No matter what the size of your firm, I’m sure you have a CPE (Continuing Professional Education) budget. How you spend these dollars is not something that should be taken lightly.
Of course, you need to focus on developing the technical skills of your employees, especially beginners. CPA firms focus on the various “level” training courses for their one, two, and three-year team members. Staff level training is offered by state societies and other vendors and is a great benefit to those beginning their careers in public accounting.
After that, the investment seems to decline. Dollars are allocated to keeping up with audit and tax issues but not so much for supervisory, management, and leadership training. Firms tend to procrastinate on these very important skills that could mean success for the firm in the future.
Often partners hand out titles without the education and training to back them up. I have found that most CPA firm managers have no clue how to manage people. They were given the title because of their technical expertise and longevity. Maybe a supervisor is encouraged to attend a one-day “supervisory” training course like the ones offered by vendors across the country, not specifically for the CPA profession. Often, it doesn’t go any further than that.
Now is the time for you to invest in what we used to call soft skills. We now call them success skills. Once some of your managers attend one of the popular leadership development programs for CPAs, I urge you to seriously evaluate the effectiveness of these leadership courses. After your people complete a leadership course, monitor their progress. They are excited about the whole experience for a few months but does it last? Do they demonstrate the leadership skills they learned or did they attend leadership training just to promote their personal career?
As you prepare your CPE plan for this year, balance the technical with the success skills and then monitor the performance of the individuals as they build on what they have learned.
Leadership in a CPA firm means being able to get diverse individuals to work together as a team to achieve a common goal. It means that your CPA team is able to out-perform the competition. Is that what’s happening at your firm?