Friday, January 22nd, 2010


It was a true pleasure, on Wednesday, to facilitate a distinguished panel of managing partners sharing their experiences in bringing new ideas to their management retreat.

The forum was held at the Leading Edge Alliance managing partners’ meeting in Las Vegas.

The panel (pictured) was Alan Litwin of Kahn, Litwin Renza & Co., Steve Mayer of Burr Pilger Mayer and Alex Paul of Alpern Rosenthal.

Here’s some bullet points from their stories and other contributions from the attendees:

  • Many firms actually have two retreats, one for key decision-makers (partners only, executive committee, management committee, etc.) and one for the entire firm.
  • For your firm retreat, don’t cancel it because of the economy and to save money. Scale it back and perhaps do a half-day ending with snacks, beer & wine rather than a full-day ending with social hour and full dinner. This method communicates to the entire staff that we are in a tough economy and the firm is being cautious.
  • Don’t hesitate to share an over-view of the firm’s financial situation with everyone.
  • The purpose of a full-firm retreat is to communicate, motivate and provide a forum for socialization (especially for multi-office firms).
  • Sometimes a more intense format is needed for a partners only retreat.
  • Spend the first day getting all of the elephants in the room actually on the table for discussion.
  • Talk about under-performing partners, profitability, over-staffing, succession, role of the MP, right size of clients, non-profit practice and its contribution, or lack of it, to the bottom line and getting people on the same page.
  • Spend the second day deciding where the owners of the firm really want to go, revisiting core values, vision, etc. and get buy-in to client service, revenue goals and efficiencies inside the firm.
  • Some firms include their managers in their annual retreat. This is a good idea because they will be the future leaders/owners and how will they ever learn if they do not get first-hand experience?
  • Select some potential owners from the manager group and charge them with leading a team to research and develop solutions to some of the firms most prominent management challenges. Note: I will elaborate on this method in a future post since I was involved.

I just read a good article, on accountingWEB, about retreats and strategic planning titled – Use the JUST ONE approach.

Accounting firms often confuse their planning efforts with eating potato chips (they can’t eat just one) and they take on too many strategic initiatives at one time. This usually happens at a partner retreat when the strategic bucket is passed around for the room and everyone throws in their input. And because partner groups like to be inclusive of everyone’s ideas, they end up with an overstuffed list of strategic initiatives.

Try ending up with “This is the year of…..” Fill-in the blank with JUST ONE initiative. For example:

  • This is the year of CLIENT RETENTION.
  • This is the year of TECHNOLOGY MASTERY.
  • This is the year of ACQUISITION AND MERGER.
  • This is the year of SUCCESSION.

Click here to read the entire article by Edi Osborne, Mentor Plus.

“The proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.” – – Frank Herbert

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