How to Operate a 70+ Employee Accounting Firm
Managing a firm with less than ten staff is one thing, but management strategies must change as that firm grows . Mergers are especially tricky, as many organizational and operational items need to occur. You’ll find yourself needing better organization, strategic planning, and perhaps even an executive committee to keep everything running in the right direction.
In this episode, Dave sits down with Alan Long of Baldwin CPAs. Alan has helped grow his firm from a few employees to over 70 across multiple locations. We discuss the organizational and operational decisions he’s made to keep all those plates spinning at the same time.
Main Points from the Episode:
- An introduction to Baldwin CPAs
- How the firm’s structure came about
- Monthly Executive Meetings
- Communication to the entire company
- Using a Strategic Plan
Growing and Maturing Baldwin CPAs
When Alan long started out with Baldwin CPAs, his firm was small and fairly easy to manage. That changed as his business grew and he started merging with other firms. The firm took on a more complex structure consisting of partners, managers, and executive members so that decisions and strategy could be communicated in an orderly, efficient, and effective way.
If you are growing a business, you know that growth comes with its own pains. You’ll need to think about structure and organization in new ways to keep your firm profitable and efficient. What organizational structure does Alan use? Could it be for you?
The Structure of Baldwin CPAs
Currently, Alan has an executive committee that sits just under him in the firm’s organizational structure. Under the committee are the partners of the firm, and under the partners are department heads.
One interesting thing about Baldwin CPAs’ structure is that there are no GMs for his different offices. Each location is not treated as a mini firm or independent business in a network of businesses. Instead, each location is a part of the whole. Each location has at least one partner, as well.
Why did Alan create an executive committee in the first place? Primarily because he plans to retire in the next few years, so he’s offloading as much of his work as possible to the committee. This helps them create a succession plan that will let the company run smoothly after he leaves.
You may be looking at a very different structure for your firm, depending on what step in the growth process you’re currently on. If you try to create an executive committee too early, you’ll be wasting time and money, essentially creating too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.
On the other hand, as your firm grows and perhaps expands to new locations, you may want to look more closely at organizational structures like Alan’s, taking from those examples what you think will work for you.
Meetings and Communication
At Baldwin CPAs, the executive committee meets once a month to discuss the company’s metrics and talk about whatever necessary points on the agenda for the month.
Prior to the meeting, partners can suggest topics or decisions for the executives to discuss. Alan makes the agenda based on those suggestions. The meeting may last several hours, but minutes are taken and later distributed to all the partners of the firm so everyone knows what’s going on.
At the end of each year, a strategy meeting is held with Gary Boomer of Boomer Consulting. A strategy plan is made for the following year. Then, in January and February, Alan creates a PowerPoint and gives his presentation to each location in the firm, so everyone knows what’s happening in the company.
On top of that, individual departments will occasionally have team days so that department managers can better communicate with their people across multiple locations.
As a company grows, communication becomes much more important. You may want to set up regular meetings, weekly, monthly, or yearly (or all three), so that everyone on your team is on the same page.
When communication breaks down, everything in your firm breaks down. Problems can grow, like mold in the corners of a room, and go unnoticed until they are massive and disruptive. Only excellent communication can identify those problems when they are minor glitches, easy to fix.
Alan has designed multiple systems of communication for his firm. Yours will need similar systems.
Having a Strategic Plan
When you’re bogged down with the day-to-day tasks of running a business, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger, more important issues. A strategic plan helps you stay on track.
At Baldwin CPAs, Alan has developed a relationship with Gary Boomer of Boomer Consulting to help keep their firm on the right path.
But Gary didn’t originally want to work with Alan. Why?
When Alan first approached Gary about bringing some consulting to his firm, Gary told Alan that Baldwin CPAs was too small to really benefit from what Boomer Consulting had to offer. Alan appreciated Gary’s honesty and integrity.
Later, when Baldwin CPAs was growing and merging, bringing on new team members, Alan knew he’d need help, and he approached Gary a second time. Gary could see the firm needed some help in the way of a strategy meeting.
Once a year, Gary Boomer meets with Alan and the executive committee to work on strategy for the following year at the firm. They talk about metrics, about goals and challenges. They work on a mission statement and vision. They set up major milestones for the year to come, which they call their “big rocks” for the year.
This strategic plan is essential for keeping the company on track.
Do they always stick to the milestones in the plan? No. Alan admits that, from time to time, something new will come up that they have to focus on instead. The plan doesn’t dictate reality, and it doesn’t stop them from being responsive to changing circumstances in the firm. But that yearly strategy session does keep them on track to grow and mature over time.
Taking a day or two each year to think about the bigger picture is an excellent way to make sure your firm in on track with the goals you have for it. Even if any major goals are eventually abandoned, having that ever-evolving mission and vision will help you, and everyone in the firm, to stay focused on what’s most important for your company.