Is your firm all bundled up for
America’s economic winter?
Use this winter to refocus your energy for
the next rebirth
trust. Firms with strong values employ professionals with high integrity, people who keep
their word, professionals with good manners
and cultural decency. In winter, make sure
your employees are meeting more with clients and in the community.
Still feeling shaky about the economy?
Not sure whether to pull the trigger on that
massive technology investment or acquire
that Chicago office? Your instincts are good:
America is in a period of economic winter,
and we haven’t bottomed out yet.
And all of this was predicted.
America goes through four distinct sea-
sons, or “turnings.” Like climatic seasons,
America’s turnings are knowable and pre-
dictable. William Strauss and Neil Howe
wrote about them in their 1997 book, “The
Here’s how the four seasons have shaped
America. Perhaps you’ll see some of your
firm’s history here:
• Spring (the first turning) started after
World War II. Everyone felt terrific, GIs were
getting a college education, the economy was
booming and the middle class was expanding.
Hope was in the air. Traditionalists (b. 1925-
1944) were newlyweds and young adults, and
Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) were just being
born. It was a time of euphoria.
• Summer (the second turning) was in
full swing by the “Summer of Love.” An air
of anti-authoritarianism set in, and Boomers — America’s next generation of youth —
played this role well: They marched. They
sat in. They radicalized. Traditionalists felt
a huge “generation gap” between themselves and Boomers. During that summer,
Gen Xers (b. 1961-1981) were just kids.
• Autumn (the third turning), American
institutions and ideals started to show signs
of decay: widening inequality, gas lines,
Watergate, the Iran-Contra Scandal, the
farm crisis, spiking divorce rates. Traditionalists were starting to retire. Boomers
BY REBECCA RYAN
were taking over, Gen Xers were joining the
workforce, and Millennials (b. 1982-2001)
were just being born.
• Winter (the fourth turning) blew in with
the 2008 financial crisis and is expected to
follow a historical pattern: an initial spark
(Wall Street’s collapse) will set off a chain
reaction of further emergencies related to
debt, civic decay and global disorder. Winter is expected to hit its apex in 2020, making way for spring around 2025. In winter,
Boomers will enter elderhood, Gen Xers
will assume leadership, and Millennials
will become America’s next-generation
no time to
sell off your
a turn at
• Build stronger, more efficient teams.
Strauss and Howe advise, “In the Fourth
Turning, the rewards will grow for people
with a reputation for accepting authority and working well in teams. Stress less
about what sets you apart as an individual
[which was the norm during summer and
autumn], and more about what you have in
common with others.” The time for big egos
and narcissistic self-promotion has passed.
Winter requires strong teams that can work
together without friction to achieve remarkable results.
• Get lean.
Winter is going to last a while, and to survive, smart teams will root out waste wherever it exists. Duplication or rework that might
have been standard during fatter times are
heavy burdens in winter. Use lean processes,
effective dashboards and best-in-class practices to track and eliminate waste.
What will smart CPA firms do during
Rebecca Ryan is the founder of Next Generation Consulting (http://nextgeneration-
consulting.com/), which studies the work
preferences of younger employees. She is a
member of The Advisory Board.
• Return to the core values your firm was
When people face winter’s uncertainty,
they get uneasy. With C-Span playing in your
lobbies, everyone walking through reception
is reminded of the world’s lack of predictability. To keep people grounded and focused,
remind and reinforce your firm’s core values — and stick to them. Strong values give
people comfort and a shared direction.
• Work to earn a good reputation with
clients as well as your community.
In winter, people turn to those they can
• Trade in visions of market domina-
tion for consistent, year-after-year perfor-
Accounting Today’s Growth & Profitability Summit speaker Jeffrey Ma ended
his keynote address in Las Vegas by
discussing one very big blackjack hand.
It was a turning point: down $100,000
he could have easily make the emotional
decision to walk away. Instead, he looked
at the flip side. If he didn’t play, he
couldn’t lose — but he also couldn’t win.
Ma stayed, ending the weekend ahead
$70,000, and later became the subject
of the book “Bringing Down the House”
and the movie “ 21.”
“People make decisions fearing failure
rather than embracing profit,” Ma said.
During the practice management track
I chaired, president of Golden Practices,
Michelle Golden, urged accountants to
get into the blogging game, noting that
CPAs lag behind the legal profession.
The blogs that do exist are mundane,
and of the roughly 250 accounting blogs,
only about 40 are niche-specific.
“A lot of CPA firms blog, but don’t
have conversations with people online,”
Golden explained. “You won’t get leads
at the passive level.”
The marketing professionals compos-
ing the final day’s lead-generation panel
began with the basics, attempting to
convert the audience from an outbound
marketing approach to one combining
both out- and inbound marketing.
The session elicited questions that
came more from a fear of the unknown
than Ma’s described fear of failure, as
the panelists explained everything from
social media to video hosting.
Some audience members expressed
a disconnect with their marketing team,
making it clear they would have to be
advocates for change in their firms.
It was a sentiment Rita
Keller, president and
founder of Keller
Advisors, expressed during
her session on
and embracing a diverse
quo is not an op-
— Danielle Lee