Thursday, December 8th, 2016
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek
Culture is what attracts top talent to your firm.
I have observed that many firms really haven’t focused on culture or even thought about it much. The fact is, they have one (a culture) anyway and often it is not a culture that will attract the best talent or even the best clients.
A great culture evolves inside an accounting firm when great people are engaged. Per Gallup, only about 70% of U.S. workers are working at their full potential.
You can build a great culture by being more inclusive, by involving everyone in planning for the future, by clearly communicating the firm purpose, vision and values, by setting a good example as a leader, by continually giving them more meaningful and challenging work and by taking them along. And, that is just a few of the actions you can take.
Why not make 2017 the year you begin to shape a winning culture?
- "We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don't get comfortable with our success."
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
I visit CPA firm websites all the time. I want to see what YOU are doing and how you are doing it. I want to see the firms that “get it” and the firms that have no clue. It helps me with ideas for this blog and ways I can assist my clients.
Recently I visited a site and the firm did have a blog link at the top of the page. However, the page was blank. Frequently, I visit CPA firm blog sites and the last blog post was six months ago or longer. If you do blog, do it on a regular schedule – weekly or monthly – be consistent.
Don’t shy away from blogging. You have some great business minds within your firm and CPAs have so much to write about and to share. The writing itself is a great way to reflect upon your work and your professional purpose.
Remember the old advertising slogan? “Try it, you’ll like it.”
Try blogging, you will like it! It’s only two or three paragraphs. If no one follows, it is still a good mental exercise. The more you blog the better you get. Then people will follow and you’ll attract new clients to your firm.
Watch this short video from Seth Godin, one of the most famous bloggers and Tom Peters.
- "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story."
Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
“If YOU don’t believe in YOU enough to invest in YOU then don’t be surprised when others don’t invest in YOU.” – Grant Cardone
I am often disappointed in some less experienced people working in public accounting when I learn that they always EXPECT the firm to pay for ALL of their learning and continuing education.
Some even expect the firm to pay for a book that might help them with self-improvement.
The investment in yourself is the best investment you can ever make. The “firm,” for one reason or another, won’t pay for you to attend a specific conference, seminar or meeting. Maybe you should pay for it yourself if you really believe it will enhance your career advancement. Maybe you should buy some self-improvement books, tapes, podcasts or apps and actually read them and listen to them.
Commuting time could turn into a motivational session.
I like this quote from Grant Cardone:
“The best business advice I’ve ever been given was from my mother, who was never actually in business,” the self-made millionaire tells CNBC. “She said, ‘The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.It’s a no lose deal. It will always give you a return. Nobody can take it from you. It’s yours.'”
I’m not your mother but my advice to you – no matter what your age: Invest in yourself!
- "Success will not come knock on your front door. You must go find it."
Monday, December 5th, 2016
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin
We have been talking about the millennials for years now. Just as we talked about Gen-X when they became the youngest workers in our CPA firm offices. New generations bring change. The Baby Boomers sure brought change as they progressed through their lives, partly because of their massive numbers.
Pew Research tells us that more than 30% of American workers today are millennials. They recently passed Gen-X in becoming the largest share of the American workforce. Boomers are retiring and Millennials are filling in the gap. They range in age from 19 to 35 and those 35 year-olds are now in leadership roles in CPA firms.
With them comes some fairly drastic changes for public accounting. From a recent Inc. article by Elizabeth Dukes, the following are just some of the changes that long-time CPAs sometimes find challenging:
- Email will no longer the primary communication tool.
- Traditional office space designs will become extinct.
- Strict office hours will no longer exist.
Read more about each one of these points here. Begin taking action on how you will deal with each one these points at your firm.
- "Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
Friday, December 2nd, 2016
“To this day, I don’t like people walking on stage not looking good. You have to look good. If you feel special about yourself then you’re going to play special.” – Benny Goodman
Are you a smaller firm or are you looking for one to acquire?
Here’s something to think about from the recent AICPA Private Companies Practice Section and Succession Institute LLC survey:
Considering that our profession has roughly 44,000 firms, with about 600 having 21 professionals or more, we believe that the merger market for small firms is about to heat up in the short term, and the marketplace is likely to get very soft towards the end of that five-year period because of the increase in the number of firms in play.
If you think you will “merge up” when the time comes, you better get your house in order.
I have the good fortune to work with many smaller firms and these firms are focused on streamlining processes, training, technology and profitability no matter if they intend to remain independent or are preparing to merge up.
- "No matter how great the talent or efforts, somethings just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.
Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.
Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!
Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.
Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.
Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).
You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.
Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.
Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.
Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”
- "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world. "
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
“Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill
You work very hard. You care about your firm. You want things to get better and better.
To accomplish this, no matter what your title, you need to be an indefatigable person.
Indefatigable definition: persisting tirelessly. Synonyms: tireless, untiring, unflagging, unwearied, determined, tenacious, industrious, hard-working, unswerving, unfaltering, unshakable, resolute, relentless and so on.
But my favorite description is persistent. You must persevere!
Don’t ever give up hope.
- "Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
Monday, November 28th, 2016
Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, partners and managers do too much of what the admin team should be doing (led by a qualified firm administrator).
Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, if you have the right admin team, they can do so much more than mindless, routine duties.
If you do not have the right admin team, that’s your fault.
E-filing (and tracking the e-filing) is a great example. When it is their responsibility, they take it very seriously and are sticklers for following policy.
Here’s what some experienced firm administrators had to say when asked about their e-file tracking process:
Sarah Galley, Firm Administrator, Pohlman & Talmage CPAs, Inc.
Our admin is responsible for this process. They ensure we receive the signed 8879 forms back and then they file the returns. We track these using GoFileRoom. If we are having trouble getting an 8879 form back they track the client down. We try to keep the partner out of it.
Tammy Boring, Firm Administrator, Snyder & Company
Our admin staff does all of our e-filing of both returns & extensions. We use GoFileRoom, so all of our due date monitoring is done through there.
Karen Farino, Firm Administrator, Pasquesi Sheppard, LLC
Efiling the tax returns is done by the partner. Extensions are e-filed by partners and staff. Our admin staff releases tax returns to e-file once 8879s are received, then they check for the acceptance. Extensions are also checked by admin staff for acceptance. Everything is tracked in CCH Practice. We rely on the information in CCH and have never had a problem. We also check the e-file system for rejections and any returns that are in the e-file system but haven’t been released just to make sure.
- "Accuracy builds credibility."
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
Want a simple way to train and develop your people? Try repetition.
Think about how your new college recruits learn to become skilled accountants and CPAs. In many firms, it goes like this. You train them on basic auditing. You may send them to a 3-day training course sponsored by your firm association, state society or inside your own firm. You may do it online. But it is very focused.
Then they are assigned to engagement after engagement where they do the same thing over and over until they “get it.” Then they receive a more difficult task and they do it over and over until they become proficient, and so on. They become more and more skilled, they ask great questions and learn from others, they make mistakes and correct them and over time their confidence and skill become top notch.
People learn from repetition. It is much more effective than a one or two-day training session.
You expect your managers to bring in new business and they aren’t very good at it. This also applies to some partners, they are not able to do the basic function of a partner – perpetuate the firm. Why not apply repetition to teaching people in your firm how to sell.
You best rainmakers are the teachers. Ask them to always have a shadow (less experienced person) when they meet with a client. When they meet with a prospect. When they meet with a referral source. When they attend a business networking event. When they attend a charitable fund-raising function. When they attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting. You get the idea.
Expose them over and over again to business development situations. Have them try it on their own – over and over again. Repetition solidifies skills.
- "Don't join an easy crowd. You won't grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are achieve are igh."
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016
“It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
Many firms, in the CPA profession, are very generous with training dollars and do invest in sending future leaders to leadership development training outside the firm.
What if you are doing it all wrong? Training away from the firm just might be the wrong road to travel. How real is the “world away from the office” as compared to everyday life inside the firm?
Consider creating a culture where leadership training happens by example and by real-life, daily experiences at your firm.
In her article on the HBR site, Deborah Rowland explains, Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders.
Consider making your leadership training more experimental and influence future leaders’ “being,” not just their “doing.”
We just might need the educational equivalent of Sherpas, people able to carry part of the load in order to guide future leaders toward their personal and organizational summits.
Do you have some Sherpas already inside your firm? Take the time to read the article and apply it to your firm.
(Photo: ilker ender via Flickr Creative Commons)
- "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."