Q: You have worked in a variety of industries in your career. What do you feel are the most critical issues facing businesses today?
A: From year to year, the most critical issues facing firms of our size are often the same. While there are always new topics and trends that arise in the market each year, the core issues relate to the fundamental elements of any business, especially in the middle market. In no particular order, I believe those include:
Talent Acquisition and Retention. A significant issue for any company is attracting and retaining new staff at all levels. There are any number of challenges to consider when attracting and keeping employees, and those challenges can differ based on geography, job type and job level.
I have seen two main elements influence the ability to find candidates to fill staff level positions in the accounting field. First is name recognition. Many university students have heard of the large public accounting firms, but are often not familiar with middle market firms or boutique practices. And second, many university graduates who have focused on forensic accounting are seeking industry positions inside large insurance companies and corporations rather than consultancy practices.
Once candidates are hired, the company must also be responsive to employee needs, offering competitive benefits and ensuring a culture fit for employees.
Brand Recognition. Being known by every person may be important to some brands, but not all. As a middle market firm, we recognize that we are not likely to ever be a household name across the country or around the world. However, we must continue to build and ensure brand recognition among the target clients and decision makers that purchase our services. In professional services, it is more important to be well known to the people who will buy our services than to be known by everyone in the world.
Flexible Internal Structure. No business market is static; there is always change. History has shown that even the most stable markets can and will fluctuate. We must learn to expect, anticipate and embrace change. As a mid-size company, we find it is important to be able to pivot quickly when needed. Having flexibility within an internal corporate structure can enable a company to respond to shifting market demands more fluidly to maximize new growth opportunities or stay ahead of others in the market.
Anticipate Risk and Disruption. A few years ago, ‘disruption’ was one of the most popular buzzwords; but I still find it an accurate term to use today. We must stay up to date with the changing picture of global risk and disruption taking place in the global market. In the past few years, we have seen significant disruption in the global market, from recessions to Brexit to massive international cyber attacks. Disruption and risk can be fear and change, but can also bring opportunity. Companies, as well as executives, must be willing to evolve to be proactive leaders in the digitization of the world. Many emerging technologies like AI and cryptocurrency are gaining mainstream acceptance, yet many executives do not fully understand what they are, how they work and how they will impact our business and the work we do. We need to take the time to educate ourselves to ensure these new changes, and their role in the evolution of business, remain an opportunity and not a threat.
What are the critical issues facing your company today? Do you know what they will be tomorrow? Have you considered what those issues will be five years from now? And how are you going to meet those challenges?