Building an accounting team that delivers excellent service to clients, while enjoying their work, can be challenging. Turnover and dissatisfaction in the accounting profession are notoriously high.
To buck this trend and create a high-performing team, firm leaders must be intentional about their organization's “people experience” (PX).
The Nimbl journey
I left Big 4 public accounting to become a contract CFO for startups and a venture capital fund. I operated as a solo CFO for 10 years with a few supporting offshore team members.
In 2018, wanting to expand the impact I could have on clients and team members, I hired my first U.S. employee for what is now Nimbl. As we built a global team, we also saw the opportunity to build a second business, Nimbl Staffing, which gives North American companies access to high-quality global team members.
Since then, the PX we intentionally created has been critical to our growth trajectory.
The Nimbl PX is based on three pillars
The Nimbl PX is based on the three pillars of leadership, performance, and alignment, with supporting elements for each one:
- We experience ourselves as leaders who matter.
- We create leaders around us.
My executive coach, Brandon Craig, defines leadership as “creating a future that wouldn’t happen without you and fulfills, or attempts to fulfill, on all relevant stakeholders.”
People find fulfillment when they believe they have the permission and ability to create their desired future.
One of the most rewarding aspects of building a company is to create leaders. I’ve seen many of our team members transform their lives outside of work, such as health and family relationships, because they began to see themselves as leaders at work.
- We know where our performance stands and experience the fulfillment of high performance.
- We have the tools, including training, to be successful.
- We share in the success we contribute to.
I don’t know if there is a better way for people to have an exceptional experience than to know they are performing at a high level.
At Nimbl, each team member has a “performance agreement” that outlines what high performance looks like, how they are currently performing, and, if applicable, a plan for improving performance. The agreement also outlines the compensation and benefits the company provides in return.
We measure our team on three metrics: recurring revenue handled (or another role-specific metric), core virtues, and client delight. Performance agreements are living documents that can be revisited anytime in 1:1 meetings. We also have a formal performance review every six months as an intentional check-in on the performance agreement.
Compensation can be challenging. In “How Will You Measure Your Life,” Clayton Christianson wrote, “Compensation is a hygiene factor. You need to get it right. But all you can aspire to is that employees will not be mad at each other and the company because of compensation.”
To share in the success our team contributes to, we have a variable pay program called “Stake in the Outcome,” adapted from the book, “The Great Game of Business.” Each quarter, every team member gets a payout as a percentage of their base compensation, determined by a matrix of recurring revenue growth and gross margin. This method aligns the team’s incentives, and eliminates individual bonus programs' complexity and potential manipulation.
We attempt to get compensation as "right" as possible, but more importantly, we create an overall experience beyond money.
- We understand, subscribe to, and see how we contribute to Nimbl core virtues and vision.
- We are enabled to create the current and future career and lifestyle that aligns with our desires and the company’s needs.
Team members must feel connected to, or aligned with, the organization’s underlying purpose, mission, vision, and values. Defining, communicating, and demonstrating vision and values creates an intentional culture.
At Nimbl, we created individual alignment through documented “career paths” and “career plans:”
- The career path defines the company’s roles and what it takes to progress through them.
- The career plan is a living document maintained by each team member and their coach (supervisor). The career plan combines each person's intentions for their lives in and out of work, and outlines how to fulfill their personal goals and company needs.
Without this alignment around the company’s direction and individual roles, people feel adrift and are more apt to leave when another opportunity arises.
Create your own intentional PX!
By being intentional across all elements of the PX, accounting firms can buck industry trends around dissatisfaction and turnover. Focusing on leadership, performance, and alignment leads to attracting and retaining a high-performing team!