What we can all learn from the flu...

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Created on Thursday, 16 May 2013 14:20

My husband and I recently saw the theater production of Bell, Book and Candle in downtown Cleveland, Ohio and the most extraordinary thing happened.  We were all ready to enjoy the show when the Artistic Director came on stage and said he had an unusual announcement.  The lead actress had been stricken with the flu and was so sick she was unable to even stand about 4 hours before the performance was scheduled.  As with any business, contingency plans are always crucial for occasions such as this one.  However, Cleveland Playhouse recently made a number of changes, including a huge physical move, and their productions are generally smaller (this play had 5 total performers) so all of these factors contributed to them not having a plan in place to deal with this particular issue.  The Director decided to contact a student in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Case Western Reserve University and ask if she would like to stand in for the lead role.  She bravely decided to give it a go.  The audience listened in shock as he informed us this stand-in actress was going to perform with the script in hand and I felt the collective eye roll of the audience sweep through the theater…everyone reflexively looked at the exits as if they were already planning their escape.  The play was almost 2 hours long – there was no way the stand-in actress could memorize all the lines in under 4 hours.  He apologized profusely, said this is live theater and we are doing the absolute best we can and we thank you in advance for your support.

It was pretty disconcerting to see a live performance with someone with a script in hand, but as the production started, an amazing thing happened.  The new actress did not miss a step…she was in total sync with the other actors, never missed a stage direction and even had the correct facial expressions throughout the entire show.  And, to also give credit to her fellow actors, they fearlessly refused to notice the script or let it get in the way of several key embraces.   Her timing was impeccable as she delivered jokes and moved gracefully around the stage.  After a while, we got used the script and started to marvel at the way she was in command of her performance.  At the intermission, no one even mentioned that she was carrying her 8 ½” x 11” script and literally flipping the pages as she moved through the performance.

As we neared the end, you could feel the audience rooting for this woman who basically gave the performance of a lifetime.  The story (a witch who casts a love spell on a worldly New York publisher) builds as we wait in suspense to find out if their relationship will stay together in the end.  I won’t ruin the ending of the story, but upon delivering her last line, she flung her script into the air with a joyful release.  The look on her face revealed the incredible pressure she felt and the relief upon finishing what must have been a terribly challenging feat of all of the skills she has been honing in her pursuit of her craft.  The audience literally jumped out of their seats bursting into a standing ovation.  I have been to many theater productions and I can assure you that no one ever received accolades like this young woman.

As we left the theater, I decided I should not waste this amazing lesson.  The Director could have done the obvious thing and cancelled the production.  With all of the talk about this flu virus that has impacted so many people in this country, the crowd would have been disappointed, but probably would have ultimately understood.  There certainly is a balancing act when things like that happen, but this experience made me realize I might react differently the next time a huge obstacle gets in my way.  In our business, we have tools that are essentially a live performance with clients.  We rely on our web based software, a steady internet connection and the overall health of the consultant delivering the experience.  We have never had a failure to deliver our product on any front and we do have contingency plans in place, but are our disaster plans adequate?  And, if they turn out to be missing something, how should we handle it?  Here is what I think we can all learn from the flu.  When you can’t deliver what your client expects, do the following:

  1. Deliver your performance with all the dignity and poise you can muster
  2. Explain the situation and your recommended solution
  3. Ask for patience and move forward

If you stick to this plan, it could get you more credit than you ever thought possible.  After all, the show must go on.


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Created on Thursday, 07 March 2013 12:16

I just returned from the 2013 Winning is Everything Conference, focused on practice management for Accounting Firms, in Las Vegas. One of the major conversations that kept surfacing, both with speakers and attendees, was the issue of differentiation. There was talk about growth through mergers or acquisitions, creating defined niches in the marketplace (like being an expert for certain types of companies) and creating value for clients through a broad service offering. The last item mentioned is the one that I think is really the biggest opportunity to differentiate. I keep hearing Accountants talk about fee pressure from their clients and that clients don’t appreciate the work they deliver. There is an opportunity in the marketplace for Accounting Firms right now and most have not even scratched the surface. This opportunity is offering business advice to their clients to help clients improve performance and profitability.



SOAR to Strategic Excellence™ is a business system and suite of tools created by The Parkland Group, Inc. SOAR is designed to help businesses, non-profits and organizations measure their effectiveness and identify ways to improve performance and profitability. It also provides a path for making changes to capitalize on those opportunities. The program has many tools which establish a foundation for better buy-in from the employees who participate.  Because SOAR uses cutting edge technology, the results are much faster, much clearer and better utilized. SOAR was designed by discarding traditional management consulting methods and has proven to be much more efficient and effective than other approaches.

The SOAR program is facilitated by highly trained Certified SOAR Consultants (CSCs) from The Parkland Group as well as licensed partners throughout North America. These CSCs, many of whom are practicing CPAs, have been certified after completing a rigorous training program and constantly update their skills to ensure the program is delivered with the highest standards and quality.  Jennifer Rote Goddard is the President of The Parkland Group and a Certified SOAR Consultant

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