Sandra Wiley, COO of the Boomer Consulting Group, believes investing and fostering human capital is the little-known key to firm growth. Few talk about human capital and most owners find it a nuisance. After today, you won’t. In fact, you’ll want more of it.

In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Sandra Wiley discuss:

  • How to define “Human Capital”, and the critical HC framework for your firm growth
  • The #1 mistake when managing, and how to retain your best employees
  • How to manage millennial’s without getting burned out
  • When to schedule team reviews, and much more

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The Power of Human Capital:

Sandra Wiley, COO of Boomer Consulting, specializes in human capital and human resources. Human resources isn’t the same as human capital, it’s just one part of it. Human Capital also deals with team building, team motivation, team growth, and more.

The main problem in firms is they look at employees as expenses rather than as assets. After all, the #1 expense in a firm is the employees. What firm owners and partners forget is that without quality employees, there is no firm. They make your business run. That sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget.

Now, in today’s market, there’s a massive problem.

  1. There are more people going from public to private accounting
  2. There is less talent available
  3. Recruiters are more ferocious than ever, and
  4. Accountants are bouncing around firms like ping pong balls

Luckily, you’re about to discover a way to combat all these growing issues.

How to Retain Employees Especially Millennials:

The first step is an interesting step. See, when owners think about a strategic plan for the firm… firm growth, I mean…owners actually need to let the team be in charge of that.

We all think the partners should direct the firm and employees blindly follow. It should be the exact opposite.

Because employees, especially millennials, want to know “where is this firm going? what can I do to grow the firm? where do I fit in?” Owners forget that employees are wondering these things every time they open a tax return.

That’s why performance management is one of the key secrets to retaining employees. People don’t want to work in a firm where their performance isn’t measured. Employees need three important things if they’re going to dial into your vision:

  1. Goals
  2. Expectations
  3. Training

Everyone should know that the goals they set are bigger than them. It gives them a purpose, a destination and something to strive for.

Another important habit to start is opening the lines of communication in as many ways as possible. One way is to offer the opportunity to work remotely at times. Then, have team meetings where everyone sees each other and talks virtually. That’s what Sandra does with her team.

DAVID’S TIP:Set up huddles, one-on-ones and reviews with your team. This keeps them locked in. I talked with a firm owner recently who says in the last 10 years they haven’t made nearly as much progress as they hoped in firm growth. Turns out, they didn’t have any weekly meetings…ever.

Sandra recommends – at a minimum – seasonal meetings with each one of your employees. That’s: before tax season, after tax season and in the fall. These meetings should be solid, sit down, face-to-face meetings.

A secret to engaging with your employees is to know what they are working on all the time. If you don’t know, make it a point to ask regularly so they feel you care about their work and they feel their work is important.

Weekly meetings would be ideal. Now, many firm owners would say they don’t have time for weekly meetings. These meetings could literally be stopping in their cubicle for a quick chat and check-up.

The key — be genuine and consistent. 

What You Can Do NOW as a Firm Owner or Partner to Increase Human Capital: 

Sandra recommends a firm-wide test. She likes the Kolbe test and Strengthsfinder. These are just examples. However, these tests allow you to see strengths and weaknesses of each member of your team. Not to mention, it’s quite fun to learn about each person.

A key reason is because it’s easy to hire someone like you. But, you must hire different people with different strengths to really catapult firm growth. Else, you have the same people with the same strengths and weaknesses.

Another big thing firm owners and partners can do is to open the door, listen and talk less. If a millennial team member approaches you on their own about an interest in your firm, listen to them. Allow them to try different interests. It might be a huge strength for them and a weakness for some of your partners.

(Now, if you’re a millennial reading this, it’s important to listen and understand your mentors. Sometimes what you want to do needs to wait until you have more experience. That’s the blunt truth.)

Transparency is the next point. Employees want to know “WHY” decisions are made. They want to see your books open and discover where the firm’s money goes, what clients are the top billings, why you’re hiring someone new and more. In public companies, you see the revenues and expenditures. Why not at a small, private company?

Sometimes an employee asking “WHY” might open discussions and provide new insight into matters.

Don’t just say “because” when an employee asks “why?” Answer them and think about if your answer makes sense. We aren’t all perfect nor is every decision we make the right one. Be open to outside thoughts.

The #1 Mistake with Human Capital that Stunts Firm Growth: 

You must —without question — not simply focus on the NEGATIVE side of the work. In accounting, we’re doing compliance and our job is to try and be as ‘perfect’ as possible. That means we checkmark the right things, and tell the team member all the wrong things.

As humans, we strive on receiving compliments (call it selfishness or pride. Doesn’t matter). In this profession, too many “you did this wrongs” and your preparers may get sick of it.

As leaders of our firms, it’s our job to pump up confidence and keep employees engaged and excited about the work. Sandra has seen people leave firms because “nobody ever told me I was doing the right thing for years. I never had a meaningful performance review.”

Be specific with how you praise your employees. Don’t just say “you’re doing great.” Tell them exactly what they were great at. “David, I saw you working with a client yesterday and your body language really showed you were listening. The clients appreciate you being so attentive. Do more of that.”

See the difference?

If this sounds like employees are getting soft…again, remember, they make your business run. As employees, they want to feel a part of something bigger. That’s your job to do it.

If you’d like to talk with Sandra about how to kick this off in your firm, email her at

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