Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Guidelines For Clients

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

You have them. You keep them. Sometimes you shouldn’t keep them. But, if you do, figure out how to deal with them. I am talking about those clients that drive you crazy!

Talk to new clients and current clients about how to help YOU serve THEM better (How to be a better client.)

Here’s a sample that you discuss with clients and include in your new client packet.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.
  • Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.
  • Billy Graham

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Accountability

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch

There are a lot of conversations in public accounting firm circles about accountability. Practitioners ask, “How do we hold people accountable?” They want to know exactly what to do and what to say.

In an accounting firm, it is almost always from the top down. As leaders, you want your people to be held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, accountability is a two-way street. If you are holding your people accountable for their performance, they should also be holding you accountable for your performance.

Is that happening at your firm? Do the members of your partner group hold each other accountable? Do you welcome upward feedback so that you are accountable to everyone in the firm?

  • Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.
  • Jim Whitehurst

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn

Friday, April 6th, 2018

As a Mentor, You Are Sculpting

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

A recent article via HBR – The Best Mentors Think Like Michelangelo – describes how Michelangelo considered a beautiful piece of art was already inside the stone and he worked to release it.

This is a beautiful thought to apply to your mentoring role. Here are some points from the article that might help you as your mentor the young, ambitious accountants in your accounting firm. As you have time later, be sure to read the entire article and apply these thoughts to your firm’s mentoring program.

  • The Michelangelo phenomenon refers to when a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner becomes committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form.
  • A skilled mentor can bring out a promising form that might be hidden from view.
  • Excellent mentors devote the time to truly “see” their mentees. It takes time and patience to see their ideal selves.
  • A mentor must earn trust, be accessible, and listen generously.
  • Research confirms that women face more barriers to finding a mentor and when they find a male mentor, it might not result in professional and psychological benefits.
  • One reason is that men sometimes struggle with the important skill of active listening.
  • Men can be great mentors to females if they work hard at understanding some of the challenges of cross-gender mentoring.

Read the entire article and share it. Maybe it’s time to refresh your program.

  • A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.
  • Bob Proctor

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Define Your Firm’s Purpose – It Is Very Important to Young Workers

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” – Simon Sinek

In the past, when I have facilitated partner and management team retreats, I have urged them to focus on Purpose. Firm leaders struggled for years in defining their firm’s mission, vision and core values. A firm purpose was something new to most partner groups.

Firm leaders haven’t really thought about the difference between mission and purpose. A Mission is what you are trying to do and Purpose is why you are doing it.

Per a recent article via Fast Company – As Simon Sinek notes in his bestselling book Start with Why, most people know what an organization does, but few know why they do it. In other words, most purpose-driven leaders can articulate their mission–but many mission-driven leaders cannot articulate their purpose.

The article is titled: Want A Purpose-Driven Business? Know The Difference Between Mission And Purpose Young people want to work for a purpose-driven business but your purpose has to be something more than just rephrasing your business model.

There are some great tips in the article on steps you can take to connect with the WHY and purpose behind what you do.

Make this a topic of this year’s partner retreat.

  • There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
  • Simon Sinek

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Too Many Interruptions

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey

I hear it from so many people working in public accounting. The topic is distractions and interruptions. Several people have told me recently that even when they shut their door, people don’t take the hint – they simply knock and enter.

Distractions also include mobile devices, too many meetings, and noisy people when a group decides to chat in the cubicle next to you or outside your office door. Then there are those newer staff members who continually have questions.

Sharlyn Lauby, @hrbartender, has some helpful suggestions in her article, Workplace Distractions Are Impacting the Bottom Line.

  • Provide a place where employees can hang-out and talk without disturbing others.
  • Define, upfront, whether music can be played in work areas. Some people like quiet and some people like music – define your policy.
  • Provide employees with noise-canceling headphones.

Teach newer team members to compile a list of questions and let them know you will make yourself available at 11:00 and 4:00 to provide answers and guidance.

If you want to know more about the research behind Lauby’s article you can access Udemy’s 2018 Distraction Report for more information.

If you have HR responsibilities at your firm, follow Lauby on Twitter @hrbartender.

  • The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well. I don't like to use the word efficiency. It's creativity. It's a belief that every person counts.
  • Jack Welch

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Circumlocution

“For me, the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” – Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Reading brings me a lot of relaxation, enjoyment, and knowledge. I hope you feel the same way and make reading a top priority.

Of course, you should read the latest and greatest business books but also read for entertainment. I mostly read on my Kindle. I like the feature where you hold your finger on a word and you get the definition. That’s how I discovered the word circumlocution. When I learned the meaning, it made me think of communication inside a CPA firm.

Here’s an example of using it in a sentence: “The firm partners finally shared some firm financial data with us after years of circumlocution.”

Circumlocution definition: The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

Here’s another example that Charles Dickens used in his writings:

“Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving – HOW NOT TO DO IT.”

Don’t allow circumlocution at your firm! Learn more here.

  • I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.
  • Vincent Van Gogh

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

It Is Time To Review Your Performance Review

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

You have probably read the articles. Many accounting firms are eliminating the annual performance review.

I think this statement can be very misleading. What they are eliminating are the annual ranking and written feedback comments.

Employees still need feedback and managers still need to give feedback. However, the widely-used formal feedback process is way too time-consuming for partners and managers and dreaded by both managers and employees.

It will soon be performance feedback time (after busy season). Revisit your process now and identify ways to transform your “performance evaluation” process into an entire “performance management” system.

Here are some ideas:

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

Would Your Employees Cheer If You Eliminated Formal Performance Evaluations?

It is More Than Performance Review.

  • There is always stuff to work on. You are never there.
  • Tiger Woods

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Getting Partners to Change

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

I hear comments like the following over and over again:

  • We’re stuck.
  • We’ve plateaued.
  • We have this one partner who won’t budge.
  • I know my partners and they are not going to change, so let’s focus on our young accountants.
  • Our partners are too comfortable.
  • I honestly don’t want the hassle involved with trying to get them to change.
  • Our owners simply don’t value firm management.
  • He is our rainmaker and he’s going to do things his way.
  • Most of our partners just aren’t very good businessmen.
  • We are just waiting for some of them to retire.
  • Our partners don’t want feedback from staff. They don’t want to hear it.

These are REAL comments I have heard in my discussions with managing partners and I could give you many more.  I know firms who have hired very expensive marketing and sales consultants to help their partners learn how to bring in new business.  I know firms who have hired extremely high-level ($25,000 plus for six months) personal coaches to help owners develop better relationship skills (relationships with other partners, staff, and even their own families).  Short-term change happens but it doesn’t last for very long.

When I hear these stories, it makes me sad.  I shake my head in sympathy (that’s usually what the whiner wants at that point in the conversation) and then I ask, “What are YOU going to do about it?”  That question is something they don’t want to hear.

I agree that you can’t change the basic personality of a CPA partner, but that partner can change their behaviors. If they want to. Most people inside CPA firms, who really need to change their behaviors to help make the firm more successful, really do not want to.  They have no reason to change.

You must develop a culture of accountability. I recommend applying constant, gentle pressure to complacent partners. Don’t back-off.  Plus, YOU have to give them a reason to change.

  • By not holding your partners accountable, you are promoting mediocrity, rather than excellence.
  • Gary Boomer

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Listen Carefully

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

During my presentations over many years, I have often asked my audience of CPAs if they ever had any sort of listening training or done their own research on how to become a better listener. Rarely, did I get even one positive response.

Most people take it for granted that they listen. Experts tell us that most people while waiting for their turn to talk are thinking about what they will say next.

Here’s the scene most often observed in an office inside a CPA firm:

A person enters the office to discuss a situation with a partner (could be a manager or anyone with their own office). The staff member sits down across the desk from the partner and begins talking. There is some back and forth conversation. During the exchange, the partner (or the person behind the desk) keeps glancing at his/her computer screen. Worse yet, they keep glancing at their mobile device. The person feels discounted and unimportant. The sad part is that the partner doesn’t even realize they are doing this.

Could this be you? Remember to:

  • Keep eye contact
  • Put your mobile device out of your eyesight
  • Review what was said – repeat things back to the visitor.
  • Ask questions but DO NOT INTERRUPT
  • Listening is a master skill for personal and professional greatness.
  • Robin S. Sharma