Tracy Crevar Warren

Keys to Success in Culture Development

Seven tips revealed.

February 13, 2012
by Tracy Crevar Warren

Tacking marketing and sales onto the firm’s list of “to-dos” is one thing, but to truly build it into your firm’s culture is entirely different. To be successful at the latter requires the involvement and support of your firm’s top leaders. After all, top leaders set the tone for behavior in your firm and are the ones your employees look to for direction and gauging priorities. When employees see the importance that top leaders place on marketing and sales, they will come to understand that it is also a priority for them.

The following are some of the ways in which firm leaders can play an active role in supporting and promoting the firm’s marketing and sales initiatives:

  • Involvement in initial marketing and sales kickoff meetings;
  • Regular updates to the firm that highlight marketing and business development success;
  • Active participation in marketing the firm and bringing in new business;
  • Coaching up-and-coming rainmakers;
  • Introducing younger professionals to counterparts of their referral network members;
  • Taking part in the firm’s marketing and sales training programs;
  • Recognizing and celebrating employees for business development success.
  1. It Takes Time

Changing your firm’s culture does not happen overnight. Just think how long it has taken your organization to become what it is today. Although you may start to see signs of success in a few months, a true shift in the way you do things will take several years to become part of the norm in your firm. This is an area that many firms struggle with in culture development. We live in a society that wants immediate gratification.

Unfortunately, changing behaviors doesn’t work like that. It is important to not only realize this from the onset, but to set clear expectations with your team. One of the best places to start is when you are introducing your firm’s vision to your employees. Talk about the process and the time and effort that will be involved. Let them know it is something you are committed to for the long-term. Continue to reinforce this message.

  1. Key Concept

We live in a society that wants immediate gratification. Unfortunately, changing behaviors doesn’t work like that. It is important to not only realize this from the onset, but to set clear expectations with your team.

  1. It’s NOT Something You Get Around To

How many times have you heard members of your firm say, “Right after busy season we will get back to building our business”? We’ve all been guilty of this from time to time. But if you are truly committed to building a marketing and business development culture, you have to eliminate this type of thinking. It is essential to make marketing part of your regular routine. This change in mind set must start at the top. It must be demonstrated and supported.

That means you must continue to encourage and reward business development activity even at peak times. You might be surprised at what happens next. It is generally at those peak times when your efforts are rewarded most.

Why? Much to our surprise, it is often in those times when we are top-of-mind with people who can hire us to help them.

  1. Break Down Silos

Successful firms are also adopting new business models focused on collaboration across the organization, versus traditional silo-focused modes of operations such as accounting, tax, HR and IT. Department heads are assembling cross-functional leadership teams to help implement the organization’s growth goals. This collaboration might include bringing together marketing, sales, IT and HR professionals to help the firm develop and implement its customer relationship management system. It might involve bringing together heads from all departments to develop client service standards. Or, it might involve aligning niche leaders to kick-off a successful internal marketing campaign. These united efforts help foster greater teamwork and better communication, while eliminating the duplication of efforts produced by old-school silos.

  1. For Better or For Worse

Marketing is often one of the first things to go when the economy gets a little rocky. But it’s in these turbulent times when we need to be developing new business opportunities the most. Being seen in the marketplace on a regular basis is the key to success. When you fade into the background in tough times, you can be sending the wrong message to the people you want to do business with. Tough times are often when we can help our clients the most.

The best part is that you don’t have to spend loads of money to market. It might be as simple as having coffee with a client or referral source to catch up. Maybe it’s taking advantage of a social media tool to post an article or invitation to hear you speak at an upcoming event. Get creative. Do what you have to do to stay in front of your audience on a regular basis.

  1. Create a Fun, Infectious Environment

Just because you are in the accounting and consulting business doesn’t mean you can’t create fun and infectious work environments. What better way to get disengaged employees involved in new marketing initiatives than to make them exciting and yes, fun. People want to get involved in activities they enjoy. Although many professionals may not realize they will enjoy marketing and business development at the on-set, given the right environment even the skeptics can be pleasantly surprised.

Start with the way you introduce your firm’s new marketing focus. Do something that will cause your employees to take notice. Maybe it’s a dynamic video or a slide show that depicts how far the firm has come, or an “unplugged” aka unscripted session from key members of your firm’s leadership team. Consider new ways to bring wins or a cake to celebrate new business in your pipeline meetings?

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 for your employees. You will be glad you did and they will too!

  1. Create a Movement

Seth Godin’s 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 tough times. Get a few aboard and help the early adopters achieve success. They will tell others. Before you know it, you will have a tribe of professionals on the marketing bandwagon. So go ahead, make marketing and business development a movement in your firm. They will become a part of your firm’s culture right in there with billing and clientservice.


Marketing and business development does not happen by chance. It is not something professionals get around to when it’s convenient. It is something they must be committed to throughout the year, just like taking care of their clients. Making a cultural shift requires recalibration, realigning key professionals, and knowledge transfer. That involves sharing a common vision, engagement, infrastructure, accountability, and rewarding success along the way. Isn’t it time to make marketing a part of the way your firm does business? Starting today, work to build marketing and business development into your culture. You will be rewarded not only with sustainable growth, but a team of professionals who are inspired by the opportunity to make a difference.

This article has been excerpted from Bull’s Eye: The Ultimate How-to Marketing & Sales Guide for CPAs, which is available on CPA2Biz.com.

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Tracy Crevar Warren, founder of The Crevar Group, helps professional services firms win more new business and build more profitable practices. You can reach her at 336-889-GROW (4769) or www.thecrevargroup.com. If you are looking for more practical tips to help build your practice, visit her new blog.