Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Tired Of Seeing A Tree or A Bird?

I still enjoy receiving holiday cards – paper and digital. I am especially delighted when I can tell that someone actually took time to provide a card that is creative and represents their personalities.

So many Christmas and Holiday cards depict a beautiful scene, thus… a tree or a bird. Yes, I love trees and birds but how about something more unique (and fun).  It might be too late this year BUT prepare for next December and design a card that will delight your clients and referral sources.

Here’s the card sent out by my friends at Moore Stephens North AmericaSteve and Alexandra.

Very cool.

steve alex

  • There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't met.
  • William Butler Yeats

Friday, December 12th, 2014

AccountingWEB Live – Shocking Comment From An Accountant

Twitter_logo_blueOn Thursday December 11th, AccountingWEB hosted an event – AccountingWEB Live 2014.

Simply following the tweets and reviewing them this morning, gave me great insight and value. I say that because I want to once again stress to all CPAs, accountants and other leaders inside accounting firms – the value of Twitter.

At most of my live presentations, where I have many CPA firm leaders in the room, I ask, “How many of you are on Twitter?” Very, very few hands go up!!

One live comment from yesterday’s AccountingWEB Live was shocking:  “I’m an accountant, I don’t need to tweet anything.”  Oh, my….

Today, but tomorrow at the latest, set up a Twitter account and just READ. That’s how you begin. Follow a few people (like me @cpamanagement) and others who provide advice, education, news and even humor to the accounting profession. All the major CPA publications tweet, the AICPA tweets, your state society tweets, national and local news sources tweet. I use it to get all my news, each morning, in a quick and simple format.

Find other CPAs who are tweeting and see how they are using it to not only advise clients but to attract more.

Here’s a link to How To Set Up A Twitter Account - a few simple steps.

When you do begin tweeting, tweet meaningful stuff. The following quote is good advice.

  • I will count to ten before tweeting.
  • Valerie Trierweiler

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Grades Or Grit

I like to work with people who have grit.

To me that means:

  • They are not hesitant to say what’s on their mind.
  • They continually give honest feedback and encouragement to those around them.
  • They don’t “walk on egg shells” because some people they work with are very sensitive or very explosive.
  • They also continually and positively push people to do their best.

When you are hiring or when you are assessing your fleet of interns to identify future hires, it is not about their GPA. Experts tell us that when a young person is about 5 years into their career, all the grades and academic credentials in the world don’t mean anything anymore.

I have observed that first-hand over my career. If you are a leader in your firm I bet you have observed it, too. So… work with that.

Leaders with grit create team of doers not talkers.

Here’s a book to use as a resource – The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success by Rich Karlgaard.

Being a Baby Boomer, when I hear the word “grit” I think of John Wayne. How about you?

  • In the real world, smarts isn't about looking for the next star student with a 4.0 or having an IQ that can boil water. Instead, it's about the importance of hard work, of perseverance and resilience. Call it grit.
  • Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

What Are Your CPA Firm Employees Saying

Glassdoor has revealed the winners of its 7th annual Employees’ Choice Awards. The awards honor the 50 Best Places to Work in 2015. While these awards are for employers with 1,000 employees or more, there are lessons to be learned by even the smallest accounting firm.

The results are entirely based on employee feedback. Here’s a sampling (click here for the entire list):

#1 – Google “Great people, great value.”

The benefits and care of employees is obviously world class, and compensation is almost unmatchable. But the company attracts some of the best talent and best people to work with in the world, which is the most important bit.

#2 – Bain & Company “Hands down awesome”

Incredible culture – people work really hard, but they enjoy doing it; Incredible people – mix of intelligence but also humility that you don’t find at the other top consulting firms; Amazing exit opportunities – the Bain network is not only big, it’s incredibly strong. Ex-Bainies will almost always help out another Bainie without fail. This is truly a remarkable place.

#3 – Nestle – “Best place I have ever worked”

The corporate culture is second to none. Strong midwestern roots, stability and friendly environment; coupled with the vast opportunities that come with an international giant parent company. There is a tremendous amount of mutual trust and respect for others within Nestle. A drawback is that no one leaves so it limits upward mobility somewhat.

#9 – McKinsey & Co. – “Rigorous focus on professional development”

No other organization places as much emphasis on professional development. It is a really amazing set of people – caring, challenging and whip smart

#22 – Apple – “Paradise of jobs”

Apple offers crazy benefits, and competitive salary. By competitive I don’t mean a couple grand more in a year, I’m talking about a 2X / 2.5X salary. This place is a sea of knowledge. Never seen a more dedicated group.

#23 – LinkedIn – “Genuinely thrilled to work here”

I work with some of the smartest, most collaborative, and humble people in the world. I relish every day I get to enjoy coming to work at LinkedIn. Great perks, but more importantly great people!

The only Big Four firm to make it was EY at #49 (out of 50).

My questions for accounting firms (and some things for you to consider):

Do you have a rigorous focus on professional development? Maybe this is why there is so much worry about succession. Why not be more generous with education dollars for your younger staff.

Have you attracted and retained the smartest (best) people? Many of the comments were appreciative of working with smart, successful, creative, hard-working people. Do the majority of your people fit this description? Do you keep too many mediocre performers?

Do your young all-stars have vast opportunities? Or, do they have to wait 10 years to become a manager?

Do you reward your best performers with salaries beyond being competitive? Or, do you try to get by with the minimum of just keeping pace with average firms?

  • Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food
  • Comment about working for Facebook

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

CPA Managing Partners & CEOs – How Social Are You?

In the corporate world, CEOs who embrace social media are still rare.

“Five years ago, when boards were searching for a leader, social media competency wasn’t even on the radar. Now, according to the board members we interviewed for our book, a strong social presence is often high on the list of factors they consider when vetting CEO candidates.” – – Ted Coine & Mark Babbitt, authors of A World Gone Social.

In an article on HBR, the authors discuss the trend of social CEOs. Only 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs have a presence on at least one social channel.

I believe that in the CPA profession the percent of managing partners that are active on social media is even a lower percentage (I have no research to back this up, just my observation).

What are some attributes that social CEOs like Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and others have? Here’s a list. How many does your current (and future) managing partner possess?

They have an insatiable Curiosity – What are people saying about our firm?

The have a DIY mindset – They don’t rely on an assistant to do things for them.

They have a “bias for action” – The live by a “ready, fire, aim” mentality. CPA leaders need to significantly speed up their decision-making!

They are relentless givers – Social CEOs aren’t just social for the firm, they value being social in every aspect of their lives. Is your MP out and about on a regular basis in your business community? They can’t be a “numbers” person only.

They connect instead of promote – They are spreading the good word about their firm. They are not self-promoting. How does this play out inside your CPA firm?

They’re the Company’s No. 1 Brand Ambassador – We do not admire leaders who’s firm is seen as autocratic, self-serving and non-caring. Yes, sadly, I hear via my surveys that some CPA firm leaders can be described this way.

They lead with an open mindset – OPEN stands for “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network” and it means that no one person can have all the answers. They build personal relationships with those willing to help them get answers, a team effort. That’s how it should be at your firm. Seek advice and counsel from your people, your clients and your business associates. The old form of the CPA leader being a benevolent dictator are past.

  • It is quite possible that as the social age matures, there will be only two types of business leaders: social... and retired.
  • Ted Coine

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Helping You Save Time – Here’s A Quick Review Of Last Week’s Posts

It’s a simple thing.      Saving time.      You should try it sometime.

Yes, I am being sarcastic again. As you know, working inside a busy, growing CPA firm, it is very important to always be aware of saving time and wasting time. This applies if you still record time daily or if you are a value-pricing firm.

I worked very hard last week to do my part to:  Enlighten you – Give you ideas – Encourage you to be your best – Help you (and your people) earn more money – Be more appreciative of each other – And so on. Plus, never forget that a leader MUST read – often and a variety of things and topics.

Here’s a list of last week’s posts. If one or more grabs your attention, you might want to read it quickly as you start your week:

Monday:  CPAs Will Leave Your Firm – No Matter What Time of Year – Yes, people quit CPA firm jobs in tax season these days.

Tuesday: Identify Future Leaders Early, Part I – Gary Boomer’s article inspired me to elaborate. Be sure you communicate to your young people the benefits of a long career in public accounting.

Wednesday: Identify Future Leaders Early, Part II – My thoughts relating to Boomer’s article were too extensive for just one blog post. So, Here are 10 characteristics to look for in identifying future leaders.

Thursday:  Apologies – Don’t point fingers. Don’t play the blame game. It wastes too much time.

Friday:  Make It Easy For Your Clients – Starbucks Does – Do you avoid client phone calls at times? Do your managers rarely answer their phone, preferring to let it go to voice mail?

Don’t forget my Saturday post “Lighten-Up” post (off topic, humorous or even weird). Holy weekend, Batman!

  • The MORE that you READ, the more THINGS you will KNOW. The MORE you LEARN, the more PLACES you'll GO!
  • Dr. Seuss

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Lighten-Up – Holy Weekend, Batman!

How does your CPA firm logo/icon look? Does it depict a boring accounting firm or something more exciting, unique, exotic, or enlightened. Nothing stays the same nor should your logo – don’t be afraid to let it evolve.

Here’s a video that depicts the changes to the Caped Crusader’s iconic logo over the years. You might think it would stay the same since it plays an important role, shining on the sky of Gotham, to alert Batman that he is needed.

You can also see an info graphic depicting the changes here. I hope when clients see your logo, they immediately recognize it and know that they need help from you!

Here’s a picture of a t-shirt I bought my husband when I was in the Minneapolis airport. It’s one of his favorites (and mine).

IMG_4539

  • Everything is impossible until somebody does it.
  • Bruce Wayne

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Make It Easy For Your Clients – Starbucks Does

I just read where Starbucks is going to make it even easier to get your coffee. They will be unveiling a newly updated Starbucks mobile app that allows you to buy coffee without standing in line to order or handing a cashier your phone to pay. A pilot program has been launched in Portland, Oregon to test it out.

Per an article on Fast Company, you will walk into Starbucks, past the line, tell the barista your name, and she hands you your tall latte with skim.

How easy is it for your clients to do business with you? Be honest and think about it.

Your quick answer would be, “we are definitely a client friendly firm, we bend over backwards for our clients.”

Here’s my observations:

A partner gets a phone call from a client via the office number. Director of First Impressions says to partner, “John Adams is on the line for you.” Partner is talking with a manager and says, “Tell him I’m on the phone and will call him back.”

Collection administrator talks with a client about a past-due invoice. Client says, “I need to talk to Tom (partner) about that invoice. Have him call me.” Collection administrator lets Tom know that Sam Client wants to talk to him about the past-due invoice. The next month, the Collection Administrator again calls the client and learns that Tom never did call the client. This goes on for several cycles.

Manager gets a call via mobile device and see that it is Ted Client who can be somewhat difficult. They do not answer the call, they let it go to voice mail because they know Ted is going to ask when he will get his tax return and it not out of review yet.

Director of First Impressions tells me, “Most of our accountants never answer their phone extension when it rings, they always let it go to voice mail.”

While no disservice is intended, CPAs often fall into these habits thinking they are possibly saving time. We have become accustomed to the convenience of voice mail. Is that client service?

When I make an unscheduled call to a CPA, even if it is returning their call, I rarely get through on the first try. If the person actually answers, I’m rather shocked.

A pet peeve for me – Do not have the person answering your office main line ask, “May I tell her who is calling?” It immediately tells the caller they might or might not be important enough to get through to the person they are calling.  It really fries me when they ask what I am calling about. Here are the phone greeting skills many of us learned at Accountants’ Bootcamp years ago.

 

  • If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we'll turn out all right.
  • Jeff Bezos

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Apologies

If you have ever watched NCIS, you know that LeRoy Jethro Gibbs has a ruleNever apologize (it’s a sign of weakness).

He has a lot of rules but I don’t believe that one. It’s a rule I will never follow. I like Rule #51 better – “Sometimes you are wrong.”

Inside busy, growing CPA firms, people are often in a hurry, trying to save time, sometimes distracted and usually under pressure to get this done or that done. I used to have a magnetic sign in my office, hidden on the side of a metal file cabinet (yes, I had a file cabinet in my office for many years and yes, it disappeared eventually).

The sign was a bright red square with red letters: Sh*t Happens! Well, inside the type of firm referenced above Mistakes Happen! What matters most is how you deal with them.

What I hear from a lot of people working at CPA firms is that the first step is to blame someone. “Find out who did this!” is the battle cry. A lot of finger-pointing ensues and a lot of time is wasted.

Sometimes you are wrong. Always look forward and spend your time determining how to fix your processes, your systems so that it doesn’t happen again. I find that usually better communication will solve the problem.

With your clients, be absolutely honest and communicate immediately. “We made a mistake, I’m so sorry. We will remedy it right away.”

Attention firm leaders, apologizing to your employees is not a sign of weakness. It is good communication.

“I promised to get back to you on that issue by last Friday. I’m sorry. Here’s your answer.”

“We told you we would make a decision on the new software by November 1. I’m sorry we were not able to do that. More research is needed and we’ll have an answer by December 20th.”

“Back in the spring we promised to consider your request for closing on Fridays during the summer. As you have noticed, nothing happened in 2014. It is on the agenda for the first partner meeting in 2015.”

Owning up to being wrong on a specific point doesn’t mean you are always wrong. Owning up to being wrong, letting someone down is not a sign of weakness. Keep in mind that an apology has to be done right. Never forget that a lame apology can do more damage than good.

Rita’s Rule #5 – Do more apologizing.

 

  • Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
  • Kimberly Johnson

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Identify Future Leaders Early – Part I

Gary Boomer, is that you with Rita?Gary Boomer’s recent article in Accounting Today “hits the nail on the head,” so to speak. As usual, Boomer and I are on the same wave-length. His insight into what accounting firms should be doing and not doing is always right on-target. The theme of his recent article is “leaders should be identified early in their careers….”

Current firm leaders often tend to wait way too long to identify future leaders. They may be thinking to themselves, “Young Ted is really sharp. He grasps things so quickly and he can talk to clients in an enlightened and mature manner.” 

The trouble is, firm leaders don’t communicate to young Ted that he has what it takes to be a major player in the game of public accounting, along with an earnings potential to match.

Meanwhile, young Ted is restless. He wants more responsibility, he wants to mentor the new hires and interns, he wants to be assigned to the firm’s premier clients, he wants to learn directly from the best performing partners and he would like the chance to accompany a partner to a client meeting or lunch.

If Ted’s expectations are not met, he will move on to find career fulfillment elsewhere. Your competitors will hire him in a heart beat!

My theory is that most experienced accountants can almost immediately assess the future potential of a young person entering the accounting profession. Yet, they wait and often suffer through failures with struggling employees for way too long and hesitate to invest very quickly in education and development of all-stars.

Read Boomer’s article and see what you think. Check back tomorrow and I’ll list Boomer’s 10 characteristics to look for in identifying future leaders.

 

  • None of us is as smart as all of us.
  • Ken Blanchard