3 ways to build your accounting team and navigate change management

Change management advice from top accounting leaders. 

Table of contents

What does it take for accounting firms to adapt and thrive in today’s rapidly changing environment? The short answer: Moving out of traditional practices and into a modern business model.

But what does that entail?

This guide brings together several top industry influencers to walk through what it takes to redefine your business for the modern era. Modern accounting firms are those that have adopted automated, streamlined processes; embraced a virtual workforce; gotten creative with attracting and retaining high-performing staff; and know how to implement change that sticks.

Here, we present three key insights for building a modern accounting team and taking charge of change management. 

Meet the influencers

  • Jason Blumer, CPA, Partner, Blumer & Associates CPAs and CEO & Founder of Thriveal
  • Jeff Phillips, CEO, Padgett Business Services and Co-founder, Accountingfly
  • Jina Etienne, CPA, CGMA Principal Consultant, Etienne Consulting
  • Misty Megia, CEO, Misty Megia LLC
  • Amy Franko, Founder and CEO, Amy Franko Associate

Insight 1: Apply key leadership principles

Jason Blumer, CPA, CEO & Founder of Thriveal, offers insight on the five leadership principles required to build and thrive as a modern firm—the five Ps. 

  1. Positioning: Modern firms have a clear vision of what they offer, who they serve, and where they are going (vision for the future). Redefining your firm starts with a vision and an understanding of the value your firm offers. This serves as your business model blueprint as you rebuild your current firm or start a new one. 
  2. Pricing: Modern leaders price their services with intention. Pricing must reflect the true value of services. For example, the value of cash flow forecasting or KPI analysis advisory services are exceptionally high because they are fundamental to your clients’ business success. 
  3. People: Leaders must fully invest in their people (your firm’s biggest asset) to ensure retention of high performers and a positive firm culture. This includes committing to training and providing staff with the technologies and tools required to be successful in their roles. It also includes fostering empowerment among staff to take charge. 
  4. Processes: Standardizing processes across departments is mission critical. This enables staff to perform duties in a uniform manner and ensures the consistent and efficient delivery of client services. Train staff on all firm processes so work is not derailed at any point. 
  5. Planning: Strategic planning is at the core of a well-run firm because it helps firms prepare for the future. Planning supports being proactive with vision fulfillment—today and into the future.
"Processes are the rails on which your company runs, so make sure your team understands the processes on which you operate." - Jason Blumer, CPA, CEO & Founder Thriveal

Insight 2: Building a modern staff 

To run a modern firm, you must have a modern talent stack to support it. 

Because progressive firms are founded on cloud-based technologies, standardized processes, and real-time, proactive advisory relationships, they require a high-performing team to support long-term success. Jeff Phillips, CEO of Padgett Business Services, recommends structuring your firm so it’s poised for growth. This entails creating a talent stack that includes a visionary and/or integrator at the helm, a production team, and a support team.

A simplified schematic looks like this:

This structure accomplishes two main goals:

  1. It allows leaders to keep their focus on strategy and vision fulfillment by pulling them out of compliance and day-to-day admin work. 
  2. It allows the team to focus on compliance work, systems and office management, and client service. It also empowers staff to lead the day-to-day while partners focus on strategy.

In addition to creating a team structure, it’s also important to train staff for success in their given roles. High-performers are those who have been properly trained and receive ongoing training over the course of their career.

“One of the main reasons top talent leave firms early is because they weren’t trained properly.” -Jeff Phillips, CEO of Padgett Business Services

Insight 3: Implement change that sticks

Change management is another key element of a modern accounting firm. With any major change, it’s important that it’s well-planned and intentional—because that’s the kind of change that sticks!

Our thought leaders agree that creating change that sticks requires:

  • Starting with your “why”/vision: Just like creating a broad vision for your firm, you need to define why you are implementing specific change in the first place. Only when you understand it, can you explain it to your team and achieve buy-in.
  • Access your leadership qualities: Accessing your own leadership skills is important to successful change. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to implement change and get buy-in from staff if your core leadership skills are lacking. Ask for feedback from your staff and conduct an honest analysis of your skills in order to correct issues before you try to lead change.
  • Get agreement: It can never be overstated how important it is to secure buy-in from your entire team. There is strength in numbers. When everyone believes in your vision, it helps ensure change that sticks. But not everyone may be on board from the very beginning. That’s why you need to be open to objections and foster inclusion. 
  • Implement change with confidence: Plan a clear sequence of events and over communicate your plan to support successful change implementation. Remind stakeholders consistently of change intention and where you are in the process. This is important to keep the process on track and maintain firm-wide buy-in.
  • Repeat leadership: That means staying true to your vision by living it every day. This requires leadership to repeat core tenets of the vision and offer updates on progress as often as possible. It also includes repeatedly asking team members for feedback to foster ongoing improvement.
"Be willing to listen to others on your team. You want to foster inclusion when it comes to major change to get full buy-in and to make it even stickier." - Jina Etienne, CPA, CGMA Principal Consultant, Etienne Consulting

Building staff and change management checklist

Key takeaways

  • Develop the firm’s vision
  • Adopt a modern staffing mindset
  • Define structured processes across departments and roles

Key action items for change

  • Define the firm’s vision to ensure everyone understands what they offer, who they serve, and where they are going.
  • Identify ideal clients and industries to support the vision.
  • Create a modern recruitment program to attract new talent including supporting a virtual workforce and leveraging technology to offer a frictionless interview process  
  • Include staff on defining the vision and over communicate the vision to ensure change that sticks.

Start your journey to change management success today

Building a modern accounting firm takes planning, time, and patience. Hopefully, this guide helps as a roadmap for building an accounting team that will help you to navigate the change necessary to move your firm forward. 

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