The 3 roles to structure your accounting firm around

Many firm leaders are consumed by their profit and loss statements rather than their balance sheets. Focusing on profit and loss usually means working through a to-do list to demonstrate profitability. It means that educating clients and growing the business often gets neglected.

Those concerned about their P&L statement usually have a flat team structure that fixates on hiring people to do the work on hand. They are often facing capacity issues and struggle to grow. 

In a firm such as this:

  • Nothing runs smoothly on its own 

  • Hiring the right staff is challenging 

  • Staff retention is low

  • The owner works long hours playing constant catchup

  • Little thought is put into hiring, the focus is on plugging holes  

What’s a better alternative?

To avoid a flat team structure and establish a foundation that will enable you to scale while keeping clients and employees happy, you need three main pillars within your structure: 

  • Finders

  • Minders 

  • Grinders

Each of these roles plays a crucial part in your organization's development and should make up the backbone of your master plan

What are finders, minders, and grinders?

Leaders who manage a thriving accounting firm have realized there is more to running a business than merely getting work done. It involves managing traffic flow —or aligning communication with production — which are two very different but critical roles for the firm.

Successful firms understand you cannot just hire someone and expect them to do all of the above. 

You need to understand the three most crucial roles in a firm:

Finders

Finders are generally your senior client managers and assistant client managers. They are charming, great communicators, and have excellent interpersonal skills. They can break down complex tax issues into terms any client can understand. Senior client managers typically handle A and B clients (the toughest to get, but the most vital to long-term success). In contrast, the assistant client manager generally deals with C and D clients (smaller margin clients with more touchpoints). 

Minders

Minders suit the role of your firm’s senior production managers. They oversee technical staff, but can also play a communication role. They ensure everything is functioning smoothly and efficiently across the firm. They are good communicators and excel at managing grinders, while also bridging the gap between client managers and production staff. They often focus most of their time on strategy and leading. 

Grinders

Grinders are the production staff. They work well on their own, are good at taking instruction, and like to keep busy. As tax and compliance work inches closer and closer to automation, some firms outsource their technical staff. Grinders are the ideal role for outsourcing, as they are the ones with technical knowledge. 

What is the right balance of finders, and grinders?

Obtaining the right balance of finders and grinders is key. When you achieve it, you create a powerful synergy that drives your firm toward success.

  • It’s not a one-size-fits-all. Finding your firm’s equilibrium means weighing your production and communication needs, and then hiring accordingly. 

  • Keep your budget in mind. Finders and minders are usually more expensive than a grinder. So, if you focus all your efforts (and money) on finders you might run out of money before hiring the right minder or enough grinders. 

  • Consider personality traits. Accountants who excel at routine may not have strong interpersonal skills: they’re grinders. Accountants who have people skills should be placed in a position that takes advantage of their strengths: talking and dealing with clients.

By tailoring each hire to the right role, you can concentrate on the highest effort and salary on the most important role for firm growth: finder and minders. 

How to hire for each role

To fill each role, you must recruit the right people.

Finders must have the strongest communication skills because they interact with clients. They should speak clearly, and align with the mission of the firm.

Minders are reliable, experienced accountants with the knowledge, but not necessarily the people skills. They could be paired with a skilled finder in a client meeting, to help explain more technical details. 

Typically, accountants fresh out of school are grinders. They’re ready and willing to put in the time and effort to get the work done. But, they don’t necessarily have interpersonal skills. Three things to look for in grinders: 

  • Attitude: You can teach people skills, but you can’t teach them the right attitude. 

  • Ability: Assess each candidate's abilities through a series of tasks. 

  • Speed: Hiring someone too slow (or too fast) can translate into increased billing of the client, writing off their hours, or at worst, egregious errors. 

What’s the outcome of structuring your team on these 3 roles?

Structuring your firm and your team under the umbrella of these three roles is crucial to your ability to grow your business

When done correctly, leaders who hire strategically and put finders, minders and grinders in their correct roles, can stand back to watch their firm grow. 

  • Employees are happier, and there is less turnover 

  • The owner works fewer hours

  • The firm is making more money 

  • Happier clients refer their friends 

Bottom line: get the grinding off your desk, and focus on hiring the right people, for the right role. 

Hiring the right people allows you to cut out the ‘busy work’ your employees don’t like doing. It provides opportunities to develop stronger customer relationships. And it steers your internal team on a path of personal growth.

This article is a recap of our recent webinar, the 3 roles crucial to your firm's structure, featuring Ed Chan (Chan & Naylor and WIZE Mentoring). You can watch the full recording here.

To learn more from Ed Chan, download the free playbook: The Accountant's 20-Hour Workweek from WIZE Mentoring.

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