Be Ready for Constant Change: The Mindset to Prepare Your Business for What’s Next

January 24, 2018

Last month, I had the privilege of visiting the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. There for a conference, I also toured the campus, spoke with leaders and teammates and marveled at the technological and business miracles on display.

I recalled the beginning of my accounting career 26 years ago. Back then, it would have been unthinkable to commonly use a computer for a business audit, as far out and fantastical as something from “Star Trek.”

Times change, right? And they just keep changing, faster and faster all the time.

So, what kind of mindset do business leaders need to compete in this ever-changing, fast-paced environment?

I like to think of three broad ideas.

1. Think about Change — Always

At Aprio, we’re passionate about what’s next — for our clients, colleagues and communities. That’s why we rebranded in 2017 from our previous name, HA+W, which for decades served as the name of Atlanta’s premier CPA firm.

Our new name reflects a broader mission. We’re not just CPAs. We are business advisors who are CPAs. Disruptors in a traditional field, we delight in challenging the status quo.

At the core of this intense curiosity is a desire to think ahead, every day.

It used to be that we all paused at this time of year to review the last 12 months and look ahead at what might be coming next.

But it’s no longer enough to consider change just once annually, or even seasonally. In business, technology, finance and leadership, change is coming at us faster and faster all the time. Business leaders must think about what’s ahead, and not just struggle to keep up with whatever just happened.

Even in my accounting profession, which traditionally looks backward, we choose to look forward, always. How can we provide our clients with insight about what’s coming next?

2. Compete to Be Unique

For business prospects, if competing firms all look the same, then price becomes the deciding factor. That means we all must distinguish ourselves from the competition more than ever.

I advise business leaders to compete to be unique. After all, who wants to be typical or ordinary?

I’m more interested in an entire business than just its books. I’m curious about its leaders, people, customers and stories. I love learning how things operate, how they connect, how they provide value — and why people and organizations behave the way they do.

This is all reflected in Aprio and the steps we took in 2017 to guide and serve our clients in broader, more meaningful ways.

In 2017, we decided to build up our content offerings to differentiate our firm. Clients wanted more guidance about what’s coming down the pike.

We launched our What’s Next content hub to share expertise with clients and prospects. And with the CEO Tools module and revised edition of the “CEO Tools” book, we’re giving practical means that business leaders can use to improve every day.

How do you create offerings, products and experiences that set your brand apart?

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

If you don’t make your offerings, values and commitments clear to clients, prospects, employees and other stakeholders — then who will?

It’s up to you to make sure everybody knows.

That means constantly updating and reminding your clients and communities about who you are, what you care about and what your services and capabilities are. You do this via multiple communication channels: emails, meetings, social media accounts, phone calls, etc.

Similarly, communicating with your own teams is at least as important as communicating with clients and prospects.

For example, don’t assume your employees know about new services or sales strategies. You must tell them, over and over, in multiple ways. Make your company values clear and share examples of how employees put them into action.

We do this by starting every week with an email to teammates about one of the 30 fundamental behaviors on which we’ve based our business. On Wednesdays, employees take an interactive quiz to reinforce the message. They discuss the week’s fundamental behavior at the beginning of each meeting. They share their own stories, which I relate back to the firm later.

Summary: The Future’s in Your Hands

  • Think about the future every day. Read books and blogs. Engage people of all ages and employment levels. Clear your head with exercise, even if it’s just a 15-minute walk.
  • Set your business apart from competitors. Lean into your differences and nurture them. Turn them into part of your value proposition, service offerings and marketing.
  • Focus on customers and employees alike. Promote the successes of your clients and your workers. Provide positive reinforcement. You want to retain, not just attract, the best of both.

If we remember these three broad ideas, we’ll be ready for the changes that come in 2018 — and beyond.

Around the time of my Google visit, I read about a new handheld medical device. Users can pass it over their own bodies for instant diagnosis of dozens of ailments. It reminded me of something…

Ah, yes. The “tricorder” used by Dr. McCoy on “Star Trek.”

What’s next? So much, and more all the time.

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