Stop over-relying on a few staff members at your accounting firm

An over-reliance on a few employees stifles growth and will gradually erode your firm unless you take steps to avoid it.

A team of four professionals engaging in a lively discussion at a modern office, with one standing and explaining a point, and the others listening attentively around a table with pizza and water bottles, illustrating collaboration and knowledge sharing.

It’s natural to click with some people and not with others. But I’ve learned from experience that many managers tend to exclusively invest in and favor top performers who work the longest hours and already do exceptional work.

This favoritism can lead to over-reliance on these employees, which stifles growth and will gradually erode your firm unless you take steps to avoid it.

Siloed teams don’t grow

Your employees’ knowledge of critical processes and experiential insights, often referred to as tribal knowledge, must be shared throughout your company in the form of standardized operating procedures and clear documentation. 

If not, you become dependent on these key employees for your company’s continued growth and success. 

The problem with over-relying on key people is that they’ll eventually be unavailable, on vacation, or in a different role, even at a different company. When this happens, do you really want your firm to come to a screeching halt? 

Favoritism creates division

Another side effect of preferring certain people and excluding others is that you doom your company to be divided between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in terms of your approval and attention. 

As in any caste system, the result is that the ‘have nots” envy the ‘haves’ and actively work to undermine the efforts of ‘haves’ so they can either remove someone and replace them, or destroy the hierarchy completely. Similarly, the ‘haves’ will guard their knowledge and role as if their position depends on it and work to keep their ‘elite’ status. 

Pillars become crutches

Every smart business owner knows that you can’t scale a business that is built with you at the center. 

However, you also can’t scale a business that’s built around a few top players. To scale your business, you must train and delegate, which is impossible if you’re neglecting standard operating process documentation in the hope that your key players will always be available to ‘just get it done’. 

Only bad businesses have crutches. Good, scalable businesses invest their resources into documentation, training, and knowledge sharing so each employee is equipped to be a pillar within their domain of expertise.

How to avoid over-relying on top performers

If you want to avoid or stop stunting your company’s growth with manager favoritism, here are some tips:

Create a habit of process documentation 

Encourage process documentation among your team and lead by example. At MBS Accountancy, my team and I use Loom to record videos that provide explanations about processes. The asynchronous nature of recorded video means that everyone can interact when it suits their schedule.

Make documentation easier and efficient with technology like Trainual, Loom, Canva, and Karbon

At MBS Accountancy, we are putting all administrative and client-related processes in Karbon so we can implement them immediately and then improve as opportunities present themselves. This has been more viable and practical for our team than storing our procedures as Word documents and reviewing them every once in a while or not at all.

Schedule recurring 1-on-1 meetings with each of your staff to ensure you aren’t neglecting your relationship with them

I’ve done this with my staff and it’s paid enormous dividends in strengthening my relationships with each one of them. Sometimes we discuss more of our personal life than our work, but I consider this part of strengthening our connection. I learned long ago that not every discussion has to be about work. 

Build a culture that solicits good ideas from anyone, anywhere in your company

Our transition to a work-from-anywhere model is an example of employee feedback being put into action. Our team also has flexible start times outside of core operating hours, to ensure consistent availability to current and prospective clients. 

In each of our team meetings, managers and I encourage everyone to present their feedback and ideas in a judgment-free zone, regardless of their seniority. I’m a firm believer that innovation only happens when smart people can go to managers with their ideas and know they’ll be heard, not shut down.

Unity is the only path toward success

Your firm must be united if you plan on growing and scaling your firm. Unity isn’t possible, though, if you’re creating inner circles by excluding people or keeping knowledge from being freely shared throughout your company. But when you’re united, both as a team and through shared knowledge, you and your team unlock enormous growth opportunities.