With a new financial year in Australia about to kick off it is not too late to plan for the year ahead if you’ve not done so already. Here are my suggestions to make FY18 a great year.
- Articulate your values
- Get clear on your vision
- Get clear on your mission
- Have a proper plan and share it
- Hold yourself accountable
Articulate your values
I think of values as what you believe in and how you will behave. They are at the foundation of any business and they may or may not be consciously articulated, but one way or another they always show themselves in business. They are critical in forming the culture of the business – “the way things are done around here”, the norms that are accepted. Simon Sinek was in Australia recently and this is what I heard him say about values:
- Yes, values should be defined in a business.
- There should be less than five of them
- Use verbs not nouns e.g.. “Do the right thing” instead of “integrity”
- Have a peer recognition program that allows team members to nominate each other for living the values
- If you have to have honesty as one of your values you’ve got issues!
I have long held the view that values are key to hiring, training and managing your people, and ultimately firing if a person cannot or will not act in accordance with them. My experience has been that where there are clearly articulated values they provide a powerful context for decision making.
Here are some example websites showing how values are articulated:
This last firm lists 16 different value statements, which I think is too many, however their last statement is worth repeating here – “To be a part of our team you MUST live our values and follow our client & Culture performance standards to the letter. Team members are empowered to correct any other team members who is not living and adhering to them.”
Get clear on your mission
I think of mission as why the business exists, or what its purpose is. The concept of getting clear on your personal why and business why has been championed in recent years by Simon Sinek who says people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. If you haven’t watched his video on this take 18 minutes to look at it. Type “Simon Sinek why” into any search engine and you’ll find it.
If you clicked on the links above for the four accounting firms articulating their values on their websites, you will have noticed that some of them also have their mission or purpose. What is yours and have you been able to eloquently articulate it? And have you told the world (and particularly your team) about it?
Get clear on your vision
I think of vision as what your business wants to become.
Traditionally, vision statements describe where the business wants to be at a point in the future – often some way out in the future, say 5 or 10 years. When the vision is defined the company leaders describe in some detail when they want to achieve it. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies introduced the concept of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG as fundamental to an organisation’s vision.
In the 80s and 90s companies created vision statements such as “to become a leading supplier of widgets in Australia” this statement is very thinking (data) based. It does not connect with the heart and therefore cannot motivate. If people can attach feelings to the vision, they become engaged and the vision creates energy and action.
Collins and Porras noted that a true BHAG “is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a catalyst for team spirit”. A true vision captures both the head and the heart of everyone in the organisation.
An example of a BHAG is Microsoft’s goal – “A computer on every desk and in every home” or perhaps the most famous from President John F Kennedy – “ This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
Do you have a clear and compelling long term goal for your business?
Have a proper plan and share it
Simon Sinek recently said “vision without execution is hallucination”. In other words, you have to have a plan and actually implement it. For me this means the leadership team of your business getting together to work through a process of what strategies and actions are needed to achieve the vision, BHAG and mission. This means decisions about what products and services are you going to sell, who are you going to sell them to, how are you going to market, sell and deliver them, what team members do you need and what technology and other tools will you deploy. And more. It takes time to build a plan but I am 100% convinced it is worth it.
Once the leadership team is in complete agreement on the plan you then share it with the team. Not once, not twice, but many times in many different ways. By that I mean a mixture of verbally in meetings and written on your firm’s intranet, emails to the team or posters around the office. As many different ways as you can think of.
Hold yourself accountable
My experience is that in many professional firms there is no shortage of ideas, but strangely there is a shortage of the ability / discipline / commitment to implement them. Famous professional services consultant David Maister (now retired) used to say that he had seen the plans of many professional firms around the world and typically they were quite similar and very sound. He noted however that very few firms actually implemented them – actually did what they said they would do. My belief is that this is because they didn’t have an appropriate process to manage implementation and hold themselves accountable. Implementation takes leadership and project management skills and a genuine commitment to get stuff done. I also think this is why having a third party to help you with accountability and you constantly telling your team how you are progressing as a business, is so powerful.
Rob Pillans is an Accounting Firm Management Guru and Accounting Firm Coach, dedicated to helping accountants define their version of success, formulate the strategies and implement them. He provides hands on coaching, consulting, training, mentoring and facilitating all over Australia and New Zealand. He writes a monthly newsletter, which you can sign up for here.