Thursday, March 30th, 2017

It Is A Stressful Time – Stay Positive

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

When I Work recently did a post that just might help you make it through until April 18th.  – 18 Simple Way to Keep a Positive Attitude.

Of course, I want to put the public accounting spin on some of them for you. You can be cheerful and still not have a positive attitude. It goes much deeper than simply being cheerful. A negative attitude can even promote fear throughout the firm.

A few suggestions:

  1. Stay away from negative people. There is always a few of those whiners inside of every firm.
  2. Fill you mind with positive thoughts. Listen to upbeat music, listen to motivational podcasts, or read books that make you laugh.
  3. Use positive self talk – don’t beat up on yourself if you make a mistake. Don’t think – “I am an idiot.” Think – “I can really achieve a lot of improvement in that area.”
  4. Stop complaining, verbally to others and even in your own thoughts.
  5. Find reasons to laugh. There is always something going on inside a firm during tax season that can cause a good laugh.

During this last week of March – look for ways to remain positive and even to have some fun.

 

  • "In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision."
  • Dalai Lama

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Cubicle Courtesy Guidelines

“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” – W. Edwards Deming

A long time ago, I did a blog post about tips for living in a cubicle. Many accountants who have their own office (like partners and managers) sometimes forget how cubicle life can sometimes be very frustrating.

Keep in mind, that some millennials like the open floor plan concept, but most people aspire to have a private office. I like to see cubicles arranged in quads so that four people can have their backs to each other yet are able to swing around to a centralized round table to confer with colleagues.

Working in a cube when you are a beginner is often very helpful in that you can overhear what others are learning and benefit from the conversations in the adjoining cubicle.

A big frustration, however, is the lack of privacy and the fact that associates and coworkers stop by whenever they want resulting in many interruptions.

To remedy that, how about establishing some Cubicle Courtesies to protect those working in cubes and those visiting them.

The following is a modified re-post of the cubicle post I did in 2008 – maybe it will help you design your own office cubicle and shared space protocol.

    • Keep your voice down. Be aware of how it projects, especially when laughing.
    • Don’t enter someone’s cubicle or stop to chat unless invited to do so.
    • Never take something from someone’s cubicle or desk without asking first.
    • Be respectful of those people passing your desk. Don’t assume they have time to chat.
    • If you don’t want to be interrupted, don’t make eye contact with those passing your desk.
    • Respect other’s work time and flow of concentration. If they look deep in thought, they probably are.
    • If the person is on the phone, do not interrupt.
    • Confidential information should not be discussed in an open setting. Move to one of the meeting rooms.
    • Avoid using speaker phones.
    • Do not read what is on someone elses desk or computer screen.
    • Reduce clutter in your desk area or cubicle.
    • Don’t leave food and trash at your desk.
    • Keep eating and snacking at your desk to a minimum. And avoid foods that smell up the office. (Some firms have a “no eating meals at your desk” policy.)
    • Return items to their proper place after using them.
    • Replace immediately anything you use up (paper, staples, etc.).
  • "Other people's interruptions of your work are relatively insignificant compared with the countless times you interrupt yourself."
  • Brendan Francis

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Silence Is Often Not Golden

“Organizations are destroyed by behaviors that should be confronted but are condoned by silence.” – Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak

I have often operated by that old phrase, “Silence Is Golden”. There were just times when it was very appropriate, in my opinion, to say nothing. For instance, when someone was very angry.

I have also often operated by another old phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.  That advice came from my mother and maybe from Thumper.

Communication is a difficult subject and a constant struggle inside many busy accounting firms.

However, never forget – You owe people feedback. You owe your partners feedback. You even owe your bosses feedback.

You should be comfortable speaking up immediately when you notice someone doing something wrong. Many “bosses” in CPA firms seem to have missed this message.

  • A partner notices that Judy is not following firm procedures, yet the partner saves up constructive feedback until there is a performance evaluation meeting or exercise.
  • Joe is new and struggling with some tax preparation issues. The manager is aware but is silent and instead writes 57 review notes.
  • Most of the partners notice “things” that should be addressed with a staff person or an admin team member and rather than address it on the spot, they ask the firm administrator… “Can you talk to Sally?”
  • Ted, tax partner, is what we call a “wild card”. The partners are even concerned about how he might be advising clients. Nothing is said.

Yes, you can bring a lot of negativity into the work place by saying too much, talking too much and whining too much. However, there are many times when inappropriate behaviors need to be addressed.

 

 

  • "Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud."
  • Hermann Hesse

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Yes! Reading Can Make You More Successful

FullSizeRender“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P.J. O’Rourke

I am a firm believer in the fact that reading is an invaluable career-building and character-building activity. I read for education and for pleasure. Last year I began keeping a log of the books I read (mostly I read on my Kindle). I read 20 books in 2016 and I am already on my 9th book for 2017.

It helps me have a broader understanding of the world – the whole world and the business world. I also read many blogs, articles and newsletters. I always recommend – read, read, read.

If you select the category “Reading” on the right-hand side of my webpage, you can read the many blog posts I have done about reading.

Recently I read a blog post on Self Development Secrets site, titled 10 Reasons Why Reading Is Important. 

Here are the 10 reasons:

Sharpens Your Mind (I certainly can benefit from this one.)

Increases Your Vocabulary (I love the Kindle feature where you can press on a word and it gives you the definition. I also love to read books that challenge me in this area. An example is Lincoln at the Bardo.)

Lowers Your Stress (Almost every day at 4:00 or 4:30pm, I stop working and spend an hour reading. It relaxes me.)

Decreases Your Depression (In my case, it “lightens my spirit”.)

Improves Your Memory and Focus (I need all the help I can get here.)

Strengthens Your Writing Abilities (Oh yes, I have learned so much about writing by reading.)

Enhances Your Imagination (Harry Potter, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, 11/22/63 sure helped my imagination. I also love ones that are mildly creepy – Stephen King, Dean Koontz. My favorite detectives are Harry Hole and Kurt Wallander.)

Boosts Your Sleep (On an airplane, I begin to read and keep nodding off.)

Enjoy Your Entertainment and Peace (Quiet time. Reading enhances expanding thoughts.)

Reading Can Brighten Your Day (I cannot read Dave Barry books on an airplane because I laugh out loud.)

Click here to visit the article and read their reasons for each of the ten (they are quite a bit more informational than my ramblings).

  • "There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Friday, March 24th, 2017

CPAFMA – The CPA Firm Management Association

I hope you are a member of CPAFMA. I also hope you have the opportunity to attend chapter meetings that happen around the country.

Here is where you can find a chapter near you.

I recently attended the Ohio Chapter of CPAFMA, hosted by the Ohio Society. To help you understand the value, I am listing the topics that were discussed in the after-lunch roundtable discussion. In the morning we had an amazing update about employment law, always an important topic for firm administrators, COOs, and HR Directors.

  • Practice Management Software
  • CCH Engagement vs. Thomson EngagementCS
  • Employee recognition
  • Fun things during tax season
  • Banking verifications (confirmations)
  • Competition
  • Thomson UltraTax (problems and issues)
  • Partner retirement
  • MP Transition
  • Helping partners find their seat on the bus
  • Employee time off during busy season.

If you need some answers and some quality advice from others facing the same issues – join CPAFMA.

  • "It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed."
  • Napolean Hill

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

We All Must Learn To Deal With Difficult People

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” – John W. Gardner

Yes, difficult people are all around us – friends, relatives and the people at work. We need to especially be equipped to deal with those difficult work people!

The Nitpickers: Critical, judgmental and perpetual complainers. (You don’t know any of these do you??)

The Megaphones: We answer the phone or we walk down the hall and these people talk non-stop for 20 minutes.

The Voiceless: These people have zero confidence or assertiveness. They’re full of whine, but rarely express an opinion.

The Bubble Busters: They have to be right – all the time. They love controlling and micromanaging.

The Volcanoes: The ones who are ready to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. They explode and leave a trail of damage.

What do you do? Remain neutral. Without compromising, protect your space and maintain your emotions.

Don’t take things personally. You can’t control their behavior but you can control your reaction to it.

I like the description – “cool, calm and collected.” – – That’s you!

  • "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."
  • Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

It’s No Longer “When” The Millennials Will Be In Control

“The elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time.” – Mark Twain

Just an observation today about things that are actually happening at growing mid-size CPA firms.

On the “I am not surprised” side of things:

  • A firm has had a long time policy of partner retirement age at 65. Recently, the 63 and 64 year-old partners changed that policy to 70 years of age.

On the “I’m so glad to see this” side of things:

  • A mid-size, very successful firm has a new managing partner, he is 28 years old.
  • Another local firm has a new managing partner who is 36 years old.

Both of these individuals fall into the millennial category.

We are no longer talking about what will happen WHEN the millennials are in control. It is more like, NOW the millennials are in control. Yes, change is happening and the change train is moving very quickly down the track.

Be sure your firm is preparing and ready for change.

  • "To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable."
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Seven Secrets of Career Success

“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb

I was browsing through some old digital files and found the following. I remember using these “secrets” many years ago in a presentation I did for a community college’s new graduates.

I think they definitely apply to life inside a busy accounting firm.

Seven Secrets of Career Success

Become a quick change artist

Commit fully to your career

Speed up

Behave like you’re in business for yourself

Practice lifelong learning

Manage your own morale

Be a fixer – not a finger pointer

  • "Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it."
  • Katharine Whitehorn

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Use Email & Social Media To Remind Your Clients

“Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” – Edith Summerskill

My dentist and my doctor send me reminders about upcoming appointments. These reminders come via email, text and a phone message. It is all automated via their practice management software. I have always wondered why more CPAs aren’t using a tool like this.

We now live in the world of social media and digital communication. Be sure you are using these tools to remind your clients about supplying their tax information.

When I talk to firms, they often tell me that they call and remind their clients about furnishing their information. When I ask, “How many times did you call?” the answer is usually…. “Once”. Once is not enough.

Here’s an example of an email one of my clients sent out recently. Maybe it will help you compose your reminder message. It is important that the reminder only go to  those clients who are tardy – not to ALL clients.

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 22, 2017. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2016. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • "Nothing external to you has any power over you."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Lighten-Up, It’s the Weekend

Just something to think about this weekend. I recently read a quote from Carl Sagan that made me appreciate what a wonderful thing we have – the unique planet we inhabit.

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” – Carl Sagan

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society

  • "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
  • Carl Sagan