[Originally Published in Accounting Today as an interview with Angie Grissom of Rainmaker and August Aquila]
For some time, large firms have known that having a vision for the future and strategic, tactical plans was the only way to manage their practices. Unfortunately, many firms still question whether written strategic plans are really necessary. Some say that firms and businesses alike have been successful over time without having a plan in writing. So, do smaller firms really need to have one?
Aquila: I am definitely in favor of having some dream for the future. I really don’t care what you want to call it — dream, aspiration, strategic vision, etc. If a firm cannot focus on the future, then where is it going? Whether a firm or an individual, we all need to have a dream for the future, otherwise we are stuck in the present. If you dreamt of being a CPA, you majored in accounting, sat for the CPA Exam, and joined an accounting firm. That was your dream. If you dreamt of being a partner one day, you started thinking and behaving like a partner. Sure, not all dreams become reality, but if you can’t dream it, you never will be able to do it.
Grissom: Having a plan in writing does not guarantee that it will be followed. Old-fashioned, head-centered, stationary business plans are not the most effective. A plan needs to have passion, innovation and life behind it. Many firms invest time, resources and money to have annual planning, but the plan is never followed. Annual planning is scheduled like the annual Christmas party; the difference is that the planning is just an event, not a process with execution. Strategic plans can become a tool to motivate and give your team vision to prepare their thinking for action items that will move the firm forward.
Aquila: Partners work together because they have a common dream. For example, I was with a firm that was growing rapidly and moving upstream. Some of the partners who wanted to serve small clients no longer shared the dream. This is not to say that they were wrong; it’s just that their vision of the future did not mesh with the firm’s. So, what does a firm leader need to do to create passion within the firm? I go into many firms, and I don’t find passion.
Grissom: Firms that are successful have agreed on where they want to go. They have communicated it to the partners and team members so that everyone knows which way to go. Check-ins are occurring in the form of accountability meetings. The most important part of having a strategy is the ability to be flexible in that strategy. I would rather a firm have more communication around opportunities as they arise, than laser focus on what is written in a plan and then lack the flexibility to adapt to changes. Strategic plans should be a tool to guide the team, not a document to be followed to the letter.
To learn more about strategic planning and how to position your firm for more success in 2019, please Contact Us to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. The Rainmaker Companies can help you Grow Your Firm, Grow Your Practice, or Grow Your Self.
Angie Grissom – President of The Rainmaker Companies
Guest Contributor: August Aquila