|The committee assigned employees
randomly to teams (all with actual NFL names) whose
members worked together to gain “yards” toward a
group goal. A broad range of 59 different activities
qualified as yards. (For example, attending a trade
show might give an individual two yards, while
chairing a firm committee might yield five.) There
were seven teams with six members per team: a
partner, administrative team member and four other
team members. At the kickoff meeting each one picked
its head coach, assistant coach, established team
goals and developed an action plan. |
with the greatest number of yards by the end of
the program was the winner, and people won prizes
for outstanding individual efforts, too. To make
scoring fair, partners had to do more activities
to reach a given level than managers, staff and
Besides bringing in
business, the program goals were to
Encourage nonpartners to market the
Increase the number of marketing
activities performed by team members.
Get partners to work with staff-level
team members on marketing activities.
Develop a team approach to new
Goals were posted in
the employee lounge. Throughout the “season,” the
scoreboard tracked the average yards gained per
team for each “quarter” by moving a little
football along the board toward the goal.
Team members could get yards for participating
in cross-selling activities and attending client
meetings and networking events with other members
of the team. This in particular appealed to
supervisor Debbie Foster, CPA, a staff accountant
and one of the team leaders.
helpful thing was the involvement with partners,”
says Foster. “They became more aware that we
needed practice development. Going to client
meetings with partners got us more involved.”
TASKS MATCHED TO PREFERENCES
list of activities ensured there was something for
all types of personalities to do. “Introverted
people might write letters,” says Monesson, “and
because we worked together, for example, someone
could write the letter while another made a
follow-up call.” The primary goal was to expand
everyone’s definition of marketing and to make
staff comfortable with the concept, she says.
All team members could gain yards for the
Participating in professional, social
and charitable organizations.
The playbook listed organizations
chosen for networking value and business
development opportunities. Before attending an
event the team member would prepare some questions
to elicit a potential client’s needs. The more
playbook activities an employee participated in
the more yards he or she gained.
Writing and public speaking.
Team members were encouraged to
write articles or speak at local chamber of
commerce and professional organization meetings
about specialty areas as they pertained to firm
business. Monesson located many of the
organizations by searching on the Internet.
Developing referral sources.
Credit was given for asking for and
following up on referrals.
Identifying cross-selling opportunities.
Team members gained yards for
spotting opportunities to sell additional firm
services, such as human resource services and
Participating in CPE. Team
members got credit for participating in continuing
professional education courses that taught
business development skills or enriched their
knowledge of firm services.
Participating on committees to
develop new services or ways to market the firm
also earned yards.
administrative assistant to Greenspan, says the
breakdown of activities helped her realize she
could contribute to marketing the firm. “My first
reaction was, ‘This doesn’t really concern me.’
Meeting clients isn’t in our realm [as
administrative staff]; I wouldn’t know what to
say,” she recalls. But the playbook’s wide range
of activities changed her mind.
found newspaper articles about new companies,
including some top businesses listed in
Business News New Jersey, that she
thought might be interested in the firm’s
services. She put together a list of these
candidates and mailed letters describing J.H.
Cohn’s services. From newspaper business sections
and other publications, she learned of current
clients’ accomplishments and sent them
congratulations and a small box of Godiva
chocolates from the firm. These marketing
activities both brought in business and earned her
enough yards to snag the top individual award.
FIRM AND STAFF GAINED
The team incentive
program succeeded on many levels, says Greenspan.
It increased business for the firm by more than
20% and strengthened the interpersonal skills of
partners, nonpartners and administrative staff.
Those are lasting benefits that are important in
any context, he says. “Accountants have to get
beyond the stereotype of just focusing on
numbers,” says Greenspan, “and they need
networking and presentation skills. This program
allowed us to develop people in those areas.”
The TIP benefited employees in some significant
ways. Staff members
Developed a new attitude about
marketing. The playbook
guidelines on how to network and look for clients
as well as creative marketing ideas—ranging from
identifying prospects by reading business
publications to joining local nonprofit
organizations—gave employees options for choosing
sales-related activities they were comfortable
Improved teamwork and morale.
The program required people who
normally did not interact with each other to work
together to meet a common goal. Getting partners
to invite managers and staff accountants to
meetings with clients or potential clients was
particularly good for staff.
Grew professionally. At
lunchtime sessions Monesson gave instruction on
networking, identifying client needs and making
presentations. She did role-playing with
participants to help them practice these skills.
Firm employees learned how to work cooperatively
in teams. Staff accountants and managers learned
through observing when they went on client calls
Won prizes. The prizes
were largely symbolic—but not unimportant. The
firm gave certificates of achievement to teams in
first, second and third place as well as
“pro-bowl,” “most valuable player” and “hall of
fame” status certificates, representing a given
number of yards gained in a month. At the end of
the season, the first-, second- and third-place
teams received a trophy and a monetary award
($300, $150 and $50, respectively). In the end,
first- and second-place winners were only
four-tenths of a yard apart, so the winners
elected to share $75 of the prize with second
place. Individuals who earned the most yards in
their division received a gift certificate and an
Besides getting more
business, the firm refined better ways to do
business, both internally and externally. The
Partners invited managers and staff
accountants to 30 client discovery meetings.
In the first three months, an average
of 93% of employees participated. For the complete
program, participation was still high at 74%. (As
tax season approached many staff members were
diverted to higher priority work.)
The partners completed 431 marketing
activities, and staff completed 1,951 marketing
Five hundred forty qualified
prospects were introduced to the firm.
The firm obtained 22 new clients and
39 new projects.
The firm had 22% more receivables
than in the year-earlier period.
Greenspan notes that
such a project won’t necessarily pay off
overnight. Direct costs for the program were
$5,600, which covered the sports paraphernalia,
gift certificates, trophies and other expenses
related to rewarding employees. Indirect costs
related to time: Meeting with team members,
strategizing and carrying out nonbillable
marketing activities did add up in terms of hours,
says Greenspan, who puts a dollar value on that
time of about $30,000. Planning, team meetings and
marketing activities aren’t billable, Greenspan
says. “A firm has to be willing to accept that.
This is a long-range, not a short-range, program.”
Apart from the obvious plus of increasing
business for the firm, the program yielded
intangible benefits that will help keep valuable
employees and bring new CPAs into the fold. “These
are lessons and experiences that are going to help
staff throughout their career,” says Greenspan.
All participants were able to “draw on each
other’s strengths and encourage and teach each
other. Together they accomplished goals that they