Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Being Positive Can Be a Boost To Your Health

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison

It’s that time of year inside busy accounting firms. Everyone is focused and working very hard. Some are also working long hours and even the best clients sometimes cause frustration, not to mention the frustrations emitting from your co-workers and bosses.

Let it go! Be a positive person, in thought and deed.

I have always been an optimist and a positive thinker. I never think that things can go wrong or that something terrible will happen. Of course, there are times when things do go wrong and terrible things happen! But, you simply deal with it and move on with life. I know, it sounds easy but it’s not!

Helen Sanders, chief editor at Health Ambition has written a very helpful article to put you in a positive mood and understand the benefits – 9 Positive Thinking Tips: the Power of Positivity On Your Health. 

Every time you find yourself in a new situation, what are your first thoughts?

  • Are you the kind of person that thinks, “Oh God, this is horrible!”
  • Are you the kind of person that thinks, “Awesome, something new!”

Honestly, in my consulting work with accountants over many years, I see more of the first type of person!

Let’s say you’ve just found yourself stuck at the office on a Saturday, doing extra paperwork:

  • A negative person will grumble about their boss having it out for them, and how they always get stuck with the bad job.
  • A positive person will just get the work done because it’s “something that has to be done, and I’m the one doing it”.

I would like to see you fall into the second category in this scenario. Set a good example. Positive people can make a real difference in your firm!

Read her article and you will learn about the physical symptoms of negativity and also the benefits of positive thinking.

  • If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
  • Zig Ziglar

Friday, February 9th, 2018

Are You The Silent One?

“You create your opportunities by asking for them” – Shakti Gawain

Accounting firms have a lot of meetings. Actually, I believe they have way too many meetings about things that really don’t matter that much and not enough meetings that are actually productive and meaningful to all in attendance.

Staff meetings often turn into lectures. This partner, that partner, the HR person, the firm administrator or maybe the marketing person all talk and the rest of the staff listen.

Many times I have witnessed a meeting chair almost beg for someone to speak up and ask a question. They are often met with silence and lack of eye contact.

Even in the annual tax update session – where the firm tax guru tries to impart tax wisdom about current tax changes and things they need to watch out for this year – many attendees NEVER ask a question. Some of them are hoping that someone else will ask the question that is on their mind.

In the next meeting, ask that question that comes to mind. Make a comment on a topic that is being discussed. That is how you learn, no matter how much experience you have. That is how you build a reputation for being passionate about your work. That is how you build a career.

Don’t be part of the silent majority.

  • The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
  • Thomas Berger

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Be Sure You Are Asking

“One who never asks either knows everything or nothing.” – Malcolm Forbes

It’s busy season. You are talking with so many clients either in person or via phone.

They are asking questions. Are you?

Every time you are talking with a client ask:

How are we doing?

Encourage them to share even little things that might bug them about your services, your communication and what you can do better.

Do you know anyone who could use our services?

Just briefly tell them how referrals are so valuable to you and the firm.

 

  • Why and how are words so important that they cannot be too often asked.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Interviewing Experienced Candidates

I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”  – Lee Iacocca

When it comes to interviewing potential new hires, I have observed that CPA firms are not very creative. Many firms have the same people do the interviewing whether it is a college recruit or a 10-year experienced person.

Are your interviewers asking the same questions they have asked for 20 years? Do they focus too much on where they went to school (even if it was years ago) and how strong their tax (or audit) technical skills are?

With an experienced person, ask more questions like these from Seth Godin’s recent blog post.

  • What have you built?
  • What have you led?
  • How do you make decisions?
  • How do you act when no one is looking?

For an experienced person, in public accounting, I would add:

  • How many people have you mentored?
  • How would you describe your tolerance for change?
  • Joe has interrupted you six times this morning with questions. What do you say when he interrupts you the seventh time?
  • The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.
  • Steve Jobs

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Do Your New People Look Forward to Reading Your Employee Handbook?

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P. J. O’Rourke

I am sure you have an employee handbook. Well, I guess I’m not that sure. I have worked with two firms lately who did not! Often, smaller firms don’t bother but even a brief, streamlined manual helps guide employees.

Does yours have a very boring title, such as Employee Handbook, Personnel Guide, Staff Manual or something similar? Why not jazz it up a bit and give it a new title? The title could be something like “The Smith & Company Journey” or “The Way We Work”. My favorite is “How We Do It Here”. Afterall, that’s what new people want to know…. how do you do it here? They want to fit in quickly and not make dumb mistakes.

First of all, you must be able to tell your people how your firm does things. It can’t be the all too often reality…… “If you are doing it for Jim, do it this way.” If you are doing it for JoAnne, do it that way.” Partners must agree upon and adhere to how work processes and procedures work at the firm and bend their personal preferences to align with firm standards.

Of course, you need to include your firm’s vision, purpose, and core values. Consider writing it in a more reader-friendly style.

Be creative in how you present it to your new employee. Don’t send them a pdf copy to read. It’s easy now to have booklets bound with an attractive cover then present it to them with a Starbucks gift card tucked inside.

Wouldn’t it be fun to give your handbook a facelift? Give it a try.

  • Reading gives us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are.
  • Mason Cooley

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The 12 Questions

“The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person’s trigger.” – Marcus Buckingham

I haven’t written about the “12 Questions” in a very long time. It comes from a book titled, First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The book has been around a while but maybe it is time you read it again.

They contend that employees leave managers, not companies. I strongly believe that this is often the case in CPA firms.

Buckingham and Coffman offer 12 questions that can be used to measure the core elements needed to attract, develop and retain the next generation of CPA firm leaders.

Here are the 12 Questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages both my personal and my career development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

One of my client firms, asks these 12 questions of their entire staff every year and tracks progress year-to-year. They share the tracking matrix with the entire staff at the annual State of The Firm meeting. Constant improvement is part of their firm culture.

I hope you are doing something like this at your firm. I also hope that you are taking the steps to make steady progress. Don’t ever ask for input from your team and then do nothing with that valuable information.

  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
  • Peter Drucker

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

What Recruiters Are Seeing

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

I follow Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender). She covers HR topics, of course, but she also writes about general workplace topics.

Sharlyn recently was facilitating a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) seminar and discovered that recruiters wanted to vent. Imagine that! They are frustrated because candidates are not prepared for an interview.

Here are just a few things on their list of things they want to see from candidates. If you are recruiting people for your CPA firm, maybe you can relate to these.

  • Cover letters are not dead. They can serve a purpose.
  • Research the company (firm) – know something about them before you arrive. Simply visit their website.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Be prepared to talk about your future.
  • Ask questions.

Read the entire article here.

  • Time spent on hiring is time well spent.
  • Robert Half

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Never Be Complacent About Collections

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt

When you don’t have a documented collection policy and procedures to facilitate collection of past due accounts, you are demotivating your people.

You might think that the team members don’t realize which clients are late on payment. Get real, they all know. If you ask them to work on assignments and they fully realize that this particular client is a “collection problem,” why would they be excited about doing the work efficiently and timely?

More importantly, why loan money to slow paying clients? That is what you are doing and your CPA firm is acting as a lender for the client.

Why does this happen so often inside CPA firms and other SME’s? It is because leaders are afraid that chasing payments might negatively impact the client relationship. Remember this, if you have a client who does not pay….. they are not a client. “I provide the service and you pay me.” – that is the basis for a client relationship.

Of course, there are times when certain clients might be struggling and delaying payment is an alternative. But, work out a payment plan, spread over several months so that they can eventually catch-up. The most important thing is communication with the client before they get too far behind.

Communicate your billing and collection policies upfront when you initially meet with a new client. When a client becomes “past due,” do not wait until they are 120 days past due to contact them. If you expect payment at 30 days and they have not paid, send them an email on day 31. Call them on day 40. Always send monthly accounts receivable statements. Designate a person to handle collections and make it their highest priority.

Communication is key. I have encountered partners who would actually dodge a phone call from a client if it was about collection!

Most progressive firms have a stop work policy. If a client is past due by 90 days (you decide on how many), all work stops until they make full payment or work out a payment plan and make the first payment. If they miss a payment, work stops.

I often get questions about 1040 clients who are slow to pay. If they are a collection problem this year, they are a COD client next year (they must pay before their work is released). If they are a continuing collection problem, they pay upfront before work begins.

I’m not talking about harassing clients, I am talking about embracing good business practices – collect what is owed to you and encourage your clients to do the same with their customers.

  • You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

The Three C’s

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain

Years ago I learned a method that might be something you should try. It is called the compliment sandwich and is based on the three C’s.

There always comes a time when you need to correct someone. Perhaps they have made an accounting mistake or maybe even a communication mistake and you want to point it out but not be harsh in doing so. The person’s performance is almost always above average and you also need to compliment them.

Try using the compliment sandwich! It is the best way to offer criticism or advice.

Use the three Cs: first compliment, then correct, then compliment again.

For instance, when a student is learning to waltz, the instructor might say, “I see you’re working very hard. Saying ‘Left, two, three, right, two, three’ helps me keep the steps straight. You might try that. But you look great out there!”

Consider how you can use the compliment sandwich in the office this week.

  • The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.
  • Wayne Gretzky

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

The Different Lives of Managing Partners

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

In his December blog post, Gary Adamson (Adamson Advisory), a former managing partner himself, talks about the different lives a managing partner lives. 

The inside the firm life.

The outside life, representing the firm in the business community.

And, of course, their personal life.

If you are a CPA firm partner, are you living all of these lives, too? You probably act differently in your role as partner inside the firm than you do at home with your family.

What I observe is that while the MP must represent the firm outside – being involved in  civic and charitable organizations, some of the other partners don’t quite live up to that “outside” role.

Young people just building your career in public accounting, start living that outside-the-firm life now.

Take a minute to read Adamson’s blog post.

  • The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
  • Oscar Wilde