Business strategy drives people strategy: How to leverage your team

Business strategy drives people strategy: How to leverage your team

Hey. I’m Jaclyn, and I lead ProAdvisor Training and Certification at QuickBooks. It’s an honor to build the education that empowers our community to deliver bookkeeping, accounting, and advisory services to clients.

Having been of service to accountants for more than 7 years, I’ve experienced the evolution of Client Advisory Services (CAS) firsthand, and witnessed how successful firms differentiated themselves from their peers by taking a people-first approach.

The future of CAS is people-first is a five-part series that lays out the benefits of investing in your people, and empowering them to excel through a mix of professional development, mentoring, and community. My hope is that it inspires you to put your team at the heart of your strategy, and through doing so, enables you to deliver the meaningful services clients so desperately need.

When it comes to growing your firm, and building a legacy of growth and stability, many of today’s accountants have a shared goal: to build a quality client advisory services (CAS) offering. And while AI and other technology will certainly help along the way, I believe that the future of CAS is really people-first. After all, it’s people who give CAS insights meaning; people who implement the tools and technology you’ll use; and people who can build your firm’s CAS strategies and processes for years to come.

Considering just how important people are to your overall CAS offering, you should invest in your team. And that strategy starts with considering—and accelerating—your team’s career growth.

In my previous article, I talked about the impact professional growth and continuous learning could have on recruitment and retention—hot-button topics among accounting firms. I don’t need to tell you it’s a tough labor market right now. Anything your firm can do to attract and retain talent is worth considering.

Fortunately, offering professional growth opportunities is a win-win for all involved: firms reap the financial benefits of offering clients a highly qualified team, team members feel a greater sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction, and clients receive better care.

All in all, investing in your team’s career growth seems like a no-brainer. But what about the fine details? In this article, I’ll talk about how to create your firm’s business goals, and how to integrate your team’s craft skills with those goals for an end-to-end growth strategy that’s as successful for your firm as it is for your team.

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Step 1: Look at your firm’s growth goals

Your talent strategy begins with your business strategy. Identifying your practice’s growth goals are critical to determining what skills you need your team to possess to achieve your ambitions.

Sometimes this means bringing on new talent. But many times, it can take the shape of upskilling your current team.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you run a CAS practice looking to grow from $1M to $5M in revenue through expanding your client services. Along the way, you realize that having a team dedicated to client onboarding will help your clients get started, while enabling your ongoing services team to focus on recurring business.

This means setting up a new team to focus on client onboarding. Client onboarding requires a nuanced skill set. Your teammate will need to be able to bring order to chaos, design and set up the client's tech stack, and get them ready for recurring services.

Does your current team possess these skills? If yes, great! But if not, creating a career path and providing the education required to follow that path is a win-win for your firm and your team members.

Business strategy drives people strategy: How to leverage your team

Defining craft skills: What they are and why they matter

Craft skills are high-level competencies that feed into specific roles. They serve as the foundation for talent and performance process and career growth for employees.

Some common craft skills needed in accounting include:

  • Accounting knowledge: Being able to maintain and apply functional expertise in accounting to deliver services that accelerate the success of your clients and ensure financial integrity and compliance.
  • Technology and data: The ability to navigate across systems to efficiently deliver client work.
  • People skills: The ability to craft powerful messages that engage, influence action, and drive change.
  • Strategic problem solving: Being able to generate innovative insights and ideas which can identify new opportunities that help clients achieve their goals.

As you can see, craft skills neither just apply to one position within your firm, not does a single craft skill look the same for people in different roles. Junior and senior members may require the same core craft skill, but the way they apply it in their day-to-day responsibilities is unique to their role.

For example, people skills at a bookkeeper or junior accountant level will apply to project management and proactive internal communications. For a senior controller, advisor, or CFO, people skills are more necessary for predictive communication and change management.

The beauty of craft skills is that there’s always room for growth. Mastery looks different from person to person and role to role, but it’s evident when it’s achieved. As you evaluate your team’s current craft skills, consider what it might take for them to “level up.” What tools can you provide? How should they track their progress? And how do you know which members of your team are even interested in taking those next steps? The answer lies in helping your team plan their path ahead.

Step 2: Help your team define their career goals

As a leader, you (or your managers) may already be aware of your team’s growth aspirations. At the very least, you likely have an idea of their skill sets. Now is the time to sit down with each of them to narrow their goals into particular focus areas. In order to accelerate their career growth, you first have to understand the path and milestones your team members see for themselves.

But that’s just half of the story. What your team wants and needs must be balanced with what your practice needs, so that success is bi-directional. The people on your team, the roles they play, and the skills they need should all be in service of helping you achieve your firm’s business goals.

Here’s an example: Say your business strategy is to increase revenue by 40% in 2024 by growing your firm’s CAS offerings.

This is your opportunity to better understand your team members’ career aspirations. Ask each person how they’d like to help the firm achieve this goal. Their unique perspectives might surprise you. Someone could say, “I want to spearhead our firm’s CAS-related communications and boost client conversions by 30% in Q2.”

That individual would then break down their goal into smaller chunks, allowing them to track their progress. For example:

  • Build out a content strategy for communicating CAS offerings, including emails, printed letters of invitation, and social media posts.
  • Host a CAS-centered event to attract new clients.
  • Revamp firm’s website to include and prioritize CAS offerings. 

Find out what craft skills they currently have to achieve those goals and which skills they may need to grow. Discuss how that growth will occur and their timeline for upskilling.

From there, it’s a matter of creating feedback loops—regular check-ins—to hold every member of the agreement accountable. A performance management software can be particularly invaluable. Use it to set reminders for periodic check-ins and to keep track of your goal-related conversations.

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The people on your team, the roles they play, and the skills they need should all be in service of helping you achieve your firm’s business goals.

Step 3: Look for gaps in your team’s craft skills

Now that you’ve had a chance to meet with your team and discuss their goals, you should have a better idea of your firm’s current talent and performance potential. You’ve shared your intentions for growing the firm with your team, and hopefully they’ve bolstered that plan with goals of their own. Through these conversations, you’ve also seen how the people in your org fit into your firm’s overall growth strategy.

In the midst of all these observations, you may have also noticed some gaps. These might be filled with upskilling, such as working with your current team to hone their craft skills, but some gaps can’t be filled from within. Eventually you’ll need to decide when to build up your team’s craft skills and when to hire for fresh talent. 

Before you start putting out job reqs, you may want to take a second look at your firm’s overall organization. If yours is rooted in a more classic structure, it’s probably time for a reorg. I’ll discuss that and more in my next blog, “Could your firm’s structure use an update? Do it before you hire.”

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