Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Invest In The Success Of Your Managing Partner

Once upon a time, there was a young, ambitious managing partner passionate about growing the CPA firm he had been selected to lead. He, of course, was good at the numbers. He monitored all the MAP stats and was a strong supporter of going to great lengths to grow and retain top talent. He set a good example for the CPAs at the firm….. he billed timely and always collected all of the A/R associated with the clients assigned to him. It was a very rare occurrence if he was late entering his daily time.

As the firm grew, more partners were were brought in and it became necessary for the MP to give up some of his clients so that he could give more attention to managing the firm (and the partners).

At a partner retreat, after a lot of dialogue and self-exploration by all the individual partners, they asked the MP to find more time to mentor THEM. He humbly replied, “I’m not sure I know how. I have to get more training and education.”

And, he did.

(Leading Professional Service Firms – Executive Training Program at Harvard)

  • Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Helping Your Clients Succeed

CPA firms have all kinds of reasons why they are in the professional service business. We call it a mission, a vision, a purpose and some firm leaders spend a whole lot of time trying to define it with fancy words and catchy phrases.

I like to simplify, so I just refer to your mission in three words: Help clients succeed.

Helping clients is so much more than preparing an annual tax return or performing the annual audit. It is even more than helping them keep their books clean and up-to-date.

You, as a CPA, have a huge challenge – you sell something that no one wants!  Who simply can’t wait to get their taxes prepared or what company loves it when the auditors come in?

What they do want is more of you…. more advice, a sounding-board, an idea person… someone they can go to when they have a question.

Are you proactive? Are you reading what they are reading? Do you know what trends “out there” you should be informing them about? Do you send them links to great articles that they should read?

Here’s a simple example… I recently became aware of a site that helps small business owners find the right software – The have free calculators, such as an SBA Loan Calculator, that you can embed or share with your clients.

Always be searching for ways you can Help Clients Succeed.


  • Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You'd be amazed how many companies don't listen to their customers.
  • Ross Perot

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Helping Your New Accounting Recruits & Interns Rock Their New Job

Have you checked-out Slideshare? If you are in a leadership position in a CPA firm, you need all the resources you can get. I’m always on the prowl for things that will be helpful to you to build a winning culture and a winning firm.

I really like this slide deck (My First 90 Days), on LinkedIn Pulse that is intended to help newbies make the most of their first 90 days on the job.

Starting a new job can be daunting. It’s time to meet your colleagues, impress your boss, get into the rhythm of your new role. So how should a newbie navigate those first 90 days?

There are only 14 slides that provide links to 8 posts on advice aimed a surviving a new job. The eight titles:

  1. Start working before Day One
  2. You can’t fix it right away
  3. Say yes to everything
  4. Ask your coworkers to lunch
  5. Listen to everyone you meet
  6. Make your boss look good (includes quote from Guy Kawasaki: “Either you rise to the top together, or crash and burn together.”)
  7. Take care of yourself first
  8. Don’t try to be the golden child

This is not just for newbies. CPA partners and managers need to read these posts, too. I frequently remind partners in accounting firms, “Don’t forget what it was like to be the new kid!” Most experienced partners admit they were lost, confused and clueless.

  • Make yourself available, work hard, and over time you will make yourself indispensable.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The Ability To Recognize Emotions In Others

I mention emotional intelligence fairly often. That is because CPAs have the reputation for ranking fairly low on the emotional intelligence scale.

The experts tell us (Daniel Goleman, author) that emotional intelligence consists of five competencies:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

I urge you to learn more about it and focus on how it plays out inside your busy CPA firm. It is essential to a productive work environment.

It does not mean you are simply nice to everyone and always pleasant. It means that you can confront others in a constructive way when problems arise. It doesn’t mean you are visibly emotional, it means you are in control of your emotions and to recognize emotions in others.

I bet that accountants reading this right now are not liking it much. I find most of them do not want to address the “warm and fuzzy” stuff. Usually, it is the simple fact that accountants think more along the lines of “business is business and personal is personal.”

In a recent article on Fast Company, Yongmei Liu, an associate professor at Illinois State University’s College of Business is quoted as follows. “A leader who has a high degree of emotional intelligence can recognize when his or her followers are not in the right emotional state to perform well.” – That would sure be helpful as you go through tax season!

Read more about it here. – article is titled, Why Emotionally Intelligent People Make More Money (maybe that got your attention).


  • It isn't stress that makes us fall - it's how we respond to stressful events.
  • Wayde Goodall

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Get Serious About Retaining People

Your firm had some fairly significant turnover in 2014.

You spent a lot of time on hiring people to take their place.

That means this busy season will not be as efficient and profitable because your experienced people will be slowed down by training the newbies.

In the CPA firm world, people really get productive at about their third year with the firm. According to research about the millennials (employees under age 35), if they are not completely happy at the 3-year mark, they will change jobs without guilt or hesitation.

If you have created a culture where people want to stay and BUILD their career, you have a competitive advantage over the firm down the street. I’m not talking about keeping mediocre performers who are comfortable with coasting along for many years. I’m talking about young people who have the desire to advance. Sure, not everyone wants to advance and make their way up the career ladder, but if you have some with the desire – show them the way!

Horne, LLP has person with the title of “People FIRST Director.” How about you?

  • Only undertake what you can do in an excellent fashion. There are no prizes for average performance.
  • Brian Tracy

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Want That Promotion?

I find it very interesting how CPA firm partner groups decide on who gets a promotion and when they get a promotion.

This is a VERY important topic for women in accounting (WIA). It is also VERY important for men who are making promotion decisions.

You see, most women are raised to believe that they will get rewards, promotions, salary increases and so on simply because they do good work…. even excellent work. Wrong…

There is a lot of research out there on how men and women communicate. It tells us, that in general, men mistake some of the ways women communicate as showing a lack of self-confidence. Women don’t brag about their work or their accomplishments. (Toot their own horn.) Yet, it is fairly common among men and widely accepted.

My advice is for WIA to look in the mirror – – Do you look good? How’s your posture? How do you sound when you talk? Learn to enhance your image of self-confidence. You have it inwardly but how do you look to others?

To avoid miscommunication – Think before you speak and ask for what you want.

I observe that CPA firm partners often are looking for, and want, qualities in future partners that they don’t actually possess themselves.

Women, as you proceed with building your career, here a good quote to keep in mind. You should also read the book.

“When decisions are made about promotion to management positions, the qualities sought are a high level of competence, decisiveness, and ability to lead. If it is men who are making the decisions about promotions, they are likely to misinterpret women’s ways of talking as showing indecisiveness, inability to assume authority and even incompetence.” – – Deborah Tannen, author of Talking from 9 to 5

  • I determine to render more and better service, each day, than I am being paid to render. Those that reach the top are the ones who are not content with doing only what is required of them.
  • Og Mandino

Monday, January 5th, 2015

We Should Talk About It – But We Don’t

Today’s title is a statement I hear from managing partners of CPA firms over and over again. It comes from all size firms in all areas of the country.

It’s a topic that could lead to…..  Yes! Honesty, discomfort, disagreement and even confrontation. – – Something many CPA partners avoid.

They often tell me, “We’ll put that one off for now and talk about it next year.”  My advice: If you need to address partner compensation do it THIS YEAR – maybe not in January but definitely in late April or May. Get it changed so that it goes into effect 1/1/16.

Perhaps this excerpt from Marc Rosenberg’s year-end recap will be helpful to those of you facing a change in partner compensation:

Partner compensation
The exodus from formula comp systems to compensation committees continues. Partners have come to understand that (1) formulas encourage behaviors that are harmful to the firm such as hoarding clients, partners performing staff-level work vs. delegating and partners working as silos vs. working as a team and (2) the comp committee is the best system for balancing the value of traditional production metrics vs. intangibles such as mentoring staff, managing the firm, loyalty and teamwork.

There’s an amazing disconnect between the allocation of partner compensation and what firms need most from their partners. The lion’s share of firm income is and always has been allocated based on two factors: bringing in business and billable hours. The near total emphasis on these and other production factors virtually ignores the importance of developing, training, mentoring and retaining staff, efforts at which most partners agree are just as important as clients.

  • If you're not learning while you're earning, you're cheating yourself out of the better portion of your compensation.
  • Napoleon Hill

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Bad News Hurts

IMG_4634I am reading Seth Godin’s new book, What To do When It’s Your Turn.

On one page he uses a quote from Andre Agassi on how it feels to lose:

“But I don’t feel that Wimbledon changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I’ve been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”

All of us avoid bad feelings. It’s harder to get a No than it is to get a Yes. That’s why so many CPAs avoid marketing, sales, practice development. What if they say No? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something wrong during that speech? What if someone gives me a Thumbs Down on Facebook? What if they disagree with my tweet about that tax issue?

As Godin states, “No wonder we don’t want to speak up or stand up or do anything much that matters. We’ve persuaded ourselves that good feelings aren’t even close to outweighing bad ones.

My advice? Get over it! The more you do the better you get. The more you risk (and it doesn’t have to be much), the more gratifying the rewards.

I used to be afraid, embarrassed, hesitant.. whatever, when it came to asking what I thought would be a dumb question. Wow, I have sure learned a lot over the years and one of the most important lessons is always ask if you don’t understand, if you don’t know, or if you want to know more. I subscribe to Tom Peter’s quote: I shall lead the league in asking dumb questions.

  • Don't be afraid to ask dumb questions. They're more easily handled than dumb mistakes.
  • William Wister Haines

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Inspiring Quotes For CPA Leaders

I’ve been reading some Drucker stuff – you know, Peter F. Drucker, known as “the founder of modern management”.

Here are some quotations from Drucker that I hope you will contemplate as you begin your week:

“Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

  • Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Friday, December 26th, 2014

How Much Are You Using Your Voicemail?

I posted something last year about the decline of voicemail. When I mention this during some of my presentations to accountants in public practice, they gasp.

Many accountants (and their clients) still live by leaving a voice message and then playing phone-tag for a couple of days. Many accountants instruct their Director of First Impressions to “put them into my voice mail”. I contend that it is often a way for some accountants to avoid talking with clients and others.

Recently, Coca-Cola’s office voice mail at the headquarters in Atlanta was disconnected. Put out to pasture, so to speak. An internal memo said that it was shut down “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity”.

Times have changed. Most people under 35 (even 40) rarely use voice mail.

I don’t expect CPA firms to quickly shut-down their voice mail systems but I do expect all of you to begin frequently using the new ways of communicating, such as texting. I know many experienced, mature CPAs who are using texts extensively.



  • For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.
  • Johnny Carson