Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, May 18th, 2018

How To Win Friends & Influence People

“The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.” – Dale Carnegie

Maybe you have read it, the book by Dale CarnegieHow to Win Friends and Influence People. I have read it more than once. It was written long ago but still has power today.

I came across a small pamphlet by Carnegie reminding us of the principles from the book.

Here’s an excerpt:

Become a Friendlier Person:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
  4. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  5. Smile.
  6. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  7. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  8. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  9. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Try using these on your clients AND your employees or co-workers. Make them part of who you are!

  • Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
  • Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Workplace Distractions

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus

Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report has been released and gives us some valuable information. You can download a full copy of the report here.

Highlights:

  • 70% agree that training can help people get better at blocking out distractions and achieving focus.
  • 36% of millennials/Gen A say they spend 2 or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities.
  • 66% have never talked to a manager about their struggles with workplace distraction.

It is not just technology that distracts people. Chatty co-workers were reported as the number-one contributing factor to workplace distraction (80%).

Read more about the survey and talk about how to cure some office distractions at your firm.

  • Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.
  • Saul Bellow

Monday, May 7th, 2018

A Fun Way To Build Your Presentation Skills

“Tough issues need soft skills.” – Kristen Rampe

My friend and CPA consultant, Kristen Rampe has unveiled an amazing new service. She is intent on helping CPAs become better speakers and presenters. For many CPAs, it is a very difficult challenge. It is called Slide Deck Improv.

Here’s a message I received from Kristen:

I wanted to share with you this fun service I’ve been working on lately. It involves helping professionals improve their speaking and presenting skills – e.g. when presenting to boards or at community/industry events. As you know, this isn’t always a strong suit for the technically-minded CPA, but I’ve found a way to help get them some practice in a fun and safe environment. It involves improv, and I’ve even captured some video of a tax manager rising to the occasion: https://kristenrampe.com/slide-deck-improv  

I enjoyed watching the tax manager in the video make his way through the improv session. This is a great way to learn!

An insightful book to read about the benefit of improv is Alan Alda’s If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on my Face?

  • With improv, it's a combination of listening and not trying to be funny
  • Kristen Wiig

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

There Just May Be A Need For This At Your Firm

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

I recently read this on my daily news feed – the daily Skimm. I just had to share it.

“Cry closet” – An actual place at the University of Utah’s library for students to release their stress. What happens in the cry closet, stays in the cry closet.

I have seen “mother’s rooms” and “stress rooms” used in CPA firms. They are very nicely furnished private and relaxing spaces.

Maybe a Cry Closet is in your future. It might be a great benefit during tax season.

  • Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else's hands, but not you.
  • Jim Rohn

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The Threat From Artificial Intelligence & More

“It’s beauty that captures your attention; personality that captures your heart.” – Oscar Wilde

I receive a newsletter from a long-time business friend, Norm Bobay of  HireMAX. Check them out if you have a need to use DISC for your firm.

This month’s newsletter has two articles that I think will be of interest to you – CPA firm citizens.

The first explains the threat many are feeling because of AI replacing their jobs. The second article – Leaders Excel With These Different Leadership Styles – is also insightful.

The leadership styles are:

  • Action-Oriented
  • Transformative
  • Encouraging
  • Empowerment
  • Reflective
  • Idealistic

Follow the link to the article and read more about these styles.

  • The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
  • Ernest Hemingway

Monday, April 30th, 2018

Abusing Technology

“I have so much I want to do. I hate wasting time.” – Stephen Hawking

Baby Boomer Partners complain:

Many of our staff are just looking for a job, not a career. They want to work 8:00 until 5:00, five days a week. Even while they are at work, they waste so much time on social media, texting their family and friends, and shopping on Amazon.

Millennial Staff complains:

Some partners send me emails at midnight. They also send me emails on weekends and sometimes at 5:00 a.m. I am expected to reply and it seems like I am on call 24/7.

Technology enables us to do so many things more quickly. It also allows us to use a lot of time we should be working on personal endeavors or to intrude on people’s personal time inappropriately.

Instant communication is not always a good thing. This might be a good discussion topic for a lunch and learn session. “How are we abusing the use of technology?” “What do we owe each other, as employer and employee?”

  • There's no good way to waste your time. Wasting time is just wasting time.
  • Helen Mirren

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Guarantee Your Work

“I have a place I got to in the Bahamas. It’s the only place that guarantees total anonymity and freedom.” – Johnny Depp

I guarantee my work. Do You?

I have written about this before but maybe you need a reminder about implementing this policy.

Your firm goes all out to provide over-the-top client service. You want to make your clients happy. Don’t be afraid to offer a satisfaction guarantee. Mentioning confidentiality is also important if you want to make your clients feel comfortable and have them trust you.

Here’s the wording I use in my proposals:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

  • Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
  • Bill Gates

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Guidelines For Clients

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

You have them. You keep them. Sometimes you shouldn’t keep them. But, if you do, figure out how to deal with them. I am talking about those clients that drive you crazy!

Talk to new clients and current clients about how to help YOU serve THEM better (How to be a better client.)

Here’s a sample that you discuss with clients and include in your new client packet.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.
  • Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.
  • Billy Graham

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Accountability

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch

There are a lot of conversations in public accounting firm circles about accountability. Practitioners ask, “How do we hold people accountable?” They want to know exactly what to do and what to say.

In an accounting firm, it is almost always from the top down. As leaders, you want your people to be held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, accountability is a two-way street. If you are holding your people accountable for their performance, they should also be holding you accountable for your performance.

Is that happening at your firm? Do the members of your partner group hold each other accountable? Do you welcome upward feedback so that you are accountable to everyone in the firm?

  • Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.
  • Jim Whitehurst

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn