I found this post from David Maister about a young CPA’s recent experience at a firm. It is disturbing for two reasons: 1) It is a true story, and 2) there are plenty of other firms and situations like this in our profession.

David asks this question: Why does bad management thrive so much (especially in professional services firms)? I think the answer is found in a quote of Maister’s in Fast Company magazine a few years back. He said, “Those people (partners in CPA firms)  talk about having a strategy with a longer-term view, but the operational reality is vastly different. They want the money right now. In practice, cash is everything. … What’s missing  are whole firms that are built on discipline and strategy.”

High_performance_cpa_firm That is it — whole firms built on discipline and strategy! Funny that in the most recent AICPA PCPS Top Talent survey, cited 93 percent of the top talent surveyed said “respect for the company mission statement” was the top reason to stay with a firm.

Once they have that compelling purpose and strategy, they must align all of their systems (and people) to support and reinforce that strategy. In our experience, the most important system is the human capital systems of training and development (putting the right skills in the right places), career development (which is the number two reason top talent will stay with a firm) and performance management.  Together, these systems form a comprehensive talent management approach which will help them deal with the top two issues facing CPA firms — staffing shortages and succession planning.

In an era of 20 to 30 percent growth for CPA firms, can’t we afford to invest the time and money into getting this right?

See my related post, Something’s Gotta Give.

Articles by David Maister:

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