Friday, May 26th, 2017

Increase Your Firm’s Value

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures and policies that are well-documented in writing.  This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."
  • Charles Darwin

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

What Else Can You Do?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Recently, I read an article via Fast Company about a commencement address by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, founders of Walby Parker.

When they graduated from college, they felt the way a lot of new grads do – extremely well-educated in a narrow range of really specific things.

It’s a lot like that with the accounting profession. You are college-educated about accounting and then you enter public accounting where you are required to earn more education (CPE) about the accounting (and tax) each year.

When do you have time to learn other stuff? Sure, you can do taxes…. but what else can you do?

Blumenthal and Gilboa learned much along the way on their journey as entrepreneurs. I think you can learn from three of their tips

  1. Presume Positive Intent – It’s human nature to presume the worst – don’t do it. Commit to getting better every day.
  2. Speed-walk, Don’t Cliff-Dive – Committing to something doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Speed-walking is constantly moving forward by taking deliberate step after deliverate step. Conquer fear by minimizing risk, not eliminating it.
  3. Treat Others The Way THEY Want to be Treated – Your business journey is enriched through exposure to a variety of perspectives. Seek to understand different points of view. Treating people the way YOU want to be treated does not always apply, people are complex and different.

One of the things that really impressed me with their story is their focus on kindness. They stated, “Kindness enables success while being the success we seek: a kind world. Let us all be proliferators of kindness.”

If you are not sure where to begin, start with a simple question. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone’s life better?”

Read the entire article.

  • "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."
  • Aesop

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Summer is a Good Time to Think

“Training your mind to think is a process not just an activity – it gets better over time and through repetition.” – Jennifer Gluckow

Busy season is over. Perhaps, things are just a little slower in your work life. Plus, summer is a perfect time to do more thinking.

I have often reminded you to THINK. I want to remind you again today.

Jennifer Gluckow is an amazing sales resource. You can learn all about her here. She recently wrote about “Thinking About Thinking” and that reminded me of you – CPA firm leaders and CPA firm employees.

How often are you thinking strategically about your business, your sales, your clients, your future? How often are you thinking about your life? I imagine you rarely take time to slow down, relax and simply think (away from electronics of any sort).

Gluckow recommends ways to maximize your effectiveness at thinking:

  • Schedule time on your calendar.
  • Clear your head before you begin.
  • Drain your brain before you begin.
  • Be totally alone.
  • Maybe some music.
  • Create a peaceful thinking place.
  • 15 minutes a day.
  • Write them down.

Read more about each one of these tips in her article here.

  • "Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself."
  • Plato

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Finger-Pointing

“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” – Catherine the Great

Occasionally, something goes wrong on a client engagement. Somebody didn’t follow procedures. Someone talked to the client and didn’t pass along the information. A client phone call got lost in the shuffle and didn’t get returned. The list could go on and on.

When this happens inside some firms, the finger-pointing game begins….. “The manager didn’t tell me I had to do that…. The staff person didn’t do what I told them… I put the client note in the file…. I think admin didn’t follow up…. ” Again, the list of accusations and excuses can go on and on.

In the best firms, there is no obsession with placing blame. Leaders and team members put little emphasis on the past, they focus on the future. They focus on how to fix things so that the mistake doesn’t happen again. They learn from mistakes.

Here’s a motto I want you to adopt at your firm:

Don’t worry about why it went wrong. Just put it right!

  • "I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings."
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Always Strive For Personal Development

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

Working inside a busy CPA firm you strive for improvement. Improvement for the firm, improvement for a particular department, improvement for a process, and improvement for those you supervise (and even your peers).

Don’t forget that YOU also need to improve. You need to always maintain a personal development plan. The work on self-improvement is never done – it’s on-going.

I get a lot of questions about structuring personal development plans for team members at accounting firms. It’s usually a case where someone is not meeting expectations. But, that’s not the only situation where personal development plans are a benefit.

samIn a recent Boomer Consulting newsletter, Samantha Zerr, Boomer’s Operations Accountant, shares her story about personal development. It was a journey in moving from a job she wasn’t a good match for to a future role that matched her abilities and enthusiasm.

Here’s Samantha’s advice on a personal development plan.

Personal Development Plan

What areas do you need to develop to be future ready? Whether it is in leadership, management, or communication, the steps I took can be applied:

  1. Identify what you do now, and what you will need to be able to do in the future to have the career path you want and help your firm be successful
  2. Identify the skills you need to develop to prepare for your future role – getting feedback from your peers, mentors and coaches can help ensure you’re on the right path.
  3. Identify resources to develop those skills. These might be courses, leadership development programs, or peer communities.
  4. Personal development doesn’t happen by accident. Finding a mentor and coach to give hands-on, one-on-one guidance and creating a plan of action is one of the most important steps you can take to develop yourself for the future.

Read her entire article here.

 

  • "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

It’s Up To You

Sure, you want to be successful.

Sure, you want your firm to be successful.

It’s not magic. It’s called hard work.

Take this advice from Pharrell Williams, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer:

“If you don’t do it for yourself, you can’t depend on others to do it for you.”

  • "Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions."
  • Dalai Lama

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Make Them Feel Important

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When your clients, prospects and others call your office, through the main line, do they feel welcome? Or, do they feel interrogated and unimportant?

Many successful accounting firms have adopted a “no inquiry” method of greeting callers. The person answering the phone answers with your firm standard greeting, identifies themselves and puts the call through immediately to the person the caller has requested. That person almost always answers the phone when it rings.

I wanted to review this today because I call a lot of CPA firms. When I reach a firm where the Director of First Impressions “screens” me I really do feel somewhat offended and think “I guess she is determining if I am important enough.” Some not only want your name, they continue and ask, “May I tell him/her what this is about?”

Just to clarify:

  • Whether you like it or not, screening calls puts a barrier between you and your clients.
  • Whether you like it or not, your client feels slightly insulted when they’re asked to state their name and a reason for calling.
  • Whether you like it or not, most clients hate it.
  • Whether you like it or not, many clients believe the only reason they’re being interrogated is so that you can be “out” when they call – – that is, it’s a “nice” way of telling them you’re there but you don’t want to talk with them. Actually, it’s an awful way of doing it and it’s dishonest.
  • Whether you like it or not, if you don’t know who’s on the phone, you have to answer it right away.

Sure, someone you might not want to talk to might be calling. Being a business professional, you can handle those easily by dismissing them quickly and professionally.

Sometimes I feel like most business professionals let every incoming call, whether through their office number or their mobile device, go to voice mail thinking they will handle it later.

Wouldn’t it make your firm stand-out if your professionals didn’t use the phone to dodge calls?

Read more about this, plus learn Action Steps for Phone Greeting via a blog post from October, 2012.

  • "Great men show politeness in a particular way; a smile suffices to assure you that you are welcome, and keep about their avocations as if you were a member of the family."
  • John James Audobon

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Can This Be A CPA Firm?

“We are trying to change this old culture to try to sustain our profession for the future.” – Bernie Ackerman, CPA

Quite a few years ago I met Bernie Ackerman and his son, Jason at an AICPA conference. For several years, we would meet-up and talk about their firm, current topics, other firms and the profession, in general.

BernieBernie and Jason have always been, to me, a great two-generational team that had a firm grasp on what they could do to take their firm, BNA, into the future.

Recently, they were featured in the Journal of Accountancy for the very innovative things they were doing. The title: BNA: A Completely Flat Hierarchy.

As the article notes, you might think they were a tech start-up because staffers set their own working hours and never touch a time sheet. All employees get their own offices, starting on day one. There is no path to partner because there are no partners!

While their practices are very unusual in the profession, they are Jasonpaying off in term of recruitment. Jason Ackerman reports that they receive 10 to 15 resumes a week, even when they are not hiring!

Follow the links above to read the article and to visit their website.

I hope this inspires you to create a great culture and a future for your firm.

 

  • "The best way to predict your future is to create it."
  • Abraham Lincoln

Monday, May 15th, 2017

About Your Clients

“Success comes from doing what you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, how can it be called success?” – David Maister

Hopefully, tax season is a distant memory and you are on your way to achieving your strategic goals for 2017.

Stop a minute and think about the clients you served from January through April and those that are on extension.

Some of those clients you probably wish you didn’t have.

Here are three important questions (from David Maister, that you should apply to your clients):

About your clients:

I like these people and their sector interests me.

I can tolerate them.

I wish I didn’t have to deal with people like this!

Those that fall into the last category…. you know what you should do with them. Why not do it in 2017?

  • "More than any other factor, it is the people we have to deal with that determine the quality of our work lives."
  • David Maister

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Leaders Set The Tone

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of M&A activity going on in public accounting.

There are varying reasons but one of the most prominent is the fact that current firm owners have not groomed, trained or mentored people to take over the firm. So, what do you do? You sell-out so you get “something” out of the practice that you have been a part of for 30 years or more.

If you are a managing partner or sole-practitioner and are still several years away from that decision, you are responsible. You are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the future of the firm…

If your people usually arrive late in the morning…

If your people spend too much time on a job because they don’t have a clearly defined budget…

If your people make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed…

You are responsible. It is your responsibility to communicate what is okay and what’s not okay. You are enabling behaviors to continue when they think what they are doing is okay.

Begin planning to have those crucial conversations and maybe you can change your firm future.

  • "We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future."
  • George Bernard Shaw