Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Lighten Up – Flashback Fridays For Summer

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” – Maud Hart Lovelace, author

Summer officially arrived this week. I hope you are carving out some time to simply enjoy a beautiful summer day.

Here’s my Friday flashback.

Twitter As A Resource – Not Just Noise

 

  • "Summer is very precious."
  • Dylan Lauren

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Client Service – Incoming Phone Calls

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” – Clarence Thomas

It’s been a while since I have written about the importance of incoming phone calls. As you might expect, I often call Certified Public Accounting firms. How I am greeted tells me a lot about the firm, the partners and the Director of First Impressions.

The DOFI’s job is to make people feel welcome, not to make them feel like they are interrupting them from something more important.

I urge you not to interrogate your callers. The first thing that enters your client’s (or prospective client’s) mind is, “When I tell them who I am it helps them decide if I am important enough for XXX to take my call.”

I urge you not to have a completely automated phone greeting process. CPAs are in the service business. The CPA profession is a word of mouth business. Potential clients call you because they have been referred by a friend, attorney, banker or by someone else they rely upon for good advice. Don’t disappoint these important referral sources.

Do you have experienced team members designated to receive potential new client calls when the caller does not have a specific name to ask for? Most firms have a few tax managers who actually don’t mind taking these calls and handling them with professionalism, care and concern. Have you considered making your Marketing Director or Director of Practice Development part of this taking-cold-calls-team?

Be sure that your team members understand that sometimes the best calls with the most potential might come at a very busy time and the manager might be inclined to say “take a message” or let the call go into voice mail. The caller will probably seek professional services elsewhere.

So, you ask, “Why do I bother when most of these types of calls go no where?”

It is about brand, image and reputation in your community; about CPAs being the most trusted advisor. Besides, that caller asking about individual tax preparation might say, “I called Smith & Company about my taxes. CPAs are sure expensive but I was impressed, they treated me so nicely and gave me the name of a smaller firm who was a perfect fit for me.”

  • "Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

K.I.S.S.

“If we stopped doing this, who would notice?” – Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak

From my experience working in the CPA profession, we always used K.I.S.S. to mean “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” – – Whenever I used it, I always changed it to mean, “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.” It is always important to be kind.

In more recent years, we have been talking a lot about K.S.S. – Keep, Stop, Start as it relates to performance feedback. We share with others in the firm what we think they should keep doing, stop doing and start doing. I am happy that I now see many firms using this much simplified version of performance feedback.

I have now learned from @Leadershipfreak (Dan Rockwell) that he has added an “I” to Keep Stop Start to change it to K.I.S.S. and uses it for meeting agendas:

#1 – Keep: What do we need to keep doing?

#2 – Improve: What do we need to improve?

#3 – Stop: What do we need to stop doing?

#4 – Start: What do we need to start doing.

Read more about Dan’s version of K.I.S.S. here.

Most CPA firms have WAY too many meetings. Maybe K.I.S.S. will help you streamline some of them. Also, seriously consider which meetings you can actually eliminate.

  • "People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."
  • Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Download Your Tech Roadmap

“To embrace technology as a strategic enabler, firms need to shift their treatment of technology from cost to investment.” – Donny Shimamoto

You can now download a new free ebook from Sageworks. In the book, leading experts in technology, practice management, marketing and firm strategy share their real-world advice for preparing firms to navigate technology choices, determining which technologies are best suited for the challenges facing firms and ensuring the solutions work for a firm. The book also covers strategies to help firms increase their value through the reliance on technology.

I am simply delighted to be included among these amazing experts.

Tech Roadmap: Selecting the Ideal Solutions to Thrive in Business AdvisingINSIDE THIS EBOOK:

  • The Groundwork – What needs to happen at a firm before it begins vetting specific technology?
  • Addressing Challenges With Technology – What types of technologies should be considered?
  • Making Tech Work – How can firms ensure technology is adopted successfully?

READ ADVICE FROM INDUSTRY LEADERS

Need help navigating tech choices for your firm? See my advice in a new eBook from @sageworks http://web.sageworks.com/e/14602/2rVqSY7/7f42gj/692738269 

  • "Anyone starting a firm today should be in the cloud. I tell every single sole practitioner startup, ‘YOU HAVE TO BE 100 PERCENT IN THE CLOUD. Your clients are going to want to be able to collaborate with you."
  • James C. Bourke, WithumSmith+Brown

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Keeping You Informed About Blockchain

“I’ve spent a ton of time studying blockchain the last three years, and it’s about getting connected to the right resources.” – – Gary Boomer

As I talk with practitioners this summer, I am finding that many are still not educating themselves about blockchain.

I have blogged about it before and today I am reminding you once again to learn all you can about blockchain.

There is a very helpful article via The Journal of Accountancy, posted recently – Why CPAs need to get a grip on blockchain.

The article covers a presentation by Gary Boomer, CPA/CITP, CGMA, of Boomer Consulting, at the recent AICPA ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas.

Boomer highlighted a number of crucial concepts that helps explain blockchain and gives insight into its value propositions for the accounting profession:

  1. Blockchain is secure and immutable
  2. Think of blockchain as the internet of value
  3. Blockchain data will create new business opportunities
  4. Studying up on blockchain will pay off

Read the entire article and more about each crucial concept here.

  • "Accountants who get a grip on blockchain today will be the ones who successfully pivot their services tomorrow."
  • Gary Boomer

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Lighten Up – Summer Fridays

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

fullsizeoutput_4085I am going to take my own advice. I’m doing things other than working all day on Fridays! Like last Friday, for example, I enjoyed watching my grandkids paddle board for the first time.

So, this summer I will not be writing a new blog post on Fridays.

On most Fridays this summer, I will be simply posting a link to a previous blog post that I think is important for you to read.

This Friday:

Here’s one from June last year (2016): My View – Casual Dress.

Have a great weekend.

  • "A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in."
  • Robert Orben

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

AICPA Top Issues Survey 2017

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” — Jack Welch

Every other year, the AICPA/PCPS conducts a top issues survey. Some of the findings from the 2017 Top Issues Survey were released yesterday.

Finding qualified staff was the No. 1 issue in every firm-size segment except sole practitioners where it ranked No. 3. Likewise, retaining qualified staff was a Top 5 issue in every grouping except sole practitioners. Recruitment and retention were leading concerns last time the survey was conducted in 2015, too, but the challenge appears steeper as the profession continues to gain strength in a growing economy.

Besides staffing, other common Top 5 issues this year include succession planning, acquisition of new clients, workload compression and keeping up with tax law complexity.  One former top issue, retention of current clients, has fallen out of the top issues for all groups.

So, no big surprises here. Just keep focused on developing a firm culture where people will want to stay and develop their career in public accounting. If you want to know how to do that, just browse through many of my past blog posts!

  • "The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership."
  • Harvey S. Firestone

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

How Dangerous is a Handshake?

“Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority.” – Tom Hopkins

This week I read an article about banning handshaking in hospitals.

I think I get that one. Hospital acquired infections are a serious issue.

I have observed that many people are beginning to use the fist bump as an alternative greeting and a protection from passing along so many germs.

In business, the handshake has always been important:

A handshake is more than just a greeting. It is also a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, a handshake is an important tool in making the right first impression. While the art of handshaking does vary within cultures, in the United States the “rules” are pretty universal.

In the CPA profession, we often have to teach our beginners the importance of the handshake and how to do it properly, creating a favorable first impression.

Think about all the hands you shook when you attended that recent conference or local business networking event. Did you feel like you were endangering yourself?

For me, I enjoy the connection made by a proper handshake. I am assuming that the person I am greeting has at least washed their hands in the last 24 hours… whereas, a door handle to my favorite coffee shop probably hasn’t been properly washed in months, if ever! How many public doors have you opened lately? And don’t even think about all the things you touch with your finger-tips during a trip to the grocery!

  • "Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet."
  • Plato

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Toxic Behaviors

leadershipfreak“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

If you are a regular reader, you know that I follow Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak – his tweets and his blogs.

This morning, I read his blog titled, The Complete List of Toxic Behaviors That Poison Teams. Sadly, so many things on his extensive list I see happening inside CPA firms. Many of them apply to the partner group and a lesser amount apply to the entire team.

Here are just a few that I see happen most often, along with my specific comments. Please follow the link and read all the behaviors that are toxic. You might be surprised how many you see inside your own firm.

Assume silence is agreement – When I facilitate partner retreats and a tough issue comes up for discussion, I notice that some partners “look at their lap.” They avoid eye contact and remain silent. Other partners assume the silent partners are in agreement and usually they are not.

Allow power-mongers to drone on and on – You know them, the more powerful partners who believe everyone wants to hear what they have to say – over and over again and again. No one stops them!

Invite the same people to the table, year after year – Invite outsiders to your partner meetings – mix it up by inviting one or two managers, then some seniors. Involve a local advisor, like an attorney you trust or a professional outside marketer and use a facilitator familiar with the CPA profession

Solve every problem and address every imaginable contingency before you try something – Accountants are too risk adverse and too comfortable in status quo to risk trying new ideas.

Discuss, but don’t decide – I don’t think I have to explain this one. The most common comment I hear, “Let’s put that on the agenda for next year.”

  • "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Accounting Firm Interns

fullsizeoutput_4028“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – Chinese Proverb

The larger firms, who can afford full time HR professionals, have programs dealing with interns fairly well developed. However, mid- to small firms, if they hire an intern, often treat them like an extra administrative person.

Here are some tips and ideas regarding interns:

  • Treat them like full time hires.
  • Give them structured orientation (like a new hire).
  • Provide a job description – expose them to both tax and A&A.
  • Keep in mind that they don’t know the CPA lingo – teach them.
  • Give them real work – it has always been amazing to me how quickly interns can get up to speed on individual tax returns and even smaller business tax returns.
  • They love going in the field. Expose them to visits to the clients’ sites, in person.
  • Praise their efforts and keep in mind they are beginners – what they learn in college doesn’t relate to what they will do inside your firm.
  • Don’t give them administrative work – no shredding, no mindless data entry.
  • Provide them with business cards and take their picture when presenting the cards to them (after all, it is usually their FIRST business card). Send the picture to them and suggest they share it with their parents.
  • Challenge them to give away their business cards and keep track of the efforts. This makes them aware, right from the beginning, that marketing is important. At my firm, we had a give your card away game – you need at least two interns for this game. They give them to whoever…. grandma, mom, dad, dentist, college friends – how many can they give away in five days. They must keep good records. The winner gets a gift card.
  • Teach them to put their business card in restaurant fish bowls when they go to lunch – and place them in the bowl so the firm name shows!
  • "I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way."
  • Lee Iacocca