It is hard to believe that it’s already time for school to begin. Where, oh where did the summer go? As school bells ring once again, maybe it’s time for you to take a closer look at moving to the head of the class by sharing your knowledge with others. No, don’t abandon your day job as a CPA to become a teacher. Rather, develop a learning culture within your firm and use your talents to build trust with clients and prospects by helping them gain new knowledge that is of value to them and their business.
As you know, you are in the knowledge business. The more you and others in your firm know, the more value you bring to your clients. Shifts in the market, increased regulation, technology advances and competitive factors are all driving change in firms at an increasing velocity. To manage this change successfully and remain competitive, your firm must develop a commitment to continuous improvement and an investment in life-long learning.
So, what is a learning environment? According to the PCPS Learning Culture Guide, a learning environment is one where everyone in the firm is committed to gaining new skills, exploring new behaviors and furthering a collective understanding of the issues facing the profession and clients on an ongoing basis. CPAs and professional staff are expected to be knowledgeable on a wide range of topics and demonstrate a myriad of technical, client service, administrative and managerial skills. With all there is to learn, it is critical to create an environment that emphasizes and values continuous learning.
Start developing a culture of learning within your firm by asking everyone to create a customized learning plan that will enable them to grow in their roles and contribute to the firm’s vision. One of the best ways to do this is through learner-led learning where everyone in the firm drives their own learning experiences to acquire new skills, knowledge and information. When each staff member takes ownership of their learning, they will ensure that it occurs and will participate more fully, making sure they gain the information needed.
One way you can incent learner-led learning in your firm is to encourage staff to share what they’ve learned through CPE or on-the-job experiences with others and not keep it to themselves. Doing so reinforces the learning of the person who is given the role of teacher and will help staff grow, develop new skills and assume more responsibility.
Creating a learner-led culture benefits the firm at all levels. Having firm leaders drive their own learning while passing on new skills, knowledge and behaviors helps ensure that others are cross-trained and poised for new responsibilities. The firm leaders are then freed up to take on new responsibilities and focus on those tasks that best use their specific skills and talents.
So how does this learning environment within your firm assist your clients? How can you demonstrate your knowledge beyond the services that you provide clients every day? How can you move beyond just being a technical thinker and win clients’ attention and trust? Luckily, your clients are looking to you for a specific skill set and knowledge to help them achieve their financial goals and maximize their financial performance, whether individually, for their business or both. Your clients pay for your expertise so they don’t have to acquire the expertise themselves. And clients today are looking for more information than ever on how to solve their challenges. That’s where you, the CPA and Trusted Business Advisor can score big.
How can you win trust with knowledge? All professional staff in the firm can identify a subject they are passionate about and determine a way to teach other staff members and clients. With all the new venues available for learning there is sure to be an option that will be comfortable for staff members. Teaching locales have expanded well beyond the traditional classroom to include webcasts, podcasts, videos, trade shows, conferences and professional events, to name a few. Some staff may not want to speak in front of a group. No worries - they can also teach through writing in social media, blogs, articles, e-newsletters, professional magazines and trade publications.
Your firm has the unique ability to help business owners look past the numbers and use that knowledge to resolve tough issues. You have the technical expertise to help clients realize the great things they can achieve beyond what’s imaginable. And you have the ability to help your clients solve problems which is essential to building trust based relationships. So make sure you and the professional staff at your firm continuously leverage various avenues for demonstrating your business knowledge!
This article was created based on excerpts from the ‘Learning Culture Guide’ in the PCPS Human Capital Center developed in partnership with ConvergenceCoaching, LLC and from the ‘School Starts Soon - Will You be at the Head of the Class’ 60 Second Advisor post in the AICPA Trusted Business Advisor Alumni LinkedIn group.
Tools for Success Spotlight
Part of our mission is to ensure that CPAs are aware of the many resources that are available to them through the AICPA and PCPS. In each issue we will highlight different tools and showcase some of the benefits you may be missing out on. Examples of tools that may re-energize your practice are provided below.