"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

W.H. Murray,
The Scottish Himalayan Expedition








 

Ask Henry

Below are a series of questions that I have been asked and their answers. They are listed under the following categories for ease of access.

Best structure for an accounting practice

Getting staff ready for promotion

Differences in the workplace

Succession what is it really

Finding time to fit everything in

Trusting Staff

Best structure for an accounting practice

Q Henry what is the best structure for my accounting practice? (LB Managing Partner/Melbourne/Australia)

A: It depends on the sort of practice you want. If you want a practice that is going to be like a sausage factory then you may want a lot of para professionals supervised by a few professionals. This may eliminate some of the challenges in retaining professional staff. It will however limit you to the more transactional type of work. If you want to build a firm which is more value added, then you will need more highly trained professionals who will have to come through some sort of career path, where they will be able to learn both technical and consulting skills. A good resource for this question is "Managing the professional services firm" by David Maister. This is readily available on Amazon.com or from a good business bookshop.

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Getting staff ready for promotion

Q. One of my valuable staff who has been with me for over 5 years wants to buy into the business. I am nearing retirement but don’t know whether I want him as a partner as his people skills leave a lot to be desired. Do you have any advice? (TA Manager/Melbourne/Australia)

A: Why has it got to this stage? One of the things I see in many businesses is the focus on building technical skills and leaving to one side other weaknesses. In some cases the manager is making up for the weaknesses as the staff member is very good at his job. This eventually backfires as they are not getting the support of their team or another person comes into the team with the right attributes. Either way the business has a rod for its back. The suggestion is spend some time with the person sooner than later developing their overall skills which would include communication, requiring . The longer you leave it the clearer the message will be on what is important and what is not important.

In your case you may need to say to your staff member that in order to have him come on as a partner their will be some requirements he will have to meet. This may in fact be a 1-2 year project however if you are both committed then it will be a worthwhile exercise.

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Differences in the workplace

Q I have staff who don’t seem to do the things I want them to do things in my way…How can I get this to happen? (RT Manager/Brisbane/Australia)

A: Big question and I must say at the core of a lot of peoples issues as they grapple with a society that has permission to be individual. Accept differences in people and learn from the different way they go about things.

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Succession what is it really

Q. When should a manager plan for succession? After how many years? George Manager ANZ Bank/Melbourne/Australia)

A: Start now. The essence of good succession is to have the mindset from the beginning(not always easy) that I am going to make myself superfluous to this role and indeed for some to this business.

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Finding time to fit everything in

Q. We agree Henry that we should change our systems and processes but we are so busy. (NP Managing Director Melbourne/Australia)

A: You will find the time when you see this time as a balance sheet item. In other words you make an investment now for a future return. Without this vision you will be short term focused and while you will achieve short term results it will come at some cost. Often the cost is staff who are burnt out or customers who’s expectations are heightened by what other organizations can do and as a result move their business elsewhere.

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Trusting Staff

Q I have trusted staff in the past only to be burnt. I am reluctant to trust easily and find it simpler to do it myself. (JL/Group Manager/ Melbourne/Australia)

A: This is a choice.

I like to think in life we can have a view that is bitter or better. Bitter will make you a victim to lifes circumstance and hurdles that have been thrown your way. If you can see that your experiences have made you what you are today and given you a bagful of learning then you can take that invaluable wisdom and do it differently. If you do things differently you give yourself the best chance to get different and I might say better results.

The things that most challenge us are the things we ought to go forth and meet head on. Not easy however in that way you get the most learning. You don’t get much learning from things that come easy to you. Good luck.

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