How Grant Thornton Punches Above Its Weight: Interview w/ Grant Thornton CEO Mike McGuire
Jeff McKay talks with Grant Thornton CEO Mike McGuire about the firm’s unique structure and culture that embraces disruption and facilitates innovation, creativity and growth.
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Jeff McKay: Imagine you’re a rising star in one of the most prestigious and respected firms in the world one day and the next day, you’re out of a job because that firm just imploded. What would you do? If you’re like my guest today, the first thing you do is take care of your people. Then, you sift through opportunities that offer you a great challenge. The opportunity to work in a place that shares your values and more importantly, allows you to work in an environment that unleashes the potential of both its people and its clients.
Today, we’re going to hear that story. On the phone with me is a friend and one of my long-time role models and great leader, Mike McGuire. Hi Mike.
Mike McGuire: Hello Jeff, thanks for having me. It’s good to hear your voice and good to connect.
Jeff McKay: For the people that don’t know you, can you introduce yourself? Your name, your title, your role-
Mike McGuire: Yeah, Mike McGuire. I’m the CEO of Grant Thornton in the US and we have 59 offices in the United States. We’re part of Grant Thornton International and Grant Thornton International has 50,000 people in 135 countries around 600 offices. So, we’re a global organization, the fifth largest accounting firm and I’m in charge of the US.
Jeff McKay: So I alluded to this in my introduction, but tell our listeners a little about the career path that brought you to this role.
Mike McGuire: Well Jeff, I started, I actually went to school in the Midwest. I’m originally a Midwesterner and back in the early 80’s, I ended up getting interested in the sunbelt. I interviewed with at the time, they were the big 8 accounting firms and I got offers from all of them. I was really intrigued by Arthur Anderson. Arthur Anderson was one that said “We don’t care what office you go to. You tell us where you want to go and you’ve got a job.”
Whereas, some of the other firms were saying “We want you to go to x, y, z. Here are these two or three choices”, kinda directed me where to go and I just thought right out of the gate, fact is is that Anderson said “We want you in our firm and we’re gonna give you the choice of where you go and what you want to do.” I thought at the time, which now, was 30 something years ago … I thought that was innovative and it interested me.
So I started here about 36 years ago and the firm just started to grow and everything was going well. For 20 years I was … as Carolina’s Head of the Audit Practice. So we had four offices, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Columbia. Then all of a sudden, as you mentioned in your introduction, something that I wasn’t expecting to happen, Anderson went away in 2002. So we … the speed at which the firm imploded was shocking, I think to everybody. We had to find a place to go. All the firms came knocking and we ended up … I can talk certainly more about it later but, we ended up finding Grant Thornton was one of those firms that we felt like at the time … it was a fraction the size as Arthur Anderson was. I think some of our partners are scratching their heads.
But I felt like that Grant Thornton … I thought two things. First of all, I thought the culture of the people I met was phenomenal. Secondly, I thought, if there’s a firm that’s poised to really take off, it’s Grant Thornton. I guessed right on both occasions. So, I started with Grant Thornton in June of 2002 and so I’ve been here ever since. I was the Managing Partner of the Carolinas and have been on the US Senior Leadership Team for probably a little over a decade now. I was under the prior administration under our CEO Stephen Chipman. I was a Chief Operating Officer there during that administration and then a little over four years ago, I was tapped to be the CEO. So, that’s what I’ve been doing here for the last four plus years.
Jeff McKay: I’ll never forget flying down to the Carolinas and having a conversation with you for you made that decision and I made a bold prediction about what would happen if you made that jump and time has proven me right.
Mike McGuire: Well, I’m glad. I think it certainly takes a lot of work from a lot of people and support from friends like you and family and the business community and certainly all of my teammates here at Grant Thornton. It’s been a remarkable journey. I’m just so proud of our entire team. Grant Thornton today, is about six times the size it was back in 2002. I think it’s really fun. Sometimes I think when things happen, even though it’s been 16+ years, time flies so much it actually still almost seems like it’s yesterday.
In fact, I had a leadership team meeting yesterday at Chicago with my Senior Leadership Team and I said “At some point, you gotta call time out, just stop for a minute and just look back over the last 16 years and see what the firm has accomplished, through a lot of people’s hard work.” Sometimes when you do that, it’s nice to pause, ’cause we’re always looking forward or trying to find, transform the industry and disrupt the industry. We’re always looking forward, which is the thing you need to do, but sometimes I think it’s good to take a stop or a little rest and look back with your team and celebrate the accomplishments of everybody at the organization.
Jeff McKay: That’s why you’re on this call with me, not just because you’re a friend and we worked at Anderson, but because of those impressive results. Grant Thornton, not just in the past 16 or so years that you’ve been in there, but you even identified in them, the spark of greatness just waiting to be released. You and the team has done a phenomenal job of overcoming so many of the dysfunctions that often exist in professional services or inhibit them from growing.
Aligning your strategy and your culture and your brand and your market position, really because Grant Thornton was in that category of all other or tier two accounting firms, relative to where you started. So, you’ve been on this journey for 16 years, but recently you’ve introduced some culture … do I call it change? Or do I call it evolution and something called status go. Tell me about how you got there, why you’re there, where that came from and where you’re hoping to get to.
Mike McGuire: I’ve been fortunate in my career that I’ve had a lot of really good mentors. Certainly, anybody that’s listening, when people ask me for career advice, I say “Find a mentor. Find people as a mentor that … find a mentor that does things better than you that you can learn from.” If you’re not good at public speaking, find somebody who’s good at public speaking. If you’re not good at project management or whatever, find somebody that’s good at project management and then you learn from them.
Then I also tell people to find mentors outside of the firm. One of my mentors I’d been really fortunate, over the years to have is Hugh McColl. Mr. McCall, he took Bank of America from little North Carolinian National Bank NCNB to Nation’s Bank to Bank of America over a period of years. He still lives here in Charlotte. I’m fortunate to be able to spend time with him.
One of the things I learned from him was … Bank of America was growing through a lot of acquisition. He told me, he said “You want to make sure that if they buy somebody like Barnett Bank or Signet Bank or somebody like that, that you don’t want people walking around saying “I’m with Nation’s Bank or whatever it was at that time. Say I was Nation’s Bank but I’m Legacy Signet” or whatever. I think anytime you’re around people that say its Legacy, you don’t really have a focus on the culture.
My wife and I lived north of Charlotte on a lake and we had a lot of neighbors that were US Airways and they used to do the same thing. It’s now American, but they used to say “I’m US Airways pilot, but I’m Legacy Peakmont Airlines” or “I’m Legacy … ” whatever. That’s what I found. Our firm grows a lot. We hire a lot of young people off campus every year. We’ve been very fortunate to bring in a lot of lateral hire specialists for outside of our firm, even outside of our industry.
I just tapped on that lesson from Hugh McColl and said “I want to make sure … I thought we had a great culture, but I want to make sure that we are focused on what it means to be Grant Thornton. What’s the Grant Thornton culture?” So I would probably … back to your question, would probably say it’s a little more of an enhancement. But also … when I became the CEO, I had a five-point plan to be able to drive our strategy. I got the structure in line and got the right people in place to be able to do it. Somewhere along the course of a five-year plan, all of a sudden, industry disruption. Everybody starts talking about industry disruption, and it’s real.
It means that an industry, a public accounting industry’s about 100 years old. The industry actually started around 1913 when the federal government passed a federal tax act and it was enhanced at 33 and 34 of the securities act where everybody had, public companies had to file registered statements or statements with the SCC. So, the industry being 100 years old, there hadn’t been a whole lot of change over 100 years. But then I could see very quickly that we were going to change. How do you change a culture in an environment like an accounting firm where it’s not a changing industry necessarily, so much like let’s say technology or consumer products.
I felt like we had to get the organization ready for change. I liked our culture, enhance our culture, but then we had to do something different. You had to rapidly change the business because if we want to be able to lead disruption in the industry … so that’s what really led the status go, as we call it.
Status Go is really changing the status quo with speed. Most people don’t think that if you asked people in a word association game, and you have a bunch of words on one side and then words on the other side and one side has accounting firm, you probably wouldn’t see on the right side, you wouldn’t pick speed if that were one of the words, and line those two up, right? Well, we have to. I think that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to accelerate the transformation of our industry to address the disruption. We want to be in the front of that, not tapping on the breaks because we’re afraid of it. We want to be hitting the accelerator because we want to embrace it.
So, part of the culture that we … had to get the culture right to accept that kind of change and it pace of change. That was probably the first phase of it. You heard me talk about what does it mean to be Grant Thornton is another piece of it and then the last piece of it is what do you have to do? Put the pedal to the metal to be able to change the organization even faster than what I thought four years ago when I first became the CEO. That’s a little bit of what we’re trying to do.
Jeff McKay: That part about speed really jumped out at me and I love the way you articulate that because I’ve written about what I see as a consultant now, dealing with a lot of different firms. Is that SAS firms, Software As Service, has supplanted many of my former pure professional services clients. SAS companies are really the professional services firms of the future in my mind. In many respects, they’re giving away so much of the intellectual capital that professional services firms used to see as proprietary and very different and valuable in order to get subscribers or enhance that subscriber experience and continuously adding value. What I hear you saying Mike is, that’s you’re mindset. Even though you didn’t associate it with a SAS type of model, it is that speed of change that you’re talking about.
Mike McGuire: Yeah it is. I think that our clients expect that. We want to be ahead of our clients, which is where we are. We have clients to look at things. If we can experiment with new technology, new processes, new ways of doing business and we then perfect it in our organization … we have a lot of our clients that come to us and say “Well, how are you handling this? What are you doing?” So we feel like, if we call ourselves client zero. We want to be the first one, we treat ourselves as a client and we say “Okay, what are some things that we can do to improve the way we run our business, the way we engage with our people, the way we engage with our clients and the way the kinds of innovative service that we provide to our clients and innovative thinking?” I think if we can do that, especially with ourselves, it’s pretty easy because as we start doing these things, you get yourself to a point where everybody in the organization feels comfortable talking about it.
I’ll take us back to the Anderson days. One of the things I was really impressed with, in the early days, when I started at Arthur Anderson, I started before we had personal computers. I’ll be honest here, we were doing a lot of stuff on paper. I remember we got our first IBM PCs, XPs, ATs and things like that. But you know Anderson, as an organization was always … we started out with physi-calc and I remember when we moved to … we were early adopter on the Microsoft platform. We were an early adopter … we were one of the first organization, I think globally, to have global lotus notes. But you know when you think about that, it did two things.
We would show up to our clients with the latest technology, right? We could answer any question because that’s the way we ran our business. I remember in the earlier days of Microsoft Excel, clients would come to me and say “How do you write a mac pro for this” or something. That was a pretty minor thing for us, but they could go to anybody in the organization. I don’t know if you were with the firm. You’re younger than me. When the firm went out … Anderson went out and bought everybody a compact, personal computer. The kind that looked like a piece of luggage. Today, I actually still have mine, believe it or not. But you had that thing and now it looks pretty clunky and outdated. Dinky little green screen on it. But, when we showed up at a client with that technology, it was like “Wow, I’m dealing with a firm that is way ahead of where our organization is. I’m with the right organization.”
So that’s what we want to be able to do. We want to be able to always be in front of our clients. Like I say, when we do this, that’s the way we operate within the organization, any one of our people, our nearly 9,880 people in the United States for example, that work here in the US, they can talk about it because we’re all living and using the same kind of thinking, same kind of training, same kind of process, the same kind of technology. I think it makes us better business advisors.
Jeff McKay: I read a quote on Grant Thornton. It was from one of your clients and it’s a compliment that I would love to receive in any business that I led because it says something powerful and it encapsulates what you just said. But it was … “Grant Thornton punches above its weight class”. You’re able to get your partners to focus on solving problems without getting their individual performance metrics in the way. I talked a bit about those conflicting dynamics of metrics and culture and protecting relationships in the BS of PS. When the clients even say that, and impressed with how you get the culture to work, that’s saying something.
Mike McGuire: One of the things that we have … I said that in my view, you get strategy, first you gotta get agreement on the strategy and then you gotta get the structure to enable that strategy and then you get the right people to run it and then you execute it. We’ve done some different things. We’ve looked at the industry differently. I think a lot of times in professional services, it doesn’t matter whether you’re accounting firm, or a law firm or an architectural firm or whatever in professional services. A lot of them are very siloed, right? You can have the law firm bankruptcy practice versus a litigation practice versus corporate finance practice. They’re different.
It’s hard to get everybody … you basically become a consolidation of a bunch of silos. That happens in accounting firms too. You’re either an audit tax or advisor, but even in those various areas, there’s silos within silos. Sometimes, working in professional services, they have more silos than the state of Iowa.
What we tried to do … my wife is an Iowan, which is why I say that. You think about it, it’s silos that drive an organization. Silos becomes an individual silo or service line or service offering, for example. Then, the people within that become siloed. So what we tried to do is, we structured the organization completely different. All of our resources … I made two major structural changes. It’s basically a two step process to get us to where we are. We are a flat organization that’s as flat as a pancake in terms of decisions that we make.
We took all the people and put them in our three service lines. Audit, tax and advisory. Took them out of the geography, because you add geography silos. So when you create silos and you create service lines, silos within the various service lines of service offerings, the next thing everybody has a PNL. We had 133 PNLs several years ago in tax. 133. Some of the PNLs in tax had one or two people. How do you manage a PNL with one or two people? How do you have a discussion with somebody if their PNL … they’re not performing only one of them. So we flattened all of that.
We flattened the organization and we only have one PNL and it’s called Grant Thornton. Now that is a hard thing to do. That’s part of that change management or change process that I don’t think our organization would have been able to do four or five years ago, before we changed our culture and got people to be curious and embrace change. We try to have assume positive intent. Give something a chance of succeeding before you start knocking it down. Then you start getting people who might be stallwards who want to experiment a little bit and they say “Hey, you know it’s not so bad after all.”
So we did that. Structurally, that is a major undertaking and then when you do that, you layer in your culture. One of our culture principals is how big is the team you’re playing on. What that really means is when you get ready to do a project, you look around and you say “What skills are we missing? Who are we missing? What area is not represented here in our organization to show up?” So, we show up differently. We’ve got people from different service lines and different offices because we don’t care about that. We care about serving the client and getting the right people in to serve the client.
I hear quotes like you just read, but I have clients tell me that all the time. They say to me “Mike, I want to tell you, your team shows up differently and we got the most creative result from you of anybody we talked to.” And they named all the firms that you would know. And I think that that is mainly because of the culture we have that drove the structural change and the embracement of the structural change that we had and then layering our culture on top of it with how big of a team your playing on.
So, we believe in diversity. Diversity of thought, diversity of service line, gender diversity, diversity of geographies, everything. You can put posters up about diversity all you want to all day, but you gotta operationalize it. What I think is a real secret sauce of our firm is that we bring a really creative team. I’ll give you an example, a really short example. We had a situation where a company was doing an acquisition and every one of our competitors showed up with their transaction team, right? The transaction silo of advisor. We showed up, we had an audit partner, a tax partner, a tax M&A partner, a merger integration partner. We had an IT partner, ’cause you’re gonna have to do some things there. We had a change management person, we had human capital. We don’t always show up with a cast of thousands, but we felt like that team could answer anything.
That client came in and said “I don’t know how you guys pulled this off, but you just showed up with the right team. Because of the diversity of that team, we brought up things that they hadn’t even thought of. But if we had just come with one solution, it would not have been the same result.
So, that’s why I think our teams feel very comfortable that … just get the right team there to serve the client and we’re gonna come up with a differentiated solution.
Jeff McKay: There was another quote that I read related to that. This was an internal quote this time, from one of your managing principals I believe, that says “Grant Thornton gets right what matters most.” What is that thing in your culture that your people think matters most?
Mike McGuire: Certainly at the top of our list is quality. I think in quality … when you have excellence in quality, that’s part of what our values are, and I think clients want to know that we have quality, and I’m very, very proud of the quality results in our firm and the feedback and our client satisfaction is exceptionally high among all our projects. If you get the quality right in the first place, it cascades. Back to my earlier example, if you want to have a quality result with a client and deliver the highest quality advice to your clients, well then you’re gonna make sure that you’ve got a very diverse team and get the right people to be able to do that.
Underpinning all of that is collaboration. You can’t put the right team together unless you have collaboration. Now, you give diversity a thought, which leads to curiosity and curiosity brings more creative solutions. If you’re following this, it’s a logical step and it just cascades off of that. I think having people who realize that if we get it right with the client, then the clients are happier business pros. But also, our people are more engaged because they feel like they’re unleashed, we call it unleashing our potential as you mentioned in your opening comments and now they’re like “Wow, I’m getting different experiences.” It just feeds on itself. We’re tipping out culture now to innovation, which I’m happy to talk about a little bit later, but you don’t have innovation without curiosity. I would say Thomas Edison was a highly curious person. I would say Jeff Bezos is a highly curious person.
You have to have that. But if you’re constrained in your thinking … or feel like you have limitations and you can only touch things that you’re assigned to do and you’re gonna do the same thing over and over and over again. It’s pretty constricting. Last time I checked, constricting people’s thoughts and restricting the things they can do and confining them is certainly not something that is conducive to a culture of curiosity, which then leads to a culture of innovation. Quite honestly, a culture where the people are highly engaged and feel valued and feel like they can experiment and have fun and grow and develop. Our clients get the benefit of that.
So it all comes together … it comes full circle. It’s hard to get it right, but when it starts to get in line like that, it’s fun to watch. I’m so proud of my teams … I sit back … I’m not the Chief Executive Officer, I’m like the Chief Admiration Officer. I sit back and admire the things that my teams do and the kinds of things that our clients say about them. I’m just so proud of them every day, I can barely stand it. I about busted buttons off of my shirt with pride hearing people talk about my teams.
Jeff McKay: It’s funny that you say that. I often equate leadership with being a parent. Some people misconstrue that. They think it’s kinda condescending to say something like that, like you’re managing children. I think real leaders get what that means in that, the whole job of the leader is to help others be successful and unleash that potential. You do it because you enjoy seeing them succeed so much. You’re not threatened by their success, you’re empowered by it.
Those leaders help their teams do the exact same thing. That’s what I hear you describing in yourself and your team.
Mike McGuire: Oh yeah. I’ve been in this business, like I said for a long, long time. To me, the thing is, I get such a kick out of watching our people succeed and watching young people. Like I said, it takes you about 13 years, 12 years, 13, 14 years depending on your track to make partner in our firm. One of the things we put in place a number of years ago is we have a signing celebration where I sign the partnership agreement. There’s one page there and it has my name … the new partner signs it, then I sign it as the witness.
Now, I see the people that I’m signing these for are people that I remember recruiting when they were coming off of college campus. I’m telling ya, it is emotional. I’m so choked up, holding back the tears and hugging them. I’m just so darn proud of them. It’s the best night of any when you see your people succeed, your teammates and all that succeed like that. We make a real big deal out of it because it is a big deal. I think my handkerchief is soaking wet ’cause I can’t stand it. I can’t hold it back. I get goosebumps. It just makes me so proud to see them and the things that they’ve accomplished in their careers. I remember they came in just right off of college campus and see them up there signing a partnership agreement, that’s … wow. That’s pretty special.
Jeff McKay: Our listeners are beginning to appreciate, I am sure why I introduced you as a long-term role model because you have always been this way. You mentioned recruiting and how these young people evolved and reached partner and unleashed their potential. I wanted to ask you a couple of quick questions about that. Does Grant Thornton have an ideal recruit that it’s looking for when it goes out to campuses or even if they’re experienced hires, do they have some ideal recruit?
Mike McGuire: Yeah. We look for a lot of behavioral attributes. I think certainly in our business, you gotta have a cognitive, intellectual horsepower. We’re a professional services firm a lot of certification required through … we’ve had a lot of people who are JD’s have their law degrees in taxation. CTAs and any number of designations that people have. You have to have … our people have the cognitive ability, which is pretty easy to … you don’t have to really test that because … rigorous programs and schools. So they have to have the cognitive ability.
Then it gets into the differentiators around behavior attributes. I think certainly, one is curiosity. I think we want to have people that can build relationships as well and they can be curious because at the end of the day, clients don’t come to us. Some of them have a special project that they want you to do. They have a pretty good idea of what it is. It’s not that they come to you with a special project, they come to you with a business problem and so, either you have to have the relationships and skills and the curiosity to be able to probe and try to get to the heart of the problem and try … that’s why we bring other … when I was talking about how big is the team you’re playing on. I think getting the problem defined is a big thing here.
Those attributes are really important. I get questions … a lot of students on University campuses and certainly those that are interviewing with us, some of them ask me “What’s the difference between the academic world from college, to transition from college into full-time work at Grant Thornton?” And I said “Well in college, you’re given the problem and you gotta try to figure out the solution, but in the real world, at Grant Thornton, the solution is generally easy.” I mean, easy is probably … it’s not always easy, but once you get the problem defined, my goodness, we’ve got 50,000 people around the world. We’ve got some of the best consultants and tax advisors or I think the best consultants and tax advisors and accountants and specialists in the world.
If you have a problem or a client has a problem, what we do is we keep asking questions to try and define the problem, ’cause once you have the problem defined and you say “Okay, there are really no more questions to ask but we got it.” Then, you can unleash the potential of our firm and solve the problem. So it’s different because in college, you’re given the problem, you gotta figure out the solution. Here, the solution is easy, you gotta figure out to find the problem. That whole curiosity to me is one of the clear attributes of the people we have and certainly we hire to values and we hire to our culture.
Listen, we do not … whether it’s experienced hires or on campus, if we don’t feel like somebody is for whatever reason, is gonna be a fit with us culturally or whatever, we don’t even start. We want to have people who fit within the organization, rather then get … I would just say lastly, there are other attributes that I think can really help. Certainly one of them in my view is grit. “People with grit don’t quit” is what I like to say. That means if you have grit and you’re curious, you’re gonna stick in there and you’re gonna ask the next question. A lot of times, the difference between a successful project and a highly successful project is what I call the next question and do you have the curiosity and the courage and the grit to ask the next question?
So those are some of the things that we hire for. That’s why I’m so excited and why I enjoy working here is ’cause we have an organization people that have those attributes and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to be around. I think our average age is around 26 I think, in our firm. We have a high percentage of millennials or Gen X, Gen Z, Gen Y everything. All those generations.
It’s interesting Jeff, I’ve got our leadership meeting coming up next week, our annual partners meeting and one of my speakers is Gean Kranz and Gean Kranz was the flight director of the Apollo program. The lunar landing. He’s played in the movie Apollo 13, he’s played by Ed Harris. He’s the guy that says “Failure is not an option.” That guy in my view, he’s gonna come in and I talked to him the other day, just kinda prepped for our fireside chat after his speech and I said “Gene, what was the average age of the engineers in the Apollo program, there at mission control.” He said “27.” I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting. Ours is 26.” So we put men on the moon with an average age of the engineer in the room of 27. Ours is 26. So, hey look, we got a lot of things we can accomplish as an organization because we’ve got a heck of a lot of talent.
Being around our young folks like that is just an inspiration for me every day. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I have to retire at some point down the road. My wife’s not gonna want me to work forever. I don’t know, that’s the biggest fear of retirement for me is, how do I replace that daily stimulation of being around creative, young people who have the grit and the values and culture that we want. I’ll miss it. I don’t know, maybe I’ll negotiate my retirement that I get to come in and spend time with people every day. I’ll do it for free because I’ll miss it.
Jeff McKay: 16 years ago in Carolina, I made a bold prediction. After just hearing what you just said right there, I am going to extend you a reciprocal offer. When you retire in 2021, you can come work at Prudent Pedal for free.
Mike McGuire: Okay. Okay. For free? Yeah, I like that. I was expecting maybe a little less than that, so that’s good.
Jeff McKay: So, I want to wrap up. I know you’re a very, very busy executive. You have put together some incredible results. You said you’ve grown six times where you were when you started. You’ve achieved annual revenue records this last year. Your client satisfaction scores are impeccable. Your growth among your core market, that mid market dynamic companies is significant. What’s next?
Mike McGuire: Well I think for us, it’s about setting the standard for the industry from the point of being disruptive and really transform the industry. Everybody uses a lot of buzz words around some of the things. Everyone talks about new technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, block chain. You’ve heard it all. I think from our standpoint is, we don’t want to just talk about it, we want to lead with it. We made a lot of the investments and I think that again, I approached industry disruption and leadership in a same way that I did four years ago or four plus years ago we’re coming through this I think “Okay, what’s our strategy? What do we want to do about industry disruption and transformation? Okay, what’s our strategy, then what’s our structure? How do we end up doing this? How are we organizing it, then who are the people that we can bring in to execute it?”
I think we’re taking a very unique approach. We’re not throwing money at the problem, we’re trying to solve it in a very, very creative way. I am extremely pleased with where we are. It’s easy to talk about robotics process automation and things like that. It’s hard to apply it. What I think is great Jeff, about our organization is because of this lack of silos and this permission to bring in a team of people from various disciplines, a very diverse team of people to try to solve a problem. We’re getting different solutions. So we’re able to innovate.
Just last year actually in August, we haven’t publicized this much, but back in August, or July 31 year end, so August, first week of August, we do a thing called Experience Grant Thornton. It basically kicks off the year for all of our people. It’s a huge undertaking, it’s interactive throughout the entire organization. All the offices, they do them in different locations, but it’s broadcasted centrally out of Chicago and it has some local office activities and things like that.
We launch a firm-wide, enterprise-wide innovation platform. If you think about it, you know public accounting and professional services in lot of cases are shaped like a pyramid, kind of like the military. All the good ideas come from the top. They move down the pyramid. If you think about it, if you flip that pyramid, it becomes a funnel. That’s what we’re doing. We’re letting, as I mentioned, all of our young people, these 26 year old average folks are out and they’re so creative and they’re so talented. If you flip that funnel, the ideas are coming in. So this innovation platform is allowing us to get our people to be actually involved in coming up with unique solutions and disrupting the firm.
We’re putting out a new platform here coming up. Gonna announce it next week, but our employee portal, which that’s a significant understatement for what it is. I had a meeting on it a couple of days ago and I said “We’re putting it out on a beta” and what the interesting thing is, just our knowledge management platform, but it’s a whole portal for people. Instead of throwing that out and trying to get it perfect and saying “We figured this out” we’re throwing it out there as a beta and part of the exercise is for all of our people to go through, there’s a link to our innovation platform as how would you make this better? And letting our people create their own experience and it’s very personalized. it’s almost like today, if you go out on the app store on Apple and you have an app, you like it, but do you always think “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if this did this, this, this, this and this?”
That’s okay, but who do you go tell? You don’t go out and call Apple. If you build that in and somebody says “Okay, here’s your app” how do you go in and how do we improve the app? It just surprises me sometimes Jeff, at how many organizations don’t get involved and ask their customers what they want. They tend to … I call them “ta-da” moments. They tend to spend a lot of time and then they have their unveiling and they go “ta-da.”
It may or may not be what people want. We’re not gonna have ta-da moment with our portal that we have. It’s not really a portal. I don’t want to give away too much on a public broadcast. But it’s just gonna be really interesting. We’re living our values of allowing our people to innovate, be curious and create their own experience. You know what, we’re gonna have the best tool in the industry because we’re not developing this with three people going to an outside vendor. We’re developing this with 8,800 people on our innovation platform saying “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had this, this and this.” It’s just gonna just take off. I can’t wait to just watch it. It will be a better experience for everybody.
I think that’s a huge thing about what we’re trying to do here in the organization and going forward. We’re gonna be … we want to be … I said one time, I’ve misquoted on this I guess, but you know how sometimes these things are. Somebody asked me “What do you see for Grant Thornton?” I said “I want the quality of Mercedes, the performance of BMW and the innovation of Tesla.” But then it says “Mike McGuire wants Grant Thornton to be the Tesla of the industry.” It kinda came out that way, but that’s not exactly what I said. But I want us to be the most innovative firm and I’m not saying that, put it on a poster, I mean it. That’s what we’re gonna do and I think our people are gonna have a completely different experience. Our clients are gonna have a different experience and I think it’s gonna be what drives our organization over the next five to ten years. I’m excited about it.
Jeff McKay: It is exciting and it sounds like what’s next is Status Go.
Mike McGuire: We are ready for Status Go. We’re already at Status Go. I met with my innovation team a couple days ago and I told them, I said “Look, I just want you to know that I don’t want you just hitting the accelerator, I want you to stomp it through the floorboard.” Listen, hey, if something doesn’t work, it’s designed thinking. We’re gonna experiment on some things that we do and if it works, great, then we’ll do it. If it doesn’t work, we’re not gonna fire somebody around innovative thinking and creative thinking about some things. We want to reward people for that, so it’s good.
Jeff McKay: Well, if I know Mike McGuire and I think I do, it’s gonna turn out golden.
Mike McGuire: Thank you Jeff. I tell ya, it’s way, way, way more than just me. Like I said, I’m the one that sits back and admires the great work that all of our people do. I just get so much out of … I was just up in our Detroit office last week with the whole office and I mean … the creativity and the energy, it is … I’m just one person in this organization. It’s a privilege for me and an honor for me to just be one of the many here in our firm and helping us drive Status Go. So, it’s fun.
Jeff McKay: Listeners, that’s what a leader sounds like. Thanks Mike.
Mike McGuire: Thank you Jeff. Always good to talk with you. Hope you have a great holiday.