Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, April 28th, 2017

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Because of all the concerns about cybersecurity and the opportunity that it provides for CPAs to provide cybersecurity-related assurance services, I wanted to share a press release from the AICPA this week.

AICPA Unveils Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework

Voluntary Engagement Will Help Companies and Auditors Communicate Cyber Risk Readiness

NEW YORK (April 26, 2017) – At a time when organizations around the world are facing cybersecurity attacks, it is more important than ever for them to demonstrate to key stakeholders the extent and effectiveness of their cybersecurity risk management efforts. To help businesses meet this growing challenge, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has introduced a market-driven, flexible and voluntary cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.

“Cybersecurity threats are escalating, thereby unnerving boards of directors, managers, investors and customers of businesses of all sizes – whether public or private,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, AICPA executive vice president for public practice. “While there are many methods, controls and frameworks for developing cybersecurity risk management programs, until now there hasn’t been a common language for companies to communicate about, and report on, these efforts.”

The AICPA’s new framework will enable all organizations – in industries worldwide – to take a proactive and agile approach to cybersecurity risk management and to communicate on those activities with stakeholders. Two resources that support reporting under the framework are being released today:

  • Description criteria – For use by management in explaining its cybersecurity risk management program in a consistent manner and for use by CPAs to report on management’s description.
  • Control criteria – Used by CPAs providing advisory or attestation services to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the controls within a client’s program.

A third resource for CPAs will be available in May:

  • Attest guide – This guidance, Reporting on an Entity’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Controls, will be published next month to assist CPAs engaged to examine and report on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program.

Building on CPAs’ experience in auditing information technology controls, the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee identified the emerging need for cybersecurity-related assurance services. The goal was to enable companies to more effectively communicate the robustness of their cybersecurity risk management programs to key stakeholders.

“The framework we have developed will serve as a critical step to enabling a consistent, market-based mechanism for companies worldwide to explain how they’re managing cybersecurity risk,” Coffey explained. “We believe investors, boards, audit committees and business partners will see tremendous value in gaining a better understanding of organizations’ cybersecurity risk management efforts. That information, combined with the CPA’s opinion on the effectiveness of management’s efforts, will increase stakeholders’ confidence in organizations’ due care and diligence in managing cybersecurity risk.”

For more information and links to valuable resources for CPAs providing cybersecurity advisory and assurance services, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.

  • Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward.
  • Maxwell Maltz

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

The Old Way Comes Back As The New Way

Many of you can remember when we had paper “in boxes” on our desks. We also had “out boxes”. Mail, memos, and other miscellaneous communication documents were placed in our in-box by our secretary (remember that word?). The same person emptied our out-box and distributed our notes, memos and job assignments to the proper person within the firm.

Often the in-box contained items that we would place in a “do it later pile.” That pile on our desk could attain dangerous heights.

Then, many of us learned how to handle each piece of paper that came into our office mostly via the in-box. The trick was to only handle it once – not to put it in a stack with other things we intended to deal with later. Concerning each document we were to Act, File, Delegate or Trash – no “deal with it later” labels were allowed.

Now we are in the age of handling the multitude of items that appear in our digital in-box. In a recent article via Fast Company, Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, sums up his email approach as “read, act, file or delete.” By limiting his options he is able to clear his in-box daily without the help of an assistant. Smith notes, “It requires real commitment.”

If the CEO of Intuit can master his in-box, I bet you can do it, too!

Another option is NOT TO SEND many emails and thus, you will receive fewer in reply.

Here’s another email comment from Simon Sinek. “A five minute call replaces the time it takes to read and reply to the original email and read and reply to their reply.. or replies. And I no longer spend 20+ minutes crafting the perfect email – no need to.”

To avoid phone tag, I always make telephone appointments with people who wish to discuss things with me.

 

  • Social media presents an opportunity for business people to connect and know each other prior to a phone call or email taking place.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

What You May Have Missed This Last Week

The following is just a quick recap of my blog topics from this week. Perhaps you were too busy with last minute tax issues and then too busy celebrating the end of tax season to read some of these:

Monday, April 17th – Just for Fun – Taglines & Slogans (What’s your firm’s tagline?)

Tuesday, April 18th – What Will You Do Next Week? (Go ahead and recover after busy season…. but make it quick.)

Wednesday, April 19th – Virtual Employees Made Easier (The rise of the robot!)

Thursday, April 20th – Success in the CPA Profession (Now it is time to live in the real world – not home, not high school, not college. It is the world of work.)

Friday, April 21st – International Understanding (All CPAs, young or old should have some understanding of international issues, tax, etc.)

Scroll down this webpage and read about these topics, then do some other reading this weekend. Reading is a big part of life-long learning.

  • The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being.
  • Lee Iacocca

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Virtual Employees Made Easier

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

In case you missed it, I wanted give you a link to an article in the latest issue of Accounting Today – Rise of the robot. It’s pretty cool.

We have been talking about remote and virtual employees and how to deal with them for several years now. Things continually evolve and firms are learning how to manage the ever-changing world of employee engagement and retention.

beam_pro_sizedOne firm, Navolio & Tallman featured in the article, is now using a machine called the Beam mobile presence system as their mobile conference set-up for individuals working virtually.

Think of the episode of Big Bang where Sheldon wants to protect his body from the hazards of the world and begins using a virtual presence machine.

Check out the article and the pictures. It also proves that you don’t have to be a humongous firm to do some very creative things. N&T has 3 partners and 18 people.

The firm’s work-from-home culture is thriving. They have a compressed work week, after April 15. Employees work 9 hours a day Monday through Thursday, and work from home Friday with the day ending at noon. During tax season, staff members do work on Saturdays, but they can do that from home as well.

I believe the best message for retaining top talent is simple. Invest in technology.

 

  • It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
  • Albert Einstein

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Just for Fun – Taglines and Slogans

“Semper fidelis” – Marine Corps motto

I think everyone knows who you mean when you refer to the tagline – Just do it! Can the people working inside your firm quickly recite your tagline? It is something familiar to your clients?

Just for fun, here are some famous taglines from over the years. I bet you can remember the company using the tagline:

  • Finger Lickin’ Good
  • The king of beers
  • Because I’m worth it
  • Let your fingers do the walking
  • Don’t leave home without it
  • M’m! M’m! Good!
  • Where’s the beef
  • The ultimate driving machine
  • Got milk?
  • We try harder
  • The happiest place on earth

More fun…. thanks to Accounting Today, I found a list of CPA firm taglines. Many incorporate the words:  Numbers, add, and passion.

  • Beyond the numbers
  • Strength in numbers
  • It all adds up
  • Our strength. Your numbers.
  • The passion to unlock potential
  • Passion works here
  • Turning vision into value
  • Delivering on the promise
  • Your success is our business
  • See beyond the numbers

For even more fun, here are some law firm taglines:

  • We take it personally
  • Solving your legal puzzle
  • Law. Life. Passion.
  • Right there with you
  • Getting it done
  • Results. Period.
  • Unusually good
  • Fewer lawyers. Bigger impact.
  • Small but mighty
  • Ready for trial!
  • We make the complex simple
  • Putting imagination to work

My firm used “Pushing the Possibilities.” How about your firm? I hope you have something catchy!

  • Slogans rarely convince the unconvinced. However, they do rally the troops already on your side.
  • John McCarthy

Friday, April 14th, 2017

A Short, Simple Message For Friday

“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” -Rachel Wolchin

 

Words matter.

  • Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Your Cultural Norm

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes it is the little things that make up what your firm culture is really like.

  • When a client has left a voice message for you to call them back, do you do it right away or procrastinate for a day or more?
  • Partners often short-cut firm processes.
  • When the front desk person is really busy and the phone rings more than three times, does almost everyone ignore it?
  • When the coffee pot is empty, the last person simply puts it back on the burner and walks away.
  • When the printer is out of paper, the next user simply decides to use another printer rather than load paper.
  • When a client is sitting in the lobby, employees pass through and just ignore them.
  • Yes, when there is no toilet paper left on the roll in the wash room, it is simply ignored by most people.

Or, do you really have a culture of caring, teamwork and passion for the firm?

  • Client calls are returned (almost always) within 4 to 6 hours.
  • No one dodges an incoming telephone call.
  • All partners set a good example.
  • Partners and team members never hesitate to pick up trash in the parking lot.
  • Everyone cleans up messes in the lunch room and makes coffee.
  • “It’s not my job” is never even a fleeting thought among the team.
  • Someone occasionally brings in Starbucks coffee and treats for the lunch room.
  • People seem almost anxious to tell outsiders where they work and how great it is.
  • Partners return reviewed jobs within a day or let you know why they can’t and when it will be returned.

Just contemplating, this morning, how firm cultures are built. If you don’t help build a firm culture one will form anyway – on its own – and it might not be what you want it to be.

  • Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.
  • Edward Abbey

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Pay Attention!

“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Often, blamed on being too busy, you don’t often actually see things, people, opportunities, and even dangers.

Are you too distracted to see the things happening around you? Do you really see your family? Do you really see and understand the challenges of your newest team members?

I urge you, as a firm leader, to be alert to a top performer who is slowly becoming NOT a top performer, a loyal manager who seems more distant, a partner who seems to be jogging in place or a family member who is often too silent.

Make it a practice to not just look at people, opportunities and yourself but to keep your eyes and senses open to what might be going on at a deeper level.

  • Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that's important. Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.
  • Dalai Lama

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

You Should Have Already Learned This…

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

What should you have learned? Not to write L O N G emails.

This applies to partners, the accounting team, the admin team, the marketing team, the HR team, the tech team – yes, everyone working at an accounting firm.

I would always cringe when I received a very important email from our tech team, written by the IT manager and it was SO long. I knew people would not read it completely.

Often, you want to communicate something to everyone – maybe it is an important tax development or a major change to a long standing process.

Call a stand-up meeting if you have to but don’t expect that people will read an email. Many people don’t even read short emails, depending on who it comes from!

Learn more about this from our good friend Dilbert – here.

  • Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
  • Mother Theresa

Friday, March 31st, 2017

A Simple Message for CPA Firm Leaders

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Here is Seth Godin’s blog post from yesterday:

All we have to do is be the person we say we are

No need to shop for a better you, or to work overtime to make bigger promises.

Keeping the promises we’ve already made is sufficient.

It is a clear, simple, meaningful message. It applies to all levels of people inside an accounting firm.

I think it is especially meaningful for CPA firm partners.  There are many partners who make promises to the team fully intending to keep those promises. Then life unfolds, things get busy, fulfilling the promise becomes more difficult than expected and it is soon put on the back burner.

Sometimes it is something very simple… “I’ll take you along the next time I have a meeting with Big Jones Client.” Then it doesn’t happen.

Sometimes it is something very important… “We are going to revamp our performance feedback process to make it more timely and more meaningful.” Then is doesn’t happen.

When I ask a room full of CPA firm team members, “Who is it at your firm that does not follow the processes and procedures?” The answer is always the same, “The partners!”

I really like one item from a sample Partner Commitment Statement furnished by Sam Allred of Upstream Academy:

“I will do what I say I will do, on time, without reminders.”

  • Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
  • Robert Fulghum