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The Real Deal in LEADERSHIP… Applying Strategic Planning to Move Firms

Column: My Perspective

From the Nov. 2009 Issue

True visionaries and masters of strategy are those
who have the courage and foresight to solve issues before they occur, as well
as the ability to anticipate and exploit future opportunities. Let’s face
it; the issues that continue to plague our profession cannot be solved with
short-term tactical thinking. I believe that firms can and should operate more

Philosopher Jim Rohn said: “If you don’t have a plan for what
you want, then you will probably find yourself buying into someone else’s
plan and later find out that wasn’t the direction you wanted to go. You’ve
got to be the architect of your life.” I fully agree with his words and
suggest we all have to be the architect of our firms. I’ve often thought
that if I didn’t practice accounting, I would have enjoyed being an architect.
I truly enjoy strategizing, designing and building. And in a way, I guess that
is what I do as a tax and accounting professional.

owever, instead of developing concrete structures, I have the unique opportunity
to assist my colleagues in designing and building stronger, more viable practices.

When you hear the term Leadership, you probably think: “I lead every
day; I’m answering staff questions and client questions, and I’m
making decisions. What more is there?” To be clear, I want to emphasize
that I am referring to strategic leadership and not tactical leadership. For
me, strategy begins by identifying what I want out of my firm. Do I want to
grow to be the biggest firm in town or stay small? Do I want to work 75 hours
a week or do I want more of a balance with my personal life?

The point when leaders define what they really want out of their business
directly relates to Steven Covey’s theory that asserts: “Begin with
the end in mind” (from his best-selling book “The Seven Habits of
Highly Effective People”). Through my consulting activity with firms,
I find that many firm leaders do not adhere to this philosophy. Most have simply
never defined what they want out of their firm.

Consider this example:
Have you tried going into Starbucks and ordering a cheeseburger? I
would guess that everyone would answer with a stern, “No!”

We all know that Starbucks doesn’t sell cheeseburgers. We also know
that Starbucks is famous
for premium coffees and an aesthetically pleasing environment. But why do we
know this?

Answer: Because Starbucks long ago defined its offerings,
which is consistent across branding, marketing and delivery efforts. This is
strategy at its finest!

What I’m getting at by offering this example is that firms must take
the time to really define what they do (service offerings) — create an
accounting menu if you will. Only then can firms begin to build a workable business
model. If leaders don’t take time to define services, how are staff and
clients supposed to understand what it is the firm does or how it is done? Once
the menu is scribed, firms can then begin to strategically think about their
communications and service delivery methods.

Advanced leaders are visionaries; they are the master architects of their
firms. I suggest you take some time to research, design and build your delivery
system … and think outside the box while you are doing it. Remember, long-term
survival and growth begins by having the right business model in place.

I’ve spent the last couple of months working on refining my own firm’s
business model and delivery options. It’s a lot of hard work and requires
dedicated strategic thinking. However, the payoff is much greater than the effort
put in. It’s the only way to effectively move my firm forward, which is
realized through satisfied clients, increased profits and true work/life balance.

See inside November 2009 issue

Professional Networks & User Communities Let Pros Turn to Their Peers for Advice

Special Feature


Are You Up to the Communication Challenge?

Column: Real Stories, Real Solutions