Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

A Simple Marketing Strategy

I hope you read Seth Godin’s blog every day. I admire how he can use a few words to say something impactful.

Here’s an image of his website. Clean, simple message: GO. Make something happen. Seth GodinDoesn’t it seem similar to the message I continually communicate to you, CPAs in public practice: Do Things!

Here’s his blog post from August 1 – I hope you think about it.

Yes!, please and thank you

Don’t jerk people around

Here’s a simple marketing strategy for a smaller company trying to compete in a big-company world: Choose your customers, trust them, treat them well.

Say yes.

Bend the rules.

Show up on time.

Keep your promises.

Don’t exert power merely because you can.

Be human, be kind, pay attention, smile.

Not everyone deserves this sort of treatment, not everyone will do their part to be the kind of customer you can delight and serve. But that’s okay, you don’t need everyone.

When in doubt, be the anti-airline.

Key phrases and points for growing your CPA firm: Smaller firms can compete with larger firms. Choose your clients well, don’t just take anyone you meet. Not every client measures up. You don’t need everyone.

Check out his new book, What To do When It’s Your Turn. I bought a dozen copies and sent them to friends.

 

  • Let men be wise by instinct if they can, but when this fails be wise by good advice.
  • Sophocles

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Type A vs. Type B

I often hear people describe their managing partner as a “Type A” personality. I also hear people describe another partner, a tax partner for example, as a “Type B”.

Hubspot’s blog post on this topic is helpful and amusing. I know inside accounting firms, there is a real mixture of personality types and they, hopefully, all work together as a well-oiled machine. If everyone were alike, nothing would get accomplished.

So, this weekend enjoy Hubspot’s explanation of A and B.

Here’s how the two break down:

  • Type As are the “go-getters.” They tend to be more ambitious, organized, time-oriented, impatient, and tend to stress themselves out by taking on more than they can handle.
  • Type Bs, by contrast, are more relaxed and low-stress. They tend to be more patient, steadier, more creative, enjoy achievement more, and don’t get wrapped up in details.

Thanks to Blog.HubSpot.com for this graphic.

a/b personality types

  • Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.
  • Washington Irving

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Advisory For Keller

IMG_3168For many years now I have maintained a simple email group comprised of people working daily in a CPA firm that I call my unofficial advisory board.

When I am doing research on a certain topic or if one of my clients has a specific challenge they are facing, I send an email inquiry to my valuable group. I call the group: Advisory4Keller

For example, I have a current question before my group about how, exactly, they are handling scheduling.  After I receive responses (I give them a few days), I summarize and share the information with all those who replied. I do not over-use this valuable tool – I don’t want increase the workload for the members of the group! For example, in 2013 and 2014 I surveyed the group 6 to 10 times. In 2015, so far it has been 3 times.

If you are a CPA firm administrator, managing partner or other management leader in a firm (HR, marketing, technology, department head, etc.) and would like to be part of the group, simply email me to let me know and I will contact you. The information, about you, that I need is on my contact page.

The picture was taken a few years ago of the Ohio Chapter of The Association For Accounting Administration – These people know what really going on!

  • The future depends on what you do today.
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

CPA Partners, Are You Talking?

There is an old 60s song titled, You Talk Too Much. Here are the lyrics:

You talk too much, you worry me to death
You talk too much, you even worry my pet
You just talk, you talk too much

You talk about people that you don’t know
You talk about people wherever you go
You just talk, you talk too much

You talk about people that you’ve never seen
You talk about people, you can make me scream
You just talk, you talk too much

CPA partner groups DO NOT talk too much, about the right things.

Much like the lyrics of the song, they will casually chat with each other and often talk about people that they don’t really know – 2nd hand gossip.

Much like the lyrics of the song, they will critique people and each other about things they have actually “never seen”. Again, 2nd hand or even third-hand information.

EC50CC8658If things are not going so well at a firm, if the partner group is not on the same page and there are under-currents of discord, it is usually a lapse in communication. The partners have skipped or cancelled their partner meetings. They go into a partner retreat unprepared and shy away from the more difficult conversations and topics.

Simply talking more with each other and staying on topic not only helps communication, it builds teamwork among the partner group. Partners that meet regularly and talk about agenda items that are important in a very open and honest manner have fewer problems, challenges and issues.

Larger partner groups: Have a formal quarterly meeting for 2 to 3 hours, or more. On the months you do not meet, go to lunch together at least once during those months. In multi-office firms, of course the lunches are by office.

Smaller partner groups: Have a formal monthly meeting for 2 to 3 hours, or more. It’s much easier to schedule in a smaller firm but smaller firms seem to get out of the habit more often.

For all firms, this should be a priority meeting. One of the most important responsibilities of a partner is to speak-up in meetings. Everyone MUST be heard. Often, more dominant personalities monopolize the conversations and discussions – managing partners should not let this happen, nor should the MP dominate every discussion. All concerns should be aired in the meeting NOT in the hallway or over a beer at the end of the day by partner cliques.

For all firms, deal with factual information. Have a documented agenda (your firm administrator can assist with that) and don’t “table” the tough decisions until the next meeting.

Be sure you “talk too much”.

 

  • Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something.
  • Plato

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Keep Your Relationships Alive & Healthy

If you want to be successful in bringing business to your CPA firm, you must be a relationship-builder. It surprises me when I hear CPAs, working in public practice, say they won’t, can’t or don’t know how to bring new business to the firm. It is simply liking people and getting to know them and letting them get to know you. CPAs are smart, well-educated, and nice. You have amazing knowledge about tax, accounting, audit and business practices. People will be naturally drawn to you – – SO, put yourself out there!

If you are a partner and you are not able to bring in business, why are you a partner?

Here’s a real-life story of how maintaining relationships works:

DruckerSharon Drucker, used to work for the New Jersey Society of CPAs. We met when she was involved in coordinating an event where I was speaking. Over the next few years we stayed in touch via email and social media.

Recently, she contacted me (via LinkedIn) to let me know that she has a new job as Director of Business Development on the new Surgent team (formerly Surgent McCoy). She will be working with firms across the US to identify and meet their professional learning needs, through both live and digital CPE programs.

I’m sure you are aware of Surgent, it has been around for more than 30 years (like me!). Surgent, LLC, is the largest independent provider of continuing education in the United States, offering more webinar, self-study, and live event offerings than any competitor in the marketplace. Their clients include 250 of the top 300 firms nationwide.

The moral of the story: Sharon kept our relationship alive by contacting me. I was delighted because I want to keep my relationships alive and healthy. We will both benefit (and can help each other).

  • Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold.
  • Proverb

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Wrapped Up In Being Important

Sometimes I wonder why people think so much of themselves. Many people, once they have some power over others begin to believe that they are more important than other people. They seem to get caught up in a role they are playing.

I remember a story that a former Big Four partner told me one time after he dropped out of the Big Four world. He noted that it was a cut-throat culture there. Every one was focused on out-doing their peers. It became a world of “I know more successful people,” “I have become friends with the managing partner of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.” (the prominent law firm in town), or “You know, I have the top office performers on my team. They will work through the night if I ask them to.”

Many accounting firms have grown rapidly in recent years. What used to be a mid-size firm of 50 to 100 has grown to 400 and then merged-up to a 2,000 person firm. Sometimes along the way, some of the accountants forget “where they came from.”

If you are becoming more and more successful and your firm is growing significantly, I hope you will still find the time to stop by the newbie’s desk and say, “Good morning, how are things going for you here at the firm? Are there any questions I can answer or anything I can do to help you keep moving ahead?”

I hope you will never become so important and so busy that you can’t simply type Thanks rather than Thx.

  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
  • John Wooden

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

You Are Awesome Technically. Is That Enough?

EC50CC8658CPAs working in public accounting and CPAs working in a corporate environment as CFO face many of the same challenges. I find that most of the challenges, for CPAs in general, is that they are SO good at finance, tax, audit, accounting – all of the technical topics that make them so valuable, but still struggle with the everyday, practical aspects of their job – getting along with and leading people.

I am tired of calling them “soft skills”. They are business world survival skills.

I can’t count the number of firms who tell me that they have a highly-technical tax partner that they keep locked up in his/her office because they are valuable, yes but, they infuriate the team members, avoid networking or getting involved in the business community and never bring in business.

CPAs often drop out of public and enter the world of corporate CFO. Many probably think they will avoid all of that people stuff, yet they soon learn that they have more responsibilities relating to collaboration with people – departments heads, employees, owners or CEOs, etc.

According to a new survey via Robert Half, CFOs say learning to interact with a variety of personalities is the greatest challenge when working with other departments. It seems collaboration and cooperation are difficult for them.

So, whether you are working in public accounting or a CFO in private, you must continually build your leadership skill-set. CPA partners, you need to help your young accountants understand the great importance of relationship-building skills. It’s how you bring in business. Bringing in business in public accounting is how you become a partner.

Here’s an article from CGMA magazine that goes deeper into this topic.

  • Truth is, I'll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.
  • Tom Hanks

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Please Don’t Interrupt

Remember when you were a child and you wanted your mother’s attention even though she was talking with Aunt Helen?

More than likely she said, “Please don’t interrupt. It’s not polite.”

Next time you are tempted to briefly interrupt a colleague, your manager or a partner, when they are working, just to get their opinion on a task you are completing, please keep in mind that it will take them over 23 minutes to get back on task.

Interruptions kill productivity, for you and for others. Make a list of your questions and set a time to talk with your manager.

Ask people to do the same for you. Some busy managers tell their team, “I am available from 9 to 10 and again from 3:30 to 4:30 to answer questions.

Perhaps it’s time to have a Lunch & Learn session about the pros and cons of banning “friendly interruptions” in the office.

  • People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.
  • George Bernard Shaw

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