Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
This week, things at your firm just might be a little less hectic than they have been in recent weeks.
Back in September, I invited firms to respond to a survey that is being conducted to determine how partners in CPA firms view their firm’s ability to address the succession of their partners primarily as they approach retirement.
Because of the fall tax due dates, we are offering extended time to complete the survey. Thanks so much to those of you who have already completed the survey and for all others, now you have more time! The survey will now close on October 31.
The survey consists of 15 short, simple statements to which respondents will enter their level of agreement. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We will be releasing our findings in the form of an article that will include ideas and practical advice your firm can apply. All survey participants who supply us with contact information will receive a copy of the article as well as access to interviews we are doing with CPA firm leaders and emerging leaders.
Here is a link to where you can complete the survey.
- "For fast-acting relief, try slowing down."
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Okay, so you know I love quotations. I am not a purest about them…. I realize there are many mis-quotes out there or pure quotes attributed to the wrong person. That doesn’t bother me a great deal. If I find a few words that inspire me, make the think or even cause me to take action – that’s good enough for me. Some even inspire me to write a blog post for people working at CPA firms!
“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” – - Maya Angelou
In my work with accountants (CPAs), I often find that to them… work is life. They truly love their work. They can be completely absorbed and captivated by a tax issue. They can become obsessed with the organization, planning and carrying-out of an audit.
Of course, I am speaking in generalities. They love their work with a passion. But, do they love life with a passion? Many enjoy amazing monetary pay-back for their efforts and passion for work. But is that engaging in life? I know many who never take all of their vacation time. Many who never read fiction or biographies for enjoyment. They are too busy.
I have been consistent in my message to accountants about engaging their people. People like to work for people they like. People come to like people they know.
How involved are you, as a CPA firm leader and role model, with the people who work for you and your firm?
Succession planning, strategic planning, practice growth, partner unity – and even more issues facing CPA firm leaders could be solved if leaders were more engaged with their people and their peers.
People (the best talent) would stay with firms and become owners in the future if they felt engaged with leaders who demonstrate that they are engaged in life.
- "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
Monday, October 20th, 2014
Bob Moritz, the Chairman of PwC, in an article via Harvard Business Review, talks about how the firm has changed and what they must now do to engage (and retain) their young, Millennial workforce.
I have been attempting to help CPAs better understand Millennials for almost a decade and I believe that many CPA firm leaders have embraced proven trends in hiring and keeping top talent (which are Millennials and many of them female).
I think you will find Moritz’s comments very interesting – I know most of you keep an eye on what the Big Four are doing.
Some tidbits from Mr Moritz follow…. but please read the entire article here.
- Things have definitely changed in the three decades I have been with the firm.
- Bigger bonuses and promotions went to those who sacrificed more of their personal lives, whereas our current HR policies primarily reward quality and value the work and life needs of every person.
- Millennials are vocal and extremely globally oriented – they know and care much more about what’s going on all over the world than I did at their age.
- PwC’s Millennials don’t only demand to know the organization’s purpose – its reason for being – but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values.
PwC studied their Millennials and have made significant changes in their HR practices. PwC Boomers accepted the notion of making partner as the reward and justification for years of long hours in service to clients. But their current studies revealed that the allure of someday becoming partner is no longer enough to spark high levels of engagement.
Again, follow the link and read the article – it is very interesting and informative.
- "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."
Saturday, October 18th, 2014
Last weekend our granddaughter spent a couple days with us. As is our tradition when she and/or her brother visit, we have Popcorn Movie Night. Of course, they pick the movie and often bring their own along. For our movie viewing, since her brother wasn’t along, she picked the 25th Anniversary presentation of Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall, filmed in 2011. We had never seen it. Andrew Lloyd Weber comes out on stage at the end and reminisces.
We have seen Phantom live a couple of times and of course, the movie. But this anniversary performance was truly wonderful. Ramin Karimloo played the phantom. I hate to admit it, but I think he does a better job than Michael Crawford (the original).
This weekend, enjoy this unique performance by Karimloo singing Let Him Live from Les Miserables.
- "When going to the opera, don't sit under the chandelier."
Friday, October 17th, 2014
I recently read an HBR blog that examined why some women negotiate better than others.
Women who do negotiate well and become successful (and equally paid as men) usually are tagged as “too pushy.” If you have been in the business world for a few years, I imagine you have observed this first-hand or even experienced it yourself.
It seems, according to the research, that women who succeed in challenging careers have a personality trait by which they regard their two “selves” – their professional identity and their gender identity – not as in conflict but as fundamentally compatible.
One bit of information in the article intrigued me and helped me to realize that I have actually observed it with successful women leaders – - -
…one of the most successful women in Silicon Valley, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, endorses findings by Mary Sue Coleman that women who get ahead are “relentlessly pleasant”.
Along the way in my many years working in public accounting, I have observed that aggressive, demanding men are often admired and that aggressive, demanding women are not.
I even received advice that disappointed me but at the time, but learned it was very true.
A very high-profile, author and consultant to professional service firms told me, face-to-face (when I inquired as to how to continue and improve upon being a non-CPA leader inside my firm) “You will never be their equal or have respect for your leadership skills because you are not a CPA.”
Another very successful, high-profile consultant to CPA firms (a male who facilitated a partner retreat for us) counseled me off and on as I progressed. He told me, “Partners hate to take orders from women.” I think this one can be translated to mean – men hate to take orders from women.
I pretty much ignored this kind of advice and kept on being “relentlessly pleasant” — most of the time, with an occasional relapse.
As I progressed in my career over many years, I found more success if I simply took the advice of my mother: “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.“
- "I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble."
Thursday, October 16th, 2014
“To help you work smarter instead of harder, we’re hitting you with a productivity hack each Friday. Check out our hacks here.” – - this is from Fast Company.
If you are confused by the word hack, used in this context, learn more here.
I thought the Productivity Hack Of The Week for October 10, 2014 just might interest many accountants working in public accounting. You know…. the place where in most firms you track every single minute of your day! (Except for the very progressive firms where they have embraced the value pricing model.) Of course, whether you are tracking time or not – you can end up wasting a lot of time browsing the web.
Taking a Facebook break or reading a few blogs that you follow everyday (and find helpful… hopefully like mine), can still be good for you and also be productive, within limits. It is still very clear that there is only so much time you can spend with these browsing activities.
That is why, when I read about how to track how much time you waste, I thought it would certainly pique your interest.
There is an app that runs in the background while you work on your computer or smartphone that tracks each second you spend on applications and websites and gives you weekly reports and data based on your activity.
Then there is another app that helps you, after you have decided how much time you want to cut back (a productivity extension for Google Chrome) that allows you to restrict the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. If you lack self-control completely and need to put yourself on a productivity lock down, you can block specific sites completely using Chrome.
All this is interesting. I need to dig a little deeper and see if it could benefit me. I know that I get sucked into reading a post and following a link, then another link and end up reading, reading, reading….. which is good for my knowledge and expertise but I often have other more important priorities!
As mentioned above, Fast Company provides a productivity hack every week – read them here.
- "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."
Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
I guess you could call it the last major tax return due date of the year for certified public accountants.
Most business people are well aware that March 15th is the tax due date for corporate tax returns, April 15th is the due date for individual income tax returns. The filing of corporate returns can be extended until September 15 and individual returns until October 15. This creates a very busy time inside most CPA firms leading up to 3/15 and 4/15 and another (mini busy season) leading up to 9/15 and 10/15.
Working with and talking to CPAs across the country (and the people who work for them), I hear so much frustration and observe an immense amount of finger-pointing about why these due dates cause so much stress and unhappiness.
Yet, I find bright spots! I also hear (a very few) stories about Mary or John (partner in the firm) who never has to work so many extra hours as a due date approaches nor do they put excessive demands on the people who help them deliver client services.
What has Mary or John done differently than their other partners?
Simple. They trained their clients.
I have seen it happen first-hand. It is possible.
- "It's easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top."
Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
I admire CPAs. They are smart, professional, traditional, conservative and cautious when making decisions. They have manners. That says a lot these days!
I only wish they would welcome change. When I work with CPA firm leaders, I often advise…. “It’s time to stir the pot.” I imagine you get the picture. The managing partner usually replies enthusiastically, “You are right!”
In the world of public accounting, if you are not growing, you are shrinking. Status quo eventually leads to failure.
Observe your surroundings. CPA firms are growing again. CPA firms are hiring again… continually seeking top talent (they want your people!). CPA firms are offering services in different ways than they have ever done in the past. CPA firms are investing in niches and becoming well-known for their expertise.
If you are slow to embrace current trends and to make necessary changes, this excerpt from a Seth Godin blog post might apply to you very soon:
“The thing is: failure almost always arrives in a whimper. It is almost always the result of missed opportunities, a series of bad choices and the rust that comes from things gradually getting worse.”
- "Desire is what takes the hot water of mediocrity and turns it into the steam of outstanding success."
Monday, October 13th, 2014
When I was working inside a busy, growing accounting firm, I would often have someone come to me and say, “Could you talk to Sally (or Joe or whoever), she……. (fill in the blank).”
Usually, it was something that needed to be discussed, however, some accountants are uncomfortable with confrontation so they would try to “pass the buck” to someone else.
Maybe you have a performance conversation coming up and maybe you will need to give some negative feedback. Don’t be afraid. Be honest.
I recommend you consider sending your key communicators to Crucial Conversations Training. We sent key people from our firm and they reported “it changed my life.” You can even get one of your own people certified to be a trainer for your entire organization.
Formally trained or not, read the book and then you can take steps to become more comfortable when those challenging conversations need to happen.
Read this article on Fast Company, 5 Strategies to Prepare For A Difficult Conversation At Work, to help you prepare.
Focus on the other person – enter the conversation from the perspective of how you can help the person get better.
Think through your opening – Be direct, “here’s what I want to help you with.”
Practice out loud beforehand – Practice what you will say in the car while driving to work.
Call a peer for help – Some people get defensive. Practice with a peer on how you might address objections. It will boost your confidence and help you stay calm.
Don’t fear emotions – They might respond emotionally, that is a good thing because strong conversations can be a turning point in their career.
Follow the link, above, to read the entire article – then practice!
- "This is a breakthrough book. I found myself being deeply influenced, motivated, and even inspired."
Saturday, October 11th, 2014
Sometimes we make mistakes. Many people stress-out, especially when it is getting very close to a due date for an accounting firm.
Often partners and managers feel like they must just fix the mistake made by a lesser-experienced accountant and move the project (like a tax return) on to the next step in the process.
How will the less-experienced accountant ever learn if they do not know what they did wrong? Send it back to the preparer, even if it is close to the deadline. I am well aware of the pressures…. if you are literally down to the wire – fix it – but make a note and TALK to the accountant about the situation once the pressure is off – like on October 16th.
I made a mistake. I posted my Saturday blog yesterday – on Friday. Check out this week’s REAL lighten-up blog post here – It’s the weekend!
M-O-O-N spells mistake!
- "I know a transsexual guy whose only ambition is to eat, drink and be Mary."