Why we still need university type “office hours” assistance

Each month, The Rainmaker Companies via its international association hosts an “Office Hours” conference call. The calls are inspired by our experiences in college where we attended lectures or labs in group settings but the better Professors always arranged some part of their time for one on one instruction or Office Hours.

Office Hours via Enterprise Worldwide and The Rainmaker Companies allows for a wide group of practitioners, admins, staff, marketers and others to pop on the call, ask a question and if necessary move on to their next task. Sometimes there are featured guests and other times it’s the wisdom of the crowd.

October 2016’s Office Hours call featured guests Scott Bradbary of Warren Averett.

Scott Bradbary is a Firm Member of Warren Averett and serves as its Chief Talent Officer. Scott works closely with the Firm’s Executive and Administration teams to strengthen culture and core values. He has spent his professional career coaching people to success.  Scott formerly served as the Chief Learning Officer and member of The Rainmaker Academy and has worked extensively in the accounting profession. He has worked with hundreds of firms and thousands of accountants assisting them to reach their highest potential and professional goals. Scott is a frequent speaker at conferences around the country and has been featured at the AICPA’s Emerging Partner Conference, The Growth and Profitability Summit, the Enterprise Worldwide International Conference, The Leading Edge Alliance Managing Partners Annual Meetings, the New Jersey Society of CPA’s and many others. He also conducts hundreds of workshops, classes and web presentations each year.

The October 2016 call’s theme was strategic planning and implementation.

The first question from Sherman Mohr, the call facilitator, went out to Patrick Pruett, EVP of The Rainmaker Companies and Manager of The Rainmaker Alliances. The strategic vision and management of the five alliances in the Rainmaker family are primarily Patrick’s responsibility.

Sherman Mohr asked Patrick, “What had he seen as best practice around strategic planning in his role as a Partner in a firm?” Patrick responded with an affirmation that pre-work prior to the strategic planning session was and is key. Pre-work around personal goals, operational issues and more are all assigned prior to the meetings. Key to Patrick’s comments was the practice that his team always utilizes an outside Facilitator for serious strategic work. This neutral party allows for objective questioning and better results.

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Scott Bradbary, our invited guest on the call, was introduced and asked to describe some of his previous experience. Scott was a teacher and coach in a past life and has spent the most recent part of his career as Chief Learning Officer and Chief Talent Officer serving the accounting industry. Scott went on to describe a significant part of his work at Warren Averett is to facilitate the firm’s move to a culture of learning. Scott stated that many in the accounting profession see themselves as technicians. The transition from a technical CPE environment to a more holistic learning environment takes a major buying from management.

Scott added during this section of the call that younger professionals like their learning opportunities delivered in shorter snippets. The feedback loops have to be far shorter. Younger professionals don’t view their professional lives in 30-year time frames. They want to know they are making contributions very quickly. They want to demonstrate value and have an impact quickly.

Scott asked the group, “How are firms facilitating career enhancing learning?” “Are you outsourcing, bringing it in-house, a combination?”

Paul Nick of Davidson and Nick CPAs out of Naples Florida shared one of his firm’s processes.

Davidson and Nick of Naples, Florida does a one hour CPE class monthly where an individual with a passion for a specific practice area or soft skill is free to serve as Champion for the topic and build a one hour class for the firm. One example shared by Paul was a firm staffer who isn’t a CPA happens to be a health care act subject matter expert. They are shy employees for the most part that hadn’t been viewed as a leader in a specific area. This individual is now seen and known as the health care act pro in the office. The positive effects of the team knowing who this person is and something about their knowledge is very helpful. The monthly programs allow people to shine, share and build their confidence and presentation skill all while accomplishing important CPE delivery requirements.

Scott then shared a process that is utilized at Warren Averett. They’ve coined it “Just in time training”. The previous process for new hires was to train them in specific tax areas no matter what time of year they were hired. This process is very traditional and the training often lasts 4 to 5 weeks. Scott said that for 2016 they’ve piloted a program around training the individuals on topics relative to the season. This just in time training philosophy allows for the new person to be immediately helpful. Through immediate near-term utilization of the skillset, the individual may see better retention of the skill. The project is new. If you’d like to follow up with Scott Bradbary after the first of the year or after tax season to see how it’s progressing feel free to reach out to him. Scott.Bradbary@warrenaverett.com

Scott was asked, “What are the most successful firms doing relative to making good on their strategic initiatives?” Scott shared a couple of firm examples. “EKS&H is noted for their culture of business development skill training early in the professional’s career. They see the long-term benefit of significant investment in ongoing business development training. The culture of business development is not isolated to a “my way or the highway” type of culture. Each individual is encouraged to grow the skill in a way that suits their style.” Scott went on to share another firm’s success. That of WithumSmith + Brown. Scott described their culture of coaching.  The culture built at WithumSmith + Brown allows for the development and mentorship of people. They are literally taught best practices around coaching.

When asked about firm failures, Scott shared that it’s his experience that firms and Partners that aren’t growing are falling victim to what Troy Waugh, formerly of The Rainmaker Companies called the “Crisis of Success” or what Stephen Covey in Seven Habits called “The Tyranny of the Urgent”. They continually profess to be working on the client’s business and sacrifice their firm and personal life through avoiding quadrant two activities. The activities that cultivate and address the important, thereby avoiding the urgent.

As we neared the close of the call Scott was asked about key philosophies. What is he seeing working in firms and at Warren Averett? Scott answered this way, “Firms are investing in young people. Partners are literally spending time with them and systems and processes are being built to cultivate this shared time. Also, the younger professionals are being asked for their opinions and ideas. Most importantly, they are being heard.

Paul Nick of Naples, Florida asked Scott, “How are firms measuring success of some of the strategic changes and implementations?” Scott said he is seeing it work best in firms that break down the metrics being measured into tighter time frames. Instead of the only metric being revenue or business growth for a full year’s work, the best firms are breaking down the objectives and goals into smaller time frames allowing for quicker smaller wins. The setting up of goals in a way that a culture of quicker wins begins to take place allows for a culture of celebration. Scott shared a closing case study. Brady Ware set goals in a campaign that took place some years ago where each practitioner was required to see 3 to 5 clients on a weekly basis and report back the status of the meeting. This meeting was also built around asking for referrals. The younger professionals excelled at the tasks and grew excited with the shorter term feedback loops. The culture of celebration contributed to a tremendous bump in referral business.

Many thanks to Scott Bradbary of Warren Averett, Patrick Pruett of The Rainmaker Companies, and Paul Nick of Davidson and Nick CPAs for their contributions to October’s Office Hours call.

Sherman Mohr serves as Enterprise Worldwide Associate Director at The Rainmaker Companies.