Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

At Some Point, We’ve All Known A Suck-Up

GuyKawasaki11_smWay back in 2006, the year I began writing this daily blog, I featured Guy Kawasaki and his opinion that we need to develop The Art Of Sucking Down.

Most of you are well aware of the meaning of “suck-up” and those around you who demonstrate that trait. It can be quite entertaining to observe. But how about “sucking-down”? It means reaching out and grasping an understanding of how to do good things for the people below you in rank, authority, years of experience, etc. Follow the link to get a refresher – it’s an important skill for CPAs.

Tom-Peters-hatThis week I am reading a manifesto by Tom Peters, Excellence. NO EXCUSES - one of his gigantic rambles that contain snip-its that can change how you relate to your employees, your work, your family and your life. Be prepared, it’s 843 pages long (just a few words on each page… easy reading). I read it as filler-reading when I have a few minutes here and there and need to be inspired.

His entry on page 36 reminded me of Kawasaki. Back in 2006, the CPA profession needed people – we had more work than we had people to perform the services. Guess what? We are back there again – everyone is looking to hire talented professionals. But it is more than that, once you hire them and train them you need to KEEP them. Being a CPA firm partner or managers isn’t about you… who can help you be more successful. It’s about how you can serve the people below you so they feel the passion for their work and their careers.

Here’s the words on Page 36 of Tom’s manifesto:

Suck “down” for success!

Make friends in “low” places.*

*It’s simple, really. “Down” is where the work is done! An Army of Fans “down below” is the greatest group of allies imaginable. If you are, say, making a sales pitch for a complex systems product, it’s true that the “VP” will eventually need to sign off. BUT … the analysis that wins or loses the battle will be done two levels “down” by a trio of young, invisible, unloved engineers. They are the ones you want on your side—find them and nurture them. (FYI: This is a … GUARANTEED … winning formula.)

As a CPA partner, how well do you know your interns? How well do you know your first and second years? How well do you know the people who work for the business owner you serve?

  • "Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or not. Waste your work life and you have effectively wasted your life."
  • Tom Peters

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Clear The Hurdles & Win the Race – Winning Is Everything Conference

In January, I will be speaking at the Winning Is Everything Conference in Las Vegas at the beautiful Aria hotel, January 28-30, 2015.

If you are working in the CPA profession, I’m sure (at least hoping) that you are familiar with this premier practice management conference.

Winning is Everything is not just for large firms and only managing partners. The conference welcomes knowledge leaders and forward-thinking professionals who are ready to learn from other attendees and knowledgeable speakers.  Attendees include managing partners, partners, CFOs, COOs, Firm Administrators, Marketing professionals and HR professionals from firms around the globe.

Meets and Events:  Check out the Agenda.

Clearing the Hurdles: Your Coaches (the speakers)

Enter the race: Register here

I like the 2015 theme: Clear The Hurdles… And Win The Race.

WIE2015_Banner

  • "Finishing races is important, but racing is more important."
  • Dale Earnhardt

Monday, July 21st, 2014

The Little Things Can Make You Happy

Sometimes in our work-a-day world we get stressed. Sometimes we get very tired. Sometimes we get annoyed by people. Sometimes we get disappointed, in ourselves and in others. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we get rushed. Sometimes we get our feelings hurt. Sometimes we feel unappreciated.

But, many times we feel happy. It can come from some of the littlest things…. someone shows appreciation, you receive recognition, someone says “thank-you,” you spend time with business colleagues who help you learn, someone smiles at you, your boss says, “good morning,” you get an email from an old friend…

Working with CPA firms I always recommend, IF you want to create a winning firm, one where young people will want to stay and build their careers and one where people feel joy in serving the clients, just remember that the little things can make the biggest difference.

A little thing happened to me last week. It came via social media. I tweeted about my participation in Advance 2014: The Accounting Career Summit and how pleased I was that on the agenda for the week I am listed right above Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay To Be The Boss and Not Everyone Gets A Trophy and many more. You know how often I recommend these books to you! If you want a copy of my 2014 Read List (for CPAs and their teams) you can download it here.

Well, Bruce Tulgan replied to my tweet! Sometimes little things can make you very happy.

What are you doing for the people in your work life (and home life)?

Screenshot 2014-07-19 07.26.03

  • "Scheduling flexibility is the single greatest non-financial tool - and the number-one dream-job factor - at your disposal for winning battles in the talent wars. Use it."
  • Bruce Tulgan

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – 20 Years Ago Something Amazing Happened

This past week an amazing anniversary was observed. Twenty years ago on July 16th, The Three Tenors gave a one-night only show at the Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium that was watched by a billion people worldwide. This concert permanently altered how a large amount of classical music is presented, packaged and sold.

The concert was timed to coincide with the Brazil-Italy World Cup final being held the next day at the Rose Bowl. Read about the concert via NPR.

Here’s a short video. I can watch it over and over.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what they are saying/singing – their voices, their presence, their joy in sharing their skills, the audience reaction… all make for a wonderful 5 minutes.

Bookmark this video. Then in the heart of your next busy season – watch this for 5 minutes when you are feeling stressed and over-whelmed. I know it makes me feel energized.

Well, if you are a Seinfeld fan, you know it is Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and the other guy.

  • "I'm like the Phoenix rising out of Arizona."
  • Frank Costanza

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Marketing To Your Core Audience

Accounting firms are notorious for seeking out new clients by writing articles, advertising in the business newspaper, using some direct mail and networking at local events so they can meet new people (prospects). Often their social media campaigns are designed to target and engage the non-client, new client, potential client.

SethGodinSeth Godin uses the example of Broadway. They spend so much money to attract tourists and those who rarely see a play, yet it is clear that the people who go to the theater regularly are often the ones who fill the seats, pay the bills and spread the word.

Spending money, time and effort on people who already like you is much more productive and profitable than “yelling” at people who don’t know you.

This is not a NEW message to CPAs trying to grow their practice. It is one of those BFO  topics (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) that all of the CPA management consultants stress with firm leaders – - it is nothing new, it is basic.

Focus on your current clients. Provide them with more services. Provide them with awesome client service. Talk, talk, talk to them about other things you can offer them and how you can help THEM grow their own business.

As Godin states: “This one shift, a shift to building relationships between and among the core audience, to make plays for your audience instead of finding an audience for your plays, is the golden lesson that applies to just about every organization.”

 

  • "Don't try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody."
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Kindness, Toughness & Honesty For Women In Accounting

IMG_1112Yesterday, there was a post on the Ohio Society Women’s Initiative Committee LinkedIn site titled, The False Choice Between Kindness and Success.

The topic of women in business being “nice” and “kind” and how it might hold them back, is certainly a valid discussion topic.

I believe that kindness and toughness go hand in hand. If you are kind, build relationships and win people’s loyalty, they will come to understand that some toughness, and honesty, must go along with the kindness. It is the way I have always operated.

The honesty aspect also plays into this topic. This quote from the article says so much relating to the CPA profession:I think people just want straight talk. It saves time and in the end, it is honest. That is the bottom line. Everything else is meaningless if you don’t have honesty. Be honest and true to yourself. And from there, we can do anything.” 

Absolute honesty is often avoided inside CPA firms because it can be a tough discussion. Yet, CPA firm employees crave honesty. I observe so many male (and female) CPAs avoiding being honest because it might lead to confrontation or to uncomfortable conversations. People see right through it – not being completely honest and coming across as self-serving is a losing combination.

To me it is a false choice, as the title of the article reflects. You do not have to choose between kindness and success. In my situation as a CPA management consultant, I know I do not win “jobs” because I am a woman. I have even heard feedback that other, male consultants have actually told potential clients that “Rita is too nice.” Give me honesty and kindness any day and results will follow.

 

  • "Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not."
  • Samuel Johnson

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

TomPeters_PreviewThis week, Tom Peters shared a 9-page paper: The Moral Bedrock of Management. 

Today, I am using his words from Page 9, hopefully, to inspire you:

Where the (Moral) Rubber Meets the Road

If the regimental commander lost most of his 2nd lieutenants and 1st lieutenants and captains and majors, it would be a tragedy.

If he lost his sergeants it would be a catastrophe. The Army and the Navy are fully aware that success on the battlefield is dependent on an overwhelming degree on its Sergeants and Chief Petty Officers. Does industry (and CPA firms) have the same awareness?

The argument here: While men and women “at the top” are responsible for setting the moral tone, the vast majority of employees work for a first-line supervisor. Hence the transmission of – - and the “walking of the talk” that matters – - is set by the full cadre of 1st-line chiefs.

Companies tend to take these jobs “seriously.” But such seriousness almost invariably falls miles and miles – and more miles – short of using this set of individuals as the singularly important transmitters of the corporate culture. Hence the “moral duty” discussed in this piece is executed first and foremost by the 1st-line chiefs.

Act Accordingly!

Yes, I worry about the performance of the managers inside your CPA firm. Are they great technicians?  Yes, probably and you have helped them get there. Are they walking the talk, coaching, inspiring and holding people accountable?

Help them get there!

  • ""Too much focus on things, not enough focus on commitment." - - John Bogle"

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

YES, BUT……. Two Words That Are On My Mind

Yes, but…..  How many times have you used those two words?

When reading some stuff from Tom Peters, I immediately latched-on to his “Yes, but…” observations.

When suggesting new ways to do things, new trends to embrace, improved methods of managing people and serving clients, in the life of a CPA firm management consultant, we often hear “Yes, but…” over and over again.

I hear:

  • Yes, we have heard other firms are doing that, but at our firm…..
  • Yes, we tried closing on Fridays, but….
  • Yes, we thought about allowing more people to work remotely, but…
  • Yes, as partners, we know we could delegate more to our staff, but….
  • Yes, the partners want to do paperless billing, but….
  • Yes, all of our partners agree that the managing partner needs to delegate more clients to other partners, but….
  • Yes, we realize our managing partner and other partners should be more visible in our other office, but…..
  • Yes, we would love to have a woman partner, but….
  • Yes, we need some up-and-comers, but……
  • Yes, we have some below-average performers, but….

Need I go on?

  • "No one ever excused his way to success."
  • Dave Del Dotto

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Summer Fridays For CPA Firms

closedSince it is Monday, I thought I would talk about Fridays. This coming Friday are you going to be in the office for 8 hours? Are you going to be in the office for 4 hours or not at all?

I am finding many firms doing many things with Fridays. Some are closed but, of course, clients can reach their key person via mobile device. Some firms work half-days on Fridays and tell me that clients don’t seem to mind at all because they often take that day off, too or work very little on Fridays.

I know, first hand, that when I was working in a large CPA firm, the activity was minimal on Fridays, although we were never closed. Most partners left at noon, managers and others used PTO to take a half day off. The “flexers” usually did not include Fridays, in the summer, in their work schedules.

Have you been pondering this possibility for several years?  Below are some resources that might help you make-up your mind:

Check-out the website of my good friends at Payne Nickles. Look at the lower left where it indicates hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 to 5:00 AND Friday Closed at Noon Memorial Day thru Labor Day.

More good friends, the Friedman firm headquartered in Manhattan, ranked highly on a recent Vault.com employee survey – read about the survey here that ranks the happiest accounting firms. The headliner for Friedman was the workplace initiative of its summer schedule. From June through August, there is no work on Friday. Friedman piloted the program back in 2007, and found that output actually exceeded that of a five-day workweek.

Notice how prominently closing on Fridays is displayed on the website of Borgida & Company, a Manchester, CT firm.

Check out “I Know It Can Be Done – Closing On Fridays” a blog post I did back in 2010. I truly believe that if CPA firm team members know they can have Friday off or leave early on Friday, they will work much harder Monday – Thursday. If that is not the case with your team members, perhaps you have deeper problems with your team members.

Here’s a good article on FastCompany, The Good, The Bad, and The Alternatives: What Bosses Really Think About Summer Fridays.

  • "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?"
  • Captain Jack Sparrow

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Helicopter Parents – An Example

I love this short video from the folks at Robert Half.

As, I talk with CPAs around the country, most of them seem amazed that helicopter parents are actually calling “bosses” at CPA firms in inquire or complain about something on behalf of a young staff person. Larger firm are developing programs to deal with the parents who show up with their young person for the job interview!

Does your firm have a way to connect with parents? Remember, most young people entering your firm have had intense parental support. Build on that.

Because this depiction is extreme, it makes you smile – yes, lighten-up, it’s the weekend!

 

  • "My heroes are and were my parents. I can't see having anyone else as my heroes."
  • Michael Jordan