Friday, November 28th, 2014

Don’t Use Stock Photos On Your Website – Use Your People

One reason I think it is important to use pictures of your accounting firm team members on your website is the simple fact that it gives them exposure, makes them noteworthy to their friends and makes their family proud.

The argument I usually get from practitioners is… “If Suzy leaves then we have to change the website!” – – You should be continually updating and changing your website anyway – it is a living thing, not a history book.

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk of bbr marketing addresses this issue in her recent newsletter and on a blog post, The Dangers of Stock Photography.

In case you haven’t noticed, it is world filled with pictures now – yes, selfies and more! People like to see pictures of the real people working at your firm. Make sure your entire team is on your website. Your clients really do like to see the people they work with and prospects want reassurance you and your team are real.

Here’s an example of a best-place-to-work firm with pictures of real people – Santos Postal in Rockville, Maryland.

Also, just my opinion, if you have a LinkedIn account and don’t have your picture there – people think you must be weird!

  • "The camera can photograph thought."
  • Dirk Bogarde

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Being Happy

Earlier this week, I blogged about Pope Francis and his message to accountants.

As I was doing research on that blog post, I came across another important message from the Pope and Thanksgiving seemed a perfect day for sharing Pope Francis’s secrets to happiness.

  1. Live and let live
  2. Be giving of yourself to others
  3. Proceed calmly
  4. A healthy sense of leisure
  5. Sundays should be holidays
  6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people
  7. respect and take care of nature
  8. Stop being negative
  9. Don’t proselytise; respect others’ beliefs
  10. Work for peace

To me, a few of these are exactly on target for those working inside accounting firms.

Live and let live – – Don’t micro manage. Don’t gossip and worry about what other employees are doing.

Be giving of yourself to others – – but some structure around your mentoring activities. Mentoring happens naturally inside CPA firms – enhance it and help others.

Sundays should be holidays – – When I began my career in a CPA firm, no one EVER worked on a Sunday. It had nothing to do about religion, specifically, it was just that our founder believed that everyone needed a day of rest, a time to recharge. The more hours you work in a week the bigger chance you will make errors or poor decisions.

Stop being negative – – I see this all the time.  I continually say to people working in CPA firms – STOP WHINING!  Public accounting is an honorable, prestigious career, you work with intelligent people, you work in beautiful offices, you make friends with other top-quality professionals, you get to see businesses grow and prosper (with your help), you become admired by others in the business community for your expertise – – focus on the positive!

In closing, just so you know, I count YOU (all the dedicated readers of my blog posts) as blessings in my life. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Be happy.

Thanksgiving

  • "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
  • William Arthur Ward

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Yes, You Can Manage Your Clients!

Preventive Medicine AvatarYes, clients can be trained. I know that you are thinking that the client is king/queen and whatever they want you need to provide, referring to it as QCS (quality client service).

Yet, firms that learn to manage and train their clients are not only able to attract more clients, they are able to create a culture where talented people will stay and build their careers.

Of course, talented people staying at your firm is the answer to the succession problem that continually gets so much attention.

Clients that drive your staff crazy (you all have them) should go. Immediately, partners say to me, “They pay us $100,000 per year!” It seems that many CPAs don’t really think that assisting difficult clients is an issue of client service, they look at it more honestly as I just mentioned…”they pay us a lot of money!”

I’ve known and talked extensively with many CPA partners over the years and here’s my assessment of what they are truly THINKING but not saying out loud to their partners: “Yes, we need to out-place a few very difficult and challenging clients… but those are NOT MY clients.”

Here’s what to do. Meet with your partners and identify the clients that give you headaches and heartburn; the ones that continually frustrate your team members. (I have a form I share for identifying that type of client.)

You have probably already done that… several times. But, that where it stalls – partner do not take action. This time take the next step. Set-up a meeting with those clients and have an honest conversation with them about what you and your firm expects from them in the future.

Try using a commitment statement – – identify the things you (your firm) will do and also define the things you expect from them, the client. (I also have a sample of this that you can use.)

After you have the face-to-face conversation with the client and discuss your expectations, if they are not willing to comply – let them go. Better yet, help them go.

Why not simply say, “We have valued you as a client but we don’t seem to be a good match any longer. Let me help you find a CPA firm that would be a good match for you.”

Next, set-up an on-boarding system for clients that clearly defines your expectations and give them a timeline for submitting their information. Preventive medicine is the best.

Okay, you have out-placed a few difficult clients. Now, maybe your team members can work less extended hours this coming busy season.

  • "Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together."
  • James Cash Penney

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I Don’t Remember This Happening Before

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Perhaps it has happened, but I don’t remember a sitting Pope commenting, in a very public manner, about the important role of accountants in society.

I urge you – CPAs in the corporate arena and CPAs in public practice – to always keep in mind the important role you truly DO play. Here’s a tidbit about what the Pope said in an address in Rome to participants of the World Congress of Accountants.

“So everyone—but especially those in a profession that deals with the proper functioning of the economic life of a country—is required to play a positive, constructive role in the course of their daily work, bearing in mind that behind every document, there is a story, there are faces.

“Those who work in various positions in the economy and finance are called on to make choices in favor of the social and economic wellness of humanity as a whole, giving everybody the opportunity to realize their own development.”

Young CPAs just getting a good start in your career – you should be very proud of the profession you have chosen. Please have the determination and pride to stay in the public accounting arena. You will be able to touch so many lives. I hope you always remember that while the hours are sometimes long and the continual learning is challenging, the rewards are great – both monetary and personal satisfaction and pride.

Experienced CPAs, not only should you keep doing what you are doing, you should also keep in mind how many lives – your clients and your employees – you are responsible for. I believe that you have survived in public accounting because you do strongly feel the commitment to helping people.  Business people and individuals NEED your expertise.

Read about the Pope’s comments on the Journal of Accountancy site.

(photo via Wikipedia)

  • "The future starts today, not tomorrow."
  • Pope John Paul II

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Not So Light But Touching

veteran-s-memorial-poppy-559774209I was in Australia on November 11th this year. There, what we call Veteran’s Day is called Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day). It is observed by the Commonwealth of Nations.

I was in the Alice Springs airport on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” (the official time WWI hostilities ended) and a message was announced that we all stop and observe a moment of silence to honor those who died in the line of duty. Everyone did.

Many people were wearing a red paper poppy. The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem In Flanders Fields. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I and their brilliant color became a symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

When I was a child, growing up in a very small town in Ohio, the American Legion Auxiliary women made the red poppies and sold them along the street during the week of November 11th each year. They stopped doing it many years ago. I wonder why. They haven’t forgotten in Australia. It was very touching.

Watch the WWI Christmas truce recreated for an epic tearjerker of an ad by a British grocer.

  • "In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row..."
  • John McCrae, poet

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Mindfulness – Maybe Some CPAs Should Learn More About It

Public accounting really is a somewhat stressful profession. It doesn’t have to be. Many CPAs work diligently, serve clients well, make a great living and are not often stressed.

On the other hand, I come in contact with many of those who are almost the opposite. They are working WAY too many hours, dealing with many last minute crisis situations relating to due dates, worrying about keeping top talent, and obtaining successful, growing clients. Their plates are absolutely too full and they don’t take enough time off to vacation and enjoy life.

Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard, is an expert on mindfulness and here’s how she describes what it is:

Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting, doing all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.

We seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. (Sound like someone at your firm?) But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work. Actually, it causes you to lose control. Read more about Langer here.

When you mention “mindfulness” to a CPA here’s the image that pops up: Someone blissed out on a yoga mat, possibly with spa music playing in the background. In other words, it has nothing to do with the situation you likely find yourself in on any given Tuesday.

In a Fast Company article, the author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alernative, Scott Eblin says, “What I mean by mindful is being aware and intentional – aware of what’s going on around you, aware of what’s going on inside you as a response to what’s going on around you, and being intentional about what you’re going to do next.”

In busy accounting firms, some leaders are often not at all tuned in to what is really happening around them. They are self-focused – their priorities are everyone’s priorities.

Here are some tips on embracing mindfulness at work.

  • "When's the last time you tried listening to someone without an agenda, and without distractions?"
  • Scott Eblin

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

CPA Consultants’ Alliance Welcomes Two New Members

As you probably know, I am a founding member of The CPA Consultants’ Alliance (CPACA), a working group of thought leaders united in their efforts to further leadership within the CPA profession.

This fall we welcomed two additional members. They are experienced and well-known advisors to the CPA profession and we are thrilled to have them join us.

gary-adamson-598x747

Gary Adamson, CPA, is CEO of Adamson Advisory, a CPA practice management consulting firm specializing in succession strategies, practice growth, practice structure and management of cohesive partner teams. He is an experienced retreat and strategic planning facilitator, merger and acquisition negotiator and partner performance coach. Gary also brings more than 20 years of experience as a managing partner of a top 200 accounting firm.

 

 

bio-bonnie-200x198Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of bbr marketing. She has been a member of the creative and marketing services community for more than 20 years. Her firm provides marketing and strategy services for professional service firms – helping them reach their audiences and grow their firms. Bonnie offers a unique perspective to the CPACA based on a diverse background of having worked for a health and fitness startup, Turner Broadcasting and various software and financial services firms.

 

  • "By building relations we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier."
  • Susan Lieberman

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Accountants Should Embrace Technology

Headline from Thomson Reuters: Accountants should embrace technology.

What a statement! Sad to learn that so many have really not. The following is from a Thomson Reuters executive at their recent users’ conference:

“Many accounting firms still favor dated and inefficient ways of doing business, effectively trying to serve their clients in the same manner they always have, even though that world may no longer exist,” said Jon Baron, managing director of the Professional segment in the Tax & Accounting business of TR. He continued: “Overall client experience matters more today than it has before. It’s no longer enough to provide after-the-fact reporting and compliance work.”

The last sentence in the paragraph above is something I have been hearing for over 25 years!

A Thomson Reuters recent survey of accounting firms found:

  • Nearly 40% reported no offering a firm website.
  • More than one-third are not leveraging a document management system.
  • Only 16% reported the use of cloud applications in the firm.
  • Almost three-fourths reported that the primary method of delivering completed tax returns to the client is a paper copy.

Read more in this article via CPA Practice Advisor.

  • "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."
  • Frank Zappa

Monday, November 17th, 2014

What If You Gave Them A Choice

Studies tell us that the ability to choose what you work on, as well as how, when and where you perform your work is a growing priority for talented professionals across sectors and industries, and one of the core elements of a fulfilling career – via Harvard Business Review

What if, when scheduling your upcoming busy season work, you gave your people a voice in their assignments? You will probably need to experiment with it the first year and tweak it going forward… but simply ask them – What engagements did you enjoy the most last year? What engagements would you immediately pass along to someone else if given the opportunity? Use the data as you schedule.

What if, this busy season, since CPA professionals need to work some extended hours and often on Saturdays, you allowed them to work from home one entire day during the week?

Some companies are giving their people the perk of using 4 weeks per year (20 days) to work remotely (from home or where ever). What if your firm provided this perk for your experienced people?

Gather your leaders and discuss what other choices you could easily give your valuable team members. Never forget… it’s all about retaining top talent.

  • "Be miserable. Or, motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice."
  • Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Angie Grissom

My friend, Angie Grissom, President of The Rainmaker Companies, stressed some important insights in their recent newsletter.

Albert Einstein once said,To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

The best leaders get comfortable with being uncomfortable. They know that what once worked for their business, may not always continue to work. We will see this when working with firm leaders that are nearing retirement. The way in which your firm grew over the last 30 years is probably not the way it will grow in the next 30 years. We need to have a culture that is open to this reality.

Angie and the team members at Rainmaker have certainly embraced change and creativity during 2014. Read more about about what they have done in here.

  • "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
  • Albert Einstein