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Why Our Best Kernels Don’t Pop

By Joey Havens

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Popcorn is a favorite snack at our house. Pro tip: drop in a few M&Ms right after popping—delicious! CeCe, who hates to cook, has grown to love this snack, too, and one day a few weeks ago, she ambitiously decided to pop herself a nice fluffy bag of popcorn. She stuck the package in the microwave, hit the popcorn button and left the room as she usually does when “cooking.”

When she returned, she found this. 

In case you ever wondered, this is what popcorn looks like when you microwave it without removing the plastic wrap. It was hard as a baseball and obviously, the popcorn was completely restrained from growing to the fluffy, buttery delight that I crave every night. This was another funny CeCe moment for us to enjoy at her expense (and soon to be my expense, I’m sure). She has subscribed to the blog to keep tabs on my storytelling.

When you look at this popcorn compressed and constrained from reaching its full potential, it is the perfect analogy of the current situation in many of our CPA firms. Focus on utilization and a persistent delay in investing in talent resources to capture bigger and better opportunities is the shrink wrap keeping us from growth. Compounding this is the current shortage of talent and accelerated turnover in many firms today. Even our turnover edged up last year.

The scary part is that when we get compressed like this, our best kernels don’t pop—they usually just leave for another opportunity. We don’t get our most innovative or best client experiences because when operating close to maximum capacity, we lose the ability to see bigger and better opportunities because we are operating in response mode.

Today, we must remove the wrapper for our firm to reach its full potential—a whole bowl of fluffy opportunity and growth. Our ability to move beyond short-term KPI’s focused on utilization to long-term management of resources and client opportunities will allow us to have a big bowl of opportunity and growth. Strategies to help do this include working towards a constant 10% excess capacity in our workforce, priority scheduling of strategic meetings on client service plans, pursuit plans on specific prospects and overall messaging of distinction for business development. How about empowering our younger team members to share ways to grow and be innovative?

The way to our next big bowl of popcorn starts with removing the constraints.

Special thanks to CeCe for sharing this “cooking” experience with us to help us all #beEvenBetter.

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