Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

If You Engage Them Maybe They Will Stay.

IMG_1109Most firms do a wide variety of things to keep great people at their firms. It, definitely has become more difficult during the recent talent wars. Every firm you compete with wants your people. Firms across the country want your people. And, these other firms will pay them more.

You have to do the chair massages, special coffee, ice cream socials, bowling events, mini-golf in the hallways….. the list goes on. Oh yes, your real employee benefit menu has to be up-to-date and generous…. great pay, plenty of PTO, holidays and insurance coverage and so on.

Many studies tell us they like all that but what they really want is communication and recognition. They want to know what is going on, what you expect and what their career path really looks like. They want to know someone cares about their development.

Asking one simple question can provide your firm with some very valuable information. Ask them in an individual conversation – What is the one thing we could change that would help you be more successful at your job?

  • You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, August 24th, 2015


Accountability is discussed often and written about frequently within the CPA profession. Partner accountability ranks as a top issue inside firms of all sizes, yet it continues to be one of those wishful thinking type issues. Most partner groups never come to terms with it.

You cannot hold people accountable if you don’t clearly spell-out the expectations. It even applies to something as basic as a firm courtesy policy. Sad to say, in this day and age, we have to set the expectations for basic good manners. The bottom line is that if you don’t spell out which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, you can’t hold people accountable for them.

For the partner group a partner commitment statement might be needed. For the entire firm, defining a courtesy policy, that applies to everyone, might be in order.

Here’s a sample:

CPA Firm Courtesy Policy
If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private.

Use positive conversation.
Blame a system not a person.
Apologize and make restitution if someone is upset by your actions.
When you talk about a person who is not present, speak as if they are listening to your conversation. Use the person’s name in each sentence in which you refer to them.
Speak very politely using a person’s name – – ‘please’ & ‘thank-you’ as a minimum.
Greet and farewell everyone by name and with eye contact.
Tell the truth.

  • You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Bridging The Gap


I am a member of The CPA Consultants’ Alliance.

During 2015, our membership has taken on a project of publishing a series of 15 blogs, written by individual members, around the central theme of Bridging the Gap-Strengthening the Connection Between Current and Emerging Leaders.

In her August 11th blog post, A Winning Culture Is An Intentional Culture, CPACA member Tamera Loerzel asks you to explore the following primary areas where Millennials are driving (and expect) change in firm culture:

  • Clear vision and direction
  • Engagement by upper-management
  • Leaders willing to change
  • Feedback and the desire to give it
  • Increased transparency – they want to know what, why and how
  • A 100% commitment towork efficiently using the latest IT and standard processes
  • An expectation that they’ll benefit from a learning and development investment
  • Flexibility and anytime, anywhere work (moving away from the time and place paradigm)

Be sure to read this entire blog post and the others in the series. The posts feature real stories from real CPA firms.

  • Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Top Issue! – C O M M U N I C A T I O N

I do a lot of survey work for CPA firms. Whether I am surveying partners prior to a retreat, facilitating an employee engagement survey or an upward feedback survey for firm leaders, one topic always ranks at or near top:


Yes, you need to work on that issue and there are a lot of action steps to take during the process. However, for today, I am listing for you some of the best quotes about communication. I hope these inspire you do DO SOMETHING about the communication within your firm.

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – – William Shakespeare

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – – Plato

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communicationn skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”- – Jim Rohn

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – – George Bernard Shaw

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – – Peter Drucker

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – – Voltaire

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and careeer success.” – – Paul J. Meyer

  • When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
  • Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Managing Remote Employees

More and more CPA firms are facing the challenge of how to effectively manage remote workers.

I hear many success stories of being able to retain talented professionals even if they have to relocate to another city or state…. or even country. Remote connectivity for all firm team members has solved that issue. They can actually do the client work no matter where they are sitting.

It’s all the other things that are troublesome. How do we communicate with them? How do we make them feel part of our daily routine? How do we build the camaraderie that people working side-by-side in an office feel? How to we infuse them with our culture?

These challenges will only grow and expand as we move into the future. There are several software solutions to help reinforce communication, teamwork and share work status. That’s just the first step.

Here’s a recent post by Randy Rayess on Fast Company: 3 Tips For Managing Remote Workers. While remote workers is something rather new for the CPA profession, it will be a major factor in the future for the CPA profession.

The 3 tips are:

  1. Just be compassionate
  2. Check in personally – even if you can’t physically
  3. Encourage team members to interact

Follow the link, above, to read more about each of the 3 tips.

  • To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.
  • Mike Krzyzewski

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

hands-typing-4In the world of public accounting, and in many other “worlds,” it is frowned upon when beginners make mistakes.

Managers and partners review the beginner’s work and gives them “review notes” that explain, specifically, what they did wrong. The beginner is expected to read the review notes, fix the mistake and respond. This exchange of information (a form of teaching) is almost always without any face-to-face contact or conversation.

I worked in a firm for many years, we used this system. One partner had the reputation of the review note King. He would document an enormous number of review notes (think 50 or 60)! Part of the official process was to have a face-to-face conversation about the review notes once the exchange of information had happened.

That part (the actual verbal discussion) usually was eliminated or forgotten because the “teacher” was too busy. Not just by one reviewer but by all reviewers.

Yes, review notes can be a teaching tool. However, it might be time to rethink how it actually occurs inside your firm. It doesn’t mean at the end of the process, you send them an email!

Do you have an educational culture that doesn’t deplore mistakes but uses them to encourage and explain what lesson has been learned from the experience? If not, it may be a process that needs to be updated, modernized and improved. Get busy.

  • I think someone should explain to the child that it's OK to make mistakes. That's how we learn. When we compete, we make mistakes.   
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Monday, August 10th, 2015

No Email. No Meetings. No Managers. Maybe You Should Think About It?

I know that most CPAs firms live and die by email. Most CPA firms also have way too many meetings.

My mission is to bring you new ideas. Some are a slam-dunk. The idea makes sense to you, you discuss it and give it a try. Sometimes, magic happens!

Some ideas are more “out there” for CPAs (like an open office, no limit vacation policies, 3-word performance review systems and so on). Some are WAAAAAY out there for CPAs, thought-provoking things to at least seriously contemplate and maybe even experiment with.

For instance, no internal email, no meetings, no managers. Just take the time to read this article about a tech company (yes, I know, tech companies are different) – so are CPA firms.

What if you communicated internally in real-time? What if you used a control panel type software that gave you access to all projects (client engagements and other work) and you could see what has been done from beginning to end of the project?

Read about how they eliminated meetings. A meeting is an interruption, usually to find out how everyone is doing on their assigned projects. What if you had fewer interruptions and could continually get more done? You could have a 4-day work week like this tech company.

Then there are the managers. I have long thought that the title manager inside a CPA firm is very misleading. We don’t teach them how to manage. They become a manager because they stay with the firm long enough, doing work they are proficient at. Here’s an excerpt from the article: “Lastly, we determined over a year ago that we wanted to work without managers. Now we do not need someone to control our progress, because everything is online and visible to all of our workmates — which project we are working on, how we are handling it technically, how long it is taking us, what resources we are using, and what results we have achieved.”

Just contemplate what pieces of this, or variations of this, might just fly inside your progressive firm.

  • There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Performance Management

The Importance of Developing & Retaining Team Members

CPA firms employ many new college graduates. The first two to three years are not easy for them. There is so much to learn that they did not learn in college. Some progress rapidly, some more slowly and some struggle.

The same three speeds often apply to the more experienced team members in your firm. Perhaps, an all-star has hit a plateau, stalled and may be in a decline.

It is a challenging situation for managers, partners and supervisors, wIMG_0972hen they feel like the team member has potential but it is going untapped. One important tool that can help illuminate upward movement in the person’s career path is the use of a specific Development Plan.

The Development Plan is not part of the normal goal-setting process. That needs to continue. The Development Plan is separate and distinct. It is the result of a candid discussion and outlines the steps that need to be taken. The manager and the team member, along with a third party (usually the firm administrator/COO, HR director or managing partner in smaller firms) meet with the team member for a very open and honest discussion that results in the firm committing to help the team members face obstacles and make forward progress.

August Aquila, Aquila Global Advisors, recently provided a sample Performance Development/Improvement Plan in his newsletter.

You can also see a sample of a Development Plan that I used when I was working at a growing firm.

  • There is always stuff to work on. You are never there.
  • Tiger Woods

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

A Simple Marketing Strategy

I hope you read Seth Godin’s blog every day. I admire how he can use a few words to say something impactful.

Here’s an image of his website. Clean, simple message: GO. Make something happen. Seth GodinDoesn’t it seem similar to the message I continually communicate to you, CPAs in public practice: Do Things!

Here’s his blog post from August 1 – I hope you think about it.

Yes!, please and thank you

Don’t jerk people around

Here’s a simple marketing strategy for a smaller company trying to compete in a big-company world: Choose your customers, trust them, treat them well.

Say yes.

Bend the rules.

Show up on time.

Keep your promises.

Don’t exert power merely because you can.

Be human, be kind, pay attention, smile.

Not everyone deserves this sort of treatment, not everyone will do their part to be the kind of customer you can delight and serve. But that’s okay, you don’t need everyone.

When in doubt, be the anti-airline.

Key phrases and points for growing your CPA firm: Smaller firms can compete with larger firms. Choose your clients well, don’t just take anyone you meet. Not every client measures up. You don’t need everyone.

Check out his new book, What To do When It’s Your Turn. I bought a dozen copies and sent them to friends.


  • Let men be wise by instinct if they can, but when this fails be wise by good advice.
  • Sophocles

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Type A vs. Type B

I often hear people describe their managing partner as a “Type A” personality. I also hear people describe another partner, a tax partner for example, as a “Type B”.

Hubspot’s blog post on this topic is helpful and amusing. I know inside accounting firms, there is a real mixture of personality types and they, hopefully, all work together as a well-oiled machine. If everyone were alike, nothing would get accomplished.

So, this weekend enjoy Hubspot’s explanation of A and B.

Here’s how the two break down:

  • Type As are the “go-getters.” They tend to be more ambitious, organized, time-oriented, impatient, and tend to stress themselves out by taking on more than they can handle.
  • Type Bs, by contrast, are more relaxed and low-stress. They tend to be more patient, steadier, more creative, enjoy achievement more, and don’t get wrapped up in details.

Thanks to for this graphic.

a/b personality types

  • Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.
  • Washington Irving