Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Digital Tools Are Part Of Onboarding

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Gandhi

It’s a new world and if you are not keeping pace, your new hires will notice immediately.

It is also a digital world and online activities and resources are such an important part of your firm. Keep this in mind as you overhaul your orientation process. Orientation has evolved into onboarding and onboarding is a process that can last up to a year or more.

I believe that first impressions STILL make a difference in how you are perceived. I always stress this with students aiming to make accounting their career.

While a prospective employee strives to make a good first impression, the firm is also being viewed with a magnifying glass. Be aware of the first impression your firm is making with prospects. I still hear horror stories of new hires arriving on their first day and it seems like almost a surprise. Their cubicle is not ready, they have no computer, etc.

To move from orientation to onboarding, begin with automating all of the initial paperwork. Most of it can be completed online before the new hire even arrives at the office.

Next, review what a new hire experiences in their first year. How can you make it more enriching? How can you convince the new hire that their career development is a top priority? You are probably doing many of the necessary things to help them succeed but you have not formalized it and communicated it very well.

Young professionals want to know immediately what their career path will look like and what it takes to succeed at the firm.

  • Share the steps involved for initial training.
  • Explain the formal CPE they will receive during the first year.
  • Communicate how the Guide, Coach, Mentor, and Sponsor Program works and what it means to them during the first year.
  • Provide an explanation of all of the firm’s services.
  • Explain how they will rotate through working in many types of service areas.
  • Explain how they will rotate working with a variety of people – partners and managers.
  • Provide them job descriptions for all levels of staff at the firm.

This is just a beginning list. Determine all of the activities, assignments, and learning experiences that a new hire will experience at your firm. Now is the time to rebrand from orientation to onboarding.

  • Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.
  • Henry Ford

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

There Is A Time To Stand Firm

“Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” – Abraham Lincoln

1CEGO2NFI5Today’s post is one of those “this happens in real life inside many CPA firms” type stories.

A firm leader has an idea on how to inspire team members to become more involved in marketing and pursuing new business for the firm. They will give a nice bonus ($1,500) to the team member who brings in the most “leads” to the firm on a quarterly basis. The rules are established and well-communicated. The contest will run for a full year – 4 quarters. Team members seem excited about the opportunity.

After the first quarter, a team member named Mike wins the quarterly contest. After the second quarter, Mike wins again.

One partner hears some whining from a few team members that “Mike always wins.” This isn’t fair, etc. He consults with the other partners and they decide to discontinue the contest after the second quarter.

Just an example of how not to retain and inspire top talent.

Often inside accounting firms, the leaders seem to go whichever way the wind blows. A very small minority is unhappy, so let’s punish everyone equally. How many times has everyone received an email about leaving a mess at the coffee station when everyone knows the ONE person who is the offender?

  • Let your soul sand cool and composed before a million universes.
  • Walt Whitman

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Living Up To Your Reputation

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett

You are a CPA – Certified Public Accountant. You, because of being a CPA, are known as being the most trusted advisor to business and individual clients.

OJXHDWMWV9You are in the service business – a very important service business. Can your clients trust you?

Have you ever:

Not returned a phone call to a client in a timely fashion?

Not returned a phone call because you know the client is upset?

Not answered a phone call and told your Director of First Impressions to send the caller to voicemail?

You know a client is waiting on an answer from you so you avoid eating lunch at a restaurant that the client frequents?

Blamed someone else at your firm for a delay in client service when you know it is your fault?

Routinely let your ringing phone go to voicemail even when you know it might a client?

Found out, via an administrative person, that a client is upset about their invoice and want to discuss it with you. They ask that you call them and then you don’t.

It all seems like little things. Sure, you eventually talk to these people and address various issues.

But little things make the biggest difference.

  • Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Updating Your Branding

There are a lot of new trends in public accounting. You have read about them here on this blog, in my newsletter and in various publications and blogs for CPAs.

Of course, there are also new trends in other disciplines that affect public accounting. Branding for example.

Per HR Bartender, employment branding is disappearing. Employment branding and consumer branding are being merged together to form ONE company brand. That strong brand will be used to attract and retain clients and employees.

Many firms have done a great job of building a firm brand but most do still have sub-categories under that one brand to attract clients and future employees.

Building ONE brand can serve three purposes: Attract new clients, attract employees and make current employees proud to be part of the firm.

Maybe your brand is unclear, split, confusing or even non-existent. Check out this article on HR Bartender and view the video example from Go Daddy. It is a brand that stresses lots of things, including hard work!

Here’s an excerpt:

If I’m a customer, I know exactly how GoDaddy is going to support me and my business. If I’m a candidate, I understand the GoDaddy culture – the everyday hard work that’s expected to keep customers’ business dreams alive. And if I’m an employee, I’m proud to be a part of that success. One brand. One video. For multiple audiences.

  • You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.
  • Alan Alda

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

They Accepted Your Offer – Begin Onboarding Immediately

“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn

We all know the talent wars are raging in public accounting. You have identified a top student and you landed them. They have accepted your offer. Begin the onboarding process immediately. After all, you not only want to hire the best and brightest, you want to RETAIN them, long-term. Onboarding is different from orientation. Orientation is the formal, get me signed-up, type activities. Onboarding is a year-long process to facilitate a new hire’s success and build a positive working relationship with the firm and other team members.

Here are some little things you can do, as part of onboarding, that can make a big difference. Let’s say the candidate/new hire is named Robert and he’s finishing up his last year of college.

Send a gift basket to his parent’s home welcoming Robert and his family to your firm’s family.

Provide an advance on Robert’s salary ($1,500 or so) to buy new clothes, to use for a deposit on an apartment or down payment on a new car.

Connect with Robert immediately via social media. He probably already has an online presence. Use it to introduce him to all of the firm’s online communities and keep him connected to people at the firm while he awaits his actual starting date.

Have his Guide text him periodically just to touch base.

Let technology handle many aspects of onboarding. Let Robert complete all of the hiring paperwork online. This is not only what young people are used to; it is what we have all become comfortable with.

 

  • The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Please Pay Attention To Security Issues! A Message From Barry Melancon

I received the following press release from the AICPA.  This is very important for firms.

NEW YORK (July 6, 2016) – Cyber crime has emerged as a leading financial and operational risk for all organizations of all sizes in all sectors. “With that in mind, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is taking a multifaceted approach to cybersecurity through the work of the Assurance Services Executive Committee and the Center for Audit Quality. This work will allow CPAs to take a leadership role,” AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, explains in a new video.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has acknowledged publicly that the accounting profession’s experience with integrating data, reporting and assurance puts CPAs in a unique position to assist organizations as they address their cybersecurity concerns. “But this is not just a public company issue,” said Melancon. “It affects businesses of all types, shapes, and sizes.”

The AICPA is already seeing explosive growth in the need for cybersecurity-related services that build on the foundation for Service Organization Control, or SOC, reports. “This demand is driven by market forces, not a government mandate. And the market is asking us to do more, from both the advisory and assurance perspectives,” Melancon observed.

In response to the cyber challenge, the AICPA is taking action on many fronts:

  • First, the Institute is developing timely tools and education for CPAs to successfully address risk in a number of areas. Simultaneously, various areas of the AICPA are working to help CPAs as they address cybersecurity concerns through services like advisory, assurance, tax and management accounting.
  • Second, the AICPA is looking at how the profession can address cybersecurity as a natural extension of the platform of services CPAs already perform. The Institute is developing new examination engagements for members in public practice that are specific to cybersecurity. One is on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program; another covers supply chain management for vendors and business partners to assess and manage their cybersecurity risk.
  • Third, the Institute’s advocacy team is closely monitoring cyber-related legislative and regulatory developments in Washington so it can respond appropriately and keep members informed.

“We see numerous roles for CPAs in the battle against cyber crime,” Melancon went on to say. “Within their businesses, CPAs must present their own front line against cyber attacks, implementing controls that help protect data and prevent service disruptions. CPAs in business can use their knowledge of the organization to advise their employers on administering a cybersecurity risk management program and provide the best cyber solutions.  CPAs in pubic practice, or public accounting, can assist their clients in an advisory capacity, as they grapple with cyber concerns and provide assurance when needed.”

For more information, visit the AICPA’s Cybersecurity Resource Center:

http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/FRC/AssuranceAdvisoryServices/Pages/cyber-security-resource-center.aspx

 

  • If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Sam Allred…. Class Act

IMG_7518Yesterday, CPAFMA (formerly AAA) wrapped up it’s 33rd  National Practice Management Conference in Baltimore. It was my 30th consecutive conference.

In all those years, I have never been disappointed in the content and educational atmosphere of this annual event. It is absolutely the best conference focused exclusively on CPA firm practice (and self-improvement). I only wish more managing partners would attend. It was such an honor this year to be one of the featured keynote presenters – thank-you CPAFMA!

The concluding keynote session this year featured Sam Allred of the Upstream Academy. If you are involved in CPA firm management you already know Sam. He began by jokingly noting that an attendee said she was “staying until the bitter end” so she could hear Sam. To me, even jokingly, Sam was not the bitter end – he was “save the best for last.”

CPAFMA asked him to focus his comments on this: If I could start from scratch to create the perfect firm, what would it look like?

Can we create a firm…….

Where there are minimal politics

That has a very low turnover

That has a very high morale and high productivity

That has strong organic growth but nobody feels pressured to sell anything

That has no artificial harmony

Where everyone is encouraged (and even expected) to speak their mind

Where all the partners are admired and respected

Where partners believe it is a privilege (not a right) to be part of the ownership group

Where everyone is helped to play to their strengths

Where there’s no parity (everyone is allowed to progress as fast and and far as they are able)

Where every discussion and decision is made with the firm’s best interest in mind

Sam elaborated on all of theses with wonderful insights and advice. I will feature more about all of this in future blogs.

For today, read this list of highlights a couple of times and give them some thought as you enjoy the long week-end.

IMG_7127I also had the wonderful opportunity to catch-up with Georgia Cummings of Upstream and to meet Sam’s handsome son, Jason.

Above, Sam Allred, is that you with Rita? And….. Georgia Cummings and Jason Allred, is that you with Rita?

 

  • You want to create a firm where your people think Monday is their favorite day of the week.
  • Sam Allred

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

How You Learn All About CPA Firm Management

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

Next week I will be in Baltimore for the CPAFMA (formerly the Association for Accounting Administration) National Practice Management Conference.

If you are a partner in a CPA firm and your firm administrator or COO is not attending, shame on you. You must invest in the education, skill-building, and knowledge of this key role in your firm. The payback is phenomenal.

Notice that the title includes National and Practice Management. It is rare to find a conference, national or otherwise, that is completely devoted to the improved management of an accounting practice (MAP).

This conference is targeted to those responsible for the efficient, profitable operation of an accounting firm. That includes managing partners.

This year, we are seeing many more transitions from long-time managing partners to the new, less experienced managing partner. There is no other place to obtain SO MUCH firm management knowledge and support.

Whether you are attending or not, check out the agenda. One of the best and most appreciated sessions is the break-out by firm size. You don’t get to talk to people working inside a similar size firm from across the United States very often.

Now, firm administrators, shame on you. I have heard many of you say, “I’m not going the conference, it’s expensive and the partners wouldn’t pay it.” I asked, “Did you ask them and provide a value proposition?” The answer, “Well, no, I didn’t ask because I knew they wouldn’t send me.” This situation makes me very sad. BUT, at the conference next week, sure I will speak but I will also learn AND, I will have so much fun doing it!

This is a good example of why I write and speak about the need for improved communication inside accounting firms!

Here are just a fewIMG_3911 pictures of fun and life-long friends!photo (1)IMG_1727 - Version 2IMG_2619

 

HC my friends

IMG_1097

  • One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Expand The Feedback For Your Firm Administrator

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has take place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Here’s the issue: The firm’s long-time, experienced and valuable firm administrator receives their performance feedback from the firm’s managing partner.

Year after year the same person gives feedback to the same person. Very often I hear from firm administrators that they no longer receive formal performance evaluations nor on-going feedback about their performance because they are doing a good job and nothing has changed.

I could give you a very long list of why this is a terrible situation…. for both sides. But, I would rather give you a solution to improving this situation.

Every year, have a different partner gather input and conduct the face-to-face feedback conversation with the firm administrator. If you only have two or three partners, continually rotate this duty.

The value of this activity is two-fold. The “other” partners get to see and hear, first-hand, the volume of duties and challenges faced by the firm administrator and the firm administrator gets to hear comments and advice from several sources within the firm.

The dual-value comes from all partners and the firm administrator getting to know and understand each other better.

  • "Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.
  • Tom Rath

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Expanding Your Services To Current Clients

“If you want to be the best salesperson, first you must be the best person.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

We have heard it said over and over again at CPA management conferences – for years! “Don’t forget to ask your clients WHAT ELSE they need from you and your firm.”

The trouble is, they don’t usually know what they need. I find it is much like focusing on improving your own firm. Another well-known saying applies. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Often, your client doesn’t know what they don’t know.

It is your business to know your client and their business so well that you are able to enlighten them as to what they should do, what they shouldn’t do and how they can make their business more profitable. As a CPA, you are known as the most trusted advisor. Are you living up to that role?

That is where specialization comes into play. Not every CPA in your firm can know everything about every service line. If you are on the auto dealer team at your firm you better know everything about operating a dealership. You are routinely reading dealership management magazines and newsletters and you attend the same conferences that dealership owners attend. Hopefully, someone from your firm is speaking at those industry conferences. The same activities apply to your firm’s non-profit, construction, hospitality, distribution and all other teams.

You should, of course, continue to ask your clients how you can help but you should also be very upfront in telling them about current trends in their industry and what they should be doing to stay competitive and profitable.

  • The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you - how great you are, and what you do - to statements about them.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer