Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, December 11th, 2017

I’m On My Reading Soapbox Again

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

A suggestion from Seth Godin, instead of having 20 valuable employees spend an hour in a meeting that’s only vaguely related to their productive output, why not have them spend one hour reading?

That suggestion made me think about some things you can do at your CPA firm.

Rather than having a “lunch & learn” that about half of your employees dread, why not have a “read & learn”?

One of my clients is having their management group read a chapter a week in a selected popular business/leadership book and then discuss it briefly at their weekly management meeting.

Another client is establishing a leadership/management library by collecting (and buying) well-known business books and asking the leadership group to read one per quarter.

I also believe you can learn a lot from and be inspired by simply reading novels.

Thinking about the goals you will set for 2018? Commit to reading at least 12 books.

Wondering what should be on your team’s reading list? Here’s a list of twenty books. 

  • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns one on, I go into the other room and read a book.
  • Groucho Marx

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Maybe You Are Lazy

“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kolbe Bryant

I often refer to Seth Godin and some of his amazing blog posts. I hope you are following him, too.

Today, he posted about “modern laziness.” I have observed modern laziness inside so many CPA firms. I bet you have, too!

From Godin: “The original kind of lazy avoids hard physical work. Too lazy to dig a ditch, organize a warehouse or clean the garage. Modern lazy avoids emotional labor.”

As a team member in a CPA firm:

  • During a training session, do you refrain from raising your hand and asking a question? Do you wait on someone else to ask?
  • Do you follow what was done last year (SALY) on a client engagement rather than discuss with your supervisor something that confuses or puzzles you?

As a CPA firm leader:

  • Do you dodge those tough phone calls from clients about their recent invoice?
  • Do you hide out in your office and hope no one bothers you with questions?
  • Do you ask someone else to discuss an issue of poor performance with a team member rather than doing it yourself?

These are the kinds of things that require emotional labor. To me, it falls under the category of Emotional Intelligence. Accountants have a reputation of NOT having it!

Whether your are a recent accounting graduate or a long-term partner in an accounting firm, work on your EQ and don’t be lazy!

  • People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals - that is, goals that do not inspire them.
  • Tony Robbins

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

What’s Ahead For 2018

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” – Neil Armstrong

As the new year approaches, Accounting Today asked a panel of industry thought leaders and experts to paint a picture of what accountants can expect from the next 12 months in terms of important trends, big surprises and key initiatives to undertake.  

Thanks to Dan Hood and Accounting Today for including me in this group of thought leaders!

The question: What trends should accountants keep an eye out for in 2018? 

Read the entire article here with my comments and great insights from: Jim Boomer, Angie Grissom, Steve Mankowski, Erik Asgeirsson, Gary Bolinger, and Joel Sinkin.

  • There's always something in the game you wish you would have done different. That's why players improve, because they learn from what they did before. They might have been guessing before, but now they know.
  • Gordie Howe

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Is Your Holiday Greeting Inspiring?

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Year after year, CPA firms struggle with what kind of Christmas card or holiday message they should send to their clients. Some spend quite a bit of money on prestigious holidays cards and gifts. Then, the question comes up – how do we top that next year?

Why not live your holiday message? Do kind and helpful things for your community then share your story with your clients and business associates.

I recently received my holiday greeting from a law firm (Ice Miller). Sure, they send it out to hundreds or even thousands of people, but it made me feel good about them.

You could do the same. Check it out here.

  • It's not about giving back if you're successful or a celebrity or how much money you have. It's about your responsibility as an adult to help others.
  • Trisha Yearwood

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

A Short Trip To The Near Future

“Making predictions is very hard, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra

There is a great article in the Ohio Society’s magazine, Voice, about blockchain. It is titled, The blockchain transformation of accounting and auditing by Jack Shaw (and reprinted with permission from The Missouri Society of CPAs).  Please, please read it. Share it with your entire team.

Jack Shaw is the executive director of the American Blockchain Council. He leads Blockchain Executive Seminars for CPA firms and their clients. Jshaw@AmericanBlockchainCouncil.org

Here is an excerpt, just to stress how important it is for you to educate yourself sooner, rather than later.

If you think we’ve seen a lot of changes in our world in the 10 years since the first smartphones were introduced, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Driven by a host of emerging technologies, most importantly blockchain, we’ll see more change in the next 10 years than there’s been in the past 50.

To keep up, you’re going to have to change. You’ll have to change your mindset. You’ll have to change your organizational culture. You’ll have to change your business processes. You’ll have to change your business models. You’ll have to change your business ecosystems. That’s a lot of change!

  • Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.
  • Carol Burnett

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Year-End Tax Checklist

“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Well-managed CPA firms have, for a long time, supplied their individual income tax clients with some sort of year-end tax checklist. It is meant to be a helpful tool to encourage the clients to consider significant (and some insignificant) events that might affect their tax return.

At my firm, we used to include the tax checklist with the tax organizer. Many clients, as you can imagine, never bothered to look at their organizer, so they also missed the tax checklist. Then, we stopped providing tax organizers. Our default setting was “No organizer” unless a client specifically requested one. A few did.

Things are so much better now. You can simply send an email to your clients with a link to the annual tax checklist. They can quickly scan through the questions and provide you with information that affects their return.

Last week I received an email from one of my clients that included the year end tax checklist link (just because I am on their mailing list). It was quick to read, easy to review and made me think about pertinent information. That’s exactly how you want your clients to feel about how you provide services – quick, easy and pertinent!

Make 2018 a year when you become a proactive advisor to your clients and get away from always being in reactionary mode.

  • The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Hans Hofmann

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

“As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” – Mr. Carlson, WKRP in Cincinnati

I hope you will enjoy your 4-day weekend and a special time of year with family and friends.

Have you seen Seth Godin’s Thanksgiving Reader? I hope you will use it tomorrow. Here’s a little bit about it from Godin:

I’m delighted to point you to the Thanksgiving Reader . The file you’ll find there is free, it’s printable, it’s sharable and it might give us something universal and personal to do this Thanksgiving.

The idea is simple: At your Thanksgiving celebration (and yes, it’s okay to use it outside the US!), consider going around the table and having each person read a section aloud.

During these ten or fifteen minutes, millions of people will all be reading the same words, thinking about the same issues, connecting with each other over the essence of what we celebrate. After all the travel and the cooking and the hassle, for these ten or fifteen minutes, perhaps we can all breathe the same air and think hard about what we’re thankful for.

It’s free to download and share. I hope you’ll let some people in your life know about it and incorporate it in your celebration this year. There’s no commercial element involved—after all, it’s Thanksgiving. 

Please share. 

Also, here’s a link to my Thanksgiving tradition – watching this classic clip. 

  • Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.
  • Erma Bombeck

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Are You Using Technology To Do Things The Old Way?

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” – Warren Bennis

I imagine that many of you have seen this quote from Bill Gates:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” 

I believe that in many cases, inside CPA firms, you have simply taken the way that paper flowed through your office and replicated it into some wonderful, advanced software program.

For example, I was visiting with a firm recently that had simply taken the steps that they used for moving paper tax returns through the office and inserted the same exact steps into a software program that is capable of doing so much more, without even exploring all of the possible options and efficiencies now available to them.

I find this same scenario playing out in firms over and over again, year after year!

We all become comfortable with status quo, the familiar, the known. Take your firm to the next level – move out of the comfort zone – don’t be afraid! Stop settling for status quo because it is easy. As we get closer to wrapping up another year, look back, contemplate 2017. Has it been another year of just settling for status quo?

  • Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
  • Edward de Bono

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Moving Past “Engagement”

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” – C. G. Jung

Some progressive companies are now moving beyond the over-worked term, employee engagement.

It’s no longer just about how they feel about their role and your firm. It involves the complete employee experience. Is your firm focused on the employee experience? You can bet that other accounting firms in your market are initiating ways to attract YOUR people!

Per a recent article on Entrepreneur, there are four key pillars to the employee experience:

  1. Connection
  2. Meaning
  3. Impact
  4. Appreciation

To me, these are fairly self-explanatory. However, it would be a good exercise for firm leaders to explore these four topics and define what they mean relating to your firm and your people.

I often think about a slogan from one of the car companies a while back….. “Enjoy the Ride!” Are your people enjoying the ride at your firm?

  • Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Managers, Are You Ready?

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” – Peter Drucker

Being a manager in a CPA firm is often a thankless experience.

You are caught between the partners and the staff. You seem to be responsible for so many tasks and activities relating to both. Plus, you are responsible for your own productivity. On top of that, the partners want you to help market the firm and bring in new business.

You can only do all of this if you are performing as a true manager and not simply being a worker-bee producing billable work.

As next busy season approaches, are you ready to manage or will you simply be a firefighter putting out fires in reactionary mode, day after day?

Here are some steps to help you be a manager – that means getting things done through other people.

Work on your delegation skills. When a task comes you way, ask yourself, can someone at a lower billing rate do this task? Is there a team member with space on their schedule? Even if it might be difficult for them, let them try. Just because a partner delegates to you, it doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. YOU have to just be sure it gets done properly.

Do not participate in upward delegation. When a team member has difficulty completing an assignment, for a variety of reasons, don’t take the work back! After assigning the task, check with them every day to see what progress they are making and be available to answer questions. As the deadline approaches, you will know where they stand and might even be able to allow them more time.

Train, communicate, coach and delegate continually. That is how people improve in a CPA firm. They learn by doing and even re-doing. Provide helpful and insightful review notes so they learn from their mistakes. Give them verbal feedback daily. Don’t save up feedback for a formal performance review.

Hold them accountable. How do you do this? By simply asking questions – “Are you having any difficulties with the Jones assignment?” “Are you going to be able to hit the established completion date coming up in three days?” “Do you have any questions for me?”

Being a manager involves so much more than these few things. You must help direct reports establish goals and achieve them. You must encourage them to hit their goals and review their progress frequently. You must be a constant source of encouragement to others. You must also work on your own goals and be a life-long learner.

 

  • Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.
  • Warren Bennis