It’s no secret that a lot of CPA firms are facing succession of partners now – and will for years to come. As we work with firms to help them grow, one of the most common questions we get is how to involve their young people and what should they be doing?
What should your young people be doing?
The short answer is anything that will help them learn the business and develop the skills they need to lead one day, regardless of whether that means the partner track or some other role. It’s never too early to begin involving them in the growth of the firm. In fact, it should be expected from the first day they walk in the firm. Here are four immediate, easily-executable ways to get your young people involved in the business:
- Bring them to prospect and client meetings with you. We learn a lot by observing other people in action. Let them know their role is to observe and watch. Giving them access and exposure will also help to get them comfortable in situations like this, too. The other thing it will do is to facilitate conversations about the business. The car ride back to the office is a great time to debrief with the young staff member about what happened – and also to talk about this foundational aspect of the business. If you start these situations and patterns early, by the time they hit the manager level, these young professionals will be able to run these meetings themselves, complete with poise and the proper comfort level.
- Ask them to write. Writing is a great way to get young team members involved in the firm’s marketing. It’s also often less intimidating than business development, plus it forces them to learn how to communicate what they do in non-CPA language. We all know that most partners struggle to find the time to write, so this is often a perfect entry point for those who are on the management track. As a bonus, it also creates an opportunity for the partners and young staff to work together on something. Start by asking your seniors and supervisors to write one or two articles a year. An easy place to start is with a how-to or FAQ type of article. Ask them to think about a common question they get from clients, or something they seem to show clients how to do or wished they knew how to do – and then have them write on the matter. The other option is to ask them to find another article they like and then rewrite it. This is great if you have access to technical update articles. Having them reword the content in plain English is a superb communication practice that also helps with developing those skills of being able to speak to clients in non-CPA mode.
- Get them involved in social media. Typically, the younger staff members are far more comfortable and knowledgeable about social media than are most partners. Have them help your firm become more digitally visible by providing some training for those who are less comfortable in the social media world. Other routes are for them to take an active role in your social media initiatives by growing your firm’s networks, doing research for prospect meetings, and also the task of finding things to share through your pages. Oversight of what is being posted is still important, so ensure that you have a process for reviewing and monitoring what they are doing.
- Involve them in cross-serving. Your young staff is immersed in most of the day-to-day work with clients. If you begin by teaching them about the business – and the opportunities to grow that business – they’re in an amazing position to help you identify valuable cross-serving opportunities with your clients. Start by picking no more than two areas in which you want to focus and then teach your staff about what to listen for or how to identify opportunities. Don’t ask them to sell anything. Rather, simply ask them to bring any opportunities they see directly to you. From there, you can then assess the opportunity and decide how to bring this up with the client. The key here is not to reprimand the staff member if they misread the situation or if it’s not a real opportunity. Instead, re-teach it if the situation was a complete misread. If it’s not a real opportunity, let them know that all explorations don’t work out … and encourage them to keep going! If you make this a positive experience, before you know it, the process will become second nature. Remember, practice makes perfect.