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The firm of the future

The accounting industry is rapidly shifting from a reliance on compliance to a stronger advisory focus. This has led to an increasing emphasis on client relationships and proactive communication in the people we employ and develop.

Insights Dale Crosby 08 December 2015
— 2 minute read

What does this mean for individuals? For some visionaries, the successful accountant-adviser will be a renaissance man or woman, able to take on any role requested by the client with skill and aptitude. For others, the future lies in specialisation based on personal skills and motivated abilities. Perhaps the real answer is somewhere in the middle, with firms attracting a combination of people in generalist and specialist roles.


The traditional view of minders, finders and grinders in professional firms is still relevant as firms try to adapt to their changing environment. What role do your staff play in achieving the firm’s objectives?

Finders: These are the ones at the top of the pyramid who find the business. They are usually equity partners. They are owners in the business, and the success of the firm equals personal financial success. They are 'in it to win it'. They hunt for a living. They spend 80 per cent-plus of their time on business development and client relationship management.

Minders: These are the team leaders and client managers. They have relevant experience and spend their days working with clients and keeping their teams busy and on track. They project manage others and keep the wheels of the projects running. They may work towards the goal of becoming partner. They seek to please, and frankly, hold the place together. There is lots of leverage here because they coach people who, in the end, are the future talent pipeline of the firm.

Grinders: These are the bright young things coming out of universities who are smart, impressionable and eager to please. They are putting in the long hours doing research and crunching data. Junior resources learn an enormous amount on the job.

For any firm, team and project, you ideally need all three roles. They are not mutually exclusive by any means. Any one on the team can help “find” additional work with existing clients. Likewise, “minders” often step in and do the heavy lifting work too. That said, these are the archetypes and the typical roles that firms hire into, and the ones you see on teams and projects.

If you really care about how your firm operates, think about the staffing model and what that means for client service and firm profitability.

How do you determine the right people for the right roles in your firm? Psychological profiling will perhaps tell you a little of individual skills, motivations and interests, but the simplest way to find out what roles your people should be in is simply to ask them.

Find out more about their needs and wants. Tell them about your vision for the future of your firm and ask them about theirs. And certainly, if you value your staff, tell them that there will be a role for them in your firm, no matter which way they decide to go … as long as they demonstrate strong motivation to learn and an aptitude to be the best they can be.

In the accounting firm of the future, we will have accountants, analysts, advisers, authorities and administrators, all working together to achieve the best result for their clients. What are you doing now to make the right decisions in relation to recruitment and retention of your people?

What are the roles you need for success in 2016 and beyond? Who’s responsible for bringing in new business, managing client relationships and service delivery? And how do you ensure you have the right people in the right roles?


The firm of the future
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Dale Crosby

Dale Crosby

As senior advisor with High Tech Soft Touch, Dale has a specific interest in the helping the staff of accounting firms to really engage with their clients. He assist firms with the integration of compliance, business and financial advisory services. HTST’s eLearning platform provides accounting and advisory firms with self-paced learning programs in the areas of business advice, team coaching, workflow management and client communications.