Clear vision

 Tony Argiz graduated from college in 1975, but he has never stopped learning. It has taken the managing partner of Morrison, Brown Argiz & Farra LLP plenty of patience and cooperation to bring the firm to 2006 revenue of $37 million.

“I can’t say I had all those attributes when I started, but you learn by mistakes and try to develop yourself and learn on a day-to-day basis,” Argiz said.

Smart Business spoke with Argiz about how he makes decisions and how to find employees who fit your business.

How do you make decisions?
We’ve been through so many stages. When we first started we were 12 people. Back then, you could make decisions a lot quicker than you can today when you have close to 190 people to deal with.

As the firm has grown, you really just need to adjust to trends and re-engineer yourself at all times to determine what’s out there. Nowadays, you’ve really got to be an employer of choice if you want to have the assets you need to grow and expand the firm.

When you were smaller, your decisions could be made a lot quicker, but you’ve still got to be able to make them quick. You can’t make a lot of decisions that affect everyone without developing the consensus, because people will lose respect for you because they’re not being counted on.

What skills does a CEO need to be successful?
Vision. You’ve got to constantly have a vision, you’ve got to excite people and work toward a goal that’s reachable. We’ve always said we want to be a $20 million firm, then we said we wanted to be a $30 million firm.

Now that we’ve reached that, we say we want to be a $50 million firm. And when we get to $50 million, we’ll have a bigger goal then. But you’ve got to have a vision and excite the people around you so they can feel the accomplishment and also know what your goals are.

Communication is important, you’ve got to communicate with the people, whether it’s through your HR department, whether it’s yourself, or through computer services.

Always keep the people in touch. A lot of the Generation X people, they want to be part of the decisions and they want communications. You also need to have patience. In an organization where there are 200 people, there’s always going to be problems.

You want to listen to everyone, not make a quick decision that affects lots of people. You’ve got to be able to multitask, because there are so many things you’re juggling at one time. You’ve got to be able to work on 10 to 15 things at one time.

What do you look for in your employees?
When we hire, what we really look for is attitude, attitude, attitude. We have these tests. They look at facets of the individual’s leadership to find out if they are followers or leaders.

They look at whether the individual has multitasked or not. They look at whether the person is an extrovert or an introvert.

It’s important to attract other leaders. It should be your hiring process to try to go after the best talent, because in a professional service business, that’s going to be the secret to a successful firm. And then you create an effective team around those people.

It’s not ‘I,’ but it’s the firm. You can’t have success in a large organization without creating an effective team. Lastly, the vision — focus on the big picture and keep painting it for the professionals so they constantly see it.

How do you deal with the dangers of growth?
While you’re growing, you need to look at your key financial ratios and make sure you’re doing it efficiently. If that whole process slows down, it can really hurt you. Then, knowing what your break-even point is and knowing what your production needs to be in order to meet that break-even is important. Obviously, that’s on the financial end.

But, none of that can happen unless your employees are satisfied and happy.

What is the biggest mistake a CEO can make?
Not listening to people and making decisions from a tunnel. Not having the input on every decision you make and not building consensus. You can get away with tunnel vision once in awhile, but you can’t do it on a long-term basis.

You have to reinvent yourself at all times, because the way you managed back in the ’90s is not the way you manage today. Reinvent yourself, but you’ve got to listen and you’ve got to build consensus and make your decision on what’s best for the firm, but after everyone is heard, or at least the key people.

HOW TO REACH: Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra LLP, (305) 373-5500 or www.mbafcpa.com

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