Managing Your Career at Every Level — Executive Excellence
Executives, typically partners in CPA firms or a member of the C-suite in corporations, are constantly thinking about the company’s next move, new clients or what advisory service, perhaps, is gaining more ground. But too often succession planning for the firm falls on deaf ears. Partners nearing retirement are not inclined to start sharing their client base. Similarly, the next generation is not prepared for what responsibilities are involved in running a company or taking over the leadership reins from its owners, who may be a parent or other relative, in some cases.
According to the article, "7 Must-Haves for Accounting Firm Succession Plans," in the May, 2018, CPA Practice Advisor, the hardest part for executives is to think about succession planning. The article asks the question, "With the staff you have and will recruit, are the partners truly commted to mentoring the staff and developing them as leaders? Are the partners willing to be accountable for this? Are the partners willing to make the development of staff into leaders an important factor in allocating partner income?" Succession planning, it says, is virtually impossible without effective leadership development.
Using Your Network
Networking takes on a whole new meaning at the executive level. Gone are the days of simply getting one's name out there. Chances are your name is already out there by the time you reach the C-suite or partner level, but more work could be done getting it out in the right manner. Being associated with some of the key industry groups where you or your clients work can provide a boost to your career and social circles. In terms of charities, personal preference matters but some have wider scopes than others. Larger charities may prove more valuable to one's career at this stage than simply having an interest in a local youth program, for example. Executives at smaller companies, however, we are likely to still need some name recognition for themselves or their company — and extracurricular activities like volunteering or networking can help.
Being selective in networking at the later stages of one's career is helpful since it can establish oneself in an area of expertise. As Eileen Monesson, CPC, owner of PRCounts, explains, the goal at the executive level is to become the "go to" person. "Participating on, or even chairing, committees will give you the chance to showcase what you know."
Perhaps more than at any other career stage, executives will benefit the most from becoming either a mentor or a coach to the next generation. It is a great way to give back to the accounting profession. Countless leaders today cite how mentors were behind them giving support every step of the way. As executives in the later part of their careers, these professionals have a lot to give. Aside from the many external benefits of mentoring young professionals, mentoring has practical applications for inside an organization as well with more engaged and enlightened employees.
As the 2018 Inc article, “10 Easy Ways Time Crunched Executives Can Mentor Future Leaders” discusses, “mentoring is the ultimate win-win-win for the mentee, mentor and organization.” According to the article, the organization gets a boost in employee retention and engagement. Mentored employees, in turn, have greater intentions to stay with the organization, more commitment to their job and higher
To Sarah Krom, CPA, managing partner, SKC & Co. CPAs, LLC and 2018/19 president of NJCPA, being an effective partner today means taking that role one step further. “At the partner level, one of the most important parts of that role is to be more of a coach than a mentor. To summarize what the distinct difference is between mentor and coach is that a mentor provides advice to you based on their experience; where a coach guides you along your own journey to get a resolution. The best way to do this is through asking questions and providing the curiosity and care to lead your team member to their own answers and conclusion.”
When retirement gets discussed in a practice or organization, it can mean different things to different employees. As the CPA Practice Advisor article notes, it’s important to balance the needs of older partners with younger partners. It explains that firms need to adopt an up-to-date partner retirement plan that pays partners a fair buyout that they deserve and earned, not an "entitlement" that alienates younger owners. Often younger professionals aspiring to be partners can view these plans as a challenge, particularly in a small firm. The article also reminds owners that they need to have an up-to-date partner agreement that new partners, including those from mergers, will be willing to sign.
Sarah Krom, CPA, is president of the NJCPA for 2018/19 and is a managing partner at SKC & Co., CPAs, LLC. She works primarily with entrepreneur business owners who have high growth goals for their company. She is also a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and previously chaired the Young CPAs Council, which is now called the Emerging Leaders Council.
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This article appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.