If you talk to most CPA firms, succession of rainmakers is a critical issue. Building and developing the next generation of business developers is critical to a firm’s success.
We see two common problems that prevent firms from succeeding in this area:
- Not transferring knowledge. Firms unintentionally bottleneck their progress by hoping that young rainmakers will learn through osmosis. These up-and-comers need to hear from experienced rainmakers on how it all works. Encourage rainmakers to spend time with their protégés before and after they go out on calls with clients, prospects and referral sources in order to help them prepare or debrief on meetings.
- Keeping young rainmakers on the sidelines. There is nothing that will hold a potential rainmaker back more than keeping them on the sidelines. Young rainmakers will learn by doing. This means that they need to be in client meetings observing, and at some point, speaking. These CPAs should be attending meetings with referral sources and be allowed to develop their own relationships as well as attending meetings with prospects and participating in proposal development.
Identifying the problem is only half the battle. Fixing the problem starts by supporting and championing your rainmakers. Here are four actions you can take to champion their efforts and help them progress as entrepreneurial professionals.
1. Be Responsive
There is nothing that kills momentum more than lack of responsiveness. Your young rainmakers will be eager. Ensure you get back to them on a timely basis with the input they need so they can keep moving forward. Respond to emails and phone calls and take the time to provide the input they need on their activities in days, not weeks or months.
2. Get Them Out of the Office
DO NOT leave younger colleagues in the office when you go to a client, referral source or prospect meeting. Take them with you. Humans learn a lot through observation. Not only are you walking them through teachable moments, you will also help them get comfortable with myriad situations. Make sure you prepare them in advance by talking about what to expect during the meeting and how they can prepare to participate. On the way back from the meeting, hold a quick debrief by asking the following questions: how should you approach the next situation, what questions should you ask and how do you take next steps. Allow them to ask you questions and be prepared to give feedback on what went well and what could have gone better and why.
3. Make Them Look Like Stars
If you want to build the confidence of your future rainmakers, you need to make them look like stars. It’s your job as mentors and champions to help them put their best foot forward. You don’t do that by letting them just ‘figure it out’. Help set them up for success by preparing them well for meetings and opportunities in front of clients, referral sources and prospects.
4. Empower Them to Make Decisions
Do not micromanage them. If they have to come back to you constantly for approval, they will not learn how to build the confidence they need to make decisions. Depending on the young rainmaker’s experience, you may need to set some guidelines for these decisions. If they make a mistake, support them and help them learn from it.
It is possible to develop young rainmakers with a little support and guidance. As leaders in your organization, it’s your responsibility to help develop these people even if that courtesy wasn’t bestowed upon you.