Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Sephens

Here’s a great video from the Illinois CPA Society about enabling your CPA firm to survive this era of disruption.

Allan Koltin is featured. It’s short and informative – please take 2 minutes to watch and listen.

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption.

  • In skating over thin ice our safety is our speed.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Are You Using Technology To Do Things The Old Way?

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” – Warren Bennis

I imagine that many of you have seen this quote from Bill Gates:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” 

I believe that in many cases, inside CPA firms, you have simply taken the way that paper flowed through your office and replicated it into some wonderful, advanced software program.

For example, I was visiting with a firm recently that had simply taken the steps that they used for moving paper tax returns through the office and inserted the same exact steps into a software program that is capable of doing so much more, without even exploring all of the possible options and efficiencies now available to them.

I find this same scenario playing out in firms over and over again, year after year!

We all become comfortable with status quo, the familiar, the known. Take your firm to the next level – move out of the comfort zone – don’t be afraid! Stop settling for status quo because it is easy. As we get closer to wrapping up another year, look back, contemplate 2017. Has it been another year of just settling for status quo?

  • Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
  • Edward de Bono

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Cancel Some Meetings

“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” – Seth Godin

Occasionally, I repost – word for word – something that Seth Godin has posted. He posts everyday and I encourage you to follow him.

Here’s the message I want all my CPA tribe to hear:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

  • One reason I encourage people to blog is that the act of doing it stretches your available vocabulary and hones a new voice.
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Cheating

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles

A headline via Fast Company caused me to ponder a familiar situation in an accounting firm. The headline – Is Your Workplace Encouraging Employees To Cheat?

Here’s the lead in paragraph:

Your company prides itself on having a culture of high performers who thrive under pressure. But could that very culture be encouraging employees to cheat?

Leaders of CPA firms, I ask you that question.

Think about it, if you reward the way many firms have rewarded employees for years, they are probably cheating. Of course, in the CPA world we don’t come right out and call it cheating.

If you reward for chargeable hours, they will give you more chargeable hours. (They record more hours than it actually takes them to complete the client work.)

If you reward for improved realization, they will give you improved realization. (They record fewer hours than it takes them to complete the client work.)

The result is that you never have a real picture of the effort (and time) it takes to complete a client’s engagement. On top of that, your employees are really uncomfortable and feel pressure to give you what you want.

It’s a common issue. The solution is to become better managers of our people. If you do still bill based on time (and many of you do), Ask for honesty and lighten up on the pressure.

  • In athletics there's always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you're not cheating. I think that's just a quirk of human nature.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Monday, November 6th, 2017

You Don’t Need A Crisis

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln

Inside a growing accounting firm, there is a lot of work going on. Some of it is performed quickly but a lot of it is slowly making its way through the pipeline. In accounting firms it is called WIP (work-in-process).

Then a crisis appears on the horizon (called a tax due date or an audit client’s board meeting). That due date (or crisis) pushes people forward.

Inside an accounting firm, there is also a significant number of internal improvement projects and strategic initiatives moving a lot more slowly than the client work. I describe it as partners (owners) being very comfortable with status quo. They have been successful over a period of year and have become complacent. “I’m making really good money and doing things that are easy for me, why change?”

It will also take a crisis to speed up these very important tasks. If you procrastinate too long, your competition will leave you behind. The business world is changing rapidly.

I like this advice from Seth Godin: If you’re the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. 

For the good of the firm and for the future of the firm, create internal deadlines relating to management projects – – don’t allow extensions!

  • My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.
  • Charles Dickens

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Be a Proactive Advisor

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” – W. Edwards Deming

Thanks so much to SageWorks for sponsoring my webinar yesterday: Women in Accounting – Thriving now and into the future and thanks to the hundreds of people who joined in. You are probably using ProfitCents in your accounting practice, if not, check it out.

At the end of my presentation, Colin Tierney of SageWorks shared some interesting points. I wanted to share some of them with you:

  • 25-40% of new business generated by top CPA firms comes from cross-selling to existing clients
  • 75% have changed firms because their CPAs are providing reactive services rather than proactive advice
  • 80% of the accounting market sees an immediate demand for advisory

I hope these numbers inspire you. Profession leaders are urging CPAs to move toward more advisory services. You are “the most trusted advisor.” Capitalize on that fact. Don’t compete on the price of your compliance services. Be more proactive and help your clients become more profitable.

  • Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.
  • Harper Lee

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Fear and Trust

 “The glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” –Brian Tracy

Some accounting firms continue to have an under-current of fear running through their culture. Many team members fear that if they provide their true feelings about the partners there will be repercussions.

The partners say, as a group, that there will never be negative repercussions if a team member provides honest feedback. Yet, people still fear that individual partners do not necessarily buy into that position.

Some accounting firms have purposely moved their culture, over time, to one of trust. Partners trust their team members to do good work. Team members trust that partners keep their word.

If your firm needs to move toward a culture of trust, begin now. Review your policies and determine if some of them are still old-school, making team members feel the lack of trust. Get people involved in the process and make the changes that need to be made. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over a period of time – take baby steps if you must!

  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
  • Warren Buffett

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Hard Driver Versus Non-Confrontational

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell

I have observed that CPA firms, over a period of many years, seem to develop cultures that encourage almost opposite behaviors.

As you probably know, I have been working in the CPA profession long enough to observe how changes in leadership drives culture.

I entered the profession when the Silent Generation was still in control. Traditionalists, known as the Silent Generation (because children of this generation were expected to be seen and not heard) were born during the mid-1920s to 1945. There are some (age over 72) still active in the profession but most have now retired.

The traditional era managing partner was a hard driver. He (and almost always it was a he) believed you make your own way through hard work which included long, grueling hours. Promotions and advancement was the result of tenure and proven productivity. They did not listen to the opinions of their staff before making decisions – it never occurred to them.

I observed that when this type of managing partner finally retired, the next generation (baby boomers) made a fairly significant swing towards not being hard on people. They avoided confrontation of any kind. They didn’t want to be the tyrant-type leader they had observed. Yet, they still believed that hard-work was the foundation of their culture.

Over time, baby boomers have mellowed and have realized that if you want to retain top talent you have to be flexible and willing to listen to the desires and needs of your employees.

Because they are still very non-confrontational they do not address situations that need to be addressed. Many retain employees that should have been out placed years ago. If one person complains about a new policy or procedure they almost panic and react too quickly. Some, to me, appear almost skittish.

I always suggest that you don’t want your CPA firm to be a sweat-shop culture nor do you want it to be a country club culture. Where do you fit?

  • World War II brought the Greatest Generation together. Vietnam tore the Baby Boomers apart.
  • Jim Webb

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Who Has Your Back?

In so many successful firms, the managing partner has a strong, right-hand person. Sure, they have managers and staff to handle client work but they also have a professional firm administrator to handle daily operations and to bring timely trends and ideas (best practices) from other firms to the attention of the managing partner.

I have always seen the firm administrator role as one of influence rather than one of power. There are also other great influencer roles in CPA firms that are not partner roles.

Guy Gage recently did a great blog post – The Passenger Seat Matters – he explains that there are three roles that must be filled in order to be successful. The driver, the back-seat and the passenger seat – be sure to read it, I think you will really enjoy it.

  • A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
  • Henry Adams

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Starting and Stopping

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller

In many firms, decisions, even some minor ones, are a full partner group activity. A  decision is discussed at a partner meeting and then deferred until later. It is a start and stop, do and don’t type of management culture.

As accounting firms grow, there is a need to empower management with more freedom to actually manage.

Allow your managing partner and firm administrator to take full control over the day-to-day operations of your firm. Develop a need-to-know policy. What specific things do all partners need to be involved in? If you have a competent, professional firm administrator, the managing partner does not have to even be involved in every little decision.

I have observed that when fully discussed, all partners actually need to be involved in very little. Of course, they need to be fully informed on a regular basis. That’s why monthly partner meetings are a must, especially for smaller and mid-size firms.

Where you order office supplies is not a topic for a partner meeting.

  • Inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.
  • Sigmund Freud