” Hostetler said. “They want to remove waste from their organizations. They want to innovate. There’s no one better than a CPA to be a trusted advisor (as they do that). Having some knowledge of lean while you have those discussions with your clients is a great tool to have in your toolkit.”

The starting point is to equate lean with streamlined efficiency. It’s not about cutting costs – it’s about eliminating waste and redundancy and increasing your own capacity as a result. When that happens, everyone benefits.

Hostetler outlines more of the benefits and challenges of going lean in this MACPA interview:


Learn more about lean by checking out these resources:

And more learning opportunities from the Business Learning Institute:


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