I recently finished reading Geoffrey Blainey’s A Very Short History of the World – all 450 pages of it! As interesting as it was, I’m so glad it was the short version. I came away from that book with a renewed appreciation of human accomplishment but that’s not want I want to talk about. Of the many things that resonated, one was where he wrote “In the history of the world, opportunities and luck have been relatively plentiful but the people who have grasped them have been rare.”
I couldn’t help thinking that’s still the case.
When I used to do Bootcamps with my good friend Paul Dunn I had a slide early in my presentations that referred to a strategic overview of how we saw the successful firm of the future evolving. I described it as Our Fundamental Proposition. It was as follows:
As accountants in public practice you will . . .
- Build on your skills and existing client relationships
- And harness technology
- To provide your clients with knowledge-based support using smart systems and rich networks
- That will be significantly more valuable than the generic, product-look, un-differentiable, compliance services you now offer
- For that reason your clients will be willing to pay significantly for access to that service
- And because most of your competitors will not embrace change you will have a source of sustainable and defendable competitive advantage.
There’s not a single part of those thoughts that I’d change today. In fact I can say with confidence that the people who picked up on those ideas have done brilliantly. Those who continue to play the old game are slowly but surely being marginalized.
Frankly, when you consider the readily available, and instantly accessible, information and practice development resources I can’t understand why more firms aren’t doing much better than they are. There is no question that the Bootcamp has changed the lives of thousands of accountants, their team members, their families, and their clients. Paul and I know that. But it was not our information or even the tools and other resources that facilitated it (although they played an important role.) It was because these people actually DID SOMETHING – the value of an idea, we’d say, is in its implementation.
The advice we shared in that program(and others we did) was not secret. It was/is readily available and yet so little seems to get done. For example, on any given day I will get at least 10 emails that promise to help me get more clients, better team members, more efficient systems, access to marketing breakthroughs, any number of resources that will make me or my team better leaders …. you name it there’s no shortage of information. In fact when I did a Google search on Accounting Practice Development 39.2 million results popped up!
Clearly we’re not suffering from a dearth of information. We’re suffering from a refusal to see the writing on the wall. I think people are looking for direction not information. They want a blueprint that maps out a path they can follow but when that path is laid out for them they come to what Robert Frost described as “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” but unlike Robert, who “…. took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference” they are taking the other road.
My feeling is that those of us who reside in the profession’s advisory space need to be standing at the place where the road forks and gently use our influence to guide those who want to come along the road less traveled in the knowledge that it will make all the difference.