Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category
Monday, December 2nd, 2013
I’ve heard it for years and years, “Watch out for scope creep.” “”How do we guard against scope creep?” “How do we teach our young accountants about scope creep?” “Most of our partners actually give too much away.” And so on.
I have two thoughts on this topic and they contradict each other!
First of all, I believe that the more you give away (of yourself, of your knowledge and of your expertise), the more will eventually come back to you.
In contrast with that, CPAs SELL knowledge, it’s their business. I always tell CPAs they have the toughest sales job ever…. nobody wants what they sell – tax returns and audits. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I can’t wait until it’s time to get my taxes prepared!” or “Hooray, the auditors are coming next week!”?
During a client engagement, you warn your staff to watch out for scope creep. If the client asks for more we need to issue a Change Order. How often does that really happen? Most CPAs just take a write-off when it comes time to bill.
CPAs – your years of experience and the extensive knowledge you have, plus your continuing education to keep current is of tremendous VALUE to your clients. Never be afraid to bill a client for value delivered. It’s your business, it’s what you sell!
I found some great tips about scope creep from Erika Napolentano on American Express Open Forum:
A clear scope of work is the best defense. (In the CPA world that’s your engagement letter.)
Some clients don’t even realize they are asking for something that goes beyond the scope. When you find a client asking for something that isn’t in the project scope, here’s how to say yes – when you’re really saying no:
Hi Client Awesome,
Thanks so much for the ideas on adding X to our project. We’re glad you’re happy with our work so far and that you’re trusting us to get even more involved in your brand’s success.
We’d be happy to add <stuff not in scope of work> to the project scope. We’ll send over a revised scope of work for your approval. Once we have that, we’ll send you estimated delivery times and add the additional work to the project’s final billing installment.
You’ll receive that revised scope shortly.
One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.
Monday, November 25th, 2013
There, I said it. They are conducted the way they have been conducted for 30 (or more) years.
Lack of or poor communication is one of the biggest inside CPA firms. It comes out on top in most of the many surveys I have done as a consultant over the years. To many partners in CPA firms, this means they need to have more meetings – wrong!
There are so many great ways to communicate. Use the social media tools inside your firm. I urge managing partners to set-up a PRIVATE Twitter account just for people inside their firm and keep people posted on management and practice growth activities by simple tweets.
I believe that regularly scheduled update meetings are fine. Keep them brief and informational. These meetings are not a place to debate topics. It’s just what’s it’s called, an update on current happenings inside the firm. Sure you can do those with social media, too, but I want all of your people, as a group, to see each other and the firm partners face-to-face at least once a month.
Now for the important project focused, learning focused, problem-solving meetings. Why not try the Amazon method. Here’s how they do it at Amazon. I read about this in a post by Bijan Sabet. You can Google it and find lots of other information about the Amazon meetings.
There are no PowerPoint or keynote presentations. Everything is written out in a six-page memo that often contains an appendix with supporting data. The memo does not have charts or pictures. It has text.
The memo is presented at the beginning of the meeting. The attendees do not see it in advance. The meeting begins with EVERYONE silently reading the memo for 15-20 minutes. Then everyone has the same information and the meeting begins.
This method forces the presenter (or meeting chair) to do the work in advance instead of winging it in the meeting. It forces the meeting participants to pay attention to the material.
I certainly don’t believe this would work with every CPA firm internal meeting. But perhaps it will make you stop and think before you interrupt someone before you have heard the whole story. And, for project themed meetings (improving your mentoring program, streamlining workflow, considering a new software project, etc.) it might be something you should definitely TRY. Remember what I keep telling you – WTTMSW (from Tom Peters):
Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins
We have study hall at the beginning of our meetings.
Sunday, November 24th, 2013
This weekend’s “lighten-up” post is not a lighten-up one for me. It is somewhat off-topic and it is somewhat depressing (for me)! Please forgive me this weekend – I never try to be negative with my blog posts. Today is an exception.
You have probably read that the FCC is now formally considering a proposal that would allow you to make phone calls above 10,000 feet.
As a frequent flyer – I’m not at all happy about this. I am not looking forward to hearing people on each side of me gabbing away on their phones during a flight. It is bad enough hearing (mostly Baby Boomers and older) people talking (usually quite loudly) with their business associates when sitting at the gate awaiting a flight.
It’s bad enough now when we land and people begin immediately telephoning their family/friends, whoever, that they have landed.
Thank goodness young people don’t use the phone that much! They text, IM or tweet (in silence).
I understand, that if approved, the airlines will have the final say in whether they allow phone calls in the air. I guess each individual airlines policy might guide my choice of airlines, unless the all approve it. So far, Delta say they plan to continue their ban regardless of the FCC policy.
You talk too damn much and too damn much of it is about you.
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
When I a working with and/or talking with CPA firm leaders, the topic of firm culture often comes up. Some actually work on the culture continually and some have never even thought much about their culture or how it actually developed.
I contend that if you don’t work toward creating a great culture, one develops anyway and it might not be the one you want.
In a recent blog post on the HBR Blog Network titled, If You’re Going to Change Your Culture, Do It Quickly, the author gives an interesting story about the way Trane worked on the culture in one of its sales offices.
This particular sales office had the lowest score in the company’s engagement survey for all of North America. One huge problem was that people often talked behind each other’s backs (never happens in your CPA firm does it?).
They attacked the problem with training all associates and leaders how to talk “direct with respect.” I like that description! The leaders made sure that they demonstrated the behavior themselves, always talking “direct with respect.”
A talking “direct with respect” program might be a great first step in forming a culture inside your firm that you are proud of, a culture where people want to stay and build their careers in public accounting.
Changing your culture quickly might be something that is critical in keeping your best performers. Don’t wait until after busy season!! Start now by facilitating culture discussions within your firm.
No one knows what's next, but everybody does it.
Monday, November 18th, 2013
I am so pleased that I will be joining a couple thousand people at the 59th Annual Minnesota Tax Conference in Minneapolis tomorrow (Tuesday, November 19, 2013).
I hope you’ll be there early to catch my session at 8am about Winning The Communication Game. Okay, too early? Maybe just before lunch for my session on Engaging Your Employees – How and Why It’s Important.
Since CPA communication is on my mind….. here’s a few thoughts:
- In general, in dealing with accountants, any time I find there is an issue, a challenge, a disagreement, disappointment, lack of progress, unmet expectations, or hurt feelings, it can be traced back to lack of communication.
- On the Top 10 Fatal Flaws of Leaders, A Lack Of Communication Skills is ranked #2. (#1 is Failure to Develop Others – that sure applies to baby boomer accountants).
- Communication goes every direction inside your firm – like a bouncing ping-pong ball…. Downward, side-to-side, upward, inward, outward…. you must constantly monitor your official and unofficial communication.
- It is even more important now in the world of social media.
- Communication to customers is lacking – you don’t do it often enough. Do you frequently ask your clients how they are doing, what problems are they facing and how can you help them?
- How’s your communication going with your team members? Is it clear, concise and frequent? Do they clearly understand what is expected of them? Are you inclusive?
- How’s the male/female communication thing doing inside your firm? – Ha!
I hope you can join me tomorrow in Minneapolis to learn more. If you are not a Minnesotan and you need communication help at your CPA firm, send me an email. Maybe I can help.
Just for fun, here is a link to a Communication Quiz on the Mind Tools site.
Life is unjust and this is what makes it so beautiful. Every day is a gift. Be brave and take hold of it.
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
I have written and spoken about Management By Wandering Around for years. It is still such an important message for CPAs. I learned about it from Tom Peters and he says he learned it years ago from a Hewlett-Packard management practice.
This Fall, during my presentations and workshops, I have again been stressing the need for CPA partners (and managers) to get out of their office and BE VISIBLE, BE ACCESSIBLE.
People will ask you questions and actually tell you things (about what’s really going on inside your firm) if you make yourself available.
It doesn’t take a lot of time! Just use the MBWA 8.
Do one thing every ay that scares you
Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
I believe that CPA firm partners and other leaders should explore, guide and enhance the culture of their accounting firm but avoid imposing culture from the top down.
As a firm leader, you should be concerned about your culture because if you don’t work to identify it and enhance it, it can grow completely on its own and it might not be something you like.
Your culture will attract people and retain people. That’s something you mission statement or company vision probably won’t do.
Great people contribute to a great culture so my advice is to hire the best. And, yes, a bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.
When the apple is ripe it will fall.
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
As I always point out when talking with accounting firm citizens…. I’ve been around a while. That being the case, I have had the wonderful, exciting opportunity to speak at almost every CPA focused conference out there – some that don’t even exist anymore. However, I had never been invited to speak at the famous, widely regarded and highly attended CCH Users Conference. They called earlier this year and asked, “You speak on Generations, don’t you?” – - Yes…. and so here I am (and having a wonderful time).
Yesterday’s kick-off keynote speaker was Pat Croce. Croce is an entrepreneur, sports team executive and owner, author, and TV personality. He did a great job and energized the crowed to be…. guess what… POSITIVE – stop with the negative thoughts!
Keep in mind what I always stress when you are working inside a CPA firm – Don’t walk away from negative people….. RUN!!
Here’s a brief excerpt by Croce.
My session on how to understand and build on the strengths of generations was a lot of fun for me (and hopefully for the attendees). A special thanks to @ATomorrow (Danielle Lee) for all of the tweets she did to cover my session. Also, many thanks to Dustin Hostetler, @flowtivity and @BillSheridan and @TomHood for tweeting and retweeting about my comments.
One thing that Pat Croce stressed to the entire room (nearly a thousand people working in the accounting profession) – - – “You should ALL be on Twitter!” It made me smile because I know YOU ARE NOT.
An attendee told me that she thought Twitter was just celebrities and other people telling the world what they are doing at a particular moment – - chit-chat and gossip. Yes, there is a lot of that out there but that is not what I follow or what most people working in accounting follow.
I get valuable news and information via Twitter – I follow national news sites, accounting profession new sites, prominent CPAs, and consultants to the CPA profession (plus my family and a few friends). I don’t care to “follow” a hundred thousand tweeters – I want it manageable and helpful. Check me out @cpamanagement. Sign-up, pick just 5 or 6 people (or news sites) to follow and just read – you don’t have to tweet anything…. until you get comfortable and then test the waters. CPAs have so much they could offer their clients via Twitter.
Persistence has no time limit.
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
While flying this week, an advertisement in the airline magazine caught my eye. It was an ad offering a seminar to help business people become better negotiators. This tagline is valuable to all CPAs building their career in public accounting but I think it is especially important for women.
You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate
I have known a few women who just seem to be a natural negotiator. Notice I said a FEW.
If you are a woman in accounting, educate yourself or ask the firm to sponsor some training in negotiation. It will help you in dealing with clients, referral sources and people inside your own firm.
Negotiating in the classic diplomatic sense assumes parties are more anxious to agree than to disagree.
Saturday, October 19th, 2013
Today is my birthday. When you are a child, birthdays are a big deal. You anticipate them and enjoy the fun, the gifts and special time with your family and friends. As you get a little older the milestone ones (sweet 16, 18 and 21) are special. As you age, the milestone ones are still observed and sometimes dreaded (Oh no, you are 30, 40, 50 and over-the-hill).
Now we are in the Facebook age and dozens of your friends can convey their greetings and no matter what your age you smile and count each friend as a blessing.
When I discuss marketing and client service with my CPA clients and during my presentations, I usually use Southwest Airlines as an example. I hold up the birthday cards I get each year from Southwest and ask, “Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do?” They are able to send me a card on my birthday each year, why can’t you do this for your valuable clients?
This morning, I smiled when I hit the Google page to do a search like I do almost every morning. This is what greeted me.
How are you making your clients (and your employees) smile?
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.