Firm Journey | Winter 2020
People: The Driver of Your CPA Firm’s Success
Here’s why your team is the heart of your firm and the most important part of propelling it forward.
Tim Jipping, CPA, CGMA
Owner, Journey Advisors & CPAs
I’m sad to say that this will be my last Firm Journey column for a while. I love sharing my
ideas and experiences with you all and trying to help advance our profession however I
can but, after a lot of reflection, I’ve made the decision to step back. Why? I need to focus
on my own team right now. And I think you should ensure that taking care of your own team
is at the top of your to-do list, too.
If you lead a firm (or any organization), this year’s events have likely reawakened you to the
importance of your team. If you as the leader are the brain of your firm, your clients are the
oxygen, and your team is the heart. The only way the brain continues to function and the
oxygen continues to circulate is if the heart is healthy. Your team is the most important part
of your firm.
If there’s anything I can impart in this column, it would be to focus on your firm’s heart. If
global pandemics, operational disruptions, and shifting client portfolios have taught us
anything, it’s that our firms are only as good as the teams they’re composed of. If you had
the right people on your team back in March, I can almost guarantee that you grew in 2020.
Think about that: You were likely growing before, but then were able to take off during a
recession! That’s the power of a proper team. Here’s how to make sure your people are
positioned to propel your firm forward.
Assess Your Team's Health
If you had an incomplete team throughout 2020, the concept of healthy growth for the year
was likely wishful thinking. If that turned out to be true, I encourage you to take some time to
evaluate your team structure, alignment, and individual member performance. This must be
considered with the backdrop of where your firm is heading, not where you are right now.
To assess your team, ponder questions like: What are our strategic objectives? How does
our team structure and composition align with meeting those objectives? What are the
values of our firm? Do our current team members share the values of our firm? Where are
our talent and expertise gaps, and where do we have an overabundance?
Establish Shared Values, Diverse Skills
If you’ve ever met someone that you seem to click with right away, it’s very likely you share
common values. Conversely, if you seem to naturally butt heads with someone, your values are probably different. This doesn’t mean
you don’t share any values, it’s simply
where they land in rank.
I identified my own value ranking in an
assessment a few years ago. The top five
were perseverance, creativity, humor,
kindness, and honesty. The quality of
humility landed near the bottom of my list.
It’s not that I don’t value humility, it’s that
I value creativity and honesty more. So
if I run into a person with more self-confidence,
which can sometimes be
perceived as arrogance, who I also find to
be creative and honest, I’m more likely to
connect with them easily and quickly—
while someone who values humility above
all else would likely not have an instant
chemistry with the same person.
The values of a firm are what shapes its
culture. A successful team is built of people
that have their most important values in
common and shape a shared culture. Once
you have that foundation, the next step is
building your team’s strengths.
Unlike their values, the strengths held by
your team members must be varied and
diverse. For instance, a team full of strong
executors seems like a great idea, but
without strategic thinkers they’d be
directionless, and without influencers the
strategic thinkers’ new ideas may never get
off the ground. Teams made up of people
with shared values and discrete but
complementary strengths is the key to
Invest in Your Future
I’ve said it before in this column and I’ll say
it one last time: Now is the best time to
bring on superstar talent to grow your firm
for the future. The pandemic and resulting
business disruptions have put many
extremely talented CPAs on the job market,
either due to layoffs and furloughs or
because they’re questioning what they
really want out of their careers.
Your firm’s success really does boil down
to who you have on your team. As the great
business writer Jim Collins says in his
bestseller “Good to Great,” “The executives
who ignited the transformations … first got
the right people on the bus (and the wrong
people off the bus) and then figured out
where to drive it.” If you get the right people
on your bus and invest in them, there won’t
be an obstacle, disruption, or pandemic
that will keep you from driving your firm