October 9, 2019 4:00 am Published by

Episode 27:

Beth Kieffer Leonard is the managing partner of Lurie, LLP. In her role, she is focused on the firm’s strategy and effectiveness, including the growth of the firm and the development of people. She has led the firm for the past decade and expanded both the service offerings and geography of Lurie. The firm has over 78 years of supporting entrepreneurs from start up to succession and Beth has continued this tradition through her leadership. In addition to her role in managing the firm, she has expertise in assurance services, mergers, and acquisitions as well as all areas of taxation. Beth works with closely-held businesses and their owners to achieve their business and personal goals.

Active in several civic organizations, Beth’s leadership role has won recognition from numerous national and regional associations, including “Women in Business Champion” from the Small Business Administration—Minnesota, the Advocacy Award from the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago, and Innovation in Finance Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Beth was honored as a “(Real) Power 50” by Minnesota Business and was a Top Women in Finance honoree by Finance & Commerce. She is also a recipient of the “2017 Most Powerful Women in Accounting” award by CPA Practice Advisor and was inducted into the NAWBO Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame in 2018.

What You Will Learn:

  • How Beth shook things up in the name of collaboration and effectiveness at her firm
  • Beth’s unconventional, risk-taking approach to her professional life as an accountant
  • The transformation of Beth’s firm culture and how that affected its employees
  • Beth’s leadership style
  • Where Beth draws her inspiration and mentorship from
  • How Beth uses her position to elevate and inspire other women business owners
  • What Beth sees as the future of business and technology
  • Beth’s best practices for being and staying an unf♥<kwithable leader


Effectiveness | Taking Risks and Changing Cultures, with Beth Kieffer Leonard

An Unconventional Accountant

When people think accountant, “risk-taker” is probably not the first adjective that pops into their head. The job seems to attract risk-averse people, and most of the time, that’s okay. Seeking stability is by no means a bad thing. But when it comes to shaking up an organization from top to bottom, an unconventional leader is just what the doctor ordered. Lurie LLP found exactly that in its current managing partner, Beth Kieffer Leonard.Effectiveness | Shaking Things Up, with Beth Kieffer Leonard

Beth is an accountant by trade, and yet she’s anything but risk-averse. Her first order of business when she entered a leadership role at Lurie was to shake things up in the name of effectiveness. The firm’s biggest flaw, a lack of collaboration, was entirely opposed to what Beth is all about. She began to shift responsibility off of the executive committee and on to various leaders through Lurie, instituting a performance measurement system to ensure accountability while giving those leaders more autonomy.

It seems like Beth has always been a leader and a visionary, even if she didn’t always recognize that in herself. Her friends and mentors realized her “unconscious competence” as a leader long before she did. Her risk-taking personality meant she was capable of effecting change wherever she went. Under her vision, the firm grew from 45 to 175 people, held a farewell tour for three of its partners, and even had employees start dressing up in costumes.

A Culture Shift

Costumed employees are certainly unconventional, but doing so at an accounting firm? Unheard of! According to Beth, it’s all in the name of fun and having a good time at work. In such a deadline- and compliance-driven profession, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to enjoy coming to work. Beth’s ideas have been embraced by her partners, and as a result, the company has grown in size, effectiveness, and employee satisfaction.

Employee satisfaction isn’t just fun and games. It means empowering employees by making them feel like their voices are heard. By making the firm more collaborative, Beth ensured that everybody feels like their opinion is valued across the organization. Beth is very much a collaborative leader and is always willing to listen to what others have to say before making decisions. Rarely does she make decisions on her own, and that makes those around her feel like their ideas matter.

The Future of Business

The rapid growth of technology means the face of the business world is changing just as rapidly. Beth sees business as moving in a direction where every company is a technology company first and its actual purpose second. While technological innovation has improved effectiveness across numerous industries, Beth reminds all of us how important it is to never lose the human touch to your organization. People need people, not call centers or machines.

The “unplugging aspect” of business applies to personal life too. Beth does her best to detach from her phone, iPad, and the news as much as possible. It’s a healthy practice that all of us can do better at. Who knows? Maybe if we all unplug we can maintain a bit more of that human touch in all aspects of our lives, including our businesses. It’s up to us!

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