Renew Mindset for CPA Firms

3 keys to a winning team

Shannon Vincent
September 23, 2021
minute read

Vale John Abell coach and mentor

Abell in name and in deeds

One of my mentors died — John Abell — and I attended his service on Saturday. His obituary can be read here »

Mr. Abell (what I called him) was the basketball coach (and taught health) at Butte Community College in Northern California. He coached 19 seasons. Butte won 14 titles in the 19 seasons he coached including 2 state championships. They also had a conference record of 70 straight wins. Amazing results!

He was a class act.

He always had a joke ready, some wisdom and focused on people’s strengths. Mr. Abell used to tell me he never worked a day in his life… why? He got paid to do what he loved.

Mr. Abell played to win. He said there were 3 keys to a winning team:

  • Recruiting
  • Have a Game Plan
  • Play as a team

A number of people from his coaching staff and former players spoke at the service. It was very touching and funny (at times). Mr. Abell had a great sense of humor.

Mr. Abell’s strategy got me thinking about running an accounting firm… I believe there are many similarities between running a firm and being a basketball coach.

What can we learn from his approach?

  • John knew recruiting was the most important function in producing a winning team. He walked his talk. He was ALWAYS recruiting and spent as much time recruiting as Coaching.
  • He had a game plan. One of his approaches was to use players' strengths as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses. Eg. allocation of resources... remember you can only play 5 people at a time in basketball.
  • Team/culture above everything else. There were a number of stories from former players who talked about John benching them for shooting too much or being selfish.

Questions and takeaways we can apply:

  • Are we spending enough time recruiting? John was unique, he thought differently. He was a winner and always found a way.
  • Are we sticking to our game plan? Eg. go back to the ReNew Scenario planner around client terminations, upgrades, new clients? Are we walking our talk?
  • Team. Are we investing enough time and energy in team/culture?

In closing, John said, “You only need three things…

  • Something to do
  • Someone to love
  • And something to look forward to”

RIP Mr. Abell. May we all live such fulfilling lives.

Taking Action:


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About the Author:


Shannon Vincent has dedicated his entire career to working with accountants in various capacities. He has consulted with Top 100 firms to Sole Practitioners, helping them create sustainable and profitable businesses. A member of the California Society of CPAs, he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics with an emphasis in accounting from University of California, Santa Barbara, and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shannon is passionate about helping accountants improve their mindset for success.


About Renew Group:


Are you tired of being on the diet but not seeing results? Most consultants to the CPA Profession do lots of talking and deal in 'fluff'. But there's no accountability and no focus on RESULTS.

At Renew, we start with your numbers. Our firms complete a Pareto for Profit analysis EVERY YEAR, set new targets to improve their profitability and then 'weigh in' regularly. We give you a roadmap to transform the profitability of your accounting firm by accessing our content, collaborating with other firms on a similar path and being held accountable by our coaching team and your peers.

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