Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, July 21st, 2014

The Little Things Can Make You Happy

Sometimes in our work-a-day world we get stressed. Sometimes we get very tired. Sometimes we get annoyed by people. Sometimes we get disappointed, in ourselves and in others. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we get rushed. Sometimes we get our feelings hurt. Sometimes we feel unappreciated.

But, many times we feel happy. It can come from some of the littlest things…. someone shows appreciation, you receive recognition, someone says “thank-you,” you spend time with business colleagues who help you learn, someone smiles at you, your boss says, “good morning,” you get an email from an old friend…

Working with CPA firms I always recommend, IF you want to create a winning firm, one where young people will want to stay and build their careers and one where people feel joy in serving the clients, just remember that the little things can make the biggest difference.

A little thing happened to me last week. It came via social media. I tweeted about my participation in Advance 2014: The Accounting Career Summit and how pleased I was that on the agenda for the week I am listed right above Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay To Be The Boss and Not Everyone Gets A Trophy and many more. You know how often I recommend these books to you! If you want a copy of my 2014 Read List (for CPAs and their teams) you can download it here.

Well, Bruce Tulgan replied to my tweet! Sometimes little things can make you very happy.

What are you doing for the people in your work life (and home life)?

Screenshot 2014-07-19 07.26.03

  • Scheduling flexibility is the single greatest non-financial tool - and the number-one dream-job factor - at your disposal for winning battles in the talent wars. Use it.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – 20 Years Ago Something Amazing Happened

This past week an amazing anniversary was observed. Twenty years ago on July 16th, The Three Tenors gave a one-night only show at the Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium that was watched by a billion people worldwide. This concert permanently altered how a large amount of classical music is presented, packaged and sold.

The concert was timed to coincide with the Brazil-Italy World Cup final being held the next day at the Rose Bowl. Read about the concert via NPR.

Here’s a short video. I can watch it over and over.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what they are saying/singing – their voices, their presence, their joy in sharing their skills, the audience reaction… all make for a wonderful 5 minutes.

Bookmark this video. Then in the heart of your next busy season – watch this for 5 minutes when you are feeling stressed and over-whelmed. I know it makes me feel energized.

Well, if you are a Seinfeld fan, you know it is Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and the other guy.

  • I'm like the Phoenix rising out of Arizona.
  • Frank Costanza

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Kindness, Toughness & Honesty For Women In Accounting

IMG_1112Yesterday, there was a post on the Ohio Society Women’s Initiative Committee LinkedIn site titled, The False Choice Between Kindness and Success.

The topic of women in business being “nice” and “kind” and how it might hold them back, is certainly a valid discussion topic.

I believe that kindness and toughness go hand in hand. If you are kind, build relationships and win people’s loyalty, they will come to understand that some toughness, and honesty, must go along with the kindness. It is the way I have always operated.

The honesty aspect also plays into this topic. This quote from the article says so much relating to the CPA profession:I think people just want straight talk. It saves time and in the end, it is honest. That is the bottom line. Everything else is meaningless if you don’t have honesty. Be honest and true to yourself. And from there, we can do anything.” 

Absolute honesty is often avoided inside CPA firms because it can be a tough discussion. Yet, CPA firm employees crave honesty. I observe so many male (and female) CPAs avoiding being honest because it might lead to confrontation or to uncomfortable conversations. People see right through it – not being completely honest and coming across as self-serving is a losing combination.

To me it is a false choice, as the title of the article reflects. You do not have to choose between kindness and success. In my situation as a CPA management consultant, I know I do not win “jobs” because I am a woman. I have even heard feedback that other, male consultants have actually told potential clients that “Rita is too nice.” Give me honesty and kindness any day and results will follow.


  • Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
  • Samuel Johnson

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Beware Of Too Many Exceptions

Once, when I was doing my normal thing – asking questions about what is really going-on inside a CPA firm, an IT manager working for the busy, growing and successful CPA firm remarked to me:

“We develop great policies and procedures but we are asked to operate by exception.”

When I explored this comment, the devoted staffer offered an example. We made a policy to allow each person (including partners) a certain amount of space to retain emails and personal data. When “Jim Partner” exceeded his allotment I was instructed by the COO to give this particular partner more space because “he has lots of special stuff he wants to retain”. 

I noticed that the description was “wants” to retain, not “needs” to retain. The IT manager continued to explain that one by one, most managers and partners were allowed more space because they whined about it to the COO and MP.

My message to you, if you are a professional managing an accounting firm, is DO NOT make a policy if partners (or others) are not going to follow it and leadership is not going to enforce it. 

Honestly, the staff observe this behavior.. smile and shake their heads. It’s just another policy whim of the partner group that will quickly disappear from the radar and things will go back to how they were before the policy was unveiled.

Partners, if you are contemplating a new policy or procedure and every partner does not openly commit to adherence to the policy, argue it out behind closed doors in the partner meeting. Negotiate with each other until it is acceptable. THEN roll it out. There are always instances where exceptions are well-founded. Just be cautious.

Also, when you unveil a new policy (hopefully, you have had input from all levels of staff in your firm), do it with a “test it” qualifier.  ”We have a new policy regarding collecting our receivables. We will test it for six months, if it proves to be ineffective, we’ll try something else. We welcome your feedback.”

Don’t ever be afraid of failure. Try things! Do things! Don’t let fear hold you back. During my tenure inside a growing firm, a line I often used was, “Well, that didn’t work so well. Let’s try something else.”


  • Nature provides exceptions to every rule.
  • Margaret Fuller

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Winning The CPA Talent Wars – Gather Information and Study It

Want to create a culture of employee engagement? That means a culture where people are passionate about their work and their firm. They care. They feel like owners whether they are actually an equity owner or not.

As a leader, owner, partner.. how well do you know your people? Sometimes I think that firm administrators and HR managers are much better at knowing the people who work at the firm much better than the owners.

If you are a boss (partner, manager, firm administrator) inside a CPA firm, employees working for the firm want to know you better AND they want to be noticed by you. Yes, you are busy with your “outside” clients but you can’t serve them very well without your “inside” clients.

Develop a list of questions that are appropriate for your firm and use it with every person to get to know them better. Sales people use such question lists to know their clients better than their competition knows their clients. Harvey Mackay even developed a listing o 66 questions (you can download his version) for sales people.

Here’s some suggestions for a CPA firm version:

  • Name
  • Hire date
  • Where they live 
  • Where they grew-up
  • Spouse name 
  • Names of children:
  • Firm anniversary date
  • High school – year graduated 
  • College – year graduated 
  • Sports participated in at college 
  • College fraternity or other activities 
  • Military service 
  • Spouse’s occupation 
  • Spouse’s interests 
  • Previous employer 
  • What community/charitable organizations interest them 
  • Favorite place for lunch
  • Favorite place for dinner 
  • Hobbies or recreational activities 
  • Favorite type of music
  • Favorite place to vacation 
  • Favorite professional/college sports teams 
  • What kind of car do they drive

Do other firms, trying to hire this person away from you, have better information than you do?

The work begins after you gather all the information. Now you must study it and be able to ask them about their family, comment on their sports team winning or losing, ask them to lunch and go to their favorite place and so on. This list and your behavior could make your firm a place where people are truly engaged, passionate, productive and proud.

  • If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.
  • Harvey Mackay

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In A CPA Firm – It’s All About Your People & Your Culture

Nav Cultural WatersAAASo far in 2014, I have been asked, several times, to talk to CPAs and their team members about creating a culture that counts. Cultural waters, in a growing CPA firm, can be difficult to navigate.

If you ignore creating a culture, you will have one anyway.

It forms on its own and it might turn out to be something that you do not want your firm to represent.

I bet you have heard other CPA firms described as “a sweat shop firm,” or “a country club firm.”

Top talent wants to be part of a lively, successful firm that deals with prosperous, entrepreneurial clients. Hiring experts are encouraging young talent to assess the culture of a prospective employer, to ask direct questions about the firm’s culture.

There is an interesting article on the Forbes site titled, “10 Signs That a Company Has A Serious Culture Problem” by Shane Atchison. Check it out.

Here’s my take on some of the 10 Signs that young people interviewing at your firm might heed:

  • As you enter the office, look along the sightlines. If you see boxes sitting in the aisles, chairs piled with papers or folder, they probably don’t care about their office.
  • A workplace should hum. Some people should be up, moving around, and talking to one another. People should not seem bored or stressed.
  • It’s five o’clock and everyone is buried in work. Schedule your interview late in the day and see how many people are working late. If it is a few, that is okay, but some should be heading home.

Reflect on how people talk about your firm and your culture. You can bet that the spouses of your employees have a description of your firm in their mind.

Leaders can enlist the participation of employees to help create a culture so people talk about your firm as being…. the cool firm, the growing firm, the family-friendly firm, the creative firm, the kind firm, the progressive firm, the diverse firm, the flexible firm or the unique firm…. “They don’t seem like an accounting firm.”

  • When you lavish praise on people they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Get To Know The People You Know

As you work with people inside your CPA firm, with all of your various clients, the people in your business community, those at your state CPA society, people affiliated with your CPA firm association and so on…. Get to know them better.

IMG_3829Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with a couple of people you may know – Steve Sacks and Alexandra DeFelice. Steve is Executive Director and Alexandra is a Senior Manager with Moore Stephens North America, a premiere accounting association. I have known them both for several years but I had never really spent much time talking with them and learning more about Moore Stephens and about what their roles really encompass.

I enjoyed our conversation so much (we laughed a lot!), that I wanted to feature them on my blog. So, I asked them to respond to a few questions without seeing each others’ responses. They both have busy, challenging roles and I wanted them to share what it’s like working with each other and handling all of the various duties of a prominent accounting firm association.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Alexandra: Learning from all the creative, entrepreneurial members both domestically and internationally. Often the most interesting discoveries have nothing to do with their current roles.  Helping people. We have created a system of “rapid response” and our members seem genuinely appreciative of our attentiveness.

Steve: Working with many different personalities and their goals that comprise our membership, and leveraging these differences to develop initiatives that benefit our organization and its member firms

What makes you laugh at work?

Alexandra: I think I crack myself up, because if you can’t laugh at yourself, you take yourself too seriously. Besides, someone has to laugh at my lame jokes and Steve’s are lamer than mine.

Steve: The “what” is really the “who.” That would be my colleague, Alexandra.

What makes your association attractive to members?

Alexandra: People join Moore Stephens for two main reasons: To refer work to one another to compete with the large, national firms, and to share best practices and ideas with one another. It’s a way of extending that trip down the hallway to bounce ideas off one of your colleagues across the nation and the globe. While the firms are independent, our members are quite fraternal and care about the success of each of our firms and the organization as a whole.

Steve: Two things come to mind: 1) The openness and willingness of our members to share ideas with one another – even those who operate in the same geographic market; and 2) the role that headquarters plays in providing rapid, relevant responses and communications and ideas to members to help grow their practices.

Alexandra – describe Steve in two sentences.

Steve is a wonderful boss, colleague and friend. He’s extremely thoughtful and cares about my happiness, both professionally and personally.

Steve – describe Alexandra in two sentences.

Alexandra is an affable, insightful and integral component of the Moore Stephens organization, and her commitment to the organization’s success is unshakeable. She is an excellent communicator who is fun, smart, challenging and sees the big picture.

Why are you two a good team at work?

Alexandra: We can give each other honest, constructive feedback, which almost always leads to a better product, service or end result. We both are extremely devoted to the organization and finding ways to make it the best it can be for our current members and the next generation. We aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty, which is important when you are a small team with limited resources, but we try to focus on our core competencies and delegate work outside of those competencies to those better equipped to handle it. Most importantly, we have fun. Working for accountants may sound dull, but that certainly is not the case for us.

Steve: Despite generational differences, we have an ability to assess situations that involve knowing the different priorities, personalities and approaches, and then reaching agreement on the “how.” While we often disagree —which is a healthy give and take relationship—we find a way to reach a happy medium. This reflects a true complimentary relationship, and I think that its flexibility brings considerable value for the immediate and long-term goals of our organization.

Special thanks to Steve and Alexandra for sharing. I certainly look forward to talking with them again soon.

All of you working inside accounting firms, please take note of the answers to the last question. I hope both Alexandra’s and Steve’s replies sound very much like your working relationship with your partners.

  • Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you're really strangers.
  • Mary Tyler Moore

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Lighten-Up CPAs, It’s The Weekend – Do You Nourish Friendships?

Why do I love working in the CPA profession? Because I love the people. More importantly, I have developed friendships that are deeper than “just” someone you work with.

How about you? Do you make an effort to get to know someone in your business life to a more meaningful level than just a business friend or colleague? My advice…. make the effort!

How often do you invite a “business” friend, associate, peer or employee to get together casually?

IMG_20140626_191412_319A special  opportunity presented itself to me this week. My friend and business associate, Linda Watson met me for coffee on Thursday morning. Linda is the marketing director for my sister company, SurveyCPA. She is also the marketing director for my friend and partner in SurveyCPA, Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory. You have probably read Gary’s articles about succession, M&A, partner agreements, partner retirement, etc.

During the breakfast I mentioned that another special friend in my work life, Rob Nance of Inovautus Consulting, a person that has become special to me, was dropping by on Thursday evening to have wine, cheese and dessert. Rob lives in Columbus, Ohio but he was in Dayton for his son’s baseball tournament. Linda said, “I would love to see Rob again, it’s been a long time.”

So, we did have wine, cheese and dessert with my husband, Darrell, on my deck over l00king the 9th fairway on Beavercreek golf course. The evening weather was beautiful, we talked more about “other things” than we did about CPAs until the sun set after 9pm.

Nurture those special relationships. Don’t focus on the past. Don’t focus on the future. Live now.

Linda Watson & Rob Nance, is that you with Rita?

  • The past has no power over the present moment.
  • Eckhart Tolle

Friday, June 27th, 2014

OSCPA Women’s Initiative Luncheon – Dayton, Ohio

I’m still getting some negative comments and reactions from men about women. Imagine that! Actually, I think that has been going on since the beginning of time and vice versa.

No matter where you are in life, it’s always the right time for more understanding involving the people who play a major role in your life. In the home and in the workplace.

Some men in the CPA profession react defensively about women’s initiatives. “Why do they need special treatment?” Some look at the discussions as “men bashing.” I find it all very interesting.

According to Pew research: Fathers have by no means caught up to mothers in terms of time spent caring for children and doing household chores, but there has been some gender convergence in the way they divide their time between work and home.

I have spoken at several state society women’s leadership events and have seen first-hand how experienced female CPAs can give extremely valuable feedback and advice to less experienced female CPAs who are trying to stay in the CPA profession and have an enriching family life. Keep in mind…. the CPA profession needs women. More women are graduating from college with accounting degrees than men. It’s about succession.

If you are anywhere near Dayton, Ohio, please join me and others for an event sponsored by the OSCPA Women’s Initiative Committee. 

The event will take place on July 23rd from 11:30 until 1:00 at Coco’s Bistro. The presenter will be Jennifer McClure, president, Unbridled Talent, LLC and she will lead a session on “Defining and Communicating your Personal Brand for Career Growth. YES, we would love to see some men attend.

Here’s where you can register. OSCPA members and non-members are encouraged to attend.

Women stats

  • Women speak two languages - - one of which is verbal.
  • William Shakespeare

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

How Many Of You Are Hiring?

During the last couple of months I have talked to hundreds of CPAs and their team members. When I have multiple firms in the room I usually ask, “How many of you are hiring right now?” About 99% of the people in the room raise their hands.

Recruiting and retention are hot topics and if your firm wants to be competitive in the talent wars, you need to be sure the basics are covered and then move on to creating a culture, something unique, different from other CPA firms to attract and retain people.

My suggested battle cry for YOU this summer is:  Hire right and keep them!

I browse a lot of CPA firm sites and here’s something that really bothers me. The Career page is not given enough stature and attention. About 10 years ago when we were in the midst of the talent wars, firms did a better job with their “Career” page.

See the example, below. The link to the career page with the word “Careers” is SO SMALL. I see this on many firm sites! Please make it more prominent and then be sure once people can find the link that the career site is awesome.

You can’t be “milk toast” about attracting and keeping top talent; you must be BOLD.

Screenshot 2014-06-20 12.40.46

  • Boldness be my friend.
  • William Shakespeare