Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Working a Flex Schedule Doesn’t Mean Your Are Stuck

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

I was delighted to read a recent article from the Journal of Accountancy by Yasmine El-Ramly and Anita Dennis titled, Rising to the top on a reduced schedule.

The article features two female partners at Grant Thornton. Yes, partners who work a flex schedule – Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA).

The partners are Debbie Smith, CPA and Erica O’Malley, CPA. They built a thriving employee benefit plan audit practice while working a 70% schedule.

Some lessons featured in the article:

Lesson 1 – A flexible work arrangement can pave the way

Lesson 2 – A foundation built on teamwork and trust

Lesson 3 – Focus on results

Lesson 4 – With flexibility comes responsibility

Lesson 5 – Time management and organizational skills stand out

Lesson 6 – Plan to be flexible

These are great lessons for anyone struggling with working a flexible schedule or for firms contemplating implementation of an FWA that can even include partners.

I hope you read the entire article to learn more about each lesson.

  • Women are the real architects of society.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Keeping Up With Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

How are you doing with that “change” thing? I write about it over and over again and about how important it is to embrace change and keep pace with the changing world.

jodyToday, I won’t write much but I want you to follow this link and read a great article by Jody Padar. To me, it’s a simple message:  If you don’t change you will lose clients. Read it please and think about it over the weekend.

  • You must welcome change as the rule but not as the ruler.
  • Denis Waitley

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Don’t Be Typical

“We are a full-service accounting firm serving clients throughout the area, dedicated to providing our clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs.”

“Since 1984, our Certified Public Accounting firm, has been providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. Our expertise ranges from valuable tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services such as audits of financial statements, preparation of financial statements, consulting and financial planning.”

Do the above descriptions sound like something that is on your website?  They are typical of what I see as I visit CPA websites from across the country. Although I have been urging you to get creative with your website for years, I still find many that look the same way they did in 1997 (or earlier).

While your accountants are busy for the next couple of months, it’s time for your firm administrator or marketing director (coordinator) to get busy updating your website.

Make it friendly to the first-time visitor. On the home page, tell them how you can help THEM and not so much about YOU. Save the information about your firm for a subsequent page. Some things you need to convey:

  • Immediate resources for the visitor
  • Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what you do
  • The dedication of your staff to client service
  • How you can solve their business problems
  • How you are unique

Consider this advice from Lee Iacocca:

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

  • You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
  • Stephen King, on writing

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I Can Do It A Lot Faster

“Deciding what not to do is an important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley

CPAs who have reached the manager level in a public accounting firm are not always great managers.

They have reached the manager level (usually the level just below partner) because they have worked very hard and been with the firm for several years. They are good at managing the client work. They have been trained and trained for that job. The firm has invested significant dollars in their technical knowledge advancement. They are great technicians.

Firm leaders then expect them to naturally be great managers of people – great trainers, mentors and delegators. Yet, the firm has not spent any money on teaching them how to be motivators and leaders.

Perhaps you have heard this story inside your own firm – Sally is a great manager. She brings the job in on time and under budget. She works an almost unreal amount of hours to get it done. She has an engagement team to help her. Young Bill on her team struggles with a particular part of the work. Sally takes the work back and does it herself. Her excuse is, “I know my billing rate is much higher than Bill’s but I can do it in half the time.” Thus, Bill never learns and Sally is tired and stressed.

Ask you younger people to stretch – they might just surprise you in how much they can accomplish if they are taught, managed and encouraged.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Talk To Your Clients And Your Team

“The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink.” – Fran Lebowitz

I know many CPAs who avoid talking to their clients. Yes, they have all kinds of valid excuses. I don’t mean to say that they ignore their clients but they think they save time by emailing almost all of the time.

That’s why the following thought, expressed by Simon Sinek, was meaningful to me.

“A five-minute call replaces the time it takes to read and reply to the original email and read and reply to their reply… or replies. And I no longer spend 20+ minutes crafting the perfect email – no need to.” – – Simon Sinek

So, you say, when I call my client I always get voice mail and we end up playing telephone tag. When they return my call I may be on the phone with another client.

Simple solution – set a telephone appointment.

Sinek’s quote also applies to your team members – a two-minute conversation can keep client work moving through the office rather than having the staffer wait on partners or managers to reply to emails.

Delay in getting answers from partners is one of the most common responses I receive when facilitating upward feedback surveys for partners.

I think the quote, below, applies to accounting firms!

  • For email, the old postcard rule applies. Nobody else is suppose to read your postcards, but you'd be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.
  • Judith Martin

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Skill Gap

Do we have a skill gap in public accounting? Yes, I believe we have SOMEWHAT of a skill gap in that CPAs with more longevity are not as nimble with technology. They are certainly not slugs either.

The bigger issue is that they have an aversion to change. Often forming a major roadblock to change inside their own firm. One managing partner told me, “We LIKE paper.”

With younger accountants, the skills gap seems to be mostly with communication.

Watch the short video, below, via IFAC, as Mark Koziel, Executive Vice President, Firm Services, AICPA expertly explains these gaps.

 

  • A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want.
  • Madonna

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

More About Flex Job Growth

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

Recently, I posted about The Growing Area of Flexible Work Arrangements. Today, there is more news that supports the fact that YOU (CPAs in public practice) need to be prepared to compete in this area of significant growth.

FlexJobs announced 5 career categories for remote job seekers to watch for in 2017. Guess what is on the list – Accounting & Finance. It is among the five categories where remote job listings have grown more than 20 percent since January 2016.

When it comes to how people prefer to work, 65 percent of workers say they would be more productive telecommuting than working in a traditional workplace. As many as 80 to 90 percent of the workforce say they would like to telecommute at least part-time. Telecommuters are almost twice as likely to love their jobs than employees who work in traditional offices and report higher levels of productivity.

Managing partners and firm administrators, are you preparing your firm to take advantage of this growing workforce? It could be the answer to the big challenge of finding top talent to serve your clients.

CPAs are (and think) traditional. It’s time to think non-traditional relating to so many areas of firm management.

2017 is going to be an exciting year!

  • Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life.
  • Alvin Toffler

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Three Little Words

Don’t you feel wonderful when you hear those three little words?

Sure you do, everyone wants to hear “I love you.” I hope you hear them and say them daily. But wait, that’s not the “three little words” I’m talking about.

The three little words I’m referring to are three you do not want to hear. You probably hide from them and deny them.

I hear this saga very often from CPA firm managing partners, “We don’t have a succession plan. There is just no one at our firm who can take over from us. There is no one here that can do what WE do.”  My question is “Whose fault is that?” – – – Baby It’s You.

If you are the managing partner at a firm (or a sole proprietor), you are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

  • If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the firm…
  • If they don’t show up at the appointed time….
  • If they spend too much time on the web and social media for personal reasons during the day…..
  • If they put too much time in a job because they don’t have a budget….
  • If they make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed….

Who is responsible for these behaviors? The responsibility for all of these kinds of issues comes back to you…. the leader. Baby, it’s you. 

Enjoy the Shirelles singing Baby It’s You.

 

  • Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
  • Charles R. Swindoll

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Four Hallmarks of Future Ready Firms

jodyIf you want to really know what being a future-ready firm is all about, read this brief article (via Accounting Today), about Jody Padar’s vision. It explains so much, in a simple straight-forward manner, of where you need to be heading.

The article focuses on Four Hallmarks:

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Many of you are so busy doing the work that you don’t have time to do the things the client really needs – consulting, mentoring and business advisory services.

  • Firms try to insert new tools into the old process, and then they’ll say it doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t work, because the model is broken.
  • Jody Padar

Monday, December 19th, 2016

The Goal of Your Website

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A great client recommends your firm to a friend. A well-respected banker or attorney gives your firm’s name to one of their clients (probably along with two other firm names).

The first thing that person does is Google your firm. Isn’t that what you would do? Of course, it is.

Your website must impress them. It must be modern looking and up-to-date and it must immediately give them information.

The goal of your website is to convert visitors into clients. Make it easy for them by having your contact information easily available. Most visitors will immediately want to know where you are located. If you have only one office, put the street address at the bottom of the home page.

Clients and prospects want to see pictures of real people and be able to email them for more information. So, don’t make your email address a mystery.

Many practitioners tell me they don’t list staff emails or use their pictures because headhunters will find them. Headhunters will find them anyway so why not make it easy for your clients and prospective clients to connect with your team members?

Be sure the commonly used social media icons are on your home page: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Blog, etc. Prospective clients want to know as much as possible about your accounting firm.

But, remember they want to know how you can help THEM. So don’t make the website all about YOU – communicate how you can help clients save tax dollars, etc. Testimonials from current clients are a great way to communicate the value of your firm.

  • They might not need me; but they might. I'll let my head be just in sight. A smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.
  • Emily Dickinson