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June 21, 2022 min read

Create an irresistible accounting firm culture

Lindsay Malcolm

Culture. It’s quite the buzzword these days, isn’t it? Creating an irresistible culture doesn’t happen when you snap your fingers. There’s no “easy” button to make it happen. But it’s a key component to making your accounting firm successful. And culture expands beyond your employees—it also extends to your clients.

The work your team performs won’t change often. After all, tax laws are tax laws. But your firm’s atmosphere either creates a workplace where everyone’s looking for the exit door or no one’s in a hurry to leave. Which workplace do you want to provide? It’s entirely in your hands, so let’s get started with the basics and take your firm culture from idle to irresistible.

What is culture?

In its most basic form, culture is the collective beliefs and behaviors of your firm. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast.

An amazing culture doesn’t appear out of thin air—it’s built, starting from the top—not necessarily with the partners or the owners, but with the mission and values of the firm. You don’t decide that your culture is incredible because you have a ping pong table in the break room and a weekly beer cart making the rounds on Friday afternoons.

Sure, those types of perks can add to a great culture but offering them doesn’t make a good culture. And let’s face it—in the current climate with more employees working virtually, that ping pong table and beer cart are merely collecting dust and making no contribution to your culture. That’s where Rootworks comes in.

Investing in your company’s culture should be of utmost importance, and here’s why: It not only impacts your employees and your business, but it weaves its way through everything your company does—from the color of your office walls and the applications you use, to the employees you hire and whether you land that ideal client.

So how do you go about developing a modern firm culture? Sit back, relax and let us walk you through why culture reigns supreme, the meaning of the Four C’s and how your firm can create an irresistible culture that keeps everyone—from employees to ideal clients—happy.

Why culture is king

We said it before, and we’ll say it again: Culture reigns supreme. Not only does a strong culture benefit your firm financially, but it also leads to happier and more engaged employees. Consider these four major benefits to having an irresistible firm culture:

  1. It helps attract great talent. All firms want to attract power performers who fit the values of the firm, so you must stand out from the crowd. The most impactful way to do this is by offering a culture they can’t resist—one that echoes their own values. Happy employees enjoy their work, want your firm to succeed and stick around. Another plus: They want to share the experience by recruiting other power performers.
  2. It saves time and money in recruiting. To hire and train a new employee instead of retaining current employees can cost a firm upwards of nine months’ salary. That’s quite a chunk of change if your firm experiences high turnover due to a toxic environment. A strong culture keeps outstanding employees, and—as we mentioned earlier—those outstanding employees recruit strong talent as well.
  3. It makes everyone happier and more satisfied. A healthy firm culture plays a significant role when it comes to keeping employees happy. Employees are happier when they feel seen, valued and heard, and that leads them to be more engaged in their work. And the happy train doesn’t end there—it extends well beyond your employees and out to your clients.
  4. It helps maintain clients. A great culture not only helps your employees stick around but also helps your team serve your clients better. Happy employees provide an unmatched client experience. They ensure that interactions with clients are consistent with the firm’s values and mission, and they approach problem solving collaboratively. This exceptional client experience reduces churn. (And we don’t have to tell you how important that is.)

While these four benefits don’t make up an exhaustive list, they’re among the most significant drivers of a strong culture.

Key components of culture in today’s accounting firms

The key components in an accounting firm’s culture are what Rootworks calls the Four C’s: Clarity, Candor, Connection and Consistency. The Four C’s help you determine when your firm’s culture is considered healthy, how you’ll know when it’s not healthy and what you can do to prioritize the health of your firm.
Let’s do a high-level review of each component:

  • Clarity is awareness of the “what, who, how and why” of your firm. It includes knowing what products and services you want to offer, who your ideal clients are, how your business operates and why your work matters. In other words, clarity is the awareness of the firm’s mission, vision and values.

    A well-defined business model that sets clear boundaries and paints a clear picture of the future allows your team to quickly identify ideal and non-ideal clients, as well as which services and products will best serve those ideal clients. It also creates an atmosphere where employees feel they are an essential part of the firm.

  • Candor is the most powerful, yet most challenging, component to implement in a healthy culture. Firms must allow space for all employees to offer honest perspectives without fear of repercussion for any negative feedback.

    Lead your firm with intentional communication. Make—and keep—employees a part of the conversation. Listen to what they have to say so they feel comfortable about sharing positive and negative experiences. Everyone’s workday experience is different. What you think is a positive experience may not be the case for another team member. Their feedback provides data that can be used to produce positive change. Allow team members to give their input and include them in the decisions that impact their daily work.

  • Connection occurs when team members feel seen, heard and valued. Acknowledge team members daily through intentional communication and create an environment that allows them to thrive. Employees who feel engaged and connected will work harder.

    Designate an energetic team to promote connection through encouragement, appreciation gifts, and fun, effective firm activities and retreats. Prioritize team members and spend time each week elevating an employee with a note of appreciation. Remember, it starts from the top: Firm leaders must lead by example, even if they’re not considered a “culture guru.”

  • Consistency is key when it comes to a healthy culture. You can’t just decide you’re going to have a great culture and leave it at that—you must take consistent strides in creating clarity, building candor and establishing connections within your firm.

    Dedicate time to making small, incremental changes such as semi-annual meetings with every employee, scheduling annual firm retreats for camaraderie and learning about future plans, sending company-branded thank-you gifts throughout the year with a handwritten note, or scheduling month-end happy hours (virtual or in-person). Create an annual plan to review and revisit the steps you’re taking to ensure consistency.

Hundreds of firms have used Rootworks’ Four C’s as an effective framework upon which to build a healthy culture. You’ll need to commit some time, energy and resources, but we promise, the results will be worth the work.

Be irresistible

You can’t wave a magic wand and make culture appear. You must intentionally focus on implementing the Four C’s outlined above to create an irresistible culture. Talk to your team, find out what is or isn’t working, and take steps to create the workplace no one wants to leave.

For more information on building an irresistible firm culture, download our informative and detailed eBook: Healthy culture in The Modern Firm®.