What if I told you that 10 years from now, your life would be EXACTLY the same?
I doubt you’d be happy.
We have undeniably been talking about changes in the accounting industry for quite some time now. The consensus is that to become a truly growth oriented firm, all partners and employees must be of the mindset that innovation and change are essential. Yet, we hear it time and time again from individuals in leadership roles, and on down, the fear and hesitation to fully embrace the understanding that typical tax return or audit work cannot sustain growth. The commitment to changing to a trusted business advisor firm is met with unease. Changing how an individual or an entire firm has done business after so many years is understandably terrifying.
The psychology behind fear of change far exceeds the professional accounting space. People experience a natural fear of change when their ‘comfort zone’ becomes uncertain and they begin the shift of doing things that they are not used to. As the accounting industry is changing and the need to step out of the comfort zone of how we have been doing business, the quote from Angie Grissom of, “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”, is true now more than ever.
I recently sat down with Senior Managers, Ward Austin and Page Robble, from Faulkner Mackie & Cochran, P.C., who both recently graduated from our program The Rainmaker Academy- an 18 month business development training program that instills a process and accountability system for measuring growth results, and tracks the individual’s ROI for the firm. I was interested to hear about their personal fears around change, and how their commitment to changing the way they did business led to their success.
I would like to say their answers were what I expected, as CEO of The Rainmaker Companies, but it wasn’t. The impact of change for them not only professionally but actually personally, made an impression on me.
I began by asking them how they were introduced to the program. Both men were approached by their partner group. Everyone, including Page and Ward, had an open conversation about what the program would entail and agreed this was the right program for changing their business developments efforts. I asked both men of any fears they had about going into this program. They replied of course they had fears! Both had serious concerns on whether they would be able to commit to change, and of course, the ultimate fear of failure. Fear of the unknown, doubting oneself, and fear of rejection are the most commonly reported reasons people shy away from change. For Page and Ward, their uncomfortable zone was that the program was asking them to become more extraverted internally and externally. For Page, he considered himself more reserved. Asking him to step out of that comfort zone and be willing to network alone was somewhat daunting. For Ward, he naturally was an extravert, but lacked confidence in applying his extraverted characteristics in the work setting. The anticipation of showing that side of himself in a business environment was unnerving at times.
So when did the change start to happen? Both would agree that change did not happen overnight.
Initially, they said, the best part was knowing they were not alone. Change is less scary when there is a sense of community. Atmospheres, like conferences and associations, find success when creating this open discussion forum. People find strength in numbers and take comfort in a community of others during times of anxiety or need. “We all had similar fears and concerns,” said Ward, “It was great to build a camaraderie with other professionals. We quickly realized we were not alone on this journey. Pretty quickly we started learning from one another and relied on our classmates to help us on this journey. It was helpful to talk about what was going on in the industry and share struggles and best practices.”
However, while a sense of community provides the opportunity to share ideas and a commonality, one of the pitfalls many people experience is comparing their success to others. Excuses of why not to commit to change can resound. Never settle because of your surroundings or situations. “All of us in the program came from different firms with very different market shares and sizes, but the things we were learning were universally applicable,” commented Page. “And the individualized growth happened during our coaching calls when our Rainmaker coaches met us where we were, with no judgement, and worked with us individually to see the success we wanted for ourselves and the firm.” The tools and techniques to implement change is intellectual and can be taught across the board. Personal growth happens when participants can see an individual growth path that is tailored specifically to them.
From there, over the next 18 months, both Page and Ward said the next steps were just truly being committed and determined to changing their business developments efforts on a daily, weekly and monthly basis through the guidance of their internal mentors and Rainmaker coaches. The more they practiced these change behaviors, the less uncomfortable they began to feel. And the less uncomfortable they felt, the more their confidence began to grow.
The secret to any truly successful change process is not the intellectual property participants can walk away with, but from the tangible benefits they can hold on to because of their commitment to change.
I asked Ward and Page what tangible benefits they received from The Rainmaker Academy. The list was quite impressive.
- More intentional around their networking efforts
- Have an accountable BD purpose and plan implemented
- A larger personal network
- More assertive with partners and staff
- More engagement in their careers
- More confident
- Better communicators
- Enriched leadership skills
- No longer terrified of rejection
I sat there stunned for a minute at their list, and of how open they both were about the long-term effects the program had made. I said thank you for their time and being so willing to share their stories with others. And then it occurred to me. I had one more question I wanted to ask them before our time was up. I asked, “What advice would you give to someone who is nervous about implementing change in their firm or who may be considering this program but has some apprehensions?”
Ward answered, “Go for it! When I started this program I definitely lacked confidence in myself to be able to engage prospects and referral sources. But I conquered that fear and am now out there in the business community, being me, and seeing some real business come through the door. Get over yourself, get up and get out!”
Page added, “I would say know that change cannot happen overnight. You need a strong accountability system established to see true intentional change. The Rainmaker Academy provided that for us. Like a lot of CPAs, I am at times timid and that may always be true. But now I am definitely more assertive and engaged in my firm and in business development.”
“Overall I would say it is worth all the doubts and uncertainty to now feel the impact it had on not only us but also the cultural change it is making within our firm.”
We ended our time together with them telling me how they are now helping others in their firm with their business development efforts through the cascade training instilled from the program. The ability they now have to share their story of success and inspire others in their firm to change their behaviors is what we can only hope for with any of our programs. I wish both men, nothing but true success and fulfillment in their long careers ahead. I know they made an impact on me and I look forward to catching up with them in the future.
Do not settle for whatever happens in your business. Growth is intentional. Whether it is The Rainmaker Academy or other growth development learning programs, if you want to dramatically impact your career trajectory, please reach out to me.
The Rainmaker Companies