You’ve been feeling the pain of hiring in your accountancy firm for some time now and can’t quite figure out why you aren’t recruiting the right team members. Or why people are leaving after having been with your firm for only a few months.
Or, you’re finding that you have the right team members but they are in the wrong seat in your firm. Either way, you’ve got some work to do and although it may not seem like it at first, the solution starts with marketing.
I was chatting on our slack group with one of the Accelerator members the other day (the Accelerator is a course we run for accountants who want to learn more about marketing and actually get some marketing done) about an onboarding document she sends out to her clients after they’ve signed the proposal. She commented that she “didn’t even realize it was marketing.”
Indeed it is.
Anything you put out into the wide universe that is for your prospects, clients, AND POTENTIAL EMPLOYEES is marketing.
Even if it’s a selfie in your Insta feed.
When done properly, your website and social presence attract the right people and repel the wrong ones. This goes for clients as well as employees and is precisely the purpose in marketing.
Look at your website and ask yourself if it fully communicates:
- the personality of you and your team
- the ideal company you want to have.
If it doesn’t, you need to do some work on your branding.
As our friend Will Farnell says, “Brand is a living, breathing thing. It tells people what makes you different.” By the way, if you haven’t read his book, “The Digital Firm,” do yourself a favor and buy it on Amazon right now! It will revolutionize the way you run your firm.
Working to make sure your brand is reflective of who you truly are is the first step in recruiting the right talent.
We’ve written more about being “on brand” here, but the short version is
- Know your brand.
- Create content that speaks your language
- Paint a picture using your brand colors
- Be consistent.
If you aren’t sure you know your brand, book a branding workshop and we’ll help you get that sorted.
Ask yourself “What are the values of our accounting firm?”
Why is it you do what you do?
Gaining clarity on your mission, vision, purpose, and values – and making sure that’s clearly stated on your website – will help you attract the right type of employee. It will also help you define your company culture.
Culture is a set of values, behaviors, and beliefs that represent your firm.
If you need help defining this clearly, hold a brainstorming session for your firm. Whether you are on your own or have a team by your side, start making notes on what you think defines your firm – or what you want to define it in future.
Write it free hand, record a video, use a flip chart or whiteboard. The important thing is, get those words down.
If you are the firm owner, do this on your own first and then meet with your team. Talk through the words, phrases, and ideas that define who you are that makes you different from anyone else in the accounting profession.
The most unique thing about your accounting firm is that you are the only firm in the world that is made up of you and your team. THE ONLY ONE! This is a tremendous gift.
After defining these things internally, ask the current ideal clients you already work with how they think these words or phrases reflect (or don’t reflect) your accounting firm. Then talk about this as a team and refine and tweak your definitions.
When you’ve made revisions, these words, phrases, and ideas will become the mission, purpose, values, and vision for your firm.
Put your values on your About page.
You’ve done all the hard work of solidifying your brand. Now it’s time to broadcast those values out there for the world to see.
Make sure your About Page fully communicates who you are as a firm, which includes your values.
Some of the ways to do this are:
- Explain what your values are (list them out)
- Create a Manifesto (you could get it designed) explaining your values
- Share a video from yourself or the team, discussing why the values are important
- Share photographs & video that support those values (it’s not enough to SAY them, you need to live them, too)
Create a Careers page and include your values there.
When you’re hiring, the careers page isn’t simply about the roles you have and what qualifications people need before applying.
You’re opening up the doors to the firm and helping the potential applicant feel like they understand where they’re coming to work, and whether they fit there.
Some of the things you can include in the careers page for your accountancy firm are:
- Video from you the owner, or from some or all of the team, to explain who you are and why
- What’s in it for them if they apply and work for you
- Role descriptions and what you are asking for
- A call to action. What do you want them to do next?
Remember, this is much like a prospect page: explain who you are as a firm, why they would work with you, and what you want them to do next.
Talk about your values on your social media.
Having values isn’t as simple as some words on a page. You’ve got to live them out regularly, and social media is a powerful way to show that as a pattern over time.
Think about what images best represent each of the values (or use images of your team members) and use them alongside quotes from you and your team on what each value means.
It’s not enough to just talk about your values, you have to live them out.
The accountancy firm MAP in Manchester have their values printed on one of their office walls. Every Friday they meet together as a team and each person nominates someone else who lived out the values that week.
At PF, one of our values is positivity. To live this out, in every weekly team meeting, we start by each person sharing both a personal and a PF victory, so we can focus on what is good and what is encouraging – even if there are some hard things, too.
Beyond your website and social media, create a document or video that communicates your values that you can share with potential employees. Make watching it a required part of the hiring process.
Hire by your values.
At PF, we’ve spent a lot (I mean A LOT) of time defining who we are and what values we hold. The result is our hiring process is more intense than it ever has been before. We don’t just hire someone because they “seem nice enough.” That’s not what we are looking for.
It’s also made the hiring process easier, because our process tells us whether the person is someone we’re looking for or not. We know who we are and what we stand for- the non-negotiables. Values are everything.
We come across plenty of people who are nice – but if they don’t fit our values, they won’t work out here. It’s not solely about us: we care about them too. They would not be happy here, so we won’t hire them. There are no hard feelings: we wish them well and move on. (We might even suggest another company we think they’d be a fit for.)
Just because someone is not a fit with your company doesn’t mean they’re a terrible person or can’t get a job anywhere! It just means their personal values don’t fit your company ones, or their skills aren’t quite up to scratch yet. You don’t need to feel badly about saying no: they’ll get a job somewhere else that fits them better.
As you well know, no one has enough time. And hiring the wrong person will cost you massively in terms of money, time, and team culture. Don’t spend time with people who aren’t a good fit.
Create a Hiring process page.
In addition to a page about hiring and careers, and your About page, you will also want to be crystal clear with any prospective team members about your hiring process, and the steps your candidate will go through.
For example, PF’s hiring process is:
- Submit a video explaining why you think you’re a fit for this role
- Tester project on real, live marketing work
- Group interview on Zoom with the team
- Self assessment on PF values & pillars
- References from 3 others on fit with PF values and pillars
- One on one interview with MD (Karen).
At every stage, the whole team decides whether to move the candidate to the next stage or not. If there is confusion or disagreement, we stop the process for more discussion and consideration before moving further.
Talk to other accountants about their hiring process.
Don’t go it alone. Ask other accountants about their successes and failures when it comes to hiring for their accountancy firm. Joining our Accelerator course is one example of a community providing you this opportunity. You join the course with 30 other accountants who are dealing with similar issues and challenges to you, and you get to spend 12 weeks interacting with these like-minded accountants and ask them what works for them (or doesn’t).
Fire by your values
If you’ve reassessed with your team and gone through the process of defining your mission, purpose, values, and vision, it’s possible a team member will realize they aren’t a good fit and decide to walk away.
However, if they don’t, you’ll need to let them go. While no one likes to do it, sometimes it’s reality. To quote my friend Will again, “You can’t teach personality.”
Remind yourself that you are doing the employee a favor as well. I haven’t met a person yet that likes to be the loner, the outlier, the sore thumb.
If you are hesitant, give them options for growth and opportunity.
Abbey Louie from Mintify, gave a talk at Quickbooks Connect about using David Rock’s SCARF method when interacting with employees:Finding out how a certain employee works, what makes them tick and what drives them to effective and healthy work performance, can make all the difference in the world. You might find out they actually are a good culture fit, but there are other factors limited them from their real personality and effectiveness coming through.
It’s your job as the accounting firm owner to make sure you’ve spent time with each of your employees so you know how to give them every opportunity to succeed. Learn more about the SCARF method and have each team member take the test. Once you know how each member works, you’ll be able to come up with practical ways to implement leadership techniques with each of them.
Defining company culture and values and sticking to them requires vulnerability
Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. When you market your firm culture and values for the world to see, you are most certainly being vulnerable. It’s your living, breathing self out there for everyone to analyze and form opinions about your firm. This is scary. But you know what, if a potential employee forms a negative opinion of you based on your marketing, they probably aren’t really a potential employee.
Brene Brown says vulnerability is “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”
Doesn’t that sound like the type of place you’d want to work at? A place where you feel like you belong, where your whole self is encouraged and loved, not threatened and criticized. It does to me and I’m sure it does to you as well.
Taking the time to make sure your marketing reflects your brand, including your culture and values, will help you recruit the top talent that is perfect for your unique accounting firm. If you still aren’t sure, spend some time on our branding page to get started.
You might just find you like marketing even more than you already did!