Friday, January 19th, 2018

Your Firm Budget For 2018

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” — Warren Buffett,

The AICPA Roundtable 2018 is happening this week in New York City. You can follow the comments on Twitter #AICPAroundtable2018.

Just one comment from yesterday that I think is important to you: 75% of accountants will increase technology spend in 2018

Did you significantly increase your tech budget for 2018?

  • "A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went."
  • Dave Ramsey

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The Cloud Accountant

“Those without self-awareness do not look to improve, often because they do not think they need to.” – Jessica Daley

I talk with so many practitioners who struggle with the belief that they should employ remote employees. Whether you are convinced or not, it is a rapidly growing component of the accounting profession.

I recently read an article, 3 Essential Personality Traits of a Cloud Accountant by Jessica Daley of Xcelerate Business Solutions.

I enjoyed her article but was even more impressed when I visited the Xcelerate website.

Here’s the opening paragraph of the article. Does it sound like you and your team?

Today, flourishing in accounting requires a new way of thinking. It is less about the technical expertise and number-crunching, and more about whether you can handle systems, communicate well, innovate, solve problems, and build a rapport with your clients. If someone on your team is unable to do this, their accounting expertise does not matter—they simply will not be a very good accountant in the client’s eyes.

The 3 essential personality traits:

Curiosity – Your have to be curious about all the apps and technology so you can help your clients make the most of them.

Pride – You and your staff must have pride in what you do. You take ownership of your work and solve client problems.

Self-awareness – In the author’s opinion, this is the most important trait. You need to be aware of what you do not know.

Read more about these 3 traits here.

  • "My best staff are relentless in their ownership of a client."
  • Jessica Daley

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The 12 Questions

“The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person’s trigger.” – Marcus Buckingham

I haven’t written about the “12 Questions” in a very long time. It comes from a book titled, First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The book has been around a while but maybe it is time you read it again.

They contend that employees leave managers, not companies. I strongly believe that this is often the case in CPA firms.

Buckingham and Coffman offer 12 questions that can be used to measure the core elements needed to attract, develop and retain the next generation of CPA firm leaders.

Here are the 12 Questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages both my personal and my career development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

One of my client firms, asks these 12 questions of their entire staff every year and tracks progress year-to-year. They share the tracking matrix with the entire staff at the annual State of The Firm meeting. Constant improvement is part of their firm culture.

I hope you are doing something like this at your firm. I also hope that you are taking the steps to make steady progress. Don’t ever ask for input from your team and then do nothing with that valuable information.

  • "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."
  • Peter Drucker

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

What Recruiters Are Seeing

“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn, Wynn Las Vegas

I follow Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender). She covers HR topics, of course, but she also writes about general workplace topics.

Sharlyn recently was facilitating a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) seminar and discovered that recruiters wanted to vent. Imagine that! They are frustrated because candidates are not prepared for an interview.

Here are just a few things on their list of things they want to see from candidates. If you are recruiting people for your CPA firm, maybe you can relate to these.

  • Cover letters are not dead. They can serve a purpose.
  • Research the company (firm) – know something about them before you arrive. Simply visit their website.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Be prepared to talk about your future.
  • Ask questions.

Read the entire article here.

  • "Time spent on hiring is time well spent."
  • Robert Half

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Doing The Work

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you examined how work is actually prepared, processed and completed inside your firm lately? You better put it on your list!

Lots of firms have embraced the Lean Six Sigma process and not only improved their workflow and efficiency but have also ignited more passion for the work in their team members.

So many people in CPA firms do things because “that’s the way Joe (partner) wants it” or “Rebecca wants it done this way.”

Today’s workforce wants to be challenged and not simply repeat the same work, the same way, year after year after year.

Managers, and sometimes even partners, cling to work that they have done for years because it’s easy for them and it helps them accumulate billable hours. Identify a less experienced team member and delegate that work. It might not be easy for them but it will help them grow in their career and that’s what builds a top performing team.

Read this great article via HBR – Why People Really Quit Their Jobs.

  • "Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today."
  • Tim Fargo

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Weed the Garden – Turnover

“Turnover is bad only if the good go.” – Patrick Lencioni

Most CPA firm leaders consider turnover is a very bad thing. That’s not necessarily true.

In their book, “Built to Last,” Jerry Porras and Jim Collins talk about the occurrence of strong cultures of great companies. One of the indications of a strong culture is the rapid departure of people who don’t fit. Ultimately, those people are best served by finding a company where they can fit, and thrive.

When you retain people who don’t fit, it creates an even bigger threat to your firm. It demotivates those who do fit. It creates a culture of mediocrity.

So many firms have become a “please everyone” culture, providing lots of nice, sometimes trivial benefits to everyone. Sure, poor performers want to stay.

But, a menu of benefits will not retain all-star performers. They want to work in a thriving, high-performance and rewarding culture.

Stick with mediocre performers and you will find it even more difficult to attract top talent.

  • "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant."
  • Max DePree

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Never Be Complacent About Collections

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt

When you don’t have a documented collection policy and procedures to facilitate collection of past due accounts, you are demotivating your people.

You might think that the team members don’t realize which clients are late on payment. Get real, they all know. If you ask them to work on assignments and they fully realize that this particular client is a “collection problem,” why would they be excited about doing the work efficiently and timely?

More importantly, why loan money to slow paying clients? That is what you are doing and your CPA firm is acting as a lender for the client.

Why does this happen so often inside CPA firms and other SME’s? It is because leaders are afraid that chasing payments might negatively impact the client relationship. Remember this, if you have a client who does not pay….. they are not a client. “I provide the service and you pay me.” – that is the basis for a client relationship.

Of course, there are times when certain clients might be struggling and delaying payment is an alternative. But, work out a payment plan, spread over several months so that they can eventually catch-up. The most important thing is communication with the client before they get too far behind.

Communicate your billing and collection policies upfront when you initially meet with a new client. When a client becomes “past due,” do not wait until they are 120 days past due to contact them. If you expect payment at 30 days and they have not paid, send them an email on day 31. Call them on day 40. Always send monthly accounts receivable statements. Designate a person to handle collections and make it their highest priority.

Communication is key. I have encountered partners who would actually dodge a phone call from a client if it was about collection!

Most progressive firms have a stop work policy. If a client is past due by 90 days (you decide on how many), all work stops until they make full payment or work out a payment plan and make the first payment. If they miss a payment, work stops.

I often get questions about 1040 clients who are slow to pay. If they are a collection problem this year, they are a COD client next year (they must pay before their work is released). If they are a continuing collection problem, they pay upfront before work begins.

I’m not talking about harassing clients, I am talking about embracing good business practices – collect what is owed to you and encourage your clients to do the same with their customers.

  • "You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership."
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Four Important Questions

rob-nixon-blogprofile2copy“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” – Carol Burnett

Today, I want you to read an insightful and empowering post by Rob Nixon, founder of Panalitix, titled The 4 Most Important Questions to Ask

Here’s an excerpt to lead you in….

Let’s park the issues and reasons why you should not be a time selling business and focus on the intellectual capital business. That’s what you really sell so let’s focus on that.

 

  • "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
  • Helen Keller

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

The Three C’s

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain

Years ago I learned a method that might be something you should try. It is called the compliment sandwich and is based on the three C’s.

There always comes a time when you need to correct someone. Perhaps they have made an accounting mistake or maybe even a communication mistake and you want to point it out but not be harsh in doing so. The person’s performance is almost always above average and you also need to compliment them.

Try using the compliment sandwich! It is the best way to offer criticism or advice.

Use the three Cs: first compliment, then correct, then compliment again.

For instance, when a student is learning to waltz, the instructor might say, “I see you’re working very hard. Saying ‘Left, two, three, right, two, three’ helps me keep the steps straight. You might try that. But you look great out there!”

Consider how you can use the compliment sandwich in the office this week.

  • "The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it."
  • Wayne Gretzky

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Time

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

A good friend sent me this. We are all so obsessed with time yet we waste so much of it.

Be More Respectful to Time: I heard someone last year say, “if we see someone throwing money away, we call that person crazy. Yet we see others, and ourselves, throwing “time” away almost every day and think or say nothing of it.” I constantly have to remind myself of the importance of time and the fact it is truly a finite, expendable resource. What makes it so difficult to value is the fact we never know when it will run out or completely end. What’s even more crazy is the fact we can’t make any more once it’s gone! An English author named Arnold Bennett once said, “You have to live on this 24 hours of time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use…is a matter of the highest urgency.”

  • "The strongest of all warriors are these two - - Time and Patience."
  • Leo Tolstoy