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Key Idea: Embrace the New

Carolyne Fox talks about the firm's early adoption of technology and how they were one of the first CPA firms to go paperless. More...

Key Question:

A: 

MFR decided to use their office space in a nontraditional way and they feel their decision has contributed to their success. They decided to develop their own proprietary paperless audit software and they were rewarded with increased efficiencies and profits while rendering better client service.

Change is always stressful, even positive change. Learning how to manage change in your business can be a big advantage.

Q: How can the use of space affect the productivity of the business?

A: Traditionally, a person's status in a business could be readily identified by their furniture and physical location in the office. The pecking order was clearly defined. From desk to carrel to office to window office to corner office was the standard path of upward mobility. Today, large corporations are rethinking that tradition. Often the executive group resides in the center of the space, sometimes known as "the hub".

It's one thing to SAY you have an open door policy, as most business owners do, but what message are you really sending with the way you use your space? It's one thing to SAY everyone in the company is part of the team but if status is so obviously defined, how do you create a spirit of teamwork?

You think about it: How can you use your office space to improve your business? What has MFR accomplished by turning their use of space upside down?

Possible answer: Everyone shares the light. Managers' offices have been moved from the windows to the inside of the space. Walls were torn down and replaced with glass. Everyone works within sight of everyone else and everyone works in the sun. MFR has created an "environment of equality", recognizing that each person in the organization is an important member of the team.

Topic for discussion: How do you get "buy-in" from your employees when you are considering making radical changes within the business?

Possible answer: MFR turned everyone's life upside down when they decided to move from a paper intensive to totally electronic work process. Imagine the stress. Then they added that there would be less compensation to go along with the increase in stress level. Why didn't everyone quit?

First, MFR did not make this decision and present it to the employees as an edict. Instead, they involved everyone in the organization in the decision making process. They prepared a written document summarizing what they intended to do, how long it would take, what the cost would be in dollars and internal man hours, and the anticipated return on investment. Everyone in the organization knew what was going on, how it would affect the company, and how it would affect them personally, both in the short term and over the long haul. The written plan was modified based on the feedback from the employees.

As the plan was executed and the software developed, everyone in the organization was kept up-to-date on MFR's progress. Milestones were celebrated as a group and setbacks were communicated equally as clearly.

MFR recognized that clear and constant communication is the key to any broad based acceptance of change.

Think about it

What have you been thinking you need to try that you have not tried yet?  Who can help with this new idea?  What are the risks of doing something new?

Clip from: Mir Fox Rodriguez: A Study of Resilience

Houston:  Mir Fox & Rodriguez is a CPA firm in Houston.  Their most important product is their public accounting know-how, but this is also a very important story here about turning adversity into greatness.

Most CPAs do not think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They see themselves as players on the team of companies headed by entrepreneurs. Carolyne Fox admits that she would still work in a big, world-famous CPA firm if she had not been forced to leave by a merger.

In this show two of the three founders were fired, "assisted out" by a Big Five firm; they were not invited to become partners. That was 1987. The good-old-boy network weighed woman and minorities by a different standard. Yet, when these three decided to work together, the sum of the whole equaled an entrepreneurial powerhouse with balance, vision, heart and soul. Though they know and respect the rules, these three are also redefining them.

While Gasper Mir works in the community and brings in new clients, Carolyne Fox manages the service side freeing Roland Rodriguez to develop new businesses and work with their offices in Mexico and South America.

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Mir Fox & Rodriguez (CF)

Carolyne Fox, Founder

1900 One Riverway
Houston, TX 77056
713 662 1120

Visit our web site: http://mfrpc.com

Office: 713 662 1120

Business Classification:
Accounting

Year Founded: 1988

Embrace the New

HATTIE: (Voiceover) With just over 70 employees in the mother firm and with offices in Houston, Dallas and Mexico City, Mir, Fox, Rodriguez is inventing the new ways to work. Auditors work in the open.

GASPER: We were able to have our managers on the inside, giving the open space for our staffing on the outside, with the windows, etc. And, you know, one of the status symbols has always been--for offices is to have the window space.

HATTIE: Oh, so you flipped it.

GASPER: But it does provide a better environment--more open-air environment for the staff when they come in to work. Anybody can come in, hook up. I mean, they rove around.

Unidentified Woman: Every morning you come in and you can log on to the phone, and the phone knows where you are, and the receptionist, she just transfers your calls and it automatically knows which phone to ring.

HATTIE: OK. But a lot of your auditors are out on--at the client.

GASPER: We like our auditors to be out at our clients, working. But again, they have the capabilities now, with our technology platform, to be here and still be linked up with their client offices and being able to do things remotely.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The firm is helping its clients go paperless, so they have to set the example.

CAROLYNE: It took a big commitment and it took a big investment. It was a team effort. It took five years. And in March of 1999 we made our final big push to be ready by January 2000. We had a big team meeting and we said, `If we're going to finish this, we're going to need to go outside--hire some developers, get some programs written--and it'll mean that there will be no bonuses this year.' `We'll take our profits and we'll reinvest them in ourselves.' We had 100 percent buy-in. And it's been great ever since.

HATTIE: Did you have a big binder burning?

CAROLYNE: We did. We didn't have a binder burning, but we had a binder trashing party. We sure did.

HATTIE: Oh, that's great. `Get rid of the paper.'

CAROLYNE: And we really didn't trash them. We put them in a big box and then we gave them to one of our non-profit clients, who still works in a paper environment.

HATTIE: Well, there you go. There you go.

CAROLYNE: So we were able to recycle them. But we don't use them anymore.

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