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Expand your learning strategy in the firm

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

CPAs often work in survival mode when they know they have deadlines for clients, and they tend to stay in that deadline-oriented world. Everything ranks in priority.

Taking the time to expand your learning strategy in the firm may seem like a waste of time. Spending time with others in the accounting industry, though important, falls down the priority list.

In this episode of the Pulse of the Podcast, “Learning from Others”, Paul Miller and I talk about the importance of collaboration, and how learning from others can be helpful to your firm. One of the things about being face to face in front of people is the benefit of collaboration.

There are also plenty of learning opportunities online that can easily fit anyone’s schedule. In any industry, there is value in learning from others in accounting. Sometimes in the accounting industry firms are known for doing their own thing the way they’ve known it and not always initiating research into newer trends. As accountants we stay so busy that we don’t usually take time to stop and talk to other firms. We wait for someone to pull us away or until there’s a problem. Here are some things that accounting firms have to recognize they need to learn from others and why it’s important to have a learning strategy in the firm.

The value of expanding your learning strategy in the firm

For many firms, their action around learning is more of a reaction to something happening or from a lesson learned situation. You may find yourself trying to reinvent the wheel, but problems you run across are  often not new. It’s important to remain open-minded and more intentional when it comes to learning from others. If you’re really intentional about what you’re trying to do as a firm and where you’re going, then you can start thinking about what is it that  you need to learn. Learning from others either confirms what you already know or gives you some insight to think about your processes in a new way to expand your learning strategy in the firm. If you’re going to learn from someone else, there are a couple things that have to happen first. One of those is to have a little bit of humility and the second involves transparency.

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Finding value in learning from others in accounting

The main reason it can be difficult to learn from others is because accountants often feel they have to be right in everything they do. If there’s a mistake, that’s a blow. The second part of it is you’ve got to let your guard down and be willing to be transparent. It’s difficult to truly learn from what someone else is doing unless we are willing to share where we’re truly struggling and what that means to us. And again, this isn’t unique to accounting. Being willing to be transparent is tough, but critical in any industry.

Everyone reaches a certain point in life whether it be age, or due to some kind of a health issue, a financial issue, or some point where you want to be able to do something different. You have to mentally put yourself there first, then start taking the action. Firms often know there’s something better on the other side of the fence, but yet they pull back. Often the dynamic of a firm is that the clients and the work involved run the firm. If you take a step back you may need to remember to be intentional about the direction of your firm.

Let’s look at a health analogy for example, when we see folks who manage to stay in shape, we ask ourselves or we ask them, how do you do it? And there’s a really simple answer. The simple answer is they make the time and then they stay disciplined. So it’s simple, but it’s tough to execute because of the discipline component.

There are so many accounting firms related groups, local chapters of societies, and state societies that have activities going on with many learning opportunities, as well as local Chamber of Commerce events. Are you taking advantage of these learning opportunities?

Thomson Reuters  also offers many live and online courses, events, and seminars to bring accountants and CPAs together. You have to choose to make time to attend these events to expand your learning strategy, or just pick up some helpful tips.

Growing beyond the challenges

The challenge for accounting firms is to make time for the health of your firm in a proactive way. Consider spending an hour every two weeks talking to other firm owners to validate concerns, to get confidence that there’s another way to do things, learn about a new technology, or learn more about  other firm’s interpretation of regulations. Dedicating that time, connection with others in the industry, and collaboration will only better your staff and firm as a whole.

Extending education and networking doesn’t mean you have to spend money; the investment could just be time. The point is if you want to look for things and try to do something differently, you have to experiment a little to discover what works best for you and your firm. In today’s day and age things are a little different than they were ten years ago. Many learning events can be accessed at your convenience online.

Learning from others is critical because if you’re going to lead your firm and lead your staff, somebody has to steer the ship and move forward. The ability to apply learning from another industry into your own tends to be tough for firms. I would challenge you if you see something different is happening in any kind of industry to ask yourself, where could this be applicable to my firm?

The trick is to find where learning or networking might add value and either the information is going to grow and blossom and have an impact on a greater scale and you can roll something out and do something different, or you may learn that it’s not really applicable, but you’re going to learn something about why it’s not applicable and be better informed for the next thing that you go to investigate and apply.

Learning from others is very applicable and it’s reflective of what could be called a growth mindset over a fixed mindset. The growth mindset is always one that says, how might that work? How might we apply that differently? That’s one way that you can ensure you will always keep growing and learning as an accountant and a firm.

How to develop your learning strategy in the firm

Often in accounting practices, you may find yourself looking for the steps of a process. Practice Forward is not about steps to be taken, because you can pull information depending on what fits your firm and make it your own. It’s not about becoming someone else’s firm, it’s simply an opportunity to make your firm better by taking these snippets of knowledge and applying them to how you work with your clients to develop strong relationships. What’s your personal vibe? What’s your shtick? Discover what it is that you do that makes you stand out, and then apply that to become better in the firm and as a CPA through learning from others.

 

Listen to the “Learning from Others” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform (Google Play, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher) or here.

 

 

 

 

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Calibrate to Clients

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