Let’s face it…change is an ever-present element in the accounting profession. Whether it’s the advent of newer and better technologies, a pandemic-driven remote workforce “craze” or new tax code mandates—change is a constant you can count on.
Veteran firm owners Martha and Martin, partners at Klein, Rowe, & Co (KRC), understand this. Over the past several months, they’ve worked hard to implement change at every level of firm operations—from pricing model and staffing to building a technology stack for the modern era. But will these changes stick? Are they long-lasting? These are the questions at the forefront of the partners’ minds today.
Join Klein, Rowe & Co, our fictional case study firm, as they learn from our Automating Success webinar series. In each webinar, our thought leaders will share their expertise on how this firm might address those challenges. In each KRC follow-up, we'll share with you what our fictional firm has learned and the next steps they might take to reimagine their firm. Please note: our case study and follow-up articles are fictional and intended for entertainment and educational purposes only.
Martha and Martin went into this last Automating Success webinar, “How to create change in your firm that sticks,” with one major objective: to gain insight on building an effective change management plan. The partners agreed that adopting a structured, well-communicated plan is the key to implementing change that sticks.
What KRC learned…
For change to stick, having a structured method in place is mandatory. This means that every change runs through the same machine; that it adheres to a uniform process.
The webinar introduced the partners to six basics steps of effective change management:
- Start with your “Why”: This comes down to why you do what you do. What problems do you want to solve for clients? To what degree do you want to improve your clients’ lives? Keeping your “Why” at the forefront and communicating it frequently to staff sets you up for successful change management because everyone stays on the same page.
- Assess yourself: As your firm evolves, it’s important to conduct regular assessments to ensure that you are staying true to your “Why.” As leaders, it’s easy to get distracted by changes that are imposed on you, so staying close to your core values, your vision…your Why…is important. Regular firm assessments help to keep you moving forward with positive change that is accepted and understood across the business.
- Craft (or refine your existing) vision: A firm’s vision serves as its internal mantra. It’s the guiding light that helps staff (across departments and roles) navigate expectations in terms of services offered and client experience. When everyone is aligned with the firm’s vision, it creates a strong, unified force—where everyone is working to provide the same rich client experience, foster a positive culture and uphold core values.
- Get agreement: This is where firm-wide buy in is so important. Implementing change can be slowed considerably when people feel left out of the process or don’t understand why changes are taking place or how those changes impact them. Implementation will further slow if proposed changes don’t align with the firm’s vision.
- Implement: Once buy in occurs, the next step is taking action. This is the practical work of implementing change. A strong implementation plan ensures that every new effort follows the same process. And familiarity and structure breed both confidence and trust among staff.
- Repeat: The idea here is to stay true to leadership. This requires leaders to be vigilant about identifying change, staying on top of progress, and consistently evaluating where the firm is in meeting it’s vision. Successful firms are those that adopt an ongoing cycle of leadership repetition—that is, continually communicating core values and offering daily reminders of why they do what they do.
KRC action items…
To implement change that sticks, you must have a plan. The partners understand this and have created a list of new to-dos:
- Look inward first. Assess their goals and how well those ladder up to the mission of their firm. Take stock of what they believe their firm vision and culture is and how they show up for their employees.
- Select a diverse group of staff members from across the firm to be part of a change management planning team. Part of the goal of this team is to provide feedback on the levels of trust in the company and on how the partners see the firm themselves. There needs to be a mix of voices and experience in the room to truly create the right changes and ensure that everyone is heard. Without trust, people can’t be vulnerable enough to be honest.
- With the team’s involvement, create and launch a firm assessment survey to all staff, encouraging honest and open feedback. This type of qualitative data will be used to uncover issues that partners might not have realized. It will also further perpetuate inclusion.
- Once survey data is in hand, evaluate their areas of change and make sure those align with the firm’s “Why” and also resonate for what their employees need.
- Over the course of the next twelve months, continue to implement change using a standardized process, including effectively communicating changes to staff and always inviting employee input for improvement.
Feel free to use any of the ideas listed above to help create a sound change implementation plan in your firm—and make it stick!
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