Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, August 1st, 2014

CPA Partner Conversations And Communications

Official_Portrait_of_President_Reagan_1981This is one of those “my observation and on my mind” type posts.

I find that most CPAs are not what you would call great communicators. Those of you old enough might remember that Ronald Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator.” Why?

He used folksy anecdotes that ordinary people could understand – - - (Do you keep it simple for your clients and you inexperienced team members?)

He had a gift for optimism – - - (Is there too much, “the sky is falling” vibes inside your firm?)

He always spoke of the future – - - (Are you asking too many questions like why didn’t we hit our chargeable hour goals last month?)

Although he was an older man, he spoke to a younger generation – - - (Have you learned the art of sucking down, managing by wandering around and so on?)

He exuded a sense of country – - - (Are you proud of and very passionate about the brand and image of your firm?)

It was not that Reagan was in America, America was inside of Reagan – - - (Is your firm more than just you? Have you built a lasting organization?)

Reagan was known for talking about substance but he kept his message basic and simple. Keep in mind that your clients and your team members are not all as experienced as you.

I love some of the famous Reagan quotations. Here’s an example:

  • I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting.
  • Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

First-Line Boss In A CPA Firm

Who is really the first-line boss in your CPA firm?

Unless you are an absolute solo (sole proprietor, no employees), then I hope you have a manager, and in most firms you have many, who are responsible for the growth and well-being of your employees.

In many firms the firm administrator plays this key role on the “well-being” side and your audit and tax managers fill the role on the “growth” topic. If you are a partner in a CPA firm, you often act as the “first-line boss.”

I continually find managers (the people with the title manager) inside CPA firms who do not manage. Sure, they manage the work fairly well but they really don’t know how to manage and inspire people BECAUSE the owners of the firm have not spent enough money on how educating them about management.

Firms are almost always generous with CPE dollars when it relates to tax, accounting and audit but no budget for learning the best and most progressive ways to help people achieve career success.

Tom Peters’ shares a weekly quote. This week it was as follows:

“Do you absolutely understand and act upon the fact that the first-line boss is the … KEY LEADERSHIP ROLE … in the organization?”

This comes from the Gallup organization:

“People leave managers not companies … in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue.”

Rally your partner group, your executive committee, your management team and establish a plan and budget for helping managers learn what they are really suppose to be doing.  This will solve your succession issues if you can pull it off…. Can you pull it off?

  • Start with the end in mind.
  • Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Webinar Next Week – Women: Lean In & Win!

Once again, I am very pleased to be doing a webinar for CPA Leadership Institute. This time I hope to provide you with some great information on helping women in accounting become more successful.

When:  Wednesday, August 6th

Time:  1:00 – 2:40p Eastern

Topic:  Helping Women CPAs Make History… Lean In & Win!

Here’s where you can register.  I hope men and women both listen-in.

Firm Leaders: It is so important to coach, mentor and sponsor women in your firm. Men: Don’t be afraid to push them to become more than they might think they can be.  Women: Don’t hesitate to speak-up, speak-out and take a seat at the table.

Here’s what I think, along with some great books to read:

NJ Women Summit

  • Don't compromise yourself, honey. You are all you've got.
  • Janis Joplin

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Insights From Krista McMasters

IMG_3867I was delighted this summer to have the opportunity to meet Krista McMasters, chat with her and hear her talk about her 30-year journey in the CPA profession.

She joined Clifton Gunderson in 1978, the same year I joined my firm. She was admitted as a partner in 1985 and after years of service in various capacities became CEO in 2009.

She was the first female CEO of a Top 25 Accounting Firm. In 2012, with the merger of Clifton with Larson Allen, she became co-CEO, along with Gordon Viere-CEO of Larson Allen, of the larger organization CliftonLarsonAllen. That lasted about year, when in March 2013, McMasters announced her retirement and the position of solo CEO was established and filled by Viere.

McMasters spoke at the Association for Accounting Administration National Practice Management Conference in San Diego in June, where I enjoyed the opportunity to meet her and listen to her story – tidbits follow:

The most important traits of leadership, are the basics:

  • Honesty, candid, fair, authentic and a good person
  • You build a healthy organization with trust
  • Consistency – without it you have chaos
  • Humility – Give other people credit
  • Communication must be simple, concise and clear if you want results
  • You can only be yourself
  • There is not a substitute for experience
  • There are no mistakes, only lessons (let your people make mistakes)
  • She is grateful that someone pushed her
  • You must “push” other people
  • Her experience with a women’s initiative – the best thing was the training
  • She grew because partners gave her tough assignments and asked her to stretch
  • People learn from doing

Her advice to the firm administrators at the event:

  • Your role is to help people see the path
  • You need to be honest with the managing partner and other partners – don’t sugarcoat your message
  • Feedback: Don’t be defensive. If you are defensive they will stop giving you feedback.

I was so delighted that we had similar stories. When I read about her being named CEO of Clifton, I imagined her to be very “hard” – focused, aggressive and all of those kinds of words. I found her to be humble, genuine, caring, honest and very professional.

If you are a leader inside a CPA firm, pick out action items from McMasters’ advice and then implement.

  • Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.
  • Sara Blakely, Worlds Youngest Female Billionaire (Founder of Spanx)

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Managing By Exception

A couple weeks ago, I posted on the topic of having too many exceptions inside your firm.  It crossed my mind again because of a post I read by Leadership Freak titled, “Fewer Policies – More Conversations.”  Here’s some highlights:

“Excessive policy making is an empty-headed response to leadership challenges.”

“Excessive policies create busy work, make weak leaders feel powerful, drain energy from people who actually do the work, stifle creativity and innovation and protect and promote inept employees.”

“Policies are the result of leadership distance.”

Read the article for some recommendations on writing policies. We do need more conversations inside firms. Sso if a policy isn’t being followed, get rid of it.

I like his ending advice:

“Choose conversations over policies. Policies are necessities. Just don’t hide behind them.”



  • Everything that matters requires boldness.
  • Leadership Freak

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Helping Men Understand…. Crying and Other Things

I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding in the CPA profession about the need for some special training and attention to the females working inside CPA firms.  Recently, I have observed some men show bitterness and disbelief when the two words – women’s initiatives – were just mentioned.

Here’s a story of how simple understanding can make a difference….

This story is about a young, male CPA, experienced as a CPA but new to the role of managing partner in a smaller firm (about 20 people). In a smaller, the MP handled all of the performance reviews and other performance and personal related conversations with employees. This led to his first experience with women crying in the workplace and it made him extremely uncomfortable.

Luckily, he had a female firm administrator, he could talk to about his uneasiness.  This is where the understanding part comes into play. The FA advised him, “When women cry, it an emotion they have no control over. Almost all of the time it does not mean a thing – it doesn’t mean they are hurt, mad, fanatical, or sad – it does mean they care about the topic and simply cannot physically escape the tearing-up.” The young MP put a box of tissues on his desk and offered them when tears appeared and just kept going with the conversations.

Most of the time, the above story plays out. However, men often yell when they are angry and women show their anger with tears.

Women – when your emotions show via tears, acknowledge the emotion but don’t apologize, just move on.

Here’s an interesting article about crying in the workplace from Fortune.

What I have often observed is that occasionally a man will let tears flow – others think it is touching, heart-warming, etc. – - “He’s so caring….” When a women cries, she’s weak and emotional.

Inside your firm, DO THINGS to encourage understanding of emotions, work styles, and challenges for (and between) men and women and also between generations.

Here’s a great book to use as a resource: Why Must There Be Dragons

NJ Women Summit

  • Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

At Some Point, We’ve All Known A Suck-Up

GuyKawasaki11_smWay back in 2006, the year I began writing this daily blog, I featured Guy Kawasaki and his opinion that we need to develop The Art Of Sucking Down.

Most of you are well aware of the meaning of “suck-up” and those around you who demonstrate that trait. It can be quite entertaining to observe. But how about “sucking-down”? It means reaching out and grasping an understanding of how to do good things for the people below you in rank, authority, years of experience, etc. Follow the link to get a refresher – it’s an important skill for CPAs.

Tom-Peters-hatThis week I am reading a manifesto by Tom Peters, Excellence. NO EXCUSES - one of his gigantic rambles that contain snip-its that can change how you relate to your employees, your work, your family and your life. Be prepared, it’s 843 pages long (just a few words on each page… easy reading). I read it as filler-reading when I have a few minutes here and there and need to be inspired.

His entry on page 36 reminded me of Kawasaki. Back in 2006, the CPA profession needed people – we had more work than we had people to perform the services. Guess what? We are back there again – everyone is looking to hire talented professionals. But it is more than that, once you hire them and train them you need to KEEP them. Being a CPA firm partner or managers isn’t about you… who can help you be more successful. It’s about how you can serve the people below you so they feel the passion for their work and their careers.

Here’s the words on Page 36 of Tom’s manifesto:

Suck “down” for success!

Make friends in “low” places.*

*It’s simple, really. “Down” is where the work is done! An Army of Fans “down below” is the greatest group of allies imaginable. If you are, say, making a sales pitch for a complex systems product, it’s true that the “VP” will eventually need to sign off. BUT … the analysis that wins or loses the battle will be done two levels “down” by a trio of young, invisible, unloved engineers. They are the ones you want on your side—find them and nurture them. (FYI: This is a … GUARANTEED … winning formula.)

As a CPA partner, how well do you know your interns? How well do you know your first and second years? How well do you know the people who work for the business owner you serve?

  • Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or not. Waste your work life and you have effectively wasted your life.
  • Tom Peters

Monday, July 21st, 2014

The Little Things Can Make You Happy

Sometimes in our work-a-day world we get stressed. Sometimes we get very tired. Sometimes we get annoyed by people. Sometimes we get disappointed, in ourselves and in others. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we get rushed. Sometimes we get our feelings hurt. Sometimes we feel unappreciated.

But, many times we feel happy. It can come from some of the littlest things…. someone shows appreciation, you receive recognition, someone says “thank-you,” you spend time with business colleagues who help you learn, someone smiles at you, your boss says, “good morning,” you get an email from an old friend…

Working with CPA firms I always recommend, IF you want to create a winning firm, one where young people will want to stay and build their careers and one where people feel joy in serving the clients, just remember that the little things can make the biggest difference.

A little thing happened to me last week. It came via social media. I tweeted about my participation in Advance 2014: The Accounting Career Summit and how pleased I was that on the agenda for the week I am listed right above Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay To Be The Boss and Not Everyone Gets A Trophy and many more. You know how often I recommend these books to you! If you want a copy of my 2014 Read List (for CPAs and their teams) you can download it here.

Well, Bruce Tulgan replied to my tweet! Sometimes little things can make you very happy.

What are you doing for the people in your work life (and home life)?

Screenshot 2014-07-19 07.26.03

  • Scheduling flexibility is the single greatest non-financial tool - and the number-one dream-job factor - at your disposal for winning battles in the talent wars. Use it.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – 20 Years Ago Something Amazing Happened

This past week an amazing anniversary was observed. Twenty years ago on July 16th, The Three Tenors gave a one-night only show at the Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium that was watched by a billion people worldwide. This concert permanently altered how a large amount of classical music is presented, packaged and sold.

The concert was timed to coincide with the Brazil-Italy World Cup final being held the next day at the Rose Bowl. Read about the concert via NPR.

Here’s a short video. I can watch it over and over.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what they are saying/singing – their voices, their presence, their joy in sharing their skills, the audience reaction… all make for a wonderful 5 minutes.

Bookmark this video. Then in the heart of your next busy season – watch this for 5 minutes when you are feeling stressed and over-whelmed. I know it makes me feel energized.

Well, if you are a Seinfeld fan, you know it is Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and the other guy.

  • I'm like the Phoenix rising out of Arizona.
  • Frank Costanza

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Kindness, Toughness & Honesty For Women In Accounting

IMG_1112Yesterday, there was a post on the Ohio Society Women’s Initiative Committee LinkedIn site titled, The False Choice Between Kindness and Success.

The topic of women in business being “nice” and “kind” and how it might hold them back, is certainly a valid discussion topic.

I believe that kindness and toughness go hand in hand. If you are kind, build relationships and win people’s loyalty, they will come to understand that some toughness, and honesty, must go along with the kindness. It is the way I have always operated.

The honesty aspect also plays into this topic. This quote from the article says so much relating to the CPA profession:I think people just want straight talk. It saves time and in the end, it is honest. That is the bottom line. Everything else is meaningless if you don’t have honesty. Be honest and true to yourself. And from there, we can do anything.” 

Absolute honesty is often avoided inside CPA firms because it can be a tough discussion. Yet, CPA firm employees crave honesty. I observe so many male (and female) CPAs avoiding being honest because it might lead to confrontation or to uncomfortable conversations. People see right through it – not being completely honest and coming across as self-serving is a losing combination.

To me it is a false choice, as the title of the article reflects. You do not have to choose between kindness and success. In my situation as a CPA management consultant, I know I do not win “jobs” because I am a woman. I have even heard feedback that other, male consultants have actually told potential clients that “Rita is too nice.” Give me honesty and kindness any day and results will follow.


  • Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
  • Samuel Johnson