Tracy Crevar Warren

From Survive to THRIVE

Ten sure-fire ways to make the shift.

June 8, 2009
by Tracy Crevar Warren

As we face this new economy, the BIG questions firm leaders need to ask “What is our firm doing about it?” “Are we approaching this as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage, or are we merely reacting to get us through eminent danger?”
To many, a crisis hardly seems like the right time to get innovative, strategic. When dramatic changes occur, it is difficult for most organizations to do anything but react. Short-term decisions are often made to get the organization through the crisis, and then it’s back to business as usual.
But wait! A brave few are looking through a different lens. These savvy leaders are seeing this new world order as a chance to make a difference. They know this is the time to not just survive but to thrive. They are taking the opportunity to build stronger organizations both inside and out.

How to Thrive

Is your firm is so numb from the expense-cutting that it is missing valuable hidden potential? If you are ready to move from survive to thrive, here are 10 best-practice tips to help you get started.

  1. Quit reacting — Look past immediate threats.
    Be strategic. Consider the long-term consequences of your decisions. For example, as you look to reduce head count, consider whether you can live with your laid-off staff working for a competitor? Will you be able to rebuild your team with similar talent once the market rebounds?
  2. Dare to be different.
    It is impossible to gain a competitive advantage if your firm does the same thing as the one down the street. Unfortunately most CPA firms are afraid to be different. Understand how your firm is different. Have the courage to use your differences to your favor. Both your employees and your clients will thank you. Your new recruits will too!
  3. Revisit your firm’s vision and growth agenda.
    When was the last time you looked at your firm’s vision and growth agenda? Are you still on track? Are there areas that need to be tweaked? It is important to have a clear picture of where you are heading and how you will get there. If not, it is easy to get off course by accepting new work outside your area of expertise in order to pay the bills. Beware. Veering off course can cause problems in the future.  
  4. Harness the power of your best asset — engage everyone in the growth challenge.
    Share your firm’s vision and growth agenda with your entire team. Help them understand where the firm is going. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, one that is growing. Enable your employees understand that practice growth is everyone’s business. Hold strategy sessions to engage them in the process. You will be amazed with the new profitable ideas that result. In addition, your team will get stronger in the process.
  5. Be passionate about your clients.
    You know that taking care of your clients is one of the most important jobs your firm has. Are you truly passionate about serving your clients, or are you simply going through the motions? Like you, your clients are currently re-evaluating their relationships with service providers. Is the value they are receiving from you worth the fees they are paying? Consider new ways to strengthen your value. Get your team involved in this ever-important mission. Your clients and your practice are depending on it.
  6. Review your position in the marketplace.
    Now is a perfect time to review your standing in the marketplace. How are you perceived these days? What are they saying about you, if anything? Is it reflective of the things you want it to? Get started by asking your best clients, referral sources, alumni and other friends of the firm. You might find that this is time to make some new noise. Or it may be time to keep reinforcing the positive message that is already out there and being spread by others.
  7. Encourage innovation.
    Remember how innovative your firm was in its entrepreneurial phase? New ideas were generated from everyone. Is this still the case in your firm or are people paralyzed by the recent struggles? Use this rebirth to recapture the same type of innovative environment. Make it part of your management meetings. Brag about the new revelations and the results which follow. Reward it!
  8. Tell great stories.
    Times of uneasiness are one of the best opportunities to tell great stories. Why? Many people have lost hope. They need to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Start inside your firm, and then move outside. Showcase how employees are succeeding by bringing the firm’s values to life. Find opportunities to tell success stories and those of hope for a better future.
  9. Make sure it’s a FUN place to work.
    Is your firm an enjoyable place to work these days? To survive in the new economy, have firm leaders accidentally created a place that people dread coming to each day? What are your employees saying about it? Your firm’s attitudes are reflected in your interactions with clients, prospects, referral sources and recruits. You better believe job satisfaction is related to profitability. Take time to make it fun again.
  10. Create a movement.
    Seth Godin’s new book — Tribes — encourages leaders to start efforts or movements that unite people behind a common cause and in turn fuel that effort. People want something to stand for especially in these tough times. Make THRIVE a movement in your firm.
Start today! Can you afford to wait?

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Tracy Crevar Warren, president and founder of The Crevar Group, advises professional services firms striving to grow and maximize performance. She is an author and frequent speaker on various growth, business development, and marketing topics for local, regional, national, and international audiences. Warren can be reached at 336-889-GROW (4769).