Conduct your business like a symphony orchestra

An orchestra is a group of musicians becoming one: they move as one, work as one, sound like one, and ultimately, succeed as one. Through collaboration, the individual instruments become a single, unified voice, and distinctions between individual players are blurred.

Two people play the cello reading from sheet music.

In many ways, your high-performing accounting firm is like an orchestra. You, too, need direction, documentation, and unity for success. Everybody needs to know how to work together

Orchestras are high-powered, high-performing, well-synchronized teams; taking a few notes will help your firm run efficiently, so you can deliver the best performance you’re capable of for your clients. 

Succeed in sections, succeed as a whole

No one can stand alone and deliver a symphony because an orchestra is not a one-person show. Where is the melody without the rhythm to support it? And a conductor without an orchestra would be someone waving their arms in an empty auditorium.

Your accounting firm is the same. Where would your most brilliant accountant be without someone to bring in clients? And what use would a stellar marketing department be if there were no accountants to process returns? An accounting firm’s success is arguably determined by well-defined roles and sections, so people know what they’re responsible for and the role they play. 

Once you have defined everyone’s roles, it becomes an art form to coordinate them all together to deliver a consistently brilliant service from start to finish. That’s where you step in.

The conductor—a strong, focused leader

The conductor knows the music inside and out. They oversee the orchestra, set the tempo, and bring musicians in as they’re needed. A good conductor is a strong leader and has vision—they know how good the music can be.

The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful.

Benjamin Zander

You know the vision for your firm—you helped to conceive it. You probably also have a good idea about the best way to realize it. The next step is to communicate effectively with all the different sections (departments) to help them understand where they fit in the bigger picture.

This is where a well-thought-out tech stack comes in—the tools that foster collaboration and open communication.

The music—documentation

If the percussion section has the sheet music for Beethoven’s 5th in front of them, while the strings are playing Chopin, the audience will know something is wrong. Similarly, if people in your team are following different procedures, it won’t seem right to your clients. 

Accounting relationships are built on trust; if your client doesn’t believe in your team, they won’t be your client for long.

Having your firm’s processes written down means the team can play the same tune consistently, whether the original composer is there or not. And whoever joins your team will be able to make meaningful contributions quickly.

If you’re looking to standardize and transform your firm’s tasks, you can download The Process Playbook for a step-by-step guide.

When process documents are written the right way, people learn the right way.

It can be anxiety-inducing to forget something and need to ask the same question multiple times. Having processes documented and organized in a way that makes sense and is well-communicated means neither your people nor work will suffer—team members can consult the document themselves, then move on. 

Harmony and teamwork

You need to have faith in other musicians for harmony; a single player out of key can cast a dissonant haze over any piece. Just like with an orchestra, a successful firm keeps everyone linked together with trust and transparency. 

It can be as simple as communicating what stage a client’s account is at, or passing on that a particular client is unhappy with an outcome—communication means other team members can take action with the benefit of all the information.

Balance, too, is key in any large team. In an orchestra, there are instruments that should feature more prominently in certain parts. Players listen to the conductor to know when it’s time to be more forceful or subtle. In a high-performing accounting team, understanding the right moments to seek advice or be more assertive, will make for a much more polished performance. 

It can be as simple as recognizing a task where a colleague might be stronger and then asking for their help. 

Repetition, rehearsal, and re-evaluation

No one can deny the importance of a musician’s individual talent. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work hard to hone their skill. A first-chair saxophonist needs to be able to play the saxophone well. Practice, practice, practice is how a saxophonist gets to that level, but it's vital they’re practicing the right techniques.

Having procedures that are well thought out will let your firm work in the same way. Outdated procedures get ignored by employees, which is fair because they’re not an accurate reflection of the way they work and the challenges they face.

That’s why continually updating procedures and being open to criticism is so valuable. It will mean they’re followed, practiced, and refined, ultimately letting your team work more efficiently as a unit.

Conducting business

An orchestra is a collection of individuals combining to create something bigger than themselves through collaboration, a unity of vision, and the driving force of the conductor. Your accounting firm is capable of achieving more as a group than as a collection of individual team members. 

By working efficiently together, you’ll be able to deliver outstanding results, and earn a well-deserved standing ovation from your clients.