Do or Do Not – There Is No ‘Try’

Marc Rosenberg, CPA / Sep 3, 2019

Those are the immortal words of one of my two favorite movie mentors, Yoda from Star Wars.  (Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid is a close second).  Yoda is giving young Luke Skywalker his Jedi training and asks if he is ready.  Luke responds, “I’ll give it a try,” prompting our beloved Jedi Master to utter the title of this post.  When I come across this line, it makes me think of managing a CPA firm (OK, I’m a little weird about these things!)

Over the years, many CPA firms have invited me to help them create a strategic plan.  Most of the time, I decline. Why?  Because they don’t have what it takes to be successful at it and I don’t want to be associated with a consulting project that fails.  The partner group needs to be in a position to DO the strategic plan, not try.  To help me decide if they have the right stuff, I ask these questions:

Do you have a strong MP?   One who is willing and able to devote hundreds of hours to managing the firm, which includes following up on the progress of the plan, especially with partners assigned to goals, and coaching them how to be successful at it.  Will the MP give up clients to free up the time to do this?

Do you have accountability systems in place?  Without accountability (a consequence to not performing as mutually agreed upon), any strategic plan is doomed from the start.

Are you a partnership or a group of CPAs practicing under one roof, sharing staff and overhead?  If the firm is really more a collection of solos, the partners have no incentive to do anything unless it benefits them directly and personally.

Strategic Planning and Goal Setting for Results is a  guide to strategic planning and partner goal setting for CPA firms. It addresses ►the three main phases of strategic planning, ►overall management philosophy of a CPA firm, ►steps to creating the strategic plan, ►the all-important vision statement, ►stimulating productive brainstorming sessions, ►best practices for goal setting programs, ►core values, ►keys to implementation, ►pitfalls of strategic planning, ►why strategic planning will fail without partner accountability

Are all the partners on the same page?  Do they get along with each other?  Do they agree on the direction of the firm? Can they compromise?  One powerful partner who is a naysayer and sceptic will zap everyone’s energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the strategic plan.

Your partner comp system. Is there a provision for rewarding those who achieve strategic planning goals?

Do the partners have the time and staff support to achieve strategic planning goals?  Partners are already “too busy.”  It’s not realistic for them to take on strategic plan goals without ensuring that they have the time to work on the goals as well as staff to assist them.

Why do you want to do strategic planning?  The only acceptable answer is “it will make us more successful and profitable.”  If the partners don’t truly believe this in their hearts, they will lack the dogged commitment it takes to execute.

How do firms usually respond to the above questions?

Many firms, if they are honest, will answer “no” to some of the questions.  It’s then that I regretfully decline their invitation.

Let’s get something straight.  There is no greater believer in the power of strategic planning than me.  When firms create a vision, reduce it to goals, put this in writing, assign responsibilities and establish accountability for achieving the goals, they are more likely to realize their vision than if they didn’t engage in any strategic planning.


Of all the 20 or so major parts of managing a CPA firm, strategic planning, perhaps more than anything of the others, has the longest list of “prerequisites” to be successful.  Before your firm contemplates strategic planning, make sure you are ready for it.

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