Building a strong brand helps you stand out in the marketplace and draw new clients. That’s common knowledge, but few accounting firms realize how important branding is for solving another of their biggest challenges: recruiting and retaining top talent.

Accounting firm recruiting and retention expectations

Attracting the best candidates to fill open positions at your firm is a perennial struggle for most CPA firms today. In fact, it is listed as the top thing keeping the leadership of big firms up at night. Once you have succeeded in hiring great people and invested resources in training them, it’s hard to see them leave for greener pastures at a different firm.

Solving this problem requires a multi-pronged approach. Analyzing your firm culture, providing competitive compensation packages and conducting strategic recruiting efforts all play a part, naturally. While these elements are often considered, branding is a key element of successful recruiting and retention that often gets ignored. If you’ve taken the first three steps and can’t seem to find and keep the talent you want, consider the possibility that your brand may be sabotaging your efforts.

Accounting professionals, whether fresh out of college or later in their careers, want to join a firm that will benefit their professional trajectory. Salary, benefits and a pleasant work environment are all positives, but they aren’t enough for CPAs with lofty goals. When these jobs are in plentiful supply, strong candidates who receive multiple offers will, almost every time, choose the firm with the stronger brand.

Consider the social aspects. Wouldn’t you rather work at a firm that your dear mother, friends and colleagues know by name and respect than one that may be perfectly fine but lacks the same level of recognition? Wouldn’t you leave a pretty good job at an unknown firm for what seems like a pretty good job at a better-known one? An awful lot of people would—and do.

There’s also a higher comfort level that comes with choosing a clearly branded firm. When it comes to employment, most people prefer to avoid surprises. Job candidates will be able to get a good idea of what the firm is like, who it serves, its style and its clients from the brand identity and its marketing efforts, particularly its website. That removes a great deal of uncertainty from the job search, which encourages the talent you want to make the commitment to join your team without wondering what’s behind the veil.

A strong brand also carries the implication that the firm will be around for the long haul, growing in fame and reputation as it rises through the ranks of competitors. Firms with strong brands are seen as more dynamic, which is appealing to accounting professionals of all ages (and their mothers). It’s only natural for professionals to want to hitch their wagons to the stars that seem likely to ascend the highest. Recent grads take all this into consideration as they weigh their prospects at one firm versus another. So do those already employed, who may be tempted by the chance to join a stronger brand in order to bolster their own chances of success.

Whether a firm has a long history or is a relative newcomer, having a clearly defined and recognizable brand delivers a greater chance of growth that will benefit individual team members. It helps job seekers identify a good match and recognize a rewarding opportunity, just as it does for potential clients. Good branding equals more clients, more respect and more revenue. Based on these factors and more, it also equals a better chance of attracting and retaining the talent your firm needs to be successful. That’s why when you’re thinking about bolstering your team, you should be sure to think about bolstering your brand as well.

Bonnie  Buol Ruszczyk
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of bbr marketing, a firm that provides marketing strategy, training and tactical implementation for professional services firms.