Friday, May 29th, 2015

Addressing Those Very Personal And Challenging Conversations

There is always someone in the firm who gets stuck with having those very needed, crucial conversations with team members. It is often personal topics concerning annoying habits they demonstrate: talking too much, inappropriate clothing, picking their nose, body odor and so on.

Recently, on the Association of Accounting Administration discussion board, the topic of body odor was discussed. If your firm is not a member – you should join just for the discussion board alone!

This is just one example of those many “crucial conversations” we need to have inside accounting firms. I often address this in my mentoring and communication presentations with the suggestion that when you have a difficult conversation to face – think of the word BEER…. yes, B E E R.

Talk directly with the person, in private and follow these steps:
B = Behavior – describe to the person what they are doing or not doing that is unacceptable
E = Effect – Explain why the behavior is unacceptable, how it hurst productivity, bothers others, etc.
E = Expectation – Tell the what you expect them to do (or not do) to change.
R = Result – Clearly explain what will happen if the employee changes (positive) or the consequences of this behavior continues.

  • "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
  • Mark Twain

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Working In The CPA Profession – My Walk To Work Today

IMG_5007Sometimes we are all so busy we forget to stop and smell the roses! You’ve heard that saying since you were a child. Do you think about it as an adult?

This week I am working with the CPA Network at the lovely Inn at Cedar Falls in southern Ohio. The group is here for renewal. To renew their own passion and plans and to capitalize on the brain-power of the entire group. The 2-day focus is on MAP issues and how to better manage their firms.

This morning I sat on back porch of my cottage in the deep woods – no sounds of civilization – just birds, water dripping off the trees and a slight breeze. I waited for daylight (no sunrise views because of the deep woods). I didn’t read… I just let my mind wander (and it traveled a great distance).

I hope you take time this summer to think about your firm. Your culture is develops by design or default – – make sure you are in control of the design and are continually guiding it.

The pictures are from my “walk to work” this morning. Ain’t life grand?

IMG_5006

  • "Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet."
  • Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Be A Woman. Be Yourself.

There is a lot of advice out there to supposedly help women succeed in the game of business.

I often offer some myself – specifically to women in accounting, to help them survive in the interesting world of public accounting.

Recently, I have been re-reading and reviewing the book, “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman.” I’ll be using this book for a Women’s Leadership Discussion webinar for the Michigan Association of CPAs on June 3.

The author of the book, Gail Evans, offers a full menu of “rules” for women to be aware of as they play the game of business. The final chapter titled: The Final Two Rules are so important AND simple: Be A Woman. Be Yourself.IMG_1071

Here’s an excerpt I want all women in accounting to keep in mind:

Intuition is one of the most powerful tools women have in the marketplace. To use it, all you have to do is listen–not just with your ears, but with your gut.

So employ your female instincts to your advantage–as long as you understand the effect these will have on the men in your office. It’s one thing to be privately nurturing with a male peer whose work is faltering, but don’t do it in a public forum or you’ll embarrass both of you.

Business relationships are first and foremost office alliances. This doesn’t mean that they’re not genuine, only that they exist to help all of you build a better, more profitable, more enjoyable work place.

  • "I knew that if I didn't love my job, my performance would be second rate."
  • Gail Evans

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Firm Of The Future – So Much To Talk About

Today, I am delighted to be heading out to join the CPA Network members for a two-day MAP session to discuss one topic:

Becoming A Firm Of The Future

The CPA Network is a group of practitioners located in Ohio that have joined together to help themselves and each other. These are small firms and sole practitioners who understand the value of sharing and helping each other. They meet three times a year – a full-day tax update session, a full-day A&A update session and TWO full days of MAP (managing an accounting practice). I love the camaraderie of this group and the fact that just because they are small….. it doesn’t mean they are not mighty!

Firm of the Future 2015We are going to explore what “firm of the future” really means to firms like theirs. So much is being written about striving to be a future-ready firm – from the AICPA, state societies, other CPA firm associations, CPA management consultants, M&A brokers and by practitioners themselves.

My opinion is that it is pretty much the same old stuff I have been addressing for years and years! The big issue is – IMPLEMENTATION. That’s the key. Hopefully, we will come away with some definite Action Steps and some accountability to each other, that ACTION will occur.

If you want more information about joining this group just let me know. They welcome new members.

  • "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any."
  • Alice Walker

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

So Many Contradictions – It Really Is A Balancing Act

  • Managing an accounting firm is not easy.
  • Managing an accounting firm is not difficult.

Those are just the first two conflicting statements I often address when working with CPAs in public practice. Here’s some more:

Managing an accounting firm means:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.

 

  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a great listener.

 

  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.

 

  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.

 

  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.

 

  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.

 

  • You expect the  entire team to follow all the policies and procedures
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2015 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • "Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down."
  • Ray Bradbury

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Women In Accounting – Don’t Cry

Have you see Jersey Boys? Or, are you old enough to actually remember when the Four Seasons’ songs were at the top of the hit list?

One song title stayed with me all these years and helped me travel the female career path: Big Girls Don’t Cry. 

Later on, one of the lists from Gail Evans’ book, Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman brought me another line to remember. On the list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work That Women Can’t. Number 1 is: They Can Cry. You Can’t.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her book Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success: “Crying, I found in my research, is just one of a menu of communication blunders that, in a mere instant, can suck the executive presence right out of you.”

Mika Brzezinski commenting on when she got fired from CBS:  “…..but there was no place for those tears in that moment. If anything, when you cry, you give away power.”

Here’s the best story…. from a post by  Lisa Quast on Forbes:  The next time you feel like crying at work, take a few slow, deep breaths, roll your shoulders up and down several times and try to relax. Picture in your mind the line from the movie “A League Of Their Own” when Tom Hanks’ character says to one of the female baseball players, “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Then try to laugh at yourself to help diffuse the emotions of the situation.

What worked for me, for many years, is that when I felt myself begin to tear-up…. I would simply excuse myself and take a brisk walk down the hall, around the office. It’s better to be abrupt and mysterious than to cry. Besides, as females KNOW, crying usually doesn’t really mean that you are upset, angry, hurt, happy, or sentimental…. it’s a pure emotion we really can’t control.

Men, if you are confronted with this situation – it’s not personal and usually not significant. When counseling and mentoring females and tears happen, simply hand them a tissue (keep tissues handy in your office), and ignore the tears.

Ladies, one more thing from Gail Evans’ list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work that Women Can’t: #6 – They Can Be Ugly. You Can’t.

  • "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."
  • Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

AICPA Spring Council Meeting – Be Aware

Barry slideMany CPAs attended the AICPA Spring Council in Washington DC this week.

MOST of you did not. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to know what was discussed there. If you have a twitter account you could have had an on-going stream of relevant points from the Council meeting.

Here’s the hash tag:  #AICPAGC15

If you just scan through the posts you will be rewarded with some vital information and comments. I followed along periodically throughout the day (each day) and enjoyed the important topics and comments.

I followed tweets by Tom Hood, Accounting Today, Scott Wiley and others. But if you go to the hashtag you can see everyone’s tweets.

So, here’s my bullet list of just SOME of the important comments made at the meeting:

  • Meeting theme: Adapt-Innovate-Evolve
  • Because of my CPA and CGMA, I’m allowed to be the only woman in the room – Arleen Thomas SVP Management Acctg. & Global Markets AICPA
  • 77,000 accounting grads–all time high. New CPAs remains flat though.
  • Quote used by Melancon – See picture above.
  • 3 themes 1) pipeline/talent war 2) broader firm interconnected ecosystem 3) demand for specialization
  • What concerns CPAs: CPA Pipeline. Relevancy. Brand perception. Competition. Increased complexity. Ability to adapt. Aging practitioners. Technology.
  • What excites CPAs: Technology, Broader profession, Career opportunities, Opportunities for growth, Brand/Trust, Complexity, Specialization, Talented youth, Business advisor.
  • AICPA plans to call on Congress to preserve the cash method of accounting.
  • AICPA exceeded 400,000 members last year and is expecting to reach 408,000 this year.
  • AICPA expects to have 5,000 credential holders of the new fair value measurement credentials by 2020.
  • How do we keep young CPAs in the profession? We need to embrace disruption and innovation in our profession.
  • There are SO many more great tweets by some impressive people at the Council meeting…..

Don’t have a Twitter account? Quit procrastinating and GET ONE. You don’t have to tweet but you can READ a lot of good information everyday

  • "If outside is changing faster than inside your org, you are dying."
  • Jack Welch

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Too Comfortable?

IMG_4949Too comfortable?

Things are going well. Tax season, as compared to last year, looks good. We have more revenue. We should work on developing niches but, we’re okay.

Too comfortable?

Things are going well. Sure, we lost a few people recently but they were ones we should have let go anyway. The best performers were wondering when we would get rid of some less-than-spectacular performers but they quit anyway, so we’re okay.

Too comfortable?

We’ve actually wanted a female partner or two but it seems that our best female performers don’t want to be partner, so we’re okay.

Too comfortable?

We keep hearing that we should do more with social media. But, our clients really don’t seem to care, so we’re okay.

Too comfortable?

Ted, one of the tax partners, has been under-performing for years. Sometimes we even hear that the staff have been discussing his incompetence. He’s always been very billable during tax season and he has been a partner for many years, so we’re okay.

Too comfortable?

The partners just split-up the administrative duties. Actually, if we didn’t have the admin duties, we wouldn’t have a whole lot to do in the summer. No need to hire an expensive firm administrator because, so we’re okay.

Too comfortable?

I could go on and on but it might make you uncomfortable.

  • "There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction."
  • John F. Kennedy

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Interview With Kristen Rampe

Helping CPAs Be Awesome Communicators

I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Kristen Rampe, CPA. I am impressed with her down-to-earth, real-life approach to helping CPAs become better. Yes, better communicators but also better at so many of the other things that make accountants pursuing a career in public accounting successful.

Kristen Rampe of Frank, Rimerman & Co., LLPI always enjoy talking with Kristen when our paths cross at conferences and meetings because she has actual, recent experience working in public accounting. She worked for the Big Four for 3 years, worked in industry and then 7 years at a regional firm. During her journey, she of course developed the accounting technical skills but she also developed and enjoyed the other important skills that a CPA needs to be a success in public accounting – the “success skills”! (Some call them “soft” skills.)

Here’s my interview with Kristen:

You have a lot of experience, what types of clients have you worked with in the past?

I’m fortunate to have a great mix of clients. I do leadership programs, training and practice consulting for CPA firms with 12 – 2,000 employees. I also enjoy sharing my work more broadly through industry news sources and associations by working with the AICPA and AccountingWeb, to name a few.

Why did you decide to launch a solo consulting practice for professional service firms?

Like any good GenX/Millenial (I was born in a grey area), I wanted to do what I loved. For me that was helping CPA firms build great teams and great clients.

My favorite part of working as a practice professional was creating dynamic and fun teams that had the happiest clients – the kind of teams that that shared an apartment in Paris for three weeks and had clients asking for us by name…five years later. I figured, why not bring that to the world rather than just the firm I was working at.

You do a lot of speaking, what is your favorite topic to address for CPAs?

Delegating Effectively. Most CPAs know they need to delegate in order to be successful at some level, but many have a hard time figuring out how or giving themselves permission to delegate. It can run in the face of billable hours, efficiency and quality…on the surface. But once we dive into the topic participants understand how delegating actually improves those metrics.

Watching my workshop participants come away from our time together feeling inspired to take their delegation further and understanding the benefits this has is one of my favorite moments. We also talk about Saying No when I cover this topic, and that’s a huge crowd-pleaser too.

What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great teams?

We have fun together. In my workshops, we are out of our seats a lot, bouncing inflatable animal beach balls throughout the room, and laughing often. I even had one participant write “I’m not a fan of cheesy team exercises, but found some of the things we did fun.” If I can convince the haters that team-building is fun, I’ve done my job right.

One other huge benefit is that I give teams a chance to get together and use their minds in a space that’s free from the day-to-day stresses of client work. It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand. When teams get to work together in a way that develops their relationships, it makes communication and collaboration easier when they’re back to the grind.

What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great clients?

I help them see that client service and brand is a true differentiator. Often this takes the form of a workshop where we explore the different touch-points a client has with a firm (e.g. engagement letters, document requests, issue resolution process, client gifts, etc.), how those touch-points are adding or detracting from the client relationship, and what CPAs can do about it as it relates to their organization’s goals.

There are so many opportunities to further client relationships, and not all require going out to lunch, though I am a huge fan of client lunches as part of the overall package!

What advice would you give a young, female accountant who wants to find a sponsor?

In finding a sponsor, look for someone who:

  • Knows you do great work and appreciates your contributions.
  • You respect and want to be associated with.
  • Has influence at your organization and can create opportunities for you.

If you’ve found someone like this:

  • Ask them for challenging opportunities and projects that are outside of your comfort zone.
  • Make your sponsor look good, they are putting their reputation on the line for you, you must come through.

If no one immediately comes to mind, think of the person who is closest candidate and up your game with them. Do better work, be more visible – once you knock their socks off a few times you should be able to convert a colleague to a sponsor with ease.

I heard you’re writing a book, tell me more about that.

I am! It’s a humor book for current and former CPAs called Accounting Dreams. Because what could be funnier than accounting dreams or dreams accountants have, right?! But really, it’s about the challenges CPAs have with clients, and vice versa – showcased in a series of photos with captions about what you would LOVE to hear your client say.

I was inspired to write the book because there’s I believe there’s always room for more laugher and fun in the world, and especially our profession. One of my favorite pages is a photo of a client meeting with the caption “Wow, great rates! Who knew accounting fees could be so reasonable.” Which, generally speaking, is never going to happen, but this page highlights a dreamy situation in which a client feels that way.

Curious and fun-loving CPAs can find details about release dates and upcoming sample pages on my website.

Ways to connect with Kristen

kristen@kristenrampe.com

616.219.0375

http://Kristenrampe.com

@kristenrampe

  • "It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand. "
  • Kristen Rampe

Monday, May 18th, 2015

A Light-Hearted Look At Working Too Many Hours At Your CPA Firm

3045715-slide-s-3-these-sleeping-pods-are-designed-to-let-you-live-at-work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here’s an idea for many CPA firms….. sleeping pods that are designed to let you live at work.. it’s one way to address work/life balance, just eliminate it entirely! You could replace your standard cubicles with these.

Seriously, these pods are in a new space for entrepreneurship built at the University of Utah where students working on a startup have the option to live in a sleeping pod in the middle of a larger collaborative workspace as they work on a project.

Here’s my take on this (you were expecting this, right?) – –

CPA partners will immediately think this is a great idea for staff. Staffers will immediately think this is a great idea for partners. It’s one of the GDs (great disconnects) between CPA firm leaders and CPA firm younger team members and future leaders.

CPA partner thoughts: The staff needs to work so much during busy season, let’s make it easier for them. They won’t need to go home at all.

CPA young staffers thoughts: All the partners like to do is work, work, work. With these they could just live at the office and be happy.

Of course, this is an idea for college campuses.. but could it catch on elsewhere? Did you know the employees at Google already informally compete to see how long someone can live at the office, using company showers, food, and sleeping pods? The record is supposedly around two years!  Read more about these pods here.

(Image via Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design)

  • "Happiness is good health and a bad memory."
  • Ingrid Bergman