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What I Learned at Google

By Joey Havens

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Google has a very large grocery bill. That’s just one thing I learned on my recent visit to the Google campus. I was lucky enough to be invited by to join 15 other CEO’s of major accounting firms to visit and learn from Google’s director of accounting, their staff and the director of cloud services. It was a tremendous networking and learning experience that opened my eyes to more insights for being future ready. But besides the large grocery bill (I ate twice while I was there) as the result of providing three meals a day on campus for team members, I learned not only why they buy lots of groceries but also several other valuable tidbits. 

Google is experiencing many of the same growing and change management challenges that each of us is experiencing in our firms, businesses and personal lives. As they shared with us, this speed of change is only going to accelerate and they plan on bringing many solutions to the market. One tactic that might sound familiar is that where they are overwhelmed, they are throwing bodies at the growth to keep up. Lots of their outsourcing is to ramp up really fast for growth needs. 

The real insights came as they explained that while they are working on the urgent, they are also working on automating many of these outsourced functions. The strategic plan is to automate most of the services that are being outsourced today so they can spend more time and resources on higher strategic opportunities. So our group posed the question, “As this automation takes place, what will you be looking for from your consultants and advisors in the future?”

In summary, they will be looking for a higher level of service, insights and best practices. Tell us what we are not seeing. Less about today and more about tomorrow. Challenge our thinking. What is your viewpoint? How can you contribute to helping form strategy? 

This is a real look into the future of our profession where we must evolve from a compliance, technical skill set to a strategic, analytical advisor skill set. This new skill set will be in high demand from the giants like Google to the community banks, hospitals, contractors and the entire public and middle market. Small business will not be immune from this change or advisory gap. 

It was also evident that Google values human interaction for innovation, creativity, problem solving and common purpose. They make it as convenient as possible to be “on campus.” Eating spaces are designed for closeness of table and chairs to generate more spontaneous interactions. Building designs promote numerous small open areas for additional social interactions. Google values innovation and creativity which is a must in moving our business models into the future. How will we generate the innovation we need to be future ready?

Google believes in goals as every team member has quarterly goals by which they can measure success. This is powerful because it provides everyone a scoreboard which helps them understand how they are contributing to the overall purpose and their team. When you consider everyone’s goals are transparent to all team members, I’m sure there is an enhanced level of accountability and engagement. 

These are the most valuable insights I discovered during my visit. Plus, they do have some great chefs—which was a delight. Thanks, Google, for sharing so many insights and for organizing such a wonderful event. I hope some of these insights also generate good conversations in your firm or business. I guess I “Googled it” in real life!