Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
Many, many of you reading this blog post know me, you have been reading my “stuff” for a long time (I’ve been blogging daily since January 2006), you have heard me speak in person, worked with me via CPA firm associations or state CPA associations/societies….. You know I can’t help it. I have to speak my mind!
Why do so many women in accounting look like drab, boring technicians?
Sure, for special occasions they put on a suit or a dress and jacket, let their pasty legs show and just maybe wear some heels rather the flat, school-teacher-ish shoes they usually wear daily.
I do notice that CPA women working in public accounting dress slightly better than those working in private industry. Is it because they do have more actual client contact? Probably.
I’m not going to leave the men out of this…. CPA firm male leaders, maybe if you took the females along on business lunches and to meet with clients, they might have a reason to dress more stylishly. Also, a reminder for the men – - professional men, wearing business casual with no socks is so 1980s!
Read this article on the Vogue site about Mayer and her style.
Another interesting article (the one that first caught my attention) is on the Forbes site – To Heal Or Not To Heel: They Question For Ambitious Women by Bonnie Marcus. To me this one addresses the female CPA puzzle – - – do I wear the business suit costume and try to look like the males? That’s the Baby Boomer business culture where I “grew up” in public accounting. Now we have more choices and can still dress with power AND style.
Check out this picture of Sandberg on the cover of time.
Check out this article in Vogue – What would Marissa Mayer Wear? – A Workweek guide to office dressing. Click through the five days and see what you think.
I was always told, “dress like the position you aspire to.” If you are happy, dressing like an office worker-bee, nose to the grindstone, cranking out the work (the numbers), then I guess you are happy dressing in flats, black slacks and a cardigan.
All of this is food for thought… for men and women professionals working in the CPA profession. I hear so many male AND female leaders in CPA firms say, “I think our business casual dress policy has gone too far in the wrong direction.”
As one female said to me many years ago, “We aren’t going to adopt a business casual policy at our firm, the women would have to dress-up to get there.”
- "Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself - traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting."
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
I recently read a listing of Seth Godin’s most popular blog posts of 2012. Here’s one of those posts that spoke volumes to me, as it relates to the hundreds…. thousands… of CPAs I know in public practice.
What do YOU do when you first sit down at the computer? – - Here’s Seth’s post:
The first thing you do when you sit down at the computer
Let me guess: check the incoming. Check email or traffic stats or messages from your boss. Check the tweets you follow or the FB status of friends.
You’ve just surrendered not only a block of time but your freshest, best chance to start something new.
If you’re a tech company or a marketer, your goal is to be the first thing people do when they start their day. If you’re an artist, a leader or someone seeking to make a difference, the first thing you do should be to lay tracks to accomplish your goals, not to hear how others have reacted/responded/insisted to what happened yesterday.
As a CPA firm leader – no matter what your actual title – you are someone seeking to make a difference. Use your “freshest” time wisely.
Today, take a minute to ponder the following quotation… from Godin.
- "Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from."
Monday, December 2nd, 2013
I’ve heard it for years and years, “Watch out for scope creep.” “”How do we guard against scope creep?” “How do we teach our young accountants about scope creep?” “Most of our partners actually give too much away.” And so on.
I have two thoughts on this topic and they contradict each other!
First of all, I believe that the more you give away (of yourself, of your knowledge and of your expertise), the more will eventually come back to you.
In contrast with that, CPAs SELL knowledge, it’s their business. I always tell CPAs they have the toughest sales job ever…. nobody wants what they sell – tax returns and audits. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I can’t wait until it’s time to get my taxes prepared!” or “Hooray, the auditors are coming next week!”?
During a client engagement, you warn your staff to watch out for scope creep. If the client asks for more we need to issue a Change Order. How often does that really happen? Most CPAs just take a write-off when it comes time to bill.
CPAs – your years of experience and the extensive knowledge you have, plus your continuing education to keep current is of tremendous VALUE to your clients. Never be afraid to bill a client for value delivered. It’s your business, it’s what you sell!
I found some great tips about scope creep from Erika Napolentano on American Express Open Forum:
A clear scope of work is the best defense. (In the CPA world that’s your engagement letter.)
Some clients don’t even realize they are asking for something that goes beyond the scope. When you find a client asking for something that isn’t in the project scope, here’s how to say yes – when you’re really saying no:
Hi Client Awesome,
Thanks so much for the ideas on adding X to our project. We’re glad you’re happy with our work so far and that you’re trusting us to get even more involved in your brand’s success.
We’d be happy to add <stuff not in scope of work> to the project scope. We’ll send over a revised scope of work for your approval. Once we have that, we’ll send you estimated delivery times and add the additional work to the project’s final billing installment.
You’ll receive that revised scope shortly.
- "One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others."
Sunday, December 1st, 2013
Just to make you smile before you return to work for the December busy season.
Punctuation is really a powerful thing. I’m sure you have seen this one before….
An English professor wrote these words on the white board:
“A woman without her man is nothing”
He asked the students to punctuate it properly.
All of the men wrote: A woman, without her man, is nothing.
All the women wrote: A woman: without her, man is nothing.
Punctuation saves lives:
Let’s eat grandma.
Let’s eat, grandma.
- "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."
Friday, November 29th, 2013
At your CPA firm, things are hectic. You have many priorities and you often find yourself running in circles.
I love this story that I learned from Tom Peters (you should follow his writings. Plus, he gives away so much great information for free!).
Here’s the story:
A man approached J.P. Morgan, held up an envelope, and said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell you for $25,000.”
“Sir,” J.P. Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope, however if you show me, and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.”
The man agreed to the terms, and handed over the envelope. J.P. Morgan opened it, and extracted a single sheet of paper. He gave it one look, a mere glance, then handed the piece of paper back to the gent.
And paid him the agreed-upon $25,000 …
- Every morning, write a list of the things that need to be done that day.
- Do them.
- "The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are."
Thursday, November 28th, 2013
I now many of my faithful followers are old enough to remember WKRP In Cincinnati. Here is the classic turkey promo gimmick dreamed up by Mr. Carlson.
Gather your family and watch this video together. The classic line comes at 3:55 but you’ve got to watch the whole thing play out.
- "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
I saw this featured on the NPR site. I want all my CPA world friends to have a safe and joyful Thanksgiving.
Lighten-up and listen to William Shatner rapping on how to safely deep fry a turkey.
- "Better a thousand times careful than once dead."
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
While this is a huge topic inside CPA firms, I just want to cover it in very brief terms today.
The following quote that I read on Brad Lea’s Twitter feed was intended to be motivating, I’m sure. However, it sums up the feelings of many aging CPAs and accountants and it is not always a positive situation for younger partners and staff members at the firm:
“If I ain’t dead…. I ain’t done.”
I hope that your partner group has a plan to deal with this.
- "Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age."
Monday, November 25th, 2013
There, I said it. They are conducted the way they have been conducted for 30 (or more) years.
Lack of or poor communication is one of the biggest inside CPA firms. It comes out on top in most of the many surveys I have done as a consultant over the years. To many partners in CPA firms, this means they need to have more meetings – wrong!
There are so many great ways to communicate. Use the social media tools inside your firm. I urge managing partners to set-up a PRIVATE Twitter account just for people inside their firm and keep people posted on management and practice growth activities by simple tweets.
I believe that regularly scheduled update meetings are fine. Keep them brief and informational. These meetings are not a place to debate topics. It’s just what’s it’s called, an update on current happenings inside the firm. Sure you can do those with social media, too, but I want all of your people, as a group, to see each other and the firm partners face-to-face at least once a month.
Now for the important project focused, learning focused, problem-solving meetings. Why not try the Amazon method. Here’s how they do it at Amazon. I read about this in a post by Bijan Sabet. You can Google it and find lots of other information about the Amazon meetings.
There are no PowerPoint or keynote presentations. Everything is written out in a six-page memo that often contains an appendix with supporting data. The memo does not have charts or pictures. It has text.
The memo is presented at the beginning of the meeting. The attendees do not see it in advance. The meeting begins with EVERYONE silently reading the memo for 15-20 minutes. Then everyone has the same information and the meeting begins.
This method forces the presenter (or meeting chair) to do the work in advance instead of winging it in the meeting. It forces the meeting participants to pay attention to the material.
I certainly don’t believe this would work with every CPA firm internal meeting. But perhaps it will make you stop and think before you interrupt someone before you have heard the whole story. And, for project themed meetings (improving your mentoring program, streamlining workflow, considering a new software project, etc.) it might be something you should definitely TRY. Remember what I keep telling you – WTTMSW (from Tom Peters):
Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins
- "We have study hall at the beginning of our meetings."
Sunday, November 24th, 2013
This weekend’s “lighten-up” post is not a lighten-up one for me. It is somewhat off-topic and it is somewhat depressing (for me)! Please forgive me this weekend – I never try to be negative with my blog posts. Today is an exception.
You have probably read that the FCC is now formally considering a proposal that would allow you to make phone calls above 10,000 feet.
As a frequent flyer – I’m not at all happy about this. I am not looking forward to hearing people on each side of me gabbing away on their phones during a flight. It is bad enough hearing (mostly Baby Boomers and older) people talking (usually quite loudly) with their business associates when sitting at the gate awaiting a flight.
It’s bad enough now when we land and people begin immediately telephoning their family/friends, whoever, that they have landed.
Thank goodness young people don’t use the phone that much! They text, IM or tweet (in silence).
I understand, that if approved, the airlines will have the final say in whether they allow phone calls in the air. I guess each individual airlines policy might guide my choice of airlines, unless the all approve it. So far, Delta say they plan to continue their ban regardless of the FCC policy.
- "You talk too damn much and too damn much of it is about you."