Monday, December 11th, 2017

I’m On My Reading Soapbox Again

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

A suggestion from Seth Godin, instead of having 20 valuable employees spend an hour in a meeting that’s only vaguely related to their productive output, why not have them spend one hour reading?

That suggestion made me think about some things you can do at your CPA firm.

Rather than having a “lunch & learn” that about half of your employees dread, why not have a “read & learn”?

One of my clients is having their management group read a chapter a week in a selected popular business/leadership book and then discuss it briefly at their weekly management meeting.

Another client is establishing a leadership/management library by collecting (and buying) well-known business books and asking the leadership group to read one per quarter.

I also believe you can learn a lot from and be inspired by simply reading novels.

Thinking about the goals you will set for 2018? Commit to reading at least 12 books.

Wondering what should be on your team’s reading list? Here’s a list of twenty books. 

  • "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns one on, I go into the other room and read a book."
  • Groucho Marx

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Little Things All Year Long

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

It’s December. There has probably been a discussion about doing something special for your best clients because of the holidays.

Rather than only doing something special this time of year, why not do many little things all year long? Keep in mind, little things can make the biggest difference.

Here are just a few ideas for little things you can do for your clients throughout the year:

  • Send a handwritten note to clients on the anniversary of the day they became a client of the firm.
  • Have a small box of candy (4 to 6 pieces) mailed to their home on their birthday (so their family can see it and share)
  • Mailing the clients who always pay on time a “Thanks for always paying on time” note – U.S. mail or email.
  • Sending a card to a client’s child when they graduate from H.S. or college.
  • The client likes dark chocolate or milk chocolate – send them the appropriate box of candy.
  • When the weather gets cold and snowy, send a special client one golf ball in the mail and remind them to think about Spring.
  • Be sure all clients who have new babies get a special monogrammed blanket with their name and date of birth noted.

Ask your team to come up with more little things. It can be a fun lunch & learn activity.

What about those clients who are not your best, the ones you dread? Find them another accounting firm!

  • "Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things."
  • Frank Clark

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Maybe You Are Lazy

“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kolbe Bryant

I often refer to Seth Godin and some of his amazing blog posts. I hope you are following him, too.

Today, he posted about “modern laziness.” I have observed modern laziness inside so many CPA firms. I bet you have, too!

From Godin: “The original kind of lazy avoids hard physical work. Too lazy to dig a ditch, organize a warehouse or clean the garage. Modern lazy avoids emotional labor.”

As a team member in a CPA firm:

  • During a training session, do you refrain from raising your hand and asking a question? Do you wait on someone else to ask?
  • Do you follow what was done last year (SALY) on a client engagement rather than discuss with your supervisor something that confuses or puzzles you?

As a CPA firm leader:

  • Do you dodge those tough phone calls from clients about their recent invoice?
  • Do you hide out in your office and hope no one bothers you with questions?
  • Do you ask someone else to discuss an issue of poor performance with a team member rather than doing it yourself?

These are the kinds of things that require emotional labor. To me, it falls under the category of Emotional Intelligence. Accountants have a reputation of NOT having it!

Whether your are a recent accounting graduate or a long-term partner in an accounting firm, work on your EQ and don’t be lazy!

  • "People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals - that is, goals that do not inspire them."
  • Tony Robbins

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

What’s Ahead For 2018

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” – Neil Armstrong

As the new year approaches, Accounting Today asked a panel of industry thought leaders and experts to paint a picture of what accountants can expect from the next 12 months in terms of important trends, big surprises and key initiatives to undertake.  

Thanks to Dan Hood and Accounting Today for including me in this group of thought leaders!

The question: What trends should accountants keep an eye out for in 2018? 

Read the entire article here with my comments and great insights from: Jim Boomer, Angie Grissom, Steve Mankowski, Erik Asgeirsson, Gary Bolinger, and Joel Sinkin.

  • "There's always something in the game you wish you would have done different. That's why players improve, because they learn from what they did before. They might have been guessing before, but now they know. "
  • Gordie Howe

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Gender Study

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” – Malala Yousafzai

The AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee recently released the results of their 2nd annual CPA Firm Gender Study.

women-cpa-firms-gender-survey-768x493There has been little change. Women still make up less than one-quarter of partners in public accounting firms.

As usual, the smaller the firm, the more female partners.

Here’s some info from the Executive Summary but I urge you to review the entire report and share it among your partner group.

  • Partnership on average remains overwhelmingly male, with women representing only 22% of partners in CPA firms.
  • A growing percentage of women are serving as directors or non-equity partners.
  • Only 47% of firms have a formal succession planning process and only 2% include a formal gender component in their plans.
  • Flexible work hours are the most popular program, followed by reduced hours and telecommuting.

Women are key to succession for male partners. Make sure your firm is working on, or already has, a plan to help women (and men) to become future owners of your firm.

Here’s a link to the members of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee members. Maybe someone from your firm should volunteer for the committee.

  • "Instead of looking at the past, I put myself ahead twenty years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then. "
  • Diana Ross

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Is Your Holiday Greeting Inspiring?

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Year after year, CPA firms struggle with what kind of Christmas card or holiday message they should send to their clients. Some spend quite a bit of money on prestigious holidays cards and gifts. Then, the question comes up – how do we top that next year?

Why not live your holiday message? Do kind and helpful things for your community then share your story with your clients and business associates.

I recently received my holiday greeting from a law firm (Ice Miller). Sure, they send it out to hundreds or even thousands of people, but it made me feel good about them.

You could do the same. Check it out here.

  • "It's not about giving back if you're successful or a celebrity or how much money you have. It's about your responsibility as an adult to help others."
  • Trisha Yearwood

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Busy Season Begins

It is December 1.

For years, we considered the beginning of “busy season” – we used to call it tax season but that term is no longer comprehensive enough – to be January 2.

Some firms would even require employees to begin working extended hours immediately after the New Year holiday, whether they truly had full schedules or not.

Firm leaders would often struggle to keep people busy after April 15th. They longed for more projects that could be scheduled from May to December. These days, from my observations, busy season continues throughout most of the year.

In my recent discussions with various firms of all sizes and locations, busy season begins in December. Firms are engaging their clients in much needed tax planning and those appointments plus completion of other tasks that have to be done before January, add some additional stress to the holiday season.

Firm leaders are challenged with allowing their employees to take extra time off during December when some clients need attention right up to the last minute on December 31.

This came to mind because of the recent news that American Airlines allowed too many pilots to schedule time off during those last two weeks of the year and perhaps 15,000 flights were in danger of being cancelled. It seems they have worked it out by paying the pilots additional money to cover the holiday rush.

Maybe that is a solution for you. You might have some employees who would work more hours during those last two weeks of December (for additional dollars) so that other employees could have time off for family activities.

Let the scheduling games begin!

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

A Short Trip To The Near Future

“Making predictions is very hard, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra

There is a great article in the Ohio Society’s magazine, Voice, about blockchain. It is titled, The blockchain transformation of accounting and auditing by Jack Shaw (and reprinted with permission from The Missouri Society of CPAs).  Please, please read it. Share it with your entire team.

Jack Shaw is the executive director of the American Blockchain Council. He leads Blockchain Executive Seminars for CPA firms and their clients. Jshaw@AmericanBlockchainCouncil.org

Here is an excerpt, just to stress how important it is for you to educate yourself sooner, rather than later.

If you think we’ve seen a lot of changes in our world in the 10 years since the first smartphones were introduced, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Driven by a host of emerging technologies, most importantly blockchain, we’ll see more change in the next 10 years than there’s been in the past 50.

To keep up, you’re going to have to change. You’ll have to change your mindset. You’ll have to change your organizational culture. You’ll have to change your business processes. You’ll have to change your business models. You’ll have to change your business ecosystems. That’s a lot of change!

  • "Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me."
  • Carol Burnett

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Searching For A Manager

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

Accounting firms are hiring. That is an under-statement. Most of the firms I work with are almost desperate for an experienced manager. Throughout this year I have heard this statement over and over again, “We really need a tax manager and they are impossible to find.”

Perhaps, someone already working at your firm is the answer. Top talent joins a firm where they believe opportunities for advancement exists. They don’t want to work at entry-level for years, then as a Senior for a few more years. Then, maybe in the partners’ minds they are seasoned enough to become a manager. That is why it is so important that you have documented career paths available.

If your firm is content with status quo and not experiencing impressive growth, top talent won’t join up. To become a manager, the firm has to need a manager.

You don’t need a manager if:

  • Your firm is not dynamic, growing and generating new opportunities.
  • Your firm has a level of managers in place who are not dynamic and growing.
  • Your young people see your current managers as roadblocks

Keep in mind that promotions are no longer based on seniority. So many firms have current managers that were promoted to manager to reward them for longevity and productivity, not because they had proven ability to manage and inspire other people. In many cases, it is the opposite.

So, the next time you need a manager, look inside and ask a top performing senior or supervisor to stretch. They may be tired of waiting and already searching for another job. Bringing in someone unproven over them might be the last straw.

  • "The future depends on what you do today."
  • Gandhi

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Linchpin or Hurdle

Linchpin jpegA few years ago, I read one of Seth Godin’s books that really hit home with me. since then I have talked about it often during my presentations to CPA groups around the country. The reason being, I see two types of people working in accounting firms at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the leading end are the Linchpins. On the opposite, following along, dragging their feet, are the Hurdles.

The book is titled Linchpin. Here is an excerpt of a review of the book written by Chris Bailey in 2013:

Occasionally a book comes along that completely changes the way you work. For me, a couple of years ago, that book was Linchpin by Seth Godin. I’d wager a bet that it will shake your work up too.

Linchpin is a book about how to “become indispensable”. In the book, Godin makes a distinction between what he calls “factory workers”, workers who mostly follow instructions, and “linchpins”. A linchpin is an employee who doesn’t need a rule book, and delights others because that’s what they love to do. Every day a linchpin creates art, which Godin defines as “the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person”, and they overcome big mental hurdles (like fear) which come from your “lizard brain”.

Fit jpeg

  • "The secret to being wrong isn't to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn't fatal."
  • Seth Godiin