Monday, July 9th, 2018

Is It A Rule or A Guideline?

I have three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

Sometimes we get our inspiration from strange places. When I read the following quote from Ghostbusters, it made me think CPAs.

“I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people… Actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.” – Bill Murray, Ghostbusters

It also made me think of my grandson when he was very small. If he was corrected because of some action, he would ask, “Is that a rule?” If we said yes, he was okay with that. I think it is something he learned in preschool. If it is a rule, you follow it.

Inside your firm, do you have rules or guidelines? Maybe we need to actually use the term “rule” more often.

  • It is a rule that every partner must bill out all WIP over $500 by the 2nd day of the following month.
  • It is a rule that our people are punctual in relation to their own behaviors and in serving clients.
  • It is a rule that we send accounts receivable statements to all clients every month, no exceptions.
  • It is a rule that we don’t voice our issues with others, except to them directly and in private.

Then we maybe we have some guidelines:

  • We have a guideline that says we return a client’s phone call the same day.
  • We have a guideline that says we stop work if a client is 90 days past due on payment.

I think you probably have more guidelines than rules. Should some of your guidelines actually be rules? Do you demand that all staff follow the documented workflow processes but partners don’t follow the rules?

Help your staff understand this complicated scenario. How are you dealing with it or are you ignoring it?

One time a CPA firm technology director said to me, “At our firm we have guidelines but we manage by exception.” I usually observe that inside CPA firms, there are way too many exceptions.

 

  • "The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions."
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

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