Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Too Many Hours, Too Much Drama

Is someone inside your busy firm driving you nuts? Speak up!

While winter marches on, there are many people working crazy hours to serve their clients and comply with the IRS and other regulatory agencies. It’s the CPA and all of the talented people that work in certified public accounting firms across the U.S.

Bad weather is no excuse for not getting the work done.

It’s normal for these people to work long hours from January through April 15. They are professionals. They expect it and adjust accordingly.

If you are one of these people, you might adjust to the long hours and actually enjoy the work. However, you do not enjoy the drama that comes to light during this time of extended, often stressful, hours with your co-workers.

0 Avatar slide for blogSome of their bad habits and annoying behavior drive you nuts! But, what I find with many accountants is that you do not like confrontation and you will suffer (but not in silence).

I bet you have regularly complained to OTHER people about some thing someone is doing that annoys you. If you are a “go to” person inside a firm, think about how many times someone has come to you and pleaded, “Could you talk to Fred about the way he leaves the coffee pot empty on the burner? He does it all the time!”

It’s time to take ownership of the drama – – if you notice something that is annoying or rude go directly to the person and speak to them. Don’t passively accept their inappropriate behavior and then build drama around it so that everyone in the office knows of the offense except the person committing it.

  • The older I grow the more I listen to people who don't talk much.
  • Germain G. Glien

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Let Your Clients Know Your Expectations

This is one of those “back in the day” posts that perhaps younger people in the CPA profession tire of hearing. Yet, I still believe that some of the old ways might be the best ways.

I grew up in public accounting under the stewardship of a highly-professional, disciplined, intelligent, dictator-style managing partner, Luke Ware. Luke “grew-up” in a Big 8 firm and I am just assuming that many of his actions/procedures were developed there. Our firm was small then. It ranged from 11 to about 22 people while Luke was the boss.

Client service was the focus, yet the clients were trained. That’s what we called it. They were trained to be ready when our CPAs arrived for an audit or review. All of the business owners were 1040 clients. They knew when their appointment was each year (yes, they came into the office to meet with the partner/manager) and they brought their organizer and all their documents with them (well, most of their documents).

Notice I said, “trained.” We trained our clients via communicating their responsibilities as part of our relationship. What we really did was clearly communicate our expectations. I hope you are doing the same.

In a busy, growing accounting firm it is the manager’s duty (or the partner) to be sure the client is ready for the auditors when they arrive on the appointed day. It is their duty to be sure the client understands their commitments to the beneficial relationship.

Some steps you might use:

  • Set an appointment date when you expect their data to arrive
  • Teach them how you would like to receive the data
  • Provide reminders as the date nears
  • Talk about these steps with all new clients as you add them to your client list

We sent an appointment card with the organizer (the kind they could stick on their refrigerator). These days you can send an appointment invitation via email. Each 1040 client received a reminder call the day before the 1040 appointment to remind them of the appointment (much like your dentist or eye doctor does now). If they didn’t have “all their stuff,” we told them to come anyway and bring what they did have so we could get started on the return.

As our firm grew, we got away from some of this because of the “time” involved in meeting with the client and the convenience of just having them drop-off or send-in their information. We often use client service to hide the fact that we really want less time in the job. Meeting with a client, even just a 1040, face-to-face once a year often opened the door to additional services – that was part of the plan.

What’s your plan? Do you permit clients to sabotage your schedule? These days I recommend developing a commitment statement between the firm and the client outlining the expectations from both and making it a discussion tool early in the relationship.

I have always believed that clients are impressed by a CPA firm that appears very professional, has defined procedures, communicates effectively and is an example of how you run a highly-successful business.

 

  • I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'
  • Muhammad Ali

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Using or Avoiding Cloud Accounting Apps?

barryMy longtime friend in the world of public accounting, Barry MacQuarrie, Consultant and IT Director with the KAF firm in Boston can be described as a cloud accounting enthusiast.

As part of his on-going research, via Cloud Accounting Connects, he has just launched the 2015 Cloud Accounting Connects survey to find out if accountants are adopting or avoiding cloud accounting apps. Haven’t you been wondering what other accountants really think about the world of cloud accounting?

It should only take about 5 minutes to complete. Here’s the link to the survey.

MacQuarrie will share results with those who take the survey.

  • Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.
  • Homer Simpson

Friday, January 30th, 2015

It’s Okay….. It’s Bruce Tulgan

IMG_4694I began blogging every business day in 2006.

On January 20th 2006 I mentioned Bruce Tulgan in a blog post. That was 9 years ago…. a lot of blog posts have followed. Since then I have continued to feature Tulgan and his message. My mission is to provide relevant resources to those working in the CPA profession via Tulgan’s books, newsletters and videos.

His findings, based on extensive research and interviews with young workers just beginning their careers, are exactly what CPA firm leaders need to hear to help guide them through the people management minefield.

Yesterday, I finally got to hear him speak LIVE and talk with him afterwards at Winning Is Everything in Las Vegas. I was not disappointed.  He was nice enough to sign my well-worn copy of It’s Okay To Be the Boss and pose for a picture.

More importantly, here are some bullet point highlights of his talk.

  • 31% of the workforce are millennials
  • The second wave of young workers, born 1999 and forward are called Gen Z.
  • Too many managers/supervisors are not managing
  • The first day on the job is SO important – be ready for them. Don’t fall into the “first day disconnect.”
  • Do young people have higher expectations? – – Yes!
  • They will do grunt work but not for VAGUE promises of long-term rewards.
  • Think short-term and transactional.
  • They walk in with more information than any generation before.
  • Myth: We have to humor them. No, they want to add value
  • Myth of fairness: You do not need to treat everyone alike.
  • In accounting firms, they face the multiple boss problem (my advice – sketch out the chain of command for them).
  • They are high maintenance, learn to deal with it.
  • If you hire low-maintenance talent, they will “hide-out” in your firm for years and just be mediocre.

Here’s the autograph on my copy of It’s Okay To Be The Boss. Thanks, Bruce!

IMG_4697

  • Performance coaching... it is the constant banter of focus, improvement and accountability.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

For Women To Become Partners, They Need Help From Men

Male Allies Gender BalanceI hope to see lots of men and women at my session at Winning is Everything this afternoon.  It is all about how male allies can foster gender balance in accounting firm leadership.

In honor of this topic, I thought I would share a little male – female communication humor – so lighten-up!

 

An English professor wrote the words:

woman without her man is nothing

on the board and directed the students to punctuate it correctly.

The men wrote:

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

The women wrote:

Woman! Without her, man is nothing.

Don’t groan…. there’s more:

A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day – – 8,000 to a man’s 4,000. The wife replied, “the reason has to be because a woman has to say everything twice”. The husband then turned to his wife and asked, “What?”

 

  • Communication works for those who work at it.
  • John Powell

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Invest In The Success Of Your Managing Partner

Once upon a time, there was a young, ambitious managing partner passionate about growing the CPA firm he had been selected to lead. He, of course, was good at the numbers. He monitored all the MAP stats and was a strong supporter of going to great lengths to grow and retain top talent. He set a good example for the CPAs at the firm….. he billed timely and always collected all of the A/R associated with the clients assigned to him. It was a very rare occurrence if he was late entering his daily time.

As the firm grew, more partners were were brought in and it became necessary for the MP to give up some of his clients so that he could give more attention to managing the firm (and the partners).

At a partner retreat, after a lot of dialogue and self-exploration by all the individual partners, they asked the MP to find more time to mentor THEM. He humbly replied, “I’m not sure I know how. I have to get more training and education.”

And, he did.

(Leading Professional Service Firms – Executive Training Program at Harvard)

  • Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Helping Your Clients Succeed

CPA firms have all kinds of reasons why they are in the professional service business. We call it a mission, a vision, a purpose and some firm leaders spend a whole lot of time trying to define it with fancy words and catchy phrases.

I like to simplify, so I just refer to your mission in three words: Help clients succeed.

Helping clients is so much more than preparing an annual tax return or performing the annual audit. It is even more than helping them keep their books clean and up-to-date.

You, as a CPA, have a huge challenge – you sell something that no one wants!  Who simply can’t wait to get their taxes prepared or what company loves it when the auditors come in?

What they do want is more of you…. more advice, a sounding-board, an idea person… someone they can go to when they have a question.

Are you proactive? Are you reading what they are reading? Do you know what trends “out there” you should be informing them about? Do you send them links to great articles that they should read?

Here’s a simple example… I recently became aware of a site that helps small business owners find the right software – FitSmallBusiness.com. The have free calculators, such as an SBA Loan Calculator, that you can embed or share with your clients.

Always be searching for ways you can Help Clients Succeed.

 

  • Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You'd be amazed how many companies don't listen to their customers.
  • Ross Perot

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Helping Your New Accounting Recruits & Interns Rock Their New Job

Have you checked-out Slideshare? If you are in a leadership position in a CPA firm, you need all the resources you can get. I’m always on the prowl for things that will be helpful to you to build a winning culture and a winning firm.

I really like this slide deck (My First 90 Days), on LinkedIn Pulse that is intended to help newbies make the most of their first 90 days on the job.

Starting a new job can be daunting. It’s time to meet your colleagues, impress your boss, get into the rhythm of your new role. So how should a newbie navigate those first 90 days?

There are only 14 slides that provide links to 8 posts on advice aimed a surviving a new job. The eight titles:

  1. Start working before Day One
  2. You can’t fix it right away
  3. Say yes to everything
  4. Ask your coworkers to lunch
  5. Listen to everyone you meet
  6. Make your boss look good (includes quote from Guy Kawasaki: “Either you rise to the top together, or crash and burn together.”)
  7. Take care of yourself first
  8. Don’t try to be the golden child

This is not just for newbies. CPA partners and managers need to read these posts, too. I frequently remind partners in accounting firms, “Don’t forget what it was like to be the new kid!” Most experienced partners admit they were lost, confused and clueless.

  • Make yourself available, work hard, and over time you will make yourself indispensable.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The Ability To Recognize Emotions In Others

I mention emotional intelligence fairly often. That is because CPAs have the reputation for ranking fairly low on the emotional intelligence scale.

The experts tell us (Daniel Goleman, author) that emotional intelligence consists of five competencies:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

I urge you to learn more about it and focus on how it plays out inside your busy CPA firm. It is essential to a productive work environment.

It does not mean you are simply nice to everyone and always pleasant. It means that you can confront others in a constructive way when problems arise. It doesn’t mean you are visibly emotional, it means you are in control of your emotions and to recognize emotions in others.

I bet that accountants reading this right now are not liking it much. I find most of them do not want to address the “warm and fuzzy” stuff. Usually, it is the simple fact that accountants think more along the lines of “business is business and personal is personal.”

In a recent article on Fast Company, Yongmei Liu, an associate professor at Illinois State University’s College of Business is quoted as follows. “A leader who has a high degree of emotional intelligence can recognize when his or her followers are not in the right emotional state to perform well.” – That would sure be helpful as you go through tax season!

Read more about it here. – article is titled, Why Emotionally Intelligent People Make More Money (maybe that got your attention).

 

  • It isn't stress that makes us fall - it's how we respond to stressful events.
  • Wayde Goodall

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Get Serious About Retaining People

Your firm had some fairly significant turnover in 2014.

You spent a lot of time on hiring people to take their place.

That means this busy season will not be as efficient and profitable because your experienced people will be slowed down by training the newbies.

In the CPA firm world, people really get productive at about their third year with the firm. According to research about the millennials (employees under age 35), if they are not completely happy at the 3-year mark, they will change jobs without guilt or hesitation.

If you have created a culture where people want to stay and BUILD their career, you have a competitive advantage over the firm down the street. I’m not talking about keeping mediocre performers who are comfortable with coasting along for many years. I’m talking about young people who have the desire to advance. Sure, not everyone wants to advance and make their way up the career ladder, but if you have some with the desire – show them the way!

Horne, LLP has person with the title of “People FIRST Director.” How about you?

  • Only undertake what you can do in an excellent fashion. There are no prizes for average performance.
  • Brian Tracy