Guest post by Andrew Argue, a CPA and the Founder of Ten Key Heroes, a freelancing platform for accountants. He is also the Host of The Bean Counter Podcast. Prior to starting Ten Key Heroes, he was a PwC auditor in Florida. You can also find him on twitter at @andrewargue.
I am going to caveat this whole post by saying that I don’t think this advice will always make you the most popular partner, and I have never been a CPA firm partner myself. I did, however, receive the highest possible rating each year I worked in public accounting. This is just one past employee’s perspective from working in the trenches of the profession.
If you want to capture the attention of employees that have the greatest potential and retain them, here are a few things to think about:
1) Capture Your A Players
Inquire about their dreams, make a commitment on your plan to grow them, and execute. If you build the right team encouraged with the proper incentives, as a partner, I don’t believe you should do any “work”. Build a machine and let it run.
But to get unconventional results, you have to employ different tactics: “Do what others don’t do”
Give people time off. Let them work from home. Give them a spot bonus. Early promote them. Send them on a vacation with their spouse. Get them press within the firm. Get them press in the news (if they’re the type of person that likes that kind of thing).
These people are special. If they feel like they get the “run of the mill” treatment, why would they continue being special for you?
I can’t tell you exactly what to do as every person needs their own touch based on their preferences and desires. Find it, and drive a hammer into it. Positive incentive and reward will trump punishment and fear every day. Especially with top performers whom have choices. Empower them to feel as free as possible with regard to their job, and watch their productivity and loyalty soar.
2) Transform B Players Into A Players
In my opinion (which you can regard as completely amateur as I’ve never been a CPA firm partner, just a curious observer), this is the most important part of growing a team. The fact is, there are very few A players out there, and I don’t believe that’s changing in the US. But with a little guidance and motivation, there are a myriad of people who we can take from good to great.
Sometimes it’s just about telling people that it’s okay for them to try harder, do more, and take on additional responsibilities. I’ve been in this position numerous times in organizations. I used to wait for someone to single me out, and give me a chance. Then I would CRUSH IT!
3) Eliminate C Players
Last week I was told about an article from Harvard business review that ponders this question regarding sunk cost:
“If you had to hire X person today for the same price, knowing everything you know, would you hire them?”
If the answer is no, develop a strategy to get them out. Nobody wins in an environment when nobody loses. C players are the worst people to have around. They irritate the A team and distract the B players constantly trying to pull them down with their negativity and sabotage. They have a secret mentality that if others do poorly, then they look better. It’s like an infection that needs to be removed.
To sum it up: If you wouldn’t hire them today, fire them tomorrow. If there not a great fit for this job, you’re doing them a favor. I’ve interviewed dozens of successful accountants on The Bean Counter Podcast and a shocking number of them were fired and are now partners or CFOs. It’s not harsh. The entire point of business is to purge the system of bad operators and organize capital in a manner that maximizes productivity. Not only will it be good for them, but the remaining rockstars will thank you for taking action!