Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

A Shared Economy CPA

IMG_5667If you follow this blog regularly (you can sign-up for email updates on the right side of this page), you know I have been on vacation.

On the long drive home, I caught up on some reading. Yes, I actually had the paper copy of Accounting Today with me.

I really enjoyed the article by Tamika Cody titled, A CPA For The Shared Economy. Be sure to read it!

Derek Davis, discovered a need, an opportunity and pursued it! People working in the shared economy as independent contractors, need professional advice. He realized the confusion they faced with taxes. So, he left his Big Four position, followed the road to independence and launched a virtual accounting practice.

Stories like this are unfolding across the country. “Traditional” CPAs are becoming “New Age”!

How about you? No matter what your age – new opportunities, many that are actually more challenging, interesting and exciting are developing.

Are you and your firm ready for the future?

  • In case you never get a second chance: don't be afraid! And what if you do get a second chance? You take it!
  • C. JoyBell C., author

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

You Are Awesome Technically. Is That Enough?

EC50CC8658CPAs working in public accounting and CPAs working in a corporate environment as CFO face many of the same challenges. I find that most of the challenges, for CPAs in general, is that they are SO good at finance, tax, audit, accounting – all of the technical topics that make them so valuable, but still struggle with the everyday, practical aspects of their job – getting along with and leading people.

I am tired of calling them “soft skills”. They are business world survival skills.

I can’t count the number of firms who tell me that they have a highly-technical tax partner that they keep locked up in his/her office because they are valuable, yes but, they infuriate the team members, avoid networking or getting involved in the business community and never bring in business.

CPAs often drop out of public and enter the world of corporate CFO. Many probably think they will avoid all of that people stuff, yet they soon learn that they have more responsibilities relating to collaboration with people – departments heads, employees, owners or CEOs, etc.

According to a new survey via Robert Half, CFOs say learning to interact with a variety of personalities is the greatest challenge when working with other departments. It seems collaboration and cooperation are difficult for them.

So, whether you are working in public accounting or a CFO in private, you must continually build your leadership skill-set. CPA partners, you need to help your young accountants understand the great importance of relationship-building skills. It’s how you bring in business. Bringing in business in public accounting is how you become a partner.

Here’s an article from CGMA magazine that goes deeper into this topic.

  • Truth is, I'll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.
  • Tom Hanks

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Embrace Excitement – Do Not Fear Some Risk

It has to be right.

Accountants are trained in the art of being accurate… being right.

From day one, young accountants have their work reviewed and reviewed again. They receive multiple review notes about what to re-do and correct. Sadly, in many firms they don’t even know what they did wrong, their work is corrected by a reviewer and passed along the review and production pipeline to “get it out the door.” Eventually, they learn that they are making mistakes…. So, they adopt an “avoid risk and over-work the project” work style.

706BA1163FYes, being accurate with client work is very important but it doesn’t apply to everything that is going on inside a CPA firm. Forming a supportive culture, embracing new ideas on efficiency, empowering your firm administrator, working in the Cloud, modifying HR policies, training people, hiring people are all initiatives that continually need to evolve and keep pace with trends.

Inject some excitement in your firm, try things…. Do things… If it proves unsatisfactory just change it again.

Changing things inside your firm feels very risky. Status quo feels very comfortable.

Get over it and remember:  Being alive is a risk.

  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
  • T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Some You Love, Some You Like & Some You Don’t

davidheadTopA long time ago, when I was first reading books and articles by David Maister, one particular point made a big impression and has stayed with me all these many years.

Why do accountants in public accounting continue to work with clients they dislike…. even dread?

From a survey he learned from professionals around the world, that they enjoy their work 20 to 30 percent of the time, and can tolerate the rest. The report also found that professionals really like the clients they work for and find the clients’ sector interesting about 30 to 40 percent of the time. Again, the rest is acceptable.

His opinion: If you don’t love what you do or those you do it for, why would you want to go out and get more of it?

Most CPAs would say, “Because they will pay me.”

Isn’t it time to, as a partner group, commit to reviewing the firm’s complete client list and out-place about 20% of your clients? Then, do it again next year?

Read this article, “Doing It For The Money” by Maister.

  • These proportions certainly help us understand why people aren’t all that keen to go out, get active and work passionately on business development. Getting more business just brings in more stuff they can tolerate for clients they don’t particularly care for!
  • David Maister

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Customer Engagement Hierarchy

Over the weekend, I came across some information about the Gallup Customer Engagement Hierarchy. The model has four key elements:

Confidence – Integrity – Pride – Passion

Picture these four in a pyramid with Confidence being the foundation, Integrity on top of that, Pride next and on the top is Passion.

Confidence: Always delivers on promise. Name I can always trust.

Integrity: Fair resolution of any problems. Always treats me fairly.

Pride: Treats me with respect. Feel proud to be a customer.

Passion: Can’t imagine a world without. Perfect company for people like me.

How do your clients feel about you and your firm? I bet they are at the Confidence level but, do they feel the Passion?

This involves the on-going challenge for CPAs to constantly show their clients the value they bring to them. Many of them might think you are a necessary evil – because they NEED a tax return. YOU are SO much more than that and yet, you probably don’t communicate that fact to them often enough.

What three things can you do in June to communicate your value to your clients? MAKE A LIST and then IMPLEMENT!

  • Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

So Many Contradictions – It Really Is A Balancing Act

  • Managing an accounting firm is not easy.
  • Managing an accounting firm is not difficult.

Those are just the first two conflicting statements I often address when working with CPAs in public practice. Here’s some more:

Managing an accounting firm means:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.

 

  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a great listener.

 

  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.

 

  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.

 

  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.

 

  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.

 

  • You expect the  entire team to follow all the policies and procedures
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2015 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.
  • Ray Bradbury

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Interview With Kristen Rampe

Helping CPAs Be Awesome Communicators

I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Kristen Rampe, CPA. I am impressed with her down-to-earth, real-life approach to helping CPAs become better. Yes, better communicators but also better at so many of the other things that make accountants pursuing a career in public accounting successful.

Kristen Rampe of Frank, Rimerman & Co., LLPI always enjoy talking with Kristen when our paths cross at conferences and meetings because she has actual, recent experience working in public accounting. She worked for the Big Four for 3 years, worked in industry and then 7 years at a regional firm. During her journey, she of course developed the accounting technical skills but she also developed and enjoyed the other important skills that a CPA needs to be a success in public accounting – the “success skills”! (Some call them “soft” skills.)

Here’s my interview with Kristen:

You have a lot of experience, what types of clients have you worked with in the past?

I’m fortunate to have a great mix of clients. I do leadership programs, training and practice consulting for CPA firms with 12 – 2,000 employees. I also enjoy sharing my work more broadly through industry news sources and associations by working with the AICPA and AccountingWeb, to name a few.

Why did you decide to launch a solo consulting practice for professional service firms?

Like any good GenX/Millenial (I was born in a grey area), I wanted to do what I loved. For me that was helping CPA firms build great teams and great clients.

My favorite part of working as a practice professional was creating dynamic and fun teams that had the happiest clients – the kind of teams that that shared an apartment in Paris for three weeks and had clients asking for us by name…five years later. I figured, why not bring that to the world rather than just the firm I was working at.

You do a lot of speaking, what is your favorite topic to address for CPAs?

Delegating Effectively. Most CPAs know they need to delegate in order to be successful at some level, but many have a hard time figuring out how or giving themselves permission to delegate. It can run in the face of billable hours, efficiency and quality…on the surface. But once we dive into the topic participants understand how delegating actually improves those metrics.

Watching my workshop participants come away from our time together feeling inspired to take their delegation further and understanding the benefits this has is one of my favorite moments. We also talk about Saying No when I cover this topic, and that’s a huge crowd-pleaser too.

What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great teams?

We have fun together. In my workshops, we are out of our seats a lot, bouncing inflatable animal beach balls throughout the room, and laughing often. I even had one participant write “I’m not a fan of cheesy team exercises, but found some of the things we did fun.” If I can convince the haters that team-building is fun, I’ve done my job right.

One other huge benefit is that I give teams a chance to get together and use their minds in a space that’s free from the day-to-day stresses of client work. It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand. When teams get to work together in a way that develops their relationships, it makes communication and collaboration easier when they’re back to the grind.

What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great clients?

I help them see that client service and brand is a true differentiator. Often this takes the form of a workshop where we explore the different touch-points a client has with a firm (e.g. engagement letters, document requests, issue resolution process, client gifts, etc.), how those touch-points are adding or detracting from the client relationship, and what CPAs can do about it as it relates to their organization’s goals.

There are so many opportunities to further client relationships, and not all require going out to lunch, though I am a huge fan of client lunches as part of the overall package!

What advice would you give a young, female accountant who wants to find a sponsor?

In finding a sponsor, look for someone who:

  • Knows you do great work and appreciates your contributions.
  • You respect and want to be associated with.
  • Has influence at your organization and can create opportunities for you.

If you’ve found someone like this:

  • Ask them for challenging opportunities and projects that are outside of your comfort zone.
  • Make your sponsor look good, they are putting their reputation on the line for you, you must come through.

If no one immediately comes to mind, think of the person who is closest candidate and up your game with them. Do better work, be more visible – once you knock their socks off a few times you should be able to convert a colleague to a sponsor with ease.

I heard you’re writing a book, tell me more about that.

I am! It’s a humor book for current and former CPAs called Accounting Dreams. Because what could be funnier than accounting dreams or dreams accountants have, right?! But really, it’s about the challenges CPAs have with clients, and vice versa – showcased in a series of photos with captions about what you would LOVE to hear your client say.

I was inspired to write the book because there’s I believe there’s always room for more laugher and fun in the world, and especially our profession. One of my favorite pages is a photo of a client meeting with the caption “Wow, great rates! Who knew accounting fees could be so reasonable.” Which, generally speaking, is never going to happen, but this page highlights a dreamy situation in which a client feels that way.

Curious and fun-loving CPAs can find details about release dates and upcoming sample pages on my website.

Ways to connect with Kristen

kristen@kristenrampe.com

616.219.0375

http://Kristenrampe.com

@kristenrampe

  • It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand.
  • Kristen Rampe

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Busy – Busy – Busy

busyHow are things going for the firm? – – Something I naturally ask when conversing with CPA firm leaders. I ask this question very often and direct it to various people working behind the scenes in CPA firms, not just partners.

Here’s the response I almost always receive. First, a big sigh followed by a lament on how busy they are.

“Sorry, I didn’t get back to you sooner, things are crazy here.”

“I didn’t get a chance to call you this morning, we were in a meeting and it ran over.”

“I can’t get all my vacation in this summer, I’m just too busy.”

“I won’t be going to the conference this year, I just can’t get away from the firm.

Here’s my advice:  GET AWAY FROM THE FIRM!

Message to partners:  Young people don’t want to become a partner in your firm because YOU are always TOO BUSY. You might even be scaring new clients away because you always appear SO busy. Some of your best clients hesitate to refer their friends to your firm because you are already TOO busy.

It’s catching and it spreads and soon you have a culture of BUSYNESS. If you don’t stay until 10:00p during tax season you might get frowned upon.

Focus on delegation and efficiency. I see a huge amount of time wasted inside CPA firms. Being too busy is often a reflection of personal choice.

Get a large jar or fish bowl and put it in the lunch room. Every time someone get’s caught SAYING the work BUSY they must deposit 25 cents into the jar. Maybe if you don’t say it all the time and talk about it all the time it won’t become a dark cloud that continually hangs over your head or a hurdle that blocks your way toward real progress.

 

  • Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
  • Socrates

Friday, April 17th, 2015

AICPA Announces A New Resource For Small Business Owners

Most of your firm’s clients probably fall into the category of “small business.”  As you well know, these companies need lots of on-going support and guidance from their CPA.

The AICPA has launched a microsite: www.cpapowered.org to help these millions of small businesses around the country.  The new site is FULL of valuable videos and resource guides beneficial to both new and experienced small business owners.

Be sure to check out the informational videos page. I especially like – Why a CPA! page.

Share this resource with your entire team and have them spread the word to your valuable clients.

  • If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
  • Booker T. Washington

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Do Happy Employees Make Your Firm More Valuable?

My opinion: Absolutely!

That’s why an article on Reuters caught my eye. It’s titled, Insight: Does a happy employee make for a healthier stock price?

When BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, evaluates potential stock purchases, its managers look at all the usual financial metrics. Guess what they also look at… something difficult to assess – employee sentiment.

If employees are happy a company seems the perform much better. No surprise there.

Smiling4If YOUR employees are happy, they will take excellent care of your clients and your firm will thrive.

I can absolutely sense it when I visit firms. Sometimes, people seem very serious, rather gloomy. Think of Eeyore (Oh me, oh my…). In other firms, there is laughter, smiling, joking – – you can feel happiness and camaraderie.

This morning, do some MBWA (managing by wandering around). Try to capture a sense of how people feel. Sure, this time of year they will be very busy and somewhat stressed. How do they dispel that stress, through whining or through laughter?

  • To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.
  • Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell's Soup