CPA Growth Trends, Marketing

Business Development: Retain Women Leaders By Helping Them Find Their Superpower!

Women comprise about half of all staff in CPA firms. Yet, less than one-quarter of partners in firms are women. Why? It often comes down to business development. They progress to the level where they need to develop business and stop for a multitude of reasons. In today’s competitive staffing environment, your ability to retain these women leaders is imperative – the growth of your firm depends on it.

Did you know that your women leaders already have the innate skills needed to be great at business development? They are nurturers. Great listeners. Collaborators. And you can help them make a difference in your world by unleashing their inner superhero – their ability to build and grow strong relationships! Help them master the art of building meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships, and they will have a superpower that will help them climb the ladder of success and reach new heights.

Relationships are the catalysts for progress and prosperity regardless of industry or organization. You’ll often hear super successful people say that their secret is the network of people who surround them. Whether it’s clients, colleagues, connections, mentors, sponsors, or thought leaders, your network is the key to unlocking endless opportunities. Smart, savvy professionals know that creating abundance in these relationships directly contributes to continued success.

Relationships are essential to career development, professional growth, and personal well-being. Regardless of an individual’s career plans, whom they know and who support them makes all the difference. So, how do you help these women leaders shape a mindful and intentional approach to building and growing relationships?  Follow these five steps:

Step 1: Clarify Value

Start by asking your women leaders, what are you doing to bring value to the relationships in your world? People want to be connected to individuals who share their values, goals, and energy. Help her get clarity about who she is and the value she brings to others – these are the building blocks to relationship capital.

Step 2: Take Inventory

Show her how to inventory all the people in her network. Research shows that diverse professional networks increase the likelihood of career success. Look for her to make connections among different industries, backgrounds, and cultures.

Here are some inventory tips to ensure she has a solid list of professional connections:

  • Export contact lists from LinkedIn, Outlook, or other places where these relationship treasures are stored.
    • Identify what each contact does, their industry, and their organization.
    • Categorize the strength of each relationship and assign a priority rating, like A-B-C. This will be helpful in managing the cadence of contact with each.
  • Identify the gaps in the relationship circle and intentionally establish new connections to add value to the overall network.

Step 3: Build a List of Strategic Relationships

Encourage her to identify professional allies who can advance her professional life because of their abilities to generate work, provide industry expertise, collaborate on opportunities, or leverage their position, connections, and influence.

Have her make a “strategic relationships” list, targeting 10-15 of these outstanding individuals as her professional allies and advocates. Be sure she uses caution when evaluating strategic relationships. She needs to be discerning about including individuals who share an abundance mindset and who prioritize mutual benefit over self-interest.

Step 4: Nurture Relationships

Each strategic relationship needs to be nurtured and cultivated for growth. Here are some ways to help your women accountants become relationship magnets:

  • Map out how they can contribute to each strategic relationship. Identify ways to:
    • Create chemistry by getting to know connections personally and professionally.
    • Learn about the connection’s goals, needs, interests, and dreams.
    • Support the connections in a meaningful way.
  • Intentionally build trust by encouraging authenticity. Talk about how she can:
    • Be a person others can count on by consistently doing what she says she’ll do.
    • Be vulnerable. Longstanding relationships are built on vulnerability-based trust.
    • Show appreciation by supporting a connection’s superheroic efforts both publicly and privately—everyone needs a little bit of praise these days!
    • Introduce them to other beneficial connections: expand the ally network!
  • Improve active listening skills so she can help others feel heard and understood. It’s a key communication principle for any interaction.

Step 5: Create a Cadence of Contact

To maintain a meaningful relationship, a study based on Dunbar’s number suggests that you need to stay in touch with strategic relationships every couple of weeks. We are all busy with work and life and can easily say that “we don’t have time,” but super relationships carry super responsibility.

Ensure your leaders have a cadence of contact that is modified based on how strategic the connection is. Here are some tips you can provide to help your team keep their cadence:

  • Block calendar time weekly to connect with your strategic contacts.
  • Follow and engage with contacts on social media by liking, commenting, or sharing their posts.
  • Attend industry events or conferences together to network and build relationships.
  • Send thank you gifts or handwritten notes on special occasions or achievements.
  • Participate in community events or volunteer for a common cause, together.

Help Women Embrace Their Superpower

By nurturing relationships, women accountants can achieve remarkable success in their professional life. It comes down to amplifying their relationship superpower by identifying strategic connections, showing appreciation for their contributions, and investing in their success (and yours).

Remember, even small efforts to stay connected can make a big difference in forging meaningful relationships. So, help your firm advance and retain its top female talent. Motivate current and future women leaders to harness their superpowers, connect with their network, and watch their careers flourish!

About Judy Bodenhamer

Judy Bodenhamer is the founder and managing director of the Client Engagement Group (CEG), an advisory firm committed to inspiring professionals to think differently about the value of client relationships. She works with businesses and professionals to accelerate client engagement, achieve greater business development success, and deliver exceptional results. Learn more at

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