Meet one of today’s brilliant minds in the accounting profession, Rebecca Ryan. As the Founder of NEXT Generation Consulting, Inc., in Madison, Wisconsin, Rebecca walks the walk and talks the talk. I particularly love her statement “I’d love to see a list of ‘Best Firms’ that’s based on firms that really make a difference in the world.” You’ll really enjoy this Q&A.
Q: What are some of the key issues facing public accounting firms right now that managing partners need to keep on their front burners?
A: The diversity of the workforce. Currently, half of all CPA grads are women, and 13% of high potentials are nonwhites. That means that ten years from now, half of all our high potentials should be women and one in every six new partners should be nonwhite.
In addition, firms have to start innovating. They’re getting caught in a commodity/price war trap because they don’t know how to differentiate themselves. And the only way you do that in this environment is through service or a client experience.
Q: How challenging is it to run your business? How do you juggle it all?
A: So that’s two questions. Let me break those apart.
It depends how you define “challenging?” The hardest thing I’ve ever done was steer my business through the recession. It was extremely stressful and I felt like a giant loser.
But that was nothing compared to what others face every day. For example, last week one of my clients lost his spouse unexpectedly from a massive heart attack at age 60. THAT is a challenge.
Compared to the really hard stuff we face in life, running a business is easy-cheesy.
I can’t juggle. I’m absolutely horrendous at doing multiple things at once. Anyone who’s ever been in a car with me knows this. I cannot drive responsibly and talk to someone in the car. I run red lights, speed…it’s not good.
Because I can’t juggle, I need other strategies. Here are mine:
From “Master Your Workday Now,” I identify a few things that I want to get done each week. And then each day, I identify no more than six things I am totally committed to getting done that day. I have been blessed with the ability to really focus, so that works for me.
Oh! And recently I signed up for “IDoneThis” based on a tip from Dan Pink. You get an email at 6 each night and reply with all the things you accomplished that day. They track it…and it’s very satisfying to see what I can get done in a month or so.
Q: What’s going on with your writing and speaking engagements these days?
A: Bless you for asking! My new book, ReGeneration, is out in June. And we’re running this cool campaign: people who pre-order before April 30 will get their name in the book.
Speaking is going great. I’m increasingly being used to fill the “futurist” slot at conferences. It’s not very often that meetings have a female futurist and economist…who wears tennis shoes. It’s going well.
Q: What have been some of the key things you’ve learned throughout your career? What might you do differently if you could go back in time?
A. Okay, that’s two questions again. And as you know, I can only do one thing at a time…
#1: Key Things
- It’s as easy to sell a $5,000 project as a $50,000 project.
- Nice people really DO get ahead in business. For example, we sold $10,000 of books in 13 days on Kickstarter. That happened because I have spent 15 years trying to be kind to every person I’ve met…and they want to return the favor.
- You have to have a vision and values beyond the bottom line if you really want your life to count for something. That’s one of the things that always bothers me a little about CPA firms: they measure themselves on revenue and don’t make the connection to people’s hearts and values. I’d love to see a list of “Best Firms” that’s based on firms that really make a difference in the world.
#2: Do differently
- I would’ve been a better friend to my real friends. Often, I sacrificed friend stuff (like class reunions or weddings) for work. I regret that now.
- I would’ve fired people earlier, when I knew they weren’t a fit. It would give me fits to fire people, but it was faster and more painless than trying to make someone fit in.
Q: What’s in the future for Rebecca Ryan?
In the very immediate term, an airplane ride home.
In the longer term, we are helping a developer with a “next generation community” in the Dallas area. And I hope, someday, I will give a TED talk.
Oh! And beer. I love to sample beer.
Q: If you had to suddenly choose a completely different line of work, what might that be?
- Shoeshine girl. There’s nothing more satisfying than shining shoes.
- College professor. All that tweed and those cigars!
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