Every few years here at the Society we try to evaluate all the programs and services we provide to members. We do this because resources are limited (duh) and we want to make the most of them. And also because things change … new trends, new priorities, new ideas … and we need to continue to adapt and evolve in order to meet member needs.
This is never an easy process, and this year’s was as difficult as any because staff is passionate about all (or at least most) of our current programs and services. We do a forced ranking of all major initiatives and programs based on several specific questions related to our strategy documents and current profession and environmental factors. The questions can differ slightly each time we do it; this year they are:
- Does it meet our mission?
- Is it available elsewhere?
- Would we start doing it today?
- Is it aligned with our strategic plan?
- Does it support our INCPAS 2025 Bold Challenges?
In the past we’ve taken the bottom 20% of programs and just stopped doing them. This allowed us to concentrate our time, money and people in areas where we could make the most impact in supporting Indiana CPAs. Because a few years ago we were able to make some major changes, we aren’t automatically cutting a certain percentage this year, but we are discussing the bottom 30%. Did I mention this isn’t easy? Everything we do is valuable to SOMEONE (or we wouldn’t do it) and so there is a lot of internal debate about what stays and what needs to go so we can meet our newest goals, advance our mission and prepare for the future. We’ve been around for 100 years and we want to be here for 100 more.
As an example, a few years ago we determined that our Case Study Competition for college students wasn’t necessarily the best use of resources event though it had been reasonably successful especially in its early years. The reason were varied – case study competitions were available elsewhere, very, very few of the students who participated stayed in Indiana and became members, it was expensive and it was becoming more difficult to find sponsors (among others). Not everyone understood or agreed with our decision. One CPA even dropped their membership as a result.
This was not an intended consequence, but we were spending thousands of dollars and many, many staff hours supporting the event, yet it wasn’t meeting our mission in any key way. And, in the year after we stopped our own case study competition, an Indiana team from the University of Southern Indiana became finalists in the AICPA’s case study competition. They won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., and cash awards. While we may bring our own case study competition back one day if circumstances or goals change, we still feel like it was the right (though hard) choice at the time.
We strive to give our members what they need and what is most impactful to their success. We don’t always succeed, but we are always working to improve. Our CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE recently gave a presentation to a group of other association professionals about our process, and we encourage all businesses to not just talk about what new endeavors they’ll take on, but to also look what they need to cease doing. For those of you in public accounting, you often talk about ‘firing clients’ but how often do you really do it? If you haven’t conducted a review of what you do – think about it. Classic management guru Peter Drucker said “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
It’s an important process for any business, but not everyone does it. Or at least not often enough or effectively enough. There’s only so much time in the day; where are you spending yours?