BY L. GARY BOOMER
“At your next
Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of
Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.
Most accountants (particularly partners) complain about wasted time during meetings. I suspect
this is because many, if not most, meetings
in accounting firms are poorly managed. By
improving meetings, your firm can increase
performance with a focus on solving issues,
rather than just identifying and discussing
them. Open discussion is healthy, but resolution is what differentiates high performers.
Let’s begin with the basics of partner meetings, because problems often start there.
Develop and stick to an agenda. Doing so
requires discipline and structure. Record
decisions and assign tasks with due dates to
people whether they are in attendance or not.
Doing this ensures accountability and can be
easily tracked with tools such as Microsoft
SharePoint and Outlook. Get rid of paper and
utilize a flat panel or projection system in order to keep everyone focused. Links to any
relevant documents should be sent to attend-ees in advance; however, people do not need
to bring paper to the meetings. Any relevant
documents can be displayed on screen.
The following is a sample agenda for a
monthly partner meeting that includes suggestions to save time and be more efficient.
Item 1: Call to order. Start on time. No
Item 2: Positive review. Ask each participant to share their most positive experience
(or accomplishment) during the previous 30
days. This process sets a positive tone at the
outset, so that issues can be discussed and
solved. (Each person should spend no more
than 30 seconds while taking a turn.)
Item 3: Review previous-period scorecard. The meeting director should present
a brief summary of the firm’s scorecard. This
includes important metrics that drive the
economic engine. Limit the time for this,
though, because accountants can easily get
caught in the numbers.
Item 4: Firm core values and vision. Have
a copy available in the event of discussions or
decisions. Values and a vision make decision-making faster and easier.
Item 5: Review unresolved issues and
tasks from previous meeting. This is about
accountability. Utilize technology and pres-
ent a quick report of issues that are still un-
resolved from the previous meeting. Don’t
be afraid to show names and due dates, and
seek a report on status.
STAY FOCUSED AND ACCOUNTABLE
Most partners are great at identifying issues.
They are not as great at openly discussing the
issues (especially the “elephants” or tough
issues) and tend to get caught in the “tangent
trap.” I challenge you at your next meeting to
count the number of tangents people take
when trying to solve a single issue. Doing
so is human nature and requires discipline,
leadership and a culture of trust to overcome.
With a high level of trust, the number of issues that make it to a partner meeting is few.
Most will be resolved and tasks assigned by
firm management. Procrastination is the
Accountability is a process, not a slogan. It
starts at the top by addressing issues head on
and resolving them. Non-accountable partners tend to avoid specific measurements,
demand equality, talk in abstracts, and ridicule excellence. Accountable partners will
strengthen standards, welcome measurement,
take initiative, and deepen commitments.
While this list is not thorough, the tone
is set during firm meetings. How your firm
discusses and solves issues is a process. Processes can be efficient or inefficient. Great
meetings are not about the technology, but it
can be utilized to assist the leader or manager
and to hold participants accountable.
“Edge,” or the ability to make a decision, is
one of the top criteria of a partner. Many in
the accounting profession have a propensity
to gather more information and organize it
for presentation purposes. You can live with
an issue, end it or change it. The decision is
yours. Putting off the decision and justifying
procrastination because you can immerse
yourself in client problems is not an acceptable excuse. Napoleon Hill said, “Lack of
decision and procrastination are the major
causes of failure.” Your firm should come first,
and resolving issues promotes confidence,
clarity and the capacity to perform at a higher
level. You must have accountability in order
to get to the next level.
If your firm is having troubles in these areas,
Gino Wickman, in his excellent book
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, provides 10
commandments for dealing with issues that
apply to your firm and your clients.
1. Thou shall not rule by consensus.
2. Thou shall not be a weenie (strong will,
firm resolve and willingness to make tough
3. Thou shall be decisive. Don’t procrastinate.
4. Thou shall not rely on secondhand information.
5. Thou shall fight for the greater good.
6. Thou shall not try to solve them all.
7. Thou shall live with it, end it or change
8. Thou shall choose short-term pain and
suffering. Solve it now, rather than later.
9. Thou shall enter the danger. The issue
you fear the most is the one you most need
to discuss and resolve.
10. Thou shall take a shot. Propose a solution.
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