Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Interviewing Experienced Candidates

I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”  – Lee Iacocca

When it comes to interviewing potential new hires, I have observed that CPA firms are not very creative. Many firms have the same people do the interviewing whether it is a college recruit or a 10-year experienced person.

Are your interviewers asking the same questions they have asked for 20 years? Do they focus too much on where they went to school (even if it was years ago) and how strong their tax (or audit) technical skills are?

With an experienced person, ask more questions like these from Seth Godin’s recent blog post.

  • What have you built?
  • What have you led?
  • How do you make decisions?
  • How do you act when no one is looking?

For an experienced person, in public accounting, I would add:

  • How many people have you mentored?
  • How would you describe your tolerance for change?
  • Joe has interrupted you six times this morning with questions. What do you say when he interrupts you the seventh time?
  • The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.
  • Steve Jobs

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Your Firm Budget For 2018

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” — Warren Buffett,

The AICPA Roundtable 2018 is happening this week in New York City. You can follow the comments on Twitter #AICPAroundtable2018.

Just one comment from yesterday that I think is important to you: 75% of accountants will increase technology spend in 2018

Did you significantly increase your tech budget for 2018?

  • A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
  • Dave Ramsey

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The Cloud Accountant

“Those without self-awareness do not look to improve, often because they do not think they need to.” – Jessica Daley

I talk with so many practitioners who struggle with the belief that they should employ remote employees. Whether you are convinced or not, it is a rapidly growing component of the accounting profession.

I recently read an article, 3 Essential Personality Traits of a Cloud Accountant by Jessica Daley of Xcelerate Business Solutions.

I enjoyed her article but was even more impressed when I visited the Xcelerate website.

Here’s the opening paragraph of the article. Does it sound like you and your team?

Today, flourishing in accounting requires a new way of thinking. It is less about the technical expertise and number-crunching, and more about whether you can handle systems, communicate well, innovate, solve problems, and build a rapport with your clients. If someone on your team is unable to do this, their accounting expertise does not matter—they simply will not be a very good accountant in the client’s eyes.

The 3 essential personality traits:

Curiosity – Your have to be curious about all the apps and technology so you can help your clients make the most of them.

Pride – You and your staff must have pride in what you do. You take ownership of your work and solve client problems.

Self-awareness – In the author’s opinion, this is the most important trait. You need to be aware of what you do not know.

Read more about these 3 traits here.

  • My best staff are relentless in their ownership of a client.
  • Jessica Daley

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The 12 Questions

“The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person’s trigger.” – Marcus Buckingham

I haven’t written about the “12 Questions” in a very long time. It comes from a book titled, First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The book has been around a while but maybe it is time you read it again.

They contend that employees leave managers, not companies. I strongly believe that this is often the case in CPA firms.

Buckingham and Coffman offer 12 questions that can be used to measure the core elements needed to attract, develop and retain the next generation of CPA firm leaders.

Here are the 12 Questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages both my personal and my career development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

One of my client firms, asks these 12 questions of their entire staff every year and tracks progress year-to-year. They share the tracking matrix with the entire staff at the annual State of The Firm meeting. Constant improvement is part of their firm culture.

I hope you are doing something like this at your firm. I also hope that you are taking the steps to make steady progress. Don’t ever ask for input from your team and then do nothing with that valuable information.

  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
  • Peter Drucker

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Doing The Work

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you examined how work is actually prepared, processed and completed inside your firm lately? You better put it on your list!

Lots of firms have embraced the Lean Six Sigma process and not only improved their workflow and efficiency but have also ignited more passion for the work in their team members.

So many people in CPA firms do things because “that’s the way Joe (partner) wants it” or “Rebecca wants it done this way.”

Today’s workforce wants to be challenged and not simply repeat the same work, the same way, year after year after year.

Managers, and sometimes even partners, cling to work that they have done for years because it’s easy for them and it helps them accumulate billable hours. Identify a less experienced team member and delegate that work. It might not be easy for them but it will help them grow in their career and that’s what builds a top performing team.

Read this great article via HBR – Why People Really Quit Their Jobs.

  • Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.
  • Tim Fargo

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Weed the Garden – Turnover

“Turnover is bad only if the good go.” – Patrick Lencioni

Most CPA firm leaders consider turnover is a very bad thing. That’s not necessarily true.

In their book, “Built to Last,” Jerry Porras and Jim Collins talk about the occurrence of strong cultures of great companies. One of the indications of a strong culture is the rapid departure of people who don’t fit. Ultimately, those people are best served by finding a company where they can fit, and thrive.

When you retain people who don’t fit, it creates an even bigger threat to your firm. It demotivates those who do fit. It creates a culture of mediocrity.

So many firms have become a “please everyone” culture, providing lots of nice, sometimes trivial benefits to everyone. Sure, poor performers want to stay.

But, a menu of benefits will not retain all-star performers. They want to work in a thriving, high-performance and rewarding culture.

Stick with mediocre performers and you will find it even more difficult to attract top talent.

  • The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.
  • Max DePree

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Attention Bookkeepers!

“If you’re a bookkeeper, it’s time to embrace evolution.” – Mary Ellen Biery

I would guess that almost every CPA firm has provided bookkeeping services. It has become quite in vogue now. They are calling it CAS (Client Accounting Services). It is needed and it has become very lucrative due to technology.

In the “old days” – not that many years ago, we called it write-up and in some firms it was regarded as low-level, non-profitable work. All that has changed. In CPA firms you don’t even call them bookkeepers (or paraprofessionals) any longer (that title always amazed me…. not quite professional?). They are called Client Accounting Specialists or some other unique title.

Something that also needs to change is how bookkeepers might think of themselves. They are no longer just bookkeepers – they are business consultants. They really know what is going on inside the client’s business and can take action to help business owners.

Check out this important article via Accounting Today – The evolution and changing role of bookkeepers.  Share it with your Client Accounting Specialists.

  • There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.
  • Aldous Huxley

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

You Don’t Have to be a Perfectionists to Achieve Your Goals

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington

CPAs are quality minded. They are the most trusted business advisor. They especially pride themselves in the quality of their work. 

If you are living your work life inside a CPA firm, you know how thoroughly the client work gets reviewed. If you are not living inside a CPA firm, here’s how it goes: 

  • The work is completed (financial statement, tax return, various financial projects, etc.)
  • The work is proofed and corrected.
  • The work is draft reviewed and then corrected.
  • The work is quality reviewed and then modified.
  • The work is partner reviewed and adjusted.
  • Just before it is absolutely, positively finished and ready to go to the client, it is “released” and even at this point something is caught that needs to be changed (usually a very small detail).
  • Then the partner assigned to the client work wonders why it takes to much time to get the engagement out the door!

CPAs often deny it but most are perfectionists.

When dealing with the management/operations side of the firm and when setting personal goals for yourself, please do not think that things have to be perfect. Rather than being your own worst critic, become your biggest fan.

Human beings learn so much from their mistakes! When pursuing a goal, don’t focus on perfectionism; focus on progress.

Breakdown your sometimes overwhelming projects and tasks into steps and don’t hesitate to celebrate and reward yourself when even one step is accomplished.

I call it moving from status quo to an improved position. Do that once and then repeat, repeat and repeat.

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” If you view your task as one giant goal, you are setting yourself up for failure or disappointment. Why not enjoy the bites along the way!

  • The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.
  • Ray Kroc

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

Searching For a Mentor

“My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!'” – Jim Rohn

So, you want to make some changes this year. You want to implement some important initiatives at the firm and you also want to make some changes, personally.

A mentor would be a good idea. Someone to hold you accountable and to actually help you along the road of change.

How do you choose a mentor? Here are some things to consider:

Experience – Make sure your potential mentor has been through what you are facing. Do they have the appropriate background to help answer your questions and give you guidance?

Communication – Determine what communication style works best for both of you. A potential mentor might prefer conversations in person or by phone. Another might prefer to have more of an online type relationship.

Life-stage: Has the potential mentor been through the life-stage that is currently giving you significant challenges? Can they give you practical and applicable advice and tools?

Over the last couple of years, mentoring and coaching people working in the CPA profession has become my most requested service. In fact, I only have a couple of slots open for monthly mentoring clients. Maybe I can help you. Contact me if you want to just talk about your situation. I offer a no obligation consultation.

  • Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Beat The Clock

“We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time.” – Vince Lombardi

Seth Godin blogged recently and asked, “What about sprints?”

My husband, in his youth, was a track athlete, plus baseball, basketball and whatever other sport was offered. Track was his best and favorite. He trained by doing sprints.

Many people training for their first 5k, walk for a while and then sprint for a minute or two (or more). Most people can’t sustain sprints for very long.

Maybe in your work, you need to try some sprints. Rather than having two speeds – work hard then rest (watching Netflix.. whatever you do when you go home), add a third speed… sprint.

Sometimes it is amazing what you can get done in a short period of time when you completely focus, shut out the rest of the world and just sprint.

A good friend of mine, Linda Watson – a CPA firm marketing consultant – always recommends playing “Beat the Clock” when she has an important article, promo piece or procedure to write. She sets aside one hour to focus and write like crazy – no interruptions. When the hour ends, she stops and is often amazed by what she can turn out in one hour.

I often take her advice and focus intently for one hour on an issue or challenge to see what I can accomplish. I sprint!

You might try it when you are stuck and short on time.

  • If you got the money honey I got the time and when you run out of money I run out of time.
  • Willie Nelson