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Jeff Antaya: Lessons in Leadership

Leadership has taken on a whole new meaning in the new age of Covid-19, with organizations seeking to find solutions that will not only help them weather the storm but remain competitive once the dust has settled.

The last 12 months have seen an acceleration in firms’ digital roadmaps, with new remote working environments bringing technology to the forefront. However, even before the new world, there was a growing need for digitalization. The focus has been shifting heavily to automation, having the potential to revolutionize the professional services industry. For leadership teams, the opportunities are endless! Technology can help to gather insight in ways that we simply couldn’t have imagined five years ago. Harnessing this technology to advance opportunities is critical to a firm’s success, particularly when it comes to marketing efforts.

But, resistance can still be seen in firms and the potential that technology can bring is not always realized. Jeff Antaya, retired Partner and CMO at Plante Moran, discusses this in a chapter taken from his upcoming book, Don’t Ride a Dinosaur into Your Battle for New Clients; and other lessons for leaders who want to grow their business.


Chapter 7: The Tools of this New Trade

Remember when buying a house was a complex and time-intensive process that filled many people with dread? Back then we needed a trusted realtor to help you find the perfect home in the ideal neighborhood. A well-informed realtor could steer us through numerous real estate landmines: they knew what was on the market, the pros and cons of each neighborhood, and they wouldn’t let us overpay. More times than not, they also helped us find our mortgage broker. Then came the mortgage application process: hours of digging through old files to find tax returns and other important papers, filling out multiple forms by hand, and the excruciating wait for the final determination. Homebuyers today still have tough decisions to make, but web sites like realtor.com and software tools from mortgage lenders simplify the search and application process. It’s possible to find a home and be approved for a mortgage all in an afternoon from the comfort of our living room.

Just as technology has revolutionized the home buying process, digital tools are revolutionizing professional service marketing. Marketing software is more powerful and far-reaching than all your traditional marketing tactics on steroids; it can independently cultivate prospective clients without our direct involvement. These technologies unleash new capabilities and unprecedented performance measurements which are immediately available in a transparent manner. An email wasn’t opened by any recipients? We know immediately. A thought leadership article goes viral, we know immediately.

Despite these advances, there are still “old guard” rainmakers who are convinced that professional services are a “relationship business,” and that investing in new digital tools is a waste of money. There may be a few realtors saying that too, but they are retiring at a fast rate. This is not to say that our firm’s successful rainmakers have lost their touch or are no longer effective. If their contacts don’t retire, then we can continue to count on their ability to drive new business. The question is: how long can we ride this wave? The number of people who buy the “old school way” decreases every day, and there is too much at stake for us to ignore what’s happening in the digital landscape and the competitive advantages it offers. While professional services, wealth management and not-for-profit development marketing lag consumer marketing, digital marketing tools are being embraced by many of our competitors. Some knowledgeable sources have gone as far as to say that deferring these digital investments may be another reason organizations will be forced into mergers.

The importance of a digital roadmap

It’s true that professional service firms, wealth management firms and not-for-profits are investing in digital tools, but my impression is their purchases are more opportunistic than systematic or holistic.  We’ve tended to buy what is hot or what our peers are buying before creating an end-to-end architecture of what we want our system to be. We’ve created new digital capabilities that are often digital islands that are not linked to other enabling technologies. Acquiring software in this random pattern may not deliver the full benefit we intended.

The fact that the digital landscape is constantly changing certainly adds a challenge to creating our vison. At times it might be described as nailing spaghetti to the wall. Add our vulnerability to a good sales pitch or competitor adoption and it is easy to see how some of us have gotten to our current situation. As the managing partner, marketing leaders or sales leader, we need to arm ourselves with a broad understanding of what’s possible: then we’ll be in a better position to make rational decisions. What’s more, we’ll make smart investment decisions that anticipate the ROI and ultimate benefit for your firm.

Even with the best understanding, I had to learn the hard way that technological advances make the field very fluid and I had to learn to live in some ambiguity and to “ride the wave.” I can recall frustration when selecting an email platform because the feature set was different and changing. Even harder, the changes were going in different directions and sometimes included promised features that never became functional. Until we created a decision model, which helped us navigate the choices by clarifying what our critical items were, I could get overwhelmed at times to spend our money wisely.   


Lessons in Leadership

We are privileged to have Jeff join us as our guest speaker on April 7th at Introhive’s virtual wine tasting event. During the evening, Jeff will delve into several key topics from his book, including leadership, technology, and how single-tactic marketing plans alone will no longer suffice and that a firm needs to leverage technology and have a collective plan to increase growth.  

With Jeff’s wealth of experience and knowledge, attendees are sure to leave inspired. Check out our recent accounting roundtable webinar featuring Jeff, Suzanne Reed, CMO at LBMC and Janet Altman, Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin to learn more about how Jeff has introduced technology to his teams over the years.

Leadership in Accounting - Watch our on-demand webinar

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