Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Don’t Forget, You Are Selling To Women

“The shopping experience is very different for women than men; the male shopper’s experience is still the default position for many, even most, firms. And yet it is an unimpeachable fact that women are the premier purchasers–of damn near everything. (My message: Wake-up-ASAP-and-smell-the-enormous-opportunity.)” – Tom Peters

Tom Peter’s weekly quote (I get it every Monday), made me think of CPAs working in public accounting, for a couple of reasons.

One, most male CPAs target their sales to male business owners. I have observed that selling to a female business owner is not their main focus. I have also observed that sometimes the male even feels, and acts, awkward in these situations.

Males: Study, research and read about how to sell to females, practice better listening, learn body language, etc. It will also help you in managing your workforce. Also, when you are selling to a male, remember that there is a woman behind him probably telling him who to hire as their CPA.

Two, most accounting graduates are female. You are hiring a lot of them. Begin educating, teaching, and coaching them immediately on how to develop a relationship with a business owner or decision maker. Once the relationship is established, they can ask for their business.

Females: Don’t hide from business development assignments. Ask to accompany partners on visits to clients and future clients. Schedule lunches with attorneys who also serve your clients. Network in your business community as much as possible.

Selling professional services is all about building relationships – virtually and in person. Women have natural talent in this area – capitalize on it.

  • You don't earn loyalty in a day; you earn loyalty day by day.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

It Only Takes A Moment To Be Kind

Often when I am working with CPA firm partners, I get the wonderful opportunity to spend time at the firm talking to (interviewing) the team members. Sometimes it is in individual sessions and sometimes it is in a group. During these sessions and from employee engagement surveys, I received the same disturbing comments.

The comments come from my question, “Do your supervisors (partners and managers) often verbally thank you for our efforts or comment on a good job you have done?”

The answer is almost always, “No”. However, there is always a qualifier, an excuse such as:

  • Bob is always so busy. I know he must appreciate what I do but he doesn’t say so.
  • Jane is often under a lot of stress from the partners so she sometimes gets “snippy” with us.
  • Ted is a man of few words and is so focused on the clients that he sometimes comes across as rude.
  • Sam is quick to anger but always apologizes for it afterwards.

How is the civility inside your firm? Do you have certain leaders who simply use busyness as an excuse for poor conduct?

When you are very busy, the niceties often go by the wayside. Be aware.

“Get that list to me before lunch.” could just as easily be said, “Could you please, get the list to me before lunch?”

Being a great boss, an effective, well-liked boss, often means simply building personal relationships with your employees and being kind.

From his book, Choosing Civility, Pier Massimo Forni says:

“Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.”

  • Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.
  • George Washington

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Helping Your New Hires Succeed More Quickly

You have lots of systems for onboarding new college graduates and other new hires. Some firms call it orientation.

Actually, there is a difference between on-boarding and orientation… Orientation is an event and Onboarding is a process.

It is very important for your firm to implement a well-documented onboarding program. It must be very closely aligned to your culture and your brand.

I believe that the onboarding process begins with how you make “the offer” to the candidate. I will leave that topic for other blog posts.

Today, I want you to take a lighter look at helping new hires, especially new graduates, more quickly and comfortably fit into your firm. As a college accounting professor once told me, you have to tell them directly and specifically what you expect because many of them simply do not know how they should conduct themselves in the new world of work.

I have recently started following @blogboy2 on Twitter. He works for a realty company but his tweets and blog posts certainly apply to much of what we face in the CPA firm world.

Blogboy2 recently posted the following slide show – 60 Things Your Mother Said to You.  If you communicated clearly and concisely (the way your mother did) with new hires maybe they would “get it” sooner. After all, they are comfortable having highly-involved parents. Enjoy this quick look at the 60 things and then consider what 60, or 30, or 20 things that you would honestly like to say to new team members.

  • If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
  • Mark Twain

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Highest Paying Careers

IMG_4817You know how “stuff” catches your eye while browsing the internet, right? Over the weekend a list of highest paying careers (on a reputable site, if there is such a thing) caught my eye.

The article noted that the information was from an annual list published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The link did not take you to that site. Of course that made me suspicious. Anyway, of the top 20 careers listed that pay over $100,000, CPA was not on the list!

If you, as a firm leader, want to attract top talent, be sure you communicate the earnings potential to young accountants. I have observed that accounting firms are not keeping pace with starting salaries. I have observed that accounting firms create too much mystery about current salaries and future salaries.

What if your best talent found this “list” on the internet and thought… “What am I doing in public accounting?”

In many firms, the person conducting the performance review or acting as an official mentor does not even know what the person is currently earning or what the potential might be.

If you want to find and retain top talent:

1. Talk openly about earning potential as a CPA.

2. Provide information that shows the average salary ranges for each level in public accounting.

3. Be sure you do not treat everyone alike. Star performers should be making more than an average performer, at any level.

Employees want more transparency in every aspect of the firm. Take steps to eliminate the mystery about the earnings potential inside your own firm. You don’t have to give them the specific salaries of partners. Give them ranges from the profession. CPA firm partners make a lot of money – – give your younger, less experienced accountants hope.

 

  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
  • Thomas Edison

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Focus On What’s Right In The World

This week I am speaking at the huge joint AICPA – AAA – AAM conference for the CPA profession in Orlando. I will also be attending many of the sessions and I hope you will follow my tweets. It’s going to be a great few days for me to gather helpful information to share with all of you, my treasured followers (of this blog and my other social media).

FullSizeRender (1) When I received the conference agenda I was so pleased to see that the Sunday night kick-off Keynote speaker was Bert Jacobs. Bert and his brother John founded the t-shirt company Life Is Good.

I must have 6 or more Life Is Good t-shirts and have worn them for many years…. I just like their simple message. NOW, I better understand the meaningful story behind the simple fact that they make and sell t-shirts.

Bert gave a down-to-earth talk about their story and the wonderful things that have happened…. most of it not planned at all.

Key points that are still on my mind this morning:

  • The older you get the tougher it is to be optimistic
  • We are over-whelmed by negative media – time to focus on what’s right in the world.
  • Time is the most important currency (what a key issue for CPAs!)
  • Enable your customers to co-author your brand (what do they love?)
  • Gratitude – focus on it. “I don’t HAVE to go to work today, I GET to go to work. I GET to go to this meeting. I GET to go to the grocery. I GET to work late.”

Life is Good doesn’t advertise… they give back…. and it worked. Bert didn’t take credit for any of it… it just evolved and happened because they listened to their customers.

Here’s their original drawing of Jake.  Yes, life is good!

FullSizeRender (3)

  • What do your clients love?
  • Bert Jacobs

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Customer Engagement Hierarchy

Over the weekend, I came across some information about the Gallup Customer Engagement Hierarchy. The model has four key elements:

Confidence – Integrity – Pride – Passion

Picture these four in a pyramid with Confidence being the foundation, Integrity on top of that, Pride next and on the top is Passion.

Confidence: Always delivers on promise. Name I can always trust.

Integrity: Fair resolution of any problems. Always treats me fairly.

Pride: Treats me with respect. Feel proud to be a customer.

Passion: Can’t imagine a world without. Perfect company for people like me.

How do your clients feel about you and your firm? I bet they are at the Confidence level but, do they feel the Passion?

This involves the on-going challenge for CPAs to constantly show their clients the value they bring to them. Many of them might think you are a necessary evil – because they NEED a tax return. YOU are SO much more than that and yet, you probably don’t communicate that fact to them often enough.

What three things can you do in June to communicate your value to your clients? MAKE A LIST and then IMPLEMENT!

  • Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Addressing Those Very Personal And Challenging Conversations

There is always someone in the firm who gets stuck with having those very needed, crucial conversations with team members. It is often personal topics concerning annoying habits they demonstrate: talking too much, inappropriate clothing, picking their nose, body odor and so on.

Recently, on the Association of Accounting Administration discussion board, the topic of body odor was discussed. If your firm is not a member – you should join just for the discussion board alone!

This is just one example of those many “crucial conversations” we need to have inside accounting firms. I often address this in my mentoring and communication presentations with the suggestion that when you have a difficult conversation to face – think of the word BEER…. yes, B E E R.

Talk directly with the person, in private and follow these steps:
B = Behavior – describe to the person what they are doing or not doing that is unacceptable
E = Effect – Explain why the behavior is unacceptable, how it hurst productivity, bothers others, etc.
E = Expectation – Tell the what you expect them to do (or not do) to change.
R = Result – Clearly explain what will happen if the employee changes (positive) or the consequences of this behavior continues.

  • A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
  • Mark Twain

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Be A Woman. Be Yourself.

There is a lot of advice out there to supposedly help women succeed in the game of business.

I often offer some myself – specifically to women in accounting, to help them survive in the interesting world of public accounting.

Recently, I have been re-reading and reviewing the book, “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman.” I’ll be using this book for a Women’s Leadership Discussion webinar for the Michigan Association of CPAs on June 3.

The author of the book, Gail Evans, offers a full menu of “rules” for women to be aware of as they play the game of business. The final chapter titled: The Final Two Rules are so important AND simple: Be A Woman. Be Yourself.IMG_1071

Here’s an excerpt I want all women in accounting to keep in mind:

Intuition is one of the most powerful tools women have in the marketplace. To use it, all you have to do is listen–not just with your ears, but with your gut.

So employ your female instincts to your advantage–as long as you understand the effect these will have on the men in your office. It’s one thing to be privately nurturing with a male peer whose work is faltering, but don’t do it in a public forum or you’ll embarrass both of you.

Business relationships are first and foremost office alliances. This doesn’t mean that they’re not genuine, only that they exist to help all of you build a better, more profitable, more enjoyable work place.

  • I knew that if I didn't love my job, my performance would be second rate.
  • Gail Evans

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

So Many Contradictions – It Really Is A Balancing Act

  • Managing an accounting firm is not easy.
  • Managing an accounting firm is not difficult.

Those are just the first two conflicting statements I often address when working with CPAs in public practice. Here’s some more:

Managing an accounting firm means:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.

 

  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a great listener.

 

  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.

 

  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.

 

  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.

 

  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.

 

  • You expect the  entire team to follow all the policies and procedures
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2015 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.
  • Ray Bradbury

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Women In Accounting – Don’t Cry

Have you see Jersey Boys? Or, are you old enough to actually remember when the Four Seasons’ songs were at the top of the hit list?

One song title stayed with me all these years and helped me travel the female career path: Big Girls Don’t Cry. 

Later on, one of the lists from Gail Evans’ book, Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman brought me another line to remember. On the list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work That Women Can’t. Number 1 is: They Can Cry. You Can’t.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her book Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success: “Crying, I found in my research, is just one of a menu of communication blunders that, in a mere instant, can suck the executive presence right out of you.”

Mika Brzezinski commenting on when she got fired from CBS:  “…..but there was no place for those tears in that moment. If anything, when you cry, you give away power.”

Here’s the best story…. from a post by  Lisa Quast on Forbes:  The next time you feel like crying at work, take a few slow, deep breaths, roll your shoulders up and down several times and try to relax. Picture in your mind the line from the movie “A League Of Their Own” when Tom Hanks’ character says to one of the female baseball players, “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Then try to laugh at yourself to help diffuse the emotions of the situation.

What worked for me, for many years, is that when I felt myself begin to tear-up…. I would simply excuse myself and take a brisk walk down the hall, around the office. It’s better to be abrupt and mysterious than to cry. Besides, as females KNOW, crying usually doesn’t really mean that you are upset, angry, hurt, happy, or sentimental…. it’s a pure emotion we really can’t control.

Men, if you are confronted with this situation – it’s not personal and usually not significant. When counseling and mentoring females and tears happen, simply hand them a tissue (keep tissues handy in your office), and ignore the tears.

Ladies, one more thing from Gail Evans’ list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work that Women Can’t: #6 – They Can Be Ugly. You Can’t.

  • It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
  • Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own