Professional Development Small Business

How to Create Accountability at Your CPA Firm

How do you promote accountability in your CPA firm?

In this cutthroat competitive age, CPA firms can no longer just give a spot on their organization charts. To thrive, they need employees who can think like employees – people who strive to achieve results.

To accomplish this, CPA firms must build an internal culture of accountability that encourages and inspires employees to own their work. When a culture of accountability flourishes at a CPA firm, employees are committed to achieving goals.

Outsourcing accounting firms know they are accountable, and so should employees. They should understand their role and willingly take initiatives. They should never wait for other employees to troubleshoot problems, or play the blame game.

Instead, they should come up with solutions, overcome obstacles together, set targets that are achievable and measurable and track their progress. A culture of accountability allows CPA firms to enhance productivity levels, satisfy clients, and maintain a robust online reputation.

But how can a CPA firm build and sustain a culture of accountability? The answer is – to develop higher levels of responsibility, they need to facilitate a radical shift in the way employees think and act. They need to transform the way employees see, own, solve, and play their role at the CPA firm.

Here’s a four-step approach that can help them build a culture of ownership and accountability in their CPA firms:

1. Set SMART goals

CPA firms run into trouble when employees set goals but do not communicate them to the relevant stakeholders. When your team members know what is expected out of them and what they are accountable for, they will drive your CPA firm forward. Setting and accomplishing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) is one of the critical aspects of accountability.

It is critical to make sure all team members know their roles, their goals and how they affect the growth of your CPA firm. Besides, each employee should have at least three key performance indicators (KPIs) against which their performances should be measured. This will keep everyone on track to achieve the set growth targets.

Allowing your employees the ability to track their progress and the vision of what’s going to happen next will keep them moving steadily in the right direction.

2. Insist on achieving results

Often, organization charts and role descriptions push employees into boxes and give your teams the idea that they are getting paid for performing a specific role. This role-oriented mindset leads them to believe that they have justified their employment by performing those functions, whether or not the desired goal was achieved.

Successful leaders emphasize the idea that their teams must focus on achieving results, rather than “doing the job.” Such leaders inspire people beyond the boundaries and encourage them to pursue goals by motivating them to wonder, “What else can I do?” over and over until the end goal is achieved. Such leaders enthuse people to think that their “role” is to achieve results.

Additionally, let your teams understand that just having plans or strategies is not enough. They should be able to answer what they planned, what happened, what went wrong, and how they could have been made better or more profitable – after all, results matter.

3. Hold your outsourced accounting firms to high standards

The outsourced accounting firms, accountable for their performance and results, can set a good example and contribute to building an environment of accountability in your team. (This should be music to every employee’s ears.)

When you hold your outsourcing employee to a high standard, your internal teams should also assume the same sense of commitment and responsibility. Your business relationship with outsourced accounting firms will convey to the team members that you expect nothing but the best. Besides, your staff would know that there is external control or monitoring, which will keep them honest and responsible.

4. Encourage a give-and-take feedback system

Allowing give-and-take feedback is critical for successful CPA firms as it will enable people at every level to hear the other person’s opinion and provide their own. Feedback is one of the most effective ways to identify shortcomings and to put your CPA firm on the growth track.

You can use the team’s feedback to handle existing problems and adjust expectations before it is too late to make a difference. Also, a healthy exchange of feedback will nurture trust and transparency by giving everyone a voice.

Accountable managers lead by example, so when you are taking steps to lead your CPA firm toward a culture of accountability, responsibility and transparency will catch on like wildfire. Set clear goals, take ownership for your actions, encourage open feedback and follow up with your team members.

Over to you

Building a CPA firm where accountability is embraced positively is not easy. It requires employees and their teams to bake it into every facet of the CPA firm’s operations and ensure that goals are communicated, and employees understand what is expected of them.

There are more than one way to define accountability. While it is essential to understand what responsibility means to your firm, it is equally vital that the concept of accountability is agreed and understood by your teams. If done right, accountability will help your team, and your CPA firm, thrive.

Laurence is a manager at QX Accounting Services & Founder of Accounting Leaders. QX Accounting offers outsourced accounting services, tax return preparation, bookkeeping and payroll compliance for small to medium sized accounting firms. Laurence focuses on freeing up small practitioners in order to get them to focus on growing their practice.

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