In Pursuit of Profit
Read our expert article below or sign up to get articles sent to your inbox.
But are you really prepared for the time you are able to hire a top performer on your accounting team?
Are you thinking hiring that great performer will take care of all your issues? I want to share some thoughts, so you realize that hiring a star does not really solve the issues you have. My goal in sharing this insight is to help you prepare yourself and the company before you hire the great addition to your accounting team so that you can make the most of this kind of hire.
Consider the tale of two Russells: Russell Wilson and Russell Westbrook.
I apologize in advance for those readers who are not sports fans as you may not recognize the actual people and stories. But the stories will have relevance to you as a hiring manager or owner of a business, even if you are not a sports fan.
Russell Wilson – The story of why attitude matters
The Backstory: Readers in the PNW and in our new Denver market will very likely recognize this name. Russell Wilson was a long-time quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and led them to their first and only Super Bowl victory in 2014. Pretty much every year he played for the Seahawks he was a top performer.
The Problem: The Seahawks traded him to the Denver Broncos in 2022, and since then Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos have struggled mightily in the first half of their season. Those that care about football ask – what happened?
In my opinion this is an example of not paying enough attention to the style of the star in relation to the rest of the team and management (coach). Russell has definitely shown the ability to lead, but he does it with a very friendly, cheerful, and positive attitude. He is not the top-down, in your face, aggressive type (that kind of attitude would describe quarterbacks like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers). People question why the coach of the Broncos is running plays that seem to hinder Russell instead of helping him perform at his best. But they should also ask, if he is that great, why doesn’t he put his foot down and demand different play calling or just ignore the plays coming in from the sidelines? The answer is simple – that is not who Russell is. He does not speak out in public or on the field in an aggressive or critical manner.
The Application: Think of your company and your accounting team. What are the issues?
Does the team need someone with a different kind of attitude? Or are your accounting software systems and processes a mess? If you don’t provide the support to fix a bad accounting system (meaning spending money to solve the underlying problem), your positive attitude star performer is not going to correct your problem. They may be more cheerful than the last employee you had, but they won’t provide the solution you are looking for. And they may not have enough intestinal fortitude to stand up to you as owner to say, “This is your problem, this is how it should be fixed and if you don’t, I’m leaving.”
We have talked before about thinking about style of people when hiring in the accounting group. Most people in accounting are generally more reserved in nature, but some are very outgoing. Think about what the real issues are in your accounting department before hiring that star, such as:
Define the issue ahead of time so that when the star quarterback comes your way, you know if that star’s particular strengths are what you need, or if their strengths are actually a weakness for your situation.
Russell Westbrook – The story of how you can have too many leaders
The Backstory: Russell Westbrook plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. He is a nine-time NBA All-Star, a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, and the recipient of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award for the 2016–17 season. Clearly, he is a star performer.
Often in a business it is the top salespeople who are viewed as the stars of a company. The tremendous amount of revenue they bring in fuels the company’s growth, generates more profits, and hopefully everyone in the company wins.
The Problem: For the 2021-22 season, the Lakers signed Russell Westbrook to join LeBron James, one of the best ever to play the game, and Anthony Davis. Think of LeBron James as the company’s 20-year sales employee who has had record sales every year he has been with the company. Now, think of Anthony Davis as the great salesperson who seems to take too many vacations but records huge sales increases for the team when he’s around (resulting in everyone wishing he’d come to work more often!).
The Lakers had two great players and added another great player to try to achieve even more. The commentary in the sports world was, “There is only one basketball on the court, how can these three stars play together?”
The analogy in sales would be having a great salesperson in the western US and then bringing in another star salesperson to sell in the western US to further increase sales in that market, without asking why the first salesperson isn’t generating as many sales as you’d like to see. Before bringing in anyone else, a company should consider whether their salesperson has hit their own personal limits or whether there is something that the company could fix that would help the current top salesperson to achieve more. And when a new star salesperson is brought in, perhaps they should be assigned another territory, not the same one.
The current NBA season is in its early stages, but the Lakers having Russell Westbrook come off the bench versus starting is analogous to assigning the star salesperson to a new territory. It is too soon to know if this will work, because the issue for the Lakers is bigger than one star can solve. The same is likely to be said about your company when hiring a top performer – you have some issues that are bigger than one new, great employee can fix.
The key takeaways from these two sport star stories as a hiring manager and/or business owner are:
When you need help hiring an accounting all-star, please reach out to us. As accounting recruiters, we have the industry experience needed to find top performers that are not just great at what they do, but also align with your organizational needs.
About the Author
Alex de Soto - Partner at CFO Selections
Alex de Soto anchors the CFO Selections search practice and brings over 30 years of experience in accounting, finance, human resources, and executive search to his role as leader of the search team.
Since 2008, he has spent most of his time helping CEO’s and CFO’s of Pacific Northwest based companies find that unique match they seek in a CFO or Controller.
He began his career with eight years as a CPA with Coopers & Lybrand in their Seattle and London offices, and served nearly 15 years as a member of or advisor to numerous executive management teams in the Puget Sound area.