Attending Xerocon is about leveraging all the tools and resources available that will help you create the future you want for your firm. That includes learning from peers, industry experts, gaining actionable takeaways and learning how to better serve your small business clients.
Every business owner looks for that something special to help them create a competitive edge, set them apart and bring out the authenticity in their brand.
At Xero, we believe diversity and inclusion as innovation are powerful tools in building a meaningful culture and successful future. It’s why we’re thrilled to have Jina Etienne, CPA, founder of Etienne Partners, moderate a special breakfast event on Thursday, June 7th at Xerocon Atlanta.
Hosting a select panel, Jina will share perspectives, ideas and strategies. These will help small businesses and firms embrace their unique and authentic qualities. It’s a can’t-miss session, so we invited Jina back to the Xero blog to give a hint of what’s to come in Atlanta.
As accounting professionals are looking to adapt to the future, what should they be focused on?
Jina: Two things; one: technology, and two: full, meaningful and inclusive diversity. First, I believe that technology is a game-changer today because we are truly at a tipping point. How we work today is changing rapidly and it requires us to be flexible, adaptable and open to change.
Historically, we haven’t always been the best at this. So I worry that those who do not understand this, or refuse to embrace this shift will be out of business within the next five years – 10 at the most.
Second, I believe diversity isn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Because if you study demographic changes and trends, it is clear that America is becoming more diverse, not less.
I believe firms that continue to resist the types of cultural changes that foster openness, diversity, transparency, and differences of style and personality, will also be out of business within the next 10 years – 15 at most.
What does “inclusion” mean when it comes to building a firm that brings out the best of today’s accounting talent?
Jina: I would describe a truly inclusive environment as one where individuals do not feel inhibited at being “themselves”. I would define this as engaging, disclosing, doing and being in whatever level of openness is comfortable for them.
All of us cover up a little – and thank goodness! Can you imagine the chaos that could result if no one had a filter or limits on behavior?
That being said, when we feel obligated to cover up so much. So we limit our own power, minimize our strengths or withdraw from firm or company culture. That isn’t healthy either.
I believe this quote, which I shared during my Xerocon Austin presentation, sums it up nicely. “By creating diverse teams and focusing on real inclusion that encourages people to contribute their thoughts and ideas fearlessly, you’ll drive the kind of innovation that fosters unique connections, enables adaptability and drives profitability.”
What are you excited to share with the Xerocon attendees this June?
Jina: I’m excited to continue the conversation. At Xerocon Austin, my focus was on understanding bias and creating an appreciation for how it influences our thoughts, reactions and perceptions of others.
I believe that the accounting profession struggles with individuality. Although the genesis of that thinking is rooted in good intention, the result is still a culture where differences aren’t regularly or consistently included, appreciated or celebrated within “traditional” accounting firm culture.
Research released during Xerocon Austin revealed that accounting firm partners are 95% white and 77% male. As a result, the language around diversity and inclusion is from their perspective – the majority’s.
Consequently, the messages that women and minorities receive are more along the lines of tolerance, acceptance and acknowledgment versus bold individuality paired with an appreciation of and respect for the value of diversity.
At Xerocon Atlanta, we will shift the conversation to explore the link between diversity and innovation. Meaningful diversity goes beyond race and considers a multitude of dimensions. These include style, thought, national origin, culture, age, cognitive ability, personality, generation, gender, sexual orientation, background and more.
Difference often creates tension and stress – sometimes nuanced, and other times it can result in conflict. If teams can harness the power behind the tension and conflict inherent in their own diversity, they can leverage it to drive innovation, practice growth and lasting cultural change.
This is especially true for consultants and advisors working with a diverse mix of clients. I will be facilitating a panel discussion around inclusive communication strategies to help diverse teams and advisors serving diverse clients.
I will ask our panelists to share a few tips for working through the inevitable conflicts that naturally arise in a room full of people with a mix of styles and personalities
I’m an eternal optimist. So I believe that we are on the way to transformational change across the profession. I am grateful to be part of the conversation!
Get your tickets today for Xerocon Atlanta. Customize your experience to include a range of valuable additional sessions including pre-conference workshops and Jina’s panel. Already got your Xerocon ticket? Add Jina’s breakfast event to your existing registration.