What Business Are You Really In?

In the CPA profession, there is so much to do all the time.  The pace never seems to slow down and it can be overwhelming.  Even in the “slower” post-busy season period, with the intensity of the April 17th filing deadline behind us, there are still many things to do. In no particular order, now is the time to:



  • Finalize time reporting  and billing
  • Respond to emails
  • Clean our desks and offices
  • Plan and organize our work for the summer
  • Reset and refocus our personal goals
  • Develop deeper client relationships
  • Reconnect with family and friends
  • Plan business development and marketing activities
  • Rest and recover physically, mentally spiritually

Now is also the time to invest in your people by providing feedback, mentoring and career counseling, training programs in both technical and soft-skills, and communication of your plans for their future. 

Where does people development fall on your list?  I doubt that you deliberately write it last on your “to do’s” or say that people development isn’t important.  But somehow, people development often ends up in last place behind all the other items listed above.

Why is this? Here are my top three reasons:

  1. You don’t know what to say to your people or how to say it
  2. You feel hypocritical because you’re not consistently leading by example
  3. You’re too busy and just don’t have time

Not knowing what to say or how to say it. This is clearly a barrier to effective people development, but one that can be overcome with training and practice.  Start by developing a positive mindset that communicating with “straight talk” is a gift that comes from a place of care and concern with the intention of inspiring them to success.  This is especially important when performance improvement is needed. Learn how to use a format like “expectation, observation, inquiry” or “keep, stop start” to organize your thoughts and message.  Finally, practice your listening skills and develop understanding before agreeing on solutions and next steps.  For more on “straight talk” refer to my colleague Tamera’s blog entitled "The Gift of Truth".

Not leading by example. Often, avoidance of people development conversations results from a failure to clearly communicate performance expectations to your people in advance.  Leaders need to take 100% responsibility for this lack of communication around expectations, and use the opportunity to discuss and establish goals for the next evaluation period.  People development conversations are even more difficult when you’re not leading by example with your own performance.  But avoiding the conversation will not make your performance better or restore the trust gap that has been created.  Deliver the feedback anyway, acknowledging that you have been lacking in this area, too.  Then commit to improve together.

Too busy and not enough time.  Take a serious look at what activities are taking priority over people development, because whatever you’re consistently working at reflects what is most important to you.  What business are you in?  Is it providing attest services, tax services, or business advisory services to clients? Have you considered the possibility that we are really in the business of developing people?  It’s a “chicken or egg” type of question to ponder, but it’s clear that without talented, trained, motivated, “on board” people –we cannot successfully serve clients, retain clients, develop new clients, grow the business or sustain it for the long term.

What if you turned your “to do” list upside down and began to live like you’re in the business of developing people?  What would that look like?  Are you willing to try it? What are you afraid of?

We will continue to help our clients succeed by asking “What Business Are You In?” If you have ideas or experiences to share on this subject please post them so others can benefit.

Best regards,