The factors of success in managing an accounting firm, I think there’s three. There is many, but there is the big three. The first one is just basic talent. Do you have an individual, if we are talking managing partner or department head or overseeing some practice area, [and] do they have the requisite skill set to do the things that matter? Do they have the ability to communicate? Do they have the ability to listen? Do they have the ability to make tough decisions? Do they have the ability to have arrows in their back and keep coming back for more? Do they worry about people liking them or people respecting them?
Number two is setting management or leadership up for success. Sometimes I will go into a firm and someone will have the title of managing partner and I’ll say, “What do you manage?” And they’ll say, “I manage everything but the partners.” In other words the partners want to be left alone. They don’t want to be managed and that’s really not then a managing partner; that’s more of an administrative partner. And you know, firms, that tells you also a little bit about their culture as well in terms of the value they place on management. So you have to have the authority and responsibility to manage everything, partners included.
So the talent piece, the authority piece, and then the third and final one is do you value it? Simply stated, is one hour of firm management equal to or greater than an hour of billable time? Is it equal to or greater [than] an hour of rainmaking? Is it equal to or greater [than] an hour of developing talent? And if you can’t answer affirmatively yes, that that hour is more valuable than those other things, my advice to those people is, don’t give up your day job. And that’s why you see so many what I call “day job, night job” managing partners. They do the day job, which is keeping their book of business and servicing clients, and they manage at night. It’s not a successful formula. People say it’s the best we can do. I get that, but instead of being a speedboat, oftentimes you are like the Titanic. You are moving as a big, slow vessel.
In today’s world, successful firm leaders know one of the secrets, and that’s be built for speed.