After three days at the “Winning is Everything” conference, I started to consider what it really takes to be the best? Is there a formula for success? Can it be taught?

Whatever the secret, one thing is certain; almost every session of the conference culminated in one common theme – to remain relevant in the face of increasing competition the need to innovate and use technology to drive greater client service has become paramount.

With that in mind, here are my key takeaways from the conference speakers - and what I consider to be the five pillars required for a successful growth strategy for accounting and professional services firms: 

I. Have a plan that prioritizes the client experience
Barry Alverez, the Director of Athletics at the University of Wisconsin, gave keynotes the first day stressing that whether it is in business or on the football field, developing a plan is essential. In the evolving world of accounting, providing the best client experience is paramount. Ideas, concepts and the technology to implement them are all key ingredients—but it’s building a better business model with the clients’ needs at the core that will get you to your goal.


II. Create a dedicated role and/or team to implement
Chief Innovation Officer, VP of Strategy and Planning, or even “Chief Dot Connecter” (an affectionate term the son of L. Gary Boomer bestowed his father)...the list goes on. More and more organizations -regardless of industry- are creating new roles that lead the demand for innovation and embrace the fact the world is continually changing at a rapid rate. Looking at a new and better way of doing things is no one and everyone’s job.  Holding a person, and subsequently a team, responsible for the development of your organization's growth is essential. 


III. Leverage Technology as the Accelerant
Gale Crosley (of Crosley and Company), said it best at the conference when she explained that the main driver of revenue growth at firms is technology. Technology and the ability to deliver competitive client services are more closely tied than ever in todays market. A solution like Huddle is used by accounting firms as a next generation client engagement platform - a secure cloud environment for firms to track project milestones and securely share content, greatly differentiating your offering, and pleasing your customers.
Harnessing technology that can help you differentiate your offering and increase client engagement is invaluable in an industry where this relationship has become so important. Forget about your chargeable time, concentrate on the operational excellence you deliver to clients - because their satisfaction is the key to keeping and growing that business.


IV. People are your strongest asset, capitalize on them
From a 1998 interview with Fortune, Steve Jobs Former, CEO at Apple said, "Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it." These aspects mostly focus on finding the right people in your organization to help lead the change. Find those A-players and bring them into the fold on your firm’s strategic efforts. Chances are they’re already on the front lines in the battle against redundancy vs. innovation.


V. Don’t be afraid to fail…. and try again
Change is hard and failure is uncomfortable. The truth is that when trying to implement large-scale change towards something different, the chances of hitting a homerun, right off the bat, are slim. Complex plans with several stakeholders and many moving parts will require fine-tuning that is often discovered after something doesn’t work or a problem occurs. If organizations don’t allow room for error, this will greatly hinder any efforts around innovation.

It took inventor Thomas Edison 1000 attempts before he created the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." These seemingly high-risk attempts to improve your business process must be given the space to grow and improve.

 

 

Jessica Ray

Head of Demand Generation

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