MNP LLP Case Study: How Twenty Accountants Generated $1.4 Million in New Revenues in Less Than a Year
Background: Meyers Norris Penny (MNP) is a Canadian-based accounting firm with approximately 2800 employees and 50 offices. The vision of the firm, initiated by Don Penny, was to focus on the greater needs of the clients, not just their compliance requirements. MNP made the connection with Mentor Plus in 1999 at a CPA Performance View Workshop endorsed by the AICPA. Bob Twerdun, Director of Human Capital, within an hour of the start of the three-day workshop, recognized the Mentor Plus program as the missing link between the firm’s vision and turning it into a reality.
In 2000 Mentor Plus trained 150 of the firms partners and managers. A lot of excitement was generated but, as is the case with most firms, without a compelling reason to change, it was easy for everyone to return to old habits. Except for a handful of Partners and Managers who persevered. These early adopters began to apply the concepts and tools with their clients and found clients receptive, grateful, and willing to pay more for the expanded relationship. Based on this success, MNP was confident that the Mentor Plus approach was the right one. The question was, how do we roll out the Mentor Plus program to the entire firm in a way that it has the staying power to overcome the status quo?
Daryl Ritchie, MNP’s CEO was fully committed to doing whatever it took to move the firm in the direction of their vision. MNP's strategic plan called for significant growth in the next five years that included the expansion of non-compliance services from 20-30% of revenues to 50% of revenues, as they doubled gross revenus of the firm. They had acquired a number of firms as part of their growth strategy. This created several issues, not the least of which was how to transition from a coalition of small firms into one firm with a united strategy thereby eliminating some of the old territorial behaviors often seen amongst partners. He was looking for a way to better serve their clients as well as a means of creating new behaviors and attitudes around teamwork and common vision.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S. Mentor Plus, in concert with the AICPA, continued to train hundreds of firms on their methodology. Again there was great excitement for the program but most practitioners found it difficult to get any traction in their firm without major support from leadership. Over time a clear trend began to emerge. Mentor Plus found that firms who were willing to commit 2 years to the program were achieving the greatest success. Those 2 years included the initial Performance Measurement Plus workshop, more advanced training in Strategic Performance Management, and ongoing participation in the Mentor Plus Consulting Accountants’ RoundTable (CART). MNP came back to Mentor Plus in 2004 for direction on how to roll the program out across the firm. In 2005 Mentor Plus re-launched the program based on the two-year extended learning model. And rather than launching it to the masses, MNP made the wise decision to hand pick the participants based on three factors:
Their mindset about client service
Their openness to new things
Their potential in the firm
This led to a mix of participants from Partners to Juniors. The A-Team, as they were known, was limited to 20 participants. The A-Team was immersed in Mentor Plus curriculum and support. The A-Team was fully supported by the firm and their Regional Managing Partners. The A-Team was also fully accountable for their activities via a scoreboard that was published each month. There were four key measures of success for the program:
How often did A-Team members meet with clients to discuss their greater business and personal needs?
How much potential consulting work was generated from that activity?
How much was actually sold?
Where are you in the delivery cycle of the sold work?
The results of the first year’s effort were astounding. Any expectations leadership had for the group, were blown away by the outcome. The 20 members of the A-Team generated $1.4M in new revenues in less than the 10 months.
When the A-team members look back on their success they attributed it to three primary factors: Commitment from leadership to support them
A-Team members met with clients to discuss their greater business and personal needs
Ongoing, ever-advancing training and high level mentoring
Accountability to the program via the scoreboard
In 2006 MNP launched another 50 participants in the program. The combined A-Team and new group generated over $7M in new revenues in the first year. The group continues to thrive and the numbers are consistently good.
Those who have participated in the program report a number of benefits that are worth mentioning here:
Several confessed that they were considering leaving the firm (and/or public accounting) before entering the program
Across the board, participants reported that they had a completely different mindset about how to serve their clients; they were excited about being an accountant.
They were more confident about the value they bring to the table and billed more confidently as a result.
The quality of their relationships with their clients has grown significantly
Many of the participants have already advanced to Partner as a result of their demonstrated abilities in the program. Many of the younger accountants are learning partner behavior -- how to develop a close relationship with your client -- much sooner in their career.
They were proud to be a role model for the rest of the firm
There is a waiting list for practitioners who want to get into the program
Client referrals are up significantly
As the skills of the team grew so did many of the partner's willingness to open up their client list to others in the firm.
Billing rates are higher. And here’s an interesting point -- they said they didn’t take any more time with the client. It was a shift of focus in how they spent their time with them. So the limited capacity argument doesn’t hold up anymore.
Average realization rates are up significantly
And the list goes on . . . In 2007 another 90 participants entered the program and an additional 90 are scheduled for 2008. In the coming years MNP is planning to roll out the Mentor Plus training to the entire firm. They feel the training is an essential part of the firm’s culture and a great compliment to what they refer to as, “Client Service, The MNP Way.” It’s considered the fundamental training for anyone who plans to stay with the firm long term.
One final example of the shift from a “service centric” mindset to a “client centric” culture came from one of the Juniors involved in the program. He said, “Instead of saying . . .He’s a tax client or she’s an audit client, his perspective has become This is our client, and these are the services they need to be successful.” He went on to say, "I love being a rainmaker so early in my career. It makes me feel like I am really contributing to the growth of the firm." That Junior is now well on his way to Partner.
"It’s an entire cultural shift, happening one accountant at a time."
In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the group generated over $16M in new advisory services. MNP has institutionalized the Mentor Plus training into their firm-wide professional development program. There is enough momentum at this point, that the "client centric" MNP way philosophy is standard operating procedure.
Since it's inception, the MNP MPact program (Mentor Plus training) has generated over $100M in new advisory service revenues. Equally important, the training has helped to attract and retain talent to the firm. As the "MNP way" has organically infused its way into the firm's reputation, they are also enjoying all the benefits of referral business that comes from creating Raving Fans in the business community!