I knew a consultant, Don Istvan (z”l) and many years ago, I heard him speak about “The Tornado.”

The Tornado referred to a graph he’d show in his presentations depicting charge hours versus non-charge hours at “Firm X.” The graph depicts the partners with the least charge hours and staff with the most. If one were to draw a line from the partner down to the staff, the graph ends up looking like a funnel, hence “The Tornado.” A firm’s success, he stated, is based on how effectively it can leverage that funnel. Identifying the use of non-charge hours, for example, is equivalent to a firm’s potential for critical, positive change.

Simply stated, Istvan suggested that firms review their partners’ client lists based upon current profitability, long-range stability, and the potential for growth. The highest ranking clients evaluated would be cultivated. The lowest, terminated.

Don passed on almost twenty years ago. He was eulogized for being one of the first accounting professionals to stress the importance of firms and their leaders placing a bigger emphasis on operating as a business, not just a service, and ensuring that the firm remain viable, profitable, and strong through good economic times and bad.

Many firms have survived the economic storms of the recent past. But many more have thrived by leveraging “The Tornado.” Are you prepared?