Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Personal Productivity for CPAs

Over the years you have probably heard a multitude of suggestions on how to be more productive, avoid interruptions and provide quicker turnaround.

Think about this one:

Arrive early, say 7:00a or earlier.

Do not take any phone calls until 11:00a.

Return all phone calls without fail beginning at 11:00a.

How often are you called about a real emergency anyway?

Some firms have tried variations of this and some have succeeded. One variation is “quiet time” for the entire staff from 8:00 until 10:00 – no one talks to or interrupts anyone else and no calls are accepted. Then at 10:00 the communication begins, as usual.

I know you won’t be able to implement this one until next week (after 4/15). But think about it.

  • Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.
  • John Archibald Wheeler

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Read To Succeed

I continue to blog a lot about the value and importance of reading. I ask you, well I actually plead with you, to continually read – not just CPA stuff – all kinds of books, publications, newsletters, articles, blogs and even Facebook pages.

Reading and then using what you have read as reference when you are faced with a future challenge, problem or “situation” can be one of your best time investments.

I’m glad you are reading this blog! Hopefully, you browse the categories and seek out information that may be helpful. I want to also thank all of you who actually open my newsletter and read one or more of the articles.

Remember…. if you want to succeed, you need to read.  Here’s a message from Jeffrey Gitomer about the importance of reading.

  • If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
  • Cowboy Wisdom

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Happy April Fools Day!

Photo on 3-31-14 at 2.04 PMI did some Googling about the origins of April Fool’s Day and guess what…. there are many varying opinions on how it actually originated.

I’m not a big fan of April Fool’s Day and you can probably guess why. I was the one at the office who always would fall for the biggest (and the not-so-big) joke. I tend to believe people and on this one day a year, that is not such a good thing.

My dislike of April Fool’s Day started in childhood when my big brother would delight in telling me the most far-out tale and I would swallow it hook, line and sinker. And, it didn’t just happen on April 1st! He would simply delight in fooling me and I would actually never catch on unless I would notice one of his friends struggling to hold back a smile. I probably still carry around misconceptions learned in childhood from my brother’s tall tales.

Now, I continually urge CPA leaders to tell the truth!! Embrace more transparency in your firm. Share how the firm is doing financially and what the partners are thinking and planning. So many CPA firm team members confide in me that there is way too much mystery inside the firm.

If someone is not performing up to expectations, don’t tell other people – tell the person, face-to-face, in private.

One firm I talked to recently shared that they have a policy for communicating performance issues with their team members. They have named the policy “Direct With Respect.”  That means whoever encounters poor performance speaks directly to the person, with respect.

Why not use April 1st to begin using a practice like “direct with respect” inside your firm. And, don’t send me any disturbing news that is actually an April Fools’ joke!

  • April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other 364.
  • Mark Twain

Monday, March 31st, 2014

CPAs – Be Proud Of Your Knowledge, Experience and Skills

My take on CPAs, in general, is that they are very humble.

Of course, there are many who have some egotistical characteristics, mostly demonstrated “inside” the firm. But, when it comes to the amazing resource they are to the firm’s clients, it’s a different story. When they receive a compliment from a client, they usually respond that “It was nothing,” – - “It was no trouble at all.” – - “It was easy to take care of.”

All this brings to light a common communication issue, for CPAs, and for many other people in business. It is also a communication issue in your personal life. It is the issue of deflecting a compliment. If you deflect a compliment, people will stop giving them to you! You have spent a lot of time and money gaining the amazing knowledge you possess, knowledge that you share with your clients. Don’t discount the value of that knowledge.

Some years ago I received some great advice on the topic of receiving compliments. I try to practice it faithfully. It’s very simple and I want to share it with you.

When you receive a compliment simply say, “Thank-you” and move on with the conversation.

  • You know you're old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes and you are barefoot.
  • Phyllis diller

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Don’t Do It!

photoAbout once a year I feel the need to write something on this topic. Here’s the scenario inside a busy CPA firm:

Someone is late, someone leaves a big mess in the lunch room, someone is making too many personal calls during work hours, or maybe it is someone who simply talks too loudly in the cubicle farm. What does someone in a leadership position do about these small problems? They send an email BLAST to everyone in the firm asking them not to leave a mess in the lunchroom… and so on.

Everyone knows who is leaving the mess and are cringing because leaders have the mentality of “let’s punish everyone because one person is disappointing us.”

I encourage firms to develop their own Courtesy Policy, a brief statement of inside-the-firm courtesy extended to each other inside the firm. For the above situation, I recommend #3 on an 8-point sample I share:

3. If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private.

When something (usually trivial) happens and, as a leader, you feel the urge to quickly blast out an email to everyone in the firm….. don’t do it!

  • Take two troublemakers out of a class and it's amazing that the goodness of the other kids shines so much more brightly.
  • Tweet from a high school teacher

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Toxic People

In your personal life and in your business life and probably also in your social life, you can probably name some people who would fit into the category of “toxic people”.

I have often blogged about the fact that inside a CPA firm, a bad apple can truly spoil the barrel and that you should surround yourself with believers.

It’s the last week of March and inside many firms people have been working very closely with each other and spending many hours together. It’s natural to get on each others nerves once in a while. A little frustration and a dose of aggravation is one thing but repeated negativity from a person often grows into a toxic situation.

The word toxic is synonymous with words like deadly, poisonous and lethal. If you have been able to identify some truly toxic people, people who are not elevating and supporting others working inside the firm, it’s time to let them go. Sure, you should counsel them but I imagine you have done that many times with these particular people. This time counsel them out the door.

Want some feedback from your team? Conduct an upward feedback survey this spring. Hopefully, you will consider asking me to help via SurveyCPA.


  • We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.

Friday, March 21st, 2014

What Really Matters Inside Your CPA Firm?

Do you ever think about it? I’m referring to today’s title: What really matters inside your CPA firm, in your family, in your life?

At work some things don’t matter much. Like the size of your office, the size of your cubicle, the kind of coffee your serve, the brand of soft drinks you stock, the time you get to work or the time you leave.

The problem with people is they often make decisions based on things that don’t really matter much.

More things that don’t matter that much:  The kind or color of the car you drive or the fact that your office is a few sq. feet smaller than the partner next to you. How big are things like this in the scheme of life?

I recently read a passage in a book titled, “The Secret Life Of Bees.”  Does the color of a house matter? How big is that in the scheme of life. But lifting a person’s heart – now that matters. The problem with people is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it.

Inside your CPA firm, are you making decisions based upon things that really matter? As an employee inside a CPA firm are you making decisions based on what really matters?

I hope all of you are lifting people’s hearts.

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

CPA Firm Economics

I enjoyed a post recently by Marc Rosenberg – CPA Firm Economics 101.

Much like Marc, for years I have been urging managing partners to actually teach this class at their CPA firm. One of my favorite clients had me come in and do a session for the entire team including all of the admin team. We paired it with a session on awesome client service because the partners didn’t think that the entire team appreciated and cared about the clients the same way the partners did.

A good reason for the managing partners to teach a session on CPA firm economics is that many employees in mid- to large firms don’t have that much exposure to the MP on a daily basis. In general, I think MPs need to be more in-tune with their people…. you know MBWA!

If you haven’t read Marc’s post, follow the link above and read it. Need help? Let me know.

Hats off to my friend Bill Pirolli of DiSanto, Priest & Co. He has been teaching this for years at his firm and even the partners attend.

I find that some client service partners become rather detached from firm management and operations and this is a good way to get everyone on the same page.


  • We've switched from a culture that was interested in manufacturing, economics, politics - trying to play a serious part in the world - to a culture that's really entertainment-based.
  • Stephen King

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

There’s No Secret Solution To Employee Engagement

In the CPA profession, retaining top talent is critical. Sure, the pressure was off for a few years during the recent economic downturn but now the CPA firm talent wars are back on the front burner.

During my presentations and workshops, I always share with CPA partners, managers and firm administrators, that you must do (what I call) the “warm and fuzzy” stuff. Provide free soft drinks, a popcorn cart, a cappuccino machine, weekly chair massages, ugly sweater contests and so on. Many, many CPA firms try very, very hard to be a “fun-tastic” firm.

But that’s not what keeps great talent. You have to do more. It begins with communication. You must clearly articulate goals and expectations. You must be inclusive! Ask for their opinions. Provide a forum for continually sharing where the firm is going, why the firm exists, and what the owners are thinking. For some reason this is often very difficult for CPA firm partners.

I recently read a blog post on Switch & Shift that outlines Five Employee Questions Every Company Should Answer. They are written from an employee’s point of view.

  1. Why am I here? – How can you expect an employee to “get it” if you don’t communicate a shared sense of purpose?
  2. Why should I trust your leadership? – Open communication builds trust, which is essential to employee engagement.
  3. Why should I be loyal to your company? – Engaged employees know why they are loyal – they are treated with respect.
  4. Why don’t you communicate your company values? – Want to drive people away? Talk about values and then behave in a vastly different way.
  5. Why aren’t you clear about the rewards of working here? – It is amazing how few companies are open about their approach to compensation.

Be sure to follow the link, above, to read the entire article – then practice what you’ve learned.

  • Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Transform Your Winter Dreams

For CPAs in public practice, this year St. Patrick’s Day is also one of your significant due dates! When this day passes, have a green beer and begin counting down the days until April 15. Think of today like this:

“St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time – a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.” 

Then start thinking now about summer magic for your firm!

St Patricks Day

  • May your home always be too small to hold your friends.
  • Irish toast