Joe Woodard, President and CEO of Woodard Consulting Group shares some of his tips on practice management.
There is no doubt that delegating takes more time and energy than simply doing the task yourself. Delegating also requires trust in your employees to get the job done and requires you to be less than a perfectionist about how the work is done. When you consider the key factors of delegating listed above, it is easy to see why accounting professionals struggle in this area. Though there are legitimate reasons for being a sole practitioner, the failure to trust others and a hyper-perfectionist mindset are not among them. Consider the following strategies to maximize the performance at your firm:
Empowerment is a buzz word right now in countless business development materials, but don’t let the faddish aspects distract you from the significance here. If you empower your employees to make decisions (with your guidance) and to accomplish tasks (under your review) you will find potential in your staff that you never dreamed possible. The empowered associate develops professionally and provides quality work in increasing measure. The empowered employee also accepts “ownership” of client tasks (not relationships) and elevates his/her work from “job” to “career.” (There is more on the “ownership” principle below.) The over-managed employee actually regresses into either frustration or imitation (of you) and never reaches his or her full potential – for you or for your firm.
Certainly empowerment is risky. Even the positive word “ownership” has negative connotations (divisions and mass client loss due to the loss of professional staff). However, if you carefully guide the employee, evaluate the employee (creatively) and review his/her work, you will find that essential and incredible balance between risk of client loss and performance on client engagements that your firm desperately needs. When you loosen the reins a little on your staff, you will also find more time in your day to use for client work.
Hyper-management is yet another “time piranha.” Mentor, rather than manage, and let your employees amaze you. If they don’t follow your lead, mentor more aggressively. If they still don’t “amaze” you, phase them out of your practice and recruit those who will take ownership of the tasks assigned to them, will accept your mentorship, and will develop professionally.
Motivational Leadership – Fostering Employee “ownership” mindset through Productivity and New Client Bonuses
In the section above there is an important distinction between your employee’s ownership of client tasks and ownership of client relationships. There is no end to the war stories about associates who break off from the firm and take a host of clients with them. However, if you stay engaged with the client (through regular contacts, evaluation, and an appropriate level of billings) you can reduce this risk while benefiting from the positive, essential aspects of employee “ownership.”
The best way to promote employee “ownership” is by sharing some of the profits with your associates. If you want your associates to act like partners – and to aspire to actually become partners – begin rewarding them as “mini-partners” from the moment you recruit them. The two primary bonus types are productivity and new business. Of course, the productivity bonus encourages the employee to push as hard as possible when completing tasks and the new client bonus encourages the employee to bring new clients to the table – to “evangelize” for your firm.
The bonus incentives also protect you, to some degree, from associates leaving your firm. Finding qualified QuickBooks consultants is almost as difficult as keeping them. With over 3.5 million QuickBooks clients in the U.S. and only 50,000 ProAdvisors, QuickBooks consultants are highly marketable. However, if your associate has an appropriate sense of ownership and if the associate loses residual new business bonuses by leaving your firm, the employee will benefit by staying with your organization as long as possible, and your employee retention will increase.
An employee’s productivity bonus should be based on the average hourly rate they bill, as well as how many billable hours they work. In this way, as the owner, you are measuring productivity across two, critical dimensions, and providing an employee compensation model that rewards both measures.
From the Editor - "Joe Practices what He Teaches"
Joe Woodard founded Woodard Consulting Group in 2002 after years training accounting professionals as the Vice President of a national training company that equips accounting professionals to support their clients who use QuickBooks. Since that time, WCG has grown to include several high-level consultants as well as a staff of bookkeepers who provide online, real time bookkeeping support for small businesses that use QuickBooks.
Over the past 10 years, Woodard Consulting Group has grown 200% annually and has expanded its client base beyond the Atlanta market, acquiring clients in numerous locations across the U.S. WCG is a valued partner with and consultant to Intuit - the developers of QuickBooks - and enjoys a national reputation among other consultants and accounting professionals as one of the best accounting and inventory software consulting firms in the country.