Journey to a Modern Accounting Firm

Webinar Description

The definition of a modern accounting firm isn’t a static one. It changes as the world changes—and firms have faced seismic shifts in every aspect of their business. With that change comes the conversation about growth: not just in the number of clients you manage, but in how you run your firm, how you change your firm and how you measure success. The story of growth is different for every firm, but the journey to get there isn’t. Growth is about change, and there is a methodology to understanding the changes you need to make at each stage, what your natural growth ceilings are and what it takes to scale beyond them. Join this webinar series and learn from the experts about how to grow your firm, identify changes you need to make and adapt and become a modern accounting firm, today and tomorrow.


  • Determine how to see yourself and your growth in the journey map -- and to make the changes and adjustments appropriate for the size of your team

  • Identify and apply strategy to the intention of how you build your team in the future

  • Recognize how to "peel away" parts of your role and move them into other roles at the right time in order to scale a professional services firm

Speaker(s): Jason Blumer - CEO, Thriveal CPA Network and CEO, Blumer CPAs

Webinar Transcript

Lady Maya:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to CPA Academy. My name is Lady Maya, and I'm happy to welcome you into today's webinar on Journey to a Modern Accounting Firm, sponsored by Hi, Our presenters today are Jeannie Ruesch and Jason Blumer, and before we get started, I want to go through some housekeeping items and do some technical checks to make sure everything is working. First, if y'all don't mind going over to the go-to webinar questions panel, which is located on the right hand side of your screen. Please let me know that you can hear me and see the slides on your screen, and feel free to let me know where you're listening in from. If anyone is having any technical trouble, please let me know in that questions panel. Please keep in mind that there are quite a few of you and I'll do my best to go around to each of you as quickly as I can.

All right. One of my favorite moments. All right, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama. All right, just go ahead and keep those coming in. Perfect. Now that I know everything is working, let's go through some housekeeping for credit. This is a one-hour webinar and qualifies for one CPE credit. The way you earn that credit is fairly straightforward. Just stay logged in for 50 minutes of our allotted time and answer the poll questions. We'll have a total number of five polls during today's webinar, and to earn full credit, you'll need to answer at least three of those polls. 

CPE will be issued by the end of the day today, and will be available in your CPA Academy account. I also want to let you know that we are recording today's webinar and the archive will be made available to you by the end of the day as well. We also recommend that you take the time to download today's presentation materials, which can be found in the go-to webinar side panel. Now that we're all set, let's turn today's webinar over to our first presenter. Jeannie, the floor is all yours.

Jeannie Ruesch:

Thank you so much. Hi, all. I'm Jeannie. I'm part of the marketing team at and we're thrilled to host and welcome you to today's webinar, Journey to a Modern Accounting Firm. For those of you who aren't familiar with, we're a leading cloud-based platform that automates, connects and streamlines back office financial processes, such as payables and receivables. We partner with leading US financial institutions, many US accounting firms and popular accounting software to make it easier for you to do less manual back office work and more of what you love.

With that in mind, today's webinar is the first in our new series on scaling growth. The story of growth is different for every firm, but the journey really isn't. Growth is about change, and the good news is that there is a methodology behind what changes to make and when. So I am thrilled to kick off today's series with today's speaker, Jason Blumer, who is no stranger to change, and has also helped us define the topics today and in the series to come that will have the most impact on helping your firm scale and grow. 

Jason is the founding partner and CEO of Blumer CPAs, as well as founder of the Thrival CPA network, an amazing community built to help firm owners connect. Along with his partner, Julie Ship, they support firms in reaching their goals through live events, a monthly podcast, written content, webinars like this one, coaching, consulting and online community. They're just a little bit busy. So I am thrilled to turn this over to our man of the hour, Jason. Thank you so much for being here, Jason.

Jason Blumer:

Cool, Jeannie, thank you for letting me hang out with you, and, thanks for letting us hunker down and create a map that we think is really going to help people have just a great view into how to scale. It's an approach we've never had before, so we're launching some new stuff on top of this webinar series. So anytime we get involved with a webinar series, we're excited because Jeannie wants to get creative and do amazing things. And so that's what we get to do. So we're pretty pumped to walk you through something. And so we are going to start with some theory. So that's what I always like to start with, because I'm a nerd like that. I love the theory of how things work and why. So we're going to dive into some theory and then we're going to actually spend about 30 minutes in a map.

It's actually a map and we're going to walk you through the map and we're going to build the map together. And then if I can stop myself from talking as much, I want to have 10 minutes of Q and A at the end, so start populating some questions as we go through this. So let's dive in. So what is a Modern Accounting Firm? So I'm going to have two different screens. There's a part one and part two. And I'm not going to read all these to you, but this is really going to do a lot of introduction to the map that we're going to get into. So the problem with Modern Accounting Firms is they really just try to grow the firm, but there are lanes to it, there are different things you do at different team sizes. And more specifically, there are really organizational and service related parts to a firm.

And so that's really two parts to the firm. Organizationally obvious means the firm. The firm has to be cared for, this company that you're growing, and then of course service is a huge part of what we do. And so one thing you're always trying to achieve in growth is efficiency. So service based companies need to operate on top of efficiency. And why is that? Because if you're not efficient and the larger your team, if you have a larger team that's not efficient, what you're doing is you're not getting a lot of service done for the number of people you have on your team. And so a lot of times what firm owners do, if they're not getting all the work done, or the owner is overwhelmed, which is a lot of times how you define how growth works, is that you're overwhelmed as the owner. When that happens, they just go hire more people.

They think, "I need to hire people," but a lot of times we need to go to the other way, which is to create an efficient team. And so a lot of work on that side is very complicated and very hard work, takes a lot of leadership to pull off. And you can know if you've got these out of whack if you're seeing your labor metrics out of whack, right? So for service-based companies, including the owner, including everybody, we need to have about 50% labor or lower. That's not a hard number. Different people are going to want to have different levels of labor spend. But that's about what you want to look at in a service-based company. So the main part to this slide is there's two sides, organizational and service sides to the strategy of growth. The second one is recognizing the need for leadership as part of this and service movement.

And so those are really two sides you're going to see in the map, movement and service related, just leadership and movement are the two things you're going to see when you start introducing any kind of leadership that's done in different ways. Movement is also a part of what you need to work through. So as a firm becomes more complex, you're going to find that service-based companies, they have to be moved forward. So service-based companies are driven by knowledge, right? So we sell knowledge, we move knowledge, we sell knowledge. Knowledge doesn't just meander its way through a firm. Somebody has to push it through the firm. So there is a movement-related aspect that you have to manage in a company, especially as you get bigger. 

And if you just leave it, leave the movement to itself, it's going to get out of whack and confusing. And again, we're in the strategy part. I'm going to talk about what this means. So Lady, let's populate poll question number one. And then we'll start getting into some of the more practical parts of this.

Lady Maya:

Okay. And that poll question should now be on your screen. It says, "Do you think your firm is structured for maximum efficiency so that it can scale?" Your answers or your options are, I'm not sure. No, we are disordered and chaotic. Yes, we can move our work in an orderly way. Please let me know. And again, we'll have five polls for today, but you must answer three to get that full CPE credit. All right. Looks like those votes are coming in pretty fast. I'm going to leave this open for about another 15 seconds. All right. I'm going to begin to close this down in five, four, three, two, one. And I'm going to go ahead and share those results, which are now on your screen. I'm not sure leads by 43%. 31%, yes, we can move our work in an orderly way. And 25%, no, we are disordered and chaotic. Back to you.

Jason Blumer:

All right. Thanks, Lady. Well, we saw almost a third of you have this figured out, or actually about 30%. The rest of us are, we're trying our best. Right? So movement and growth, that is are we structured to be able to grow properly is a very difficult thing to do. So what I just talked about in those other two screens we're going to highlight here again, but let me just say, so really we're talking about the Modern Accounting Firm strategy. So there's an asterisk on that word strategy. I talk a lot about that word. So probably people in Thrival are sick of hearing me talk about strategy. What is strategy? Strategy is all about planning for the future. So strategy is not accidental. So if you want to grow, there is a planning that has to be done to pull the growth off, to figure it out.

And I'm trying to give you the buckets to help you think through your strategy. So I'm trying to give you a roadmap to help you understand how that works, but strategy is a looking ahead. That's basically what it is. Being strategic means being intentional. That's really all it means. So if you're here and you want to be more strategic in building your firm, that just basically means you want to be intentional. You want to do it on purpose. And I'm trying to give you the buckets, or you're going to see lanes at different team sizes that are going to help you know how to be strategic. So let's talk about what the strategy is. So there are two types of strategy, organizational and service strategy. You've already heard me talking about that and there are two types or applications to those types of strategies, which is movement and leadership.

And so these are all tied together and you're going to see these laid out on the map here in a minute, but I want to just give you an understanding as to what these are. So let's start to define these, and the way we could look at these, if organizational and service are the types of strategy, right, these are the two types of planning strategy you have to manage, and the applications in which you apply these strategies are the movement and leadership of your company. You could say it this way. There's an organizational leadership and there's a service leadership. There's an organizational movement and there's a service movement. There's movement and leadership to these different types of strategies. So let's define them a little bit more. So this just shows organizational services strategy, and these are the strategy applications.

So I want to define these now. So organizational leadership is about planning how the firm, that is the organization, builds a leadership team to move this company forward. So if you are large enough, that is if you have, if you're starting to inch into eight people, you're going to find you're going to start to need leadership. And what is leadership? Leadership is when you as the owner have delegated leadership to another group of people, one or two people or a group of people. And so now you have other people that are acting on your behalf. So I like to say they're your proxy, right? So you, as the owner, have to have a proxy in leadership that they act on behalf of you. They don't act the way they want to. When you build a leadership team, it's not about how they want to lead. Leadership teams in your company as the entrepreneur, are they lead the way you want them to lead.

And that's important when you're thinking about organizational leadership. Now, when we're thinking about service leadership, and again, think about two sides of your firm. You're going to see in the map, there are two sides you're always managing as the firm entrepreneur. One is your organization, the firm, it's planning, its growth. One is the service-related work you do for clients, the planning and growth around that. Both of those must be balanced and managed at different times. And the map's going to show you exactly how to do that. Well, probably not exactly, because it depends on the firm. It's going to give you a way forward to understand that. So we've looked at organizational leadership.

Now, service leadership, this is planning how your scope service is pushed through your firm by your leadership team. And that is what happens when you get larger. The owner is no longer pushing work through the firm. Your leadership team is pushing the work through the firm as the owners step back and think more about vision and strategy. That's what happens there. Now we also have to consider organizational movement. This is the planning of how the firm moves operations through a team, which enhances the value of the firm. 

And then service movement is how you plan moving scope, service, and project manage the delivery of the services to clients in a consistent way, which also produces value for your company. So you all, we're just in the defining stage. Now we're about to jump into the map, but I want you to just see that the word planning is before all those. Strategy is about planning. So strategy doesn't happen accidentally. It's always something you lay out ahead of time and you'll never get it perfectly right. But that is how you win at growth is by planning strategically. So let's hit poll question two. And again, we're trying to get a few poll questions out of the way so we can dive right into the map next. So Lady, let's hit that second poll question.

Lady Maya:

All right. And that second poll is now on your screen. It says, "What does the definition of strategy include?" Your options are, being intentional about the future, planning activities in the future, making decisions to do things on purpose, all the above. And this is the second poll out of five. You must answer three out of those polls to get that full CPE credit and stay logged in for that allotted time. And don't forget-

Jason Blumer:

They want to stay in. They want to stay logged in for this exciting webinar.

Lady Maya:

Of course. And they want to make sure they get those questions into that questions panel so they can be answered later on. And I'm going to go ahead and keep this poll open for about another 15 seconds and I'll give us a countdown. All right, I'm going to go ahead and close this poll in five, four, three, two, one. Go ahead and share those results. And all the above leads with 86%. Back to you, Jason.

Jason Blumer:

Okay. You guys got the right answer. That was a trick question, right? All of the above. So, all right, let's dive into our map. Here it is. There's your map. All right, webinar's over. Enjoy the map. Just kidding. We're going to build this map together. So I'm going to wipe it clean, and what I'm going to leave, I'm going to flip back and forth a little bit. So this map gets pretty complex and building a firm is complex. It is very complex. People don't know that. That's why you feel overwhelmed and you're freaking stressed out is because it is very complex and it's hard to map out and we've mapped it for you. And so, so I'm going to pull back and I'm going to leave those little blue lanes and what those are is that's our plan into the future. This is looking at a map as we plan into the future.

Now there's some things you see on this map that are familiar already, we hope. We have our firm entrepreneur there in the middle and note one thing about that firm, entrepreneur. What two things is she always managing? Organizational strategy and service strategy. Those are the two things that that firm entrepreneur is always managing. You may not know it or feel it, but you're always managing two sides of what you're trying to grow. Your company, that is your organization, has to move in a strategic way, and it moves knowledge through the company. Similarly, on the service side, you have to move the production of the revenue for the clients through the firm in very specific ways. 

So what you're seeing are five lanes at which you do that. And now we're breaking down this strategy to help you look into the future and know how well you've done this in your firm. And again, use this map that we developed with is going to be such a helpful way for you to manage what you're doing, but use it as a guide to you. Don't let it make you feel bad or anything like that, right? This is a guide to help you know if you're doing this in a way that is going to be sustainable, and that's what we're trying to do, build firms that are sustainable. 

And what does that mean? It means you being able to do it and build your firm over the long term without going crazy, because building a firm can really drive you crazy, because it's hard to figure out, and we're trying to give you a map to do that. So I'm pointing out the five lanes and those five lanes are the firm entrepreneur. Now what I haven't added is a partner group, right? So the middle lane would be the partner group. It's the owner group. And so we're just walking you through growth of a firm, just with one owner. That's what we're doing. And we're not going to get into the complexities of partnerships, which are much more complex. 

So it's that firm entrepreneur is managing their lane. What they also have to consider is the organizational side. And as they get bigger, they're going to have to add leadership lanes. But at first they're just concerned with organizational movement. Same on the service side, as they get bigger, they're going to have to consider service leadership. That is people leading the service part of the firm. But for right now, they're initially concerned with service movement. You can actually see the blue pathways, right? You can see they kick over into the movement lanes as we grow. And I'm going to show you that very clearly here in a minute.

Now the other thing, the rows are your team sizes. And so we find that team sizes very clearly define growth complexities. Now, one other thing I want to point out here as with this blank map is basically now that we've given you the five lanes you're trying to manage, and as you manage those at different team sizes, you can now start to see the intersections of your growth ceilings. These are where you're going to run into problems at the intersection of these two things. And that's what we want to point out to you. So let's dive into building this map out. 

So the first thing we want to do. this solopreneur, you can see on the left hand side, team size definition, the solopreneur is themselves and maybe possibly one contractor. And as they move into different sizes, and we're going to go ahead and define our team sizes for you, so as they move into a different team size, that is team sizes of one to five, what they're going to start to do is something we're calling peeling. You're going to peel off the role and what you do, and some of you, a lot of this, I think, is going to make sense to you if you've gone through a lot of this, but you're peeling roles out of your own work as the firm entrepreneur into other people as you hire people and as you grow.

Now, you already know that, right? When you feel overwhelmed and you grow, then you go hire somebody, right? But a lot of times what people don't understand, especially at this first level, is they're like, who do I hire first? Those are a lot of times the hard things to figure out. We're going to try to help guide you through how to do that. Now, one thing I want to point out on the team sizes, you can see these are not specifically defined. That is, it doesn't say one to five and then six to 10. So these are anecdotally levels at which we see growth problems happen. 

And it's important as you go through this for you to understand at your firm's size, where are you? And you can see the patterns that we think you should probably be considering as far as the roles, you should be peeling your work into. So just consider that as we go through it. So as this firm entrepreneur steps into a new team size, she has to understand there are things she strategically has to do so that she doesn't become overwhelmed and she doesn't start to produce poor service for her clients. And so the first thing she peels off is out of the organizational strategy.

You see there's a green side to this map and there's a blue side to this map. And so as she peels off her organizational strategy, she's starting to think about the strategy and planning of growing the firm side, right? That's all the operations. And so the first role she peels into is what we may call an admin marketing ops role, right? So you're going to find these earlier roles, especially the firm entrepreneur, and these earlier roles, they're very glutted roles. Glutted meaning they have a lot of stuff shoved into them right? And that's how we do it when we're running small companies. Everybody's got to pitch in and take the trash out. 

So you're going to find out your roles are more broadly defined and not specifically defined. They become way more specifically defined as your team size grows. And that's what you're going to find. You're going to find broader roles in the lower part of the map, more specific roles in the top part of the map. So what she does is she says, "I need help. I need help moving all of the many parts to the operations of this firm." And so she hires an admin marketing and ops role. And at this time revenue may be growing. And so what's driving a lot of this? Revenue is piping into the company, right? Revenue is defining the team sizes, it's defining the peeling that must be done at certain sizes. 

So at this size, we see that this firm entrepreneur also needs help on the service execution side, right? And so these service execution side, these blue roles, these are the accounting and tax and anything that's service related that's fulfilling a scoped contract. I'm not going to be able to get too deep into each part of these. It's going to be hard for me to not do that, but I want to keep moving and get to y'all's questions.

Man, is awesome. You get a copy of this map. I think you can actually download it right here, which is freaking awesome. Or maybe that's the slide deck that we have there as a downloadable. You want to download it and you want to study this to see how it matches what you're doing and where your firm is. So now what does this service entrepreneur do? As they move into there, they are managing still the same things. And we're going to more specifically define it. As they peel off roles, what does a firm entrepreneur always keep? They keep the vision and the strategy, right? So you're seeing they still have the sales and organizational strategy and the service technical review. 

So at this level, you're the second set of eyes on all service-related technical work. Now you're also very decidedly in the sales position. Marketing and sales are different things. Marketing is a consistently process driven thing that you do to the market that you want to serve. Sales is something you own as the owner. That's the convincing part of those clients, that you persuade them to purchase things for you at certain prices. And the cool thing about this map and this webinar series, we're going to be diving into team building. That's coming up next with Jeff Phillips of Accounting Fly.

We're going to get into marketing. We're going to get into sales. We're going to freaking dive into all this stuff and throughout this webinar series, through this year and the next year. It's going to be awesome. All right, so now let's dive into, we're going to keep peeling these roles out. Now we're stepping into the team size of eight to 10, and now we're splitting out actually into different levels of role. And so let me peel out ... well, let me just talk about this service movement side.

So what I'm doing now is I'm showing you the further peeling as we get into team sizes between eight and 10. We're now breaking this service execution role out into other multiple roles. We've got more accounting people. We've got more tax people or audit people or whatever service-related offerings you offer, you're starting to hire those service execution team. Here's a consideration about this time is that you start considering a project manager. And this is a trick we've seen actually in the creative digital marketing agency space that we serve in. They clearly have project managers. And of course, some of you may have that, and a lot of you have probably heard that in your own clients. 

So you see there's a split even on the service side. There is a service execution movement role where you're doing taxes. There's also a technical project management role. And so a lot of times the way we'll do it when we have a project manager, we'll take one of our accountants and we'll move them into a project manager role. Now, what are they doing? They're starting to manage workflow, contracts and the movement of work, and they're good at helping the team prioritize the service work. This is a care role that you hire at this level, which many firms do not do this. We think this is a trick to really drive huge amounts of success. 

It's an investment, but it is an investment that pays off in higher level service scoped work. You can sell higher value work when you get to this team size, if you do this. So project management is a thing where, what you do for the service technician, you're telling the accountant, the tax person, you're saying, "All right, you're no longer going to have to manage your work and prioritize it and manage the workflow system. We're going to peel that out of your role and we're going to let you focus on the technical parts and get better and better at the accounting and tax, payroll, audit, whatever you may do as a service." 

And the project manager more steps back globally and helps them go, "What should be flowing at the right time?" And you start to have now a role in the project manager and they can manage this software. We all have to deal with movement software, and it's such a difficult software to deal with, because it takes so much work to manage. You just can't set and forget project management software. And it's not a magic button, a magic bullet that helps your firm become awesome. You all know, and if you've switch project management software or workflow software, you know it's fricking hard to manage. And so at this level, you need somebody to start managing that with you.

And as we get into eight to 10, you start to see the service execution role split even more as they grow into 12 to 25. But at this eight to 10 role, you see this strategic ops coordinator. Now this is a role we've found that's really, it's more of a specific role. It's starting to get into leadership, the strategic operations coordinator, you start handing more to that person and they strategically start having an opinion and a judgment and a say about the strategy of the left hand side of the map, which is the operational movement side of the map. 

And now you'll also note that the service entrepreneur in between is whoops, I went too fast, the service entrepreneur's work is going to just flow right up through there as well. Now, as we built out the service execution part, the right hand side, we're now also building out the left hand side of the operations. And so this strategic operations coordinator has also, excuse me, they have also continued to be in that role, but we're going to find in a minute that those roles can even split into a different place, which is the leadership core.

So when you start getting into eight to 10 people, that's when you start to need to consider leadership. So what we're going to do is we're going to go to a poll and we're going to come back and we're going to see how some of the roles we have right now, how we're going to split them off into the leadership lanes. Note that we haven't hit any of the leadership lanes yet, because you often don't need those until you hit a certain team size. So that's where we're headed next. We'll come back. So let's hit a poll three real quick, Lady.

Lady Maya:

All right. And that third poll should now be on your screen. It says, "Does your firm plan to offer client advisory services?" And your options are listed. This is the third poll out of five. You must answer again three out of the five to get that full CPE credit. All right, I'm going to go ahead and close down this poll in five, four, three, two, one. Back to you, Jason.

Jason Blumer:

Okay. We're making good time on our strategy growth map here. So let's dive back in. This is where we left off, where we've built our team up to this point. And I wanted to just show you all the way through team sizes of 12 to 25, how you just continue to split off roles. A lot of that makes sense as you split, but eight to 10 is a key component where you have to start pulling people. So here's what's happening. The firm entrepreneur is sitting there in the middle and she's effectively split out roles on the movement side. A movement higher is an easier hire than a leadership hire. That probably makes sense. And it often makes more sense to hire and promote from within, from the movement lanes into the leadership lanes, than it is to hire outside, to bring into the leadership lane, if that makes sense.

And you guys start typing in some questions to see how this stuff applies to you and where your firm is, and some of the splits you may have done well or may not have done well, or you don't understand why. Maybe it's not matching with a map. This map is a guide. It's not a specific thing that's going to apply to every single firm in a specific way, but it will guide you more specifically in a strategic way to build. So here we are at eight to 10 and we're in our leadership core. Now we're going to have to start splitting. And what the firm entrepreneur is doing is she's pulling people closer to her, right? 

She's pulling people closer to the growth of the company, the growth of the organization on the left hand side, and the technical management portions on the right hand side, the service side. What is that? That's starting to trust people to act on behalf of the owner, right? The team's just too large. That's why. You need a leadership team at this point. So there's a number of ways you could do this on the operational side, over here. This admin marketing ops person, whoever that may have been, or this strategic operations coordinator. 

These people may be strong enough for you to start pulling them into a role, really a director role, an operations role, and what you're going to find them become is a finance, an HR role. Again, complexity drives a lot of our planning and strategy. So keep that in mind. As your company gets bigger, the more complex it gets, the more that is imposed on you to change your firm's structure in a way that helps you do it without chaos and in a sustainable way.

So now notice what we've done at the eight to 10 role here is we still have our strategic ops coordinator, right? That's still the movement role we need. That's the daily activity. That's the things that are always moving through your company that need to get done, contracting, billing, invoicing, those things like that. But of course you may have delegated some of that too. Now, the operations director, the finance, the HR, so you start to get more specifically. You might label this role an operations manager or an operations director or something like that. 

And it's typically true inside the leadership core, these people need to have some kind of senior related titling manager, director. These kind of things are significations that they are in a particular lane and that's important not only for their role and for them. It's important for the whole company to understand what do titles designate people as their purpose in the firm? And it's important that you label roles very clearly and very specifically. 

So there is some creativity to labeling a role and being very clear. So you have the operations director and you need to start doubling down on understanding your finance and managing your team and caring for them on a human resources level more than you have. And at this point, the service entrepreneurs just can't review all the tax returns or the accounting anymore, right? Maybe they've started not reviewing things, which becomes not good towards service. So they have to pull somebody over from the service movement lane over into the technical manager lane. 

And one way to do that is on the service execution side. If you've pulled somebody into a project manager, that can be an intermediary step of them leading the movement of work, especially if you pull them and you peel that role out of the service execution role, that is it's an accountant or a tax person, you pull them into what you call a project manager, and then you can pop them back over into the service leadership lane too. And they can start becoming the technical person to manage all other things.

And then of course this role can grow even more. And you know what I've done here is I've actually put ... we're about 13 people. So our firm, I'm going to actually give you, the top lane probably looks very similar to our firm. Not exactly, but we have two managers. We have a client services manager and a tax review manager in our firm and the client service, we're an advisory firm. We have about 13 people, but we have about 30 clients. So we go real deep with our clients. And so client services and care related to advisory consultation is very important. 

So we have a person on our team, they used to hang out with me down when I was just the firm entrepreneur, when I kicked my dad out after he started the firm. No, he left, he didn't want to hang out with me anymore, things like that. So she's been there forever. Tax review manager. So we had to split those lanes. One's a consultative how we do service manager. The other one is a technical tax review, tax planning, tax tracking, all of that stuff, and reviewing all the tax returns and things like that. So we split that role out.

And then as you see the firm entrepreneur grow up through here, what do you start to see is that their color starts to lean more heavily towards the green side. And that's what happens to you as a firm entrepreneur is you start leaning more towards the organizational side of your company, and that is very normal and it's sometimes what people don't like about growing their company. It's why they limit themselves. And you do get to, you get to limit yourself down in team sizes one to five, if you want, or solo entrepreneur, which is where you can pull off a lifestyle firm down in the solo entrepreneur row.

But what you have to do to manage the team sizes you're at, is you have to manage your revenue. That's what you'd have to do. Revenue pumping into this firm is causing the need to split. And it causes the need for complexity too. So just keep that in mind as to how you get revenue. So when we get into a level of eight to 10, you're going to find that owner is not doing tons of the technical work, or even at this point, the technical review, because they've pulled somebody into that service leadership lane. 

Now let me say at this size, eight to 10, even at this size, these roles don't fully represent all that they do. So we're at the 12 to 25 and I don't do any tax returns, and I don't typically review tax returns, but I'm the technical person. I've been doing it for almost 30 years. So of course there may be a complicated thing we haven't done before or some sell merger acquisition, or whatever we're getting into with a client. I may step in with a tax review manager and do that work because I want to care for the client. 

So, so it's not a pure definition because you guys know at eight to 10, we do have to just step in and do what we have to do. But more heavily, the firm entrepreneur does lean towards the organizational side. That's where the strategic part is. The right hand side is just a fulfillment of revenue part. And even at this role, we see firm entrepreneurs still keep the sales on their plate. They're still doing a lot of that work to keep the sales on their plate. So at this role, you can see sales org strategy. As you've popped up into 12 to 25, you can start to designate somebody with sales marketing and bus dev.

So typically that role is not something we see happen until at those high levels. We actually have tried in the past to pull out a sales marketing bus dev person in earlier team sizes and it just doesn't work. But at this size, again, you have a lot of people now on the team. You need a more revenue to feed everybody basically. Everybody's got salaries now. You got to have a higher volume of revenue pumping into the company. And it's really at this point, the firm entrepreneur just can't service all of the sales and you may say, "Well, why would you wait this long to split it off?" Because nobody sells like the firm on entrepreneurs sell. They do it best and you only delegate that when you have to, because somebody else just may not sell with a passion and heart that you have.

Okay. So let's see. Let me make sure my lanes are changing here. Okay. I've got a slow delay here. Okay, there we go. So then this ops director, finance and HR person, they start to split now into a more specific finance and HR role. And then we see that firm entrepreneur, they're starting to move more decidedly into the vision and org strategy. And there are even further layers because at this point, you're really going to start to be going crazy unless you get a partner probably at 12 to 25, which I did 10 years ago, or I never would've made it. 

So my partner, Julie, she's like the whole left hand side of this thing, all flowing through her and I'm just there helping. I do a lot of work, but I'm really led and guided. The service team tells me when to review things for them. And Julie's guiding this whole operational team, helping me know when to guide those. So I get to own a lot of vision and strategy, which is a big deal. So I spend a lot of time speaking, writing content, reading, and understanding our market so that I can have the right visions and strategy for what we want to do. So let's hit a poll question four, and then we're going to get into some questions after a few more things.

Lady Maya:

All right. And poll question four should now be on your screen. It says, "Do you provide bill pay services for your clients?" And your options are listed. (silence) All right, those votes are coming in quickly. Fantastic. I'm going to go ahead and leave this open for a few more seconds, and thanks for getting all of those questions in the questions panel. We will address them as soon as we can. And if not, then our presenters will receive a full report on everyone's questions. So don't you worry. I'm going to go ahead and close down this poll in five, four, three, two, one. Back to you, Jason.

Jason Blumer:

Thank you, Lady. So as we are diving into poll question four, what I want to do is just share real quick with you the Thrival incubator. A lot of you may have heard about that, but we do, my partner, Julie and I, we teach a three-day bootcamp basically on growth. And it's like nine, 10 hour days for three days straight. So it's putting people through a lot. So if a lot of this is interesting, we just want to let you know we have one coming up in August and we do run it in a studio, but it is virtual. So it's online, but it is live. And so there's some topics we hit. You get a ton of CPE through the Thrival organization. is so awesome. They'll get us a code and offset some of that. 

So we can take 25% off of that, and we only have five spots left. So we're about to get into some Q and A, and I hope you have some Q and A. And when we do that, I'm going to back up a few screens to get the full map on the screen so we can go through that. So let's hit poll question five, and then we're going to go into Q and A.

Lady Maya:

All right. And that question is now on your screen. It is the final question of the webinar. It says, "Would you be interested in learning about Thrival's three day bootcamp incubator program on firm growth?" And your options are listed. (silence) All right, got some results. There's some votes coming in last minute. Hurry up and get those in. I'm going to ahead and close it out in a few seconds. All right, I'm going to go ahead and close down this poll in five, four, three, two, one. Back to you, Jason.

Jason Blumer:

All right. Before we get into some Q and A, just want to let you know, there's always another webinar coming. And so my friend, Jeff Phillips at Accounting Fly, he's the guy to talk about developing your team in a growing firm. That's a perfect segue out of this map that we've been talking about. Cool thing,, Accounting Fly, they're going to be hanging out with us at our Deeper Weekend conference, which is live and in person, which is freaking awesome. We can't wait. That's at the end of October. So you want to go to to come hang out with Jeff and Jeannie at maybe making it there too. So let's hit into some Q and A. So I think maybe the team is going to come on and help me manage the Q and A. So let me pull back up the map so we can start to ask questions from that. This is the completed map. So who's going to help me with some Q and A management.?

Jeannie Ruesch:

That's going to be me, Jeannie, and I'm very excited about Deeper Weekend. Looking forward to seeing people in person. 

Jason Blumer:

Yes, it's going to be awesome.

Jeannie Ruesch:

Yes. Okay. So questions, we've got some great questions. First one up. Curious where the numbers head count thresholds come from. How have the tipping points been determined and what is the next tipping point after the 12 to 25 mark?

Jason Blumer:

Oh, those are good questions. Those are not scientific. So let me say that. But what those are, are anecdotal patterns that Julie and I have seen in our consulting. So as we do consulting, and we only consult with service-based companies, we see them hit walls at these levels. This is generally where they're hitting a wall. And the next level, I would need to think about that. There starts to become a pretty big jump. The 12 to 25 is already a pretty broad jump. So I think you're going to probably in the next 10 people, you're going to have to have a really strong leadership role where the CEO, that vision and org strategy role, that's all they're doing is vision and org strategy.

And probably at that point, you have more owners involved in the service organization and they've really taken the company over at that time. And so I probably don't want to say, but it probably would be in the thirties, but I'll have to be specific. We consult mostly in this level. Probably all of our clients are 35 team and lower is who we consult with. So those are probably the best team sizes I could consult on now.

Jeannie Ruesch:

All right, next question. We had a few questions around the admin marketing and ops tier between one and five and eight to 10. Does that position stay or is it replaced by the strategic ops coordinator, and what happens to sales and marketing at that tier? 

Jason Blumer:

Yeah. No, that's good. So when that firm entrepreneur, when she first splits those rolls off, the admin marketing and ops role is just a very big glutted role of all the things that firm entrepreneur just cannot get to anymore on a recurring basis. And so it all gets dumped in that role. That role becomes, and you do it a lot of different ways, but you can see over there that admin marketing and ops role can split at that level. You can split them up into the leadership movement lane if you want, or you can retitle them up to a strategic ops coordinator and give them more of a leadership role. 

But yeah, at the eight to 10, you are going to see there's a strategic ops coordinator, which a lot of people would designate as an administrative role. That role is always going to be needed in your firm. But that role, if that person's really good, they'll get promoted up over into the leadership layer, or not, or they'll get replaced. It might be a role that people would be replaced into, but it is one that will grow. So keep that in mind. 

So if you have a friend or a spouse or a part-time person, you're going to start to run into problems too with that strategic ops coordinator, because it really full on becomes a full-time role that handles a lot of movement. So yes, at the eight to 10 role, you are starting to need an ops director and you also need that administrative role of an ops coordinator or whatever you would call it. We call it a strategic operations coordinator in our firm. It could be an administrative person too. And what was the other part of the question, Jeannie?

Jeannie Ruesch:

Let's see, it was-

Jason Blumer:

The last half of it, I think.

Jeannie Ruesch:

What happens to sales and marketing at this tier, which I think you pretty much answered too. 

Jason Blumer:

Yeah. And so that's still, you see decidedly, it is in the firm entrepreneur's role. They're still maintaining sales and org strategy. And again, the sales, when you get somebody else to do sales for you or bus dev, different people will make different calls about that. Some people will have great experiences with people to do that. It is a tricky role to talk about. Amy Franco is an expert at that. She's leading some of these webinars. She can really help define when to put that person into place, how to lead them. It's a hard role to lead. 

And the reason is, which is the reason all of these roles are difficult to lead, a lot of times is because the firm entrepreneur is doing things they don't know they're doing. They're doing it in ways they're unsure of. So when that's true, they don't know how to delegate it to a sales role. And sales is so intimate, personal, there's a lot of nuance to selling, and a firm entrepreneur just becomes good at it and they may not know why. So it's hard to document it in a process and then delegate it to somebody. But those are keys that you have to do as you peel roles off, if that helps.

Jeannie Ruesch:

Excellent. Another great question. I am at myself plus five. I get very bogged down in file review as well as managing the workflow. How do you get past the stage of having to review every file as the main CPA of the firm?

Jason Blumer:

Yes. Isn't that hard? Y'all that is real stuff. You're all going through that. We went through it too. So this has a lot to do with the strategy of hiring. And so here's a way to manage that. What you're feeling is you're needing a capacity, probably a higher level capacity that can review things. And so a lot of times it's hard to know how to peel, but when you're feeling overwhelmed and you can't get to all of the technical review, what you may be feeling is that you haven't properly offloaded onto the left hand side of the map.

That's a thing to consider. And so if you have a part-time administrative or strategic ops coordinator and you keep them part-time, as you move past that one to five, and you're glutted over here with service technicians, a lot of time what you'll do is you'll keep the review, but you have to really offload tons of the operations that you have not yet given to that person.

So that's a lot of time, a strategy you can employ. Now what we do in our firms, and that's why we made this map, is that they automatically feel, "I got to go hire somebody to review tax returns." That's not always right. That's not always the strategy. There's strategy on both sides of this map, and you always have to be balancing those. Now here's another thing we do, and we just did it. A lot of times we'll pre-hire the capacity we need for growth. And so you're always doing that and this is a game and a balance you play. Do you go get more revenue to hire the person? Or do you the hire the person to justify the revenue you're going to go get one day? There's never a magic balance. But when you feel glutted and overwhelmed, here's what you have to do. You have to push through that growth ceiling. You do have to break it in somehow.

And a lot of times that means some kind of jarring move that you would make that probably will scare you. But you may over hire a capacity role, or you may find somebody on your service execution, your service movement lane, and you may say to them, "Hey, you're really doing a great job. I'm going to ask you part-time to move into the service leadership lane and keep your other part-time service movement part to your work." And then you may offload some of the technical review to that. And what are you doing when you're doing this? You're taking risks.

To grow, you have to take risks. To break a growth ceiling, you have to take a risk. So it doesn't work out perfectly, but you have to make moves and see if you can figure it out. But just note that there's strategies on both sides of the map. You have to employ strategies on both sides and it's not always the service side is where you're failing. Sometimes you're not peeling or training or teaching the movement of your firm to other people properly. And you do have to do that.

Though you do see the map and you understand it, that it heavily weighted with people on the right hand side, right? Because our firms are to produce revenue for clients. That's what we do for a living. So you're going to find a lot more people weighted heavily on the service side of the map than the org side. And that's accurate, but there is some strategy in what you delegate in the operational part, which will let you continue to do the technical review maybe for a few more years until you hire those other people. So that's a lot in that answer.

Jeannie Ruesch:

That's a great answer. Another good question for you. What do you think of a COO overseeing both how the internal company operates and overseeing the workflow, SOPs and client service technical teams?

Jason Blumer:

Yeah. So yeah. Yep. There's a mix of that. So this map is really, it's built from an organizational strategy side and a service side. So that's how it's built. Now, this is not an accountability chart, so I want to keep that in mind. So here's where me and my partner, so I'm the CEO and Julie is the COO. So in an org chart or an accountability chart, we are going to be together up at the top and everything flows through Julie as the COO. So that's a great question, because I didn't point out this is not an accountability chart or what some people may think of as an org chart. This is only a map strategy of growth. So that COO is over all parts of the firm, service movement and organizational movement. And it would be depicted differently if it was an accountability structure, that is who's accountable to whom. That's a great differentiation, but yes, the COO is over all of it.

Jeannie Ruesch:

Excellent. We have another clarification on roles. How is the project manager different from the technical manager? Is the project manager like a senior accountant?

Jason Blumer:

Man, that's a great question. You can be as creative as you want. Probably the project manager could be probably somebody leaning towards the senior side of their work. What you're finding is that project manager, they are a movement. You see they're in a mini lane over there. They're in a technical project movement role. And what they're doing is they're starting to care more specifically about the movement of all contracts and all service related scope flowing through the company. So the project manager now has stepped out of serving those four clients they serve. And now the project manager cares about all of the client's work.

And so what they care about is moving the work through the firm, prioritizing it, keeping it all dated appropriately as to what all the clients need. And they have to also manage the software that does that too. That's what that role is for, because at this level eight to 10, you find nobody's managing the workflow software. But if any of you have grown a firm to some level, you know workflow management software does not manage itself. It needs to be cared for, monitored, changed, have things input, have things taken out of it. 

The technical manager, on the other hand, they are specifically going to review stuff when they're given those things to review. They're going to make judgements and decisions about how do we treat tax things or how do we book a sale into the financial statements of a client, those kind of things. That technical manager is just part of the review of technical work, where the project manager starts to manage the movement of the work. So let me just say how those may look. A project manager, you'll find our project managers do, and in our firm, our client services manager doubles as a project manager too.

You'll find them doing project management huddles. So the technical team huddle up with the project manager weekly for five to 10 minutes. Sometimes I'll do it on a very technical project I've sold that's very complex and take six months to pull off. I'll huddle. I'll do project management huddling weekly with the team to go, "Where are we? Did you get this done? What priorities do you have this upcoming week?"

The project manager is always tapping into the workflow and the calendar of those service execution people, moving them along, looking for barriers. And so it can be true that a project manager in a bigger firm, you can pull them over into the service leadership lane too. They can become a leadership position with that technical manager too. That's a great question.

Jeannie Ruesch:

Those are fantastic answers. I think we have two minutes or one minute left. 

Jason Blumer:

Do it. 

Jeannie Ruesch:

So on the last question, where should people start?

Jason Blumer:

Where should they start? All right. I might need some more specifics to that question. I might have to make it up. That's all it says though, right, Jeannie. 

Jeannie Ruesch:

What step to take, like if there's so much, where should they just look first?

Jason Blumer:

Okay. So the first thing I would do is I'm thankful Jeannie and the team would even want to develop this kind of map. I would want you to look at where your firm is on this, not feel bad about it, but let this be some sense of a guide and ask yourself, "Have I peeled my roles out effectively? And can I peel my roles?" That is, have you been developing? The firm entrepreneur should be developing processes to those allow for proper peeling of the role. So am I developing a numbered system that lets me peel the role effectively? Because you got to hand that role something. When you peel it off of the firm entrepreneur, you got to hand them something, and what you're handing that role is a process. 

You're saying, "These 12 processes are yours. You do them. You go through steps one through seven on this process every Monday. You do it. I'm not going to do it anymore." And when they need help, you'll help them. So that's probably what you need to do, find out where you are, and do you think you've peeled your roles effectively? And are you able to peel your role? Also, I hope you'll see, I've been very specific with the titling of your team. You do want to make sure you title your team appropriately. 

Titles are clarity significations to not only the person that's taken the job, right, but also to the rest of the team. They go, "That title means that. I know who that is. That's clarity." It's also pretty good for the external clients too. They know who to go to, to get proper care. So make sure you've titled your roles and see that they are creative. You can get very creative in your titles if you want to. Just make sure they're very clear about what they do. So, okay, Jeannie, we ran out of time. Didn't we?

Jeannie Ruesch:

Yes we did.

Lady Maya:

All right, we're going to go ahead and get ready to wrap up with today's webinar. We here CPA Academy will process credit later today. That'll be available in your CPA Academy accounts within 24 hours. Everyone will have an opportunity for a full webinar evaluation. Those links to the evaluation are available in your CPA Academy accounts, as well as your email. Thanks again to our wonderful presenter, Jason.

Jeannie Ruesch:

Thank you.

Lady Maya:

And thank you to for such a great presentation. We are always appreciative of your time and insights and warm thanks to all of you in the audience for your participation today. We urge you to take a look at your CPA Academy my account page, and see all of the resources that we have made available to you there, and to take a look at the other fantastic webinars we are able to offer. We hope to see you all on future webinars and hope you have a great rest of the day. Goodbye. 

Jason Blumer:

Take care. Bye-bye.