Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Flashback Friday – What’s In It For Me?

“You have to water the flowers you want to grow.” – Stephen Covey

If you are considering taking on the role of Mentor. Or, if you are a Mentee looking for a Mentor – what’s in it for you?

Here’s a post from 2016 that explains the benefits of both roles.

Have a great weekend!

  • To add value to others, one must first value others.
  • John Maxwell

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We Are Like Family – Maybe Not

“What people really want advice on is the interpersonal weirdness that comes with having a job.” – Alison Green

As I read an article via The New York Times – Your Workplace Isn’t Your Family (and That’s Ok!), I definitely thought about how the article should be read by many of you working inside accounting firms.

The article is an interview with Alison Green, author of a book titled: Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work.

I have heard it over and over from firms of varying sizes over many years – “we are like family.” I have always struggled with this topic. I have seen it used to avoid difficult conversations and to justify continuing to employ a poor performer over a long period of time. I have also seen it used to make unreasonable demands like working unreasonable hours and even seven days per week.

As you work at your accounting firm, always remember that this is business, not family, no matter what some people might think.

From the author: I want people to know it’s all right to treat work like work. We’re being paid to be there, and most of us wouldn’t show up otherwise. We don’t need to pretend that’s not the case.

Employment, underneath it all, is a contractual situation. It is a transaction:  I pay you and you do the work. You pay me and I do the work.

Be sure to read the article/interview.

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • Colin Powell

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

You Are Good With Numbers But Can You Write?

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

I have observed that many CPAs in public practice do not like to write articles. They seem to love numbers more than words.

I have also observed that there is usually one or two partners who do have a talent for writing. The best ones are those who can explain complex tax and accounting issues so that their average client can better understand the topic and actually appreciate the information.

Many CPA firm marketing directors have voiced their great frustration with the “write an article for our newsletter” dance. The partner promises to write an article for the next issue. The Marketer begins nagging about two weeks before the deadline and continues to nag right up until the drop-dead date for publication. The partner always has a good excuse…. “give me one more day” is the battle cry.

CPAs who write for their firm newsletter – when you volunteer to write an article, write it immediately and side-step the drama.

Offer your articles to your local business newspaper. They are often looking for tax and accounting articles. Articles can be repurposed. Use them for blog posts!

If you want to build your personal reputation – write, write, write.

  • Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Credulous

“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  – Ed Sheeran

You are in a leadership role in a CPA firm. You are charged with managing a significant number of people. It’s not easy.

An admin person comes to you to make you aware of a troubling situation with another admin team member.

A staff person comes to you to complain about one of your long-time managers.

A manager comes to you to complain about a first-year staff person.

A couple of managers come to you to let you know that the latest modification to the tax flow procedures is not being well received by a lot of staff members.

Are you too credulous? Do thorough research before acting.

Often, inside busy accounting firms, a change is made and one (yes, one) person complains about the change and partners overreact and might even change things back….. just because one person complained.

You can’t please everyone. I like this quote attributed to Aristotle: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”  

  • You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all of the time.
  • (Poet John Lydgate as made famous by Abraham Lincoln).

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Drama at the Office

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

Some words about drama from Seth Godin’s recent post hit home with me. I have observed SO MUCH drama inside CPA firms, when I worked at one and as I have consulted with many.

Here’s an excerpt from Godin’s post titled, Two Ways to Solve a Problem and Provide a Service.

With drama. Make sure the customer knows just how hard you’re working, what extent you’re going to in order to serve. Make a big deal out of the special order, the additional cost, the sweat and the tears.

Without drama. Make it look effortless.

Talking behind people’s backs, gossiping, cliques, whining, blaming others are just a few of the descriptors. Stop doing it. You are not in high school anymore.

If you must vent, do it outside the office. If you are tempted to send a quick, harsh reply to an email, wait an hour before you type.

Most drama could be reduced if you made it a rule to avoid triangulation. That means if you have an issue with someone, talk only to them and don’t involve a third party.

Reduce the drama inside your firm by practicing The Four Agreements.

  • What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.
  • Alfred Hitchcock

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Top 50 Accounting Blogs

“Reading gives us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley

I was thrilled to receive notification that Crush The CPA Exam has named my blog one of their Top 50. I am Number 12. Read more about it below and also check out the entire list. There may be several blogs that you should be reading. Of course, read mine first. I post every business day.

Blogs are a fantastic and severely underrated method of staying up to date on all kinds of interesting subcultures and industries. Sure, social media such as Facebook and Twitter can provide faster updates and hotter takes; however, the fact remains that if you want to read long-form articles of substance on a niche topic, you want to look on a blog.

Accounting is no different. While a lot of interesting news and op-eds can be read through publications like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, or Bloomberg, these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finance-related written works. To help you find the best of the best, we’ve cultivated a list of the top 50 accounting blogs in no particular order.

No two blogs are created equal, and these accounting and finance-related blogs are no exception. Some of these blogs are great for individuals without any professional accounting experience who are looking for advice, some of them are geared toward students looking to become CPA’s, and some are perfect for seasoned professionals looking for an expert’s take on the latest developments.

These blogs were chosen based on their popularity, post quality, and post frequency. All of these blogs are also actively posting new content as of June 2018.

  • Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
  • P. J. O'Rourke

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Be Careful What You Say and Where You Say It

“A secret spoken finds wings” – Robert Jordan

Client confidentiality is a very important issue inside a CPA firm. So, my warning to all CPA firm team members, including new hires and the administrative team (includes techies and marketers) is – Be careful what you say and where you say it!

This shouldn’t happen, but it does. Team members joke about clients. Perhaps, inside your firm you even have “pet” names for clients, i.e., Mr. Always Late (or even more unflattering names). Be careful!

Never forget that people sitting in your lobby or conference room can overhear many conversations. Develop a culture where clients are always talked about with respect except behind doors and for a good reason.

Here are some examples to avoid and to educate everyone in your firm to avoid:

One firm had a stairway in the lobby leading to the upstairs staff offices and meetings rooms. Anyone sitting in the lobby could hear what was said in the upstairs landing. After an incident occurred, continual reminders kept people from having any kind of client discussions on that upper landing.

Another firm had a client approach a partner to warn him that he, the client, was dining in a popular business lunch spot and overheard a table of administrative people discussing a client of the firm. The client didn’t want his business discussed in public places.

These examples are just one segment of client confidentiality. Some clients don’t even want people to know who handles their financial affairs.

Again, be careful and educate everyone working at the firm.

 

  • Confidentiality is an ancient and well-warranted social value.
  • Kay Redfield Jamison

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Provide Guidance On How To Enter Time

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein

If you are a value pricing firm, disregard.  Good for you and I bet you have a lot of happy team members. I also imagine that you have well-trained managers who mentor and guide them through client engagements.

If you are not a value pricing firm, like most of the firms I talk to and work with, I bet you get the questions, “How do we enter our time for traveling to a client location? Is it chargeable or not?”

Here’s a flashback post to help you help your team.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Talk With Your Team About Purpose

“The purpose of your business should be as clear as the name on your building, not another page in your HR handbook.” – William Vanderbloemen

Yes, talk to your team about the firm’s purpose. However, the ownership group better talk about it first!

Have you really given any thought about the purpose of your firm?

A recent study from Korn Ferry showed that companies with teams focused on their organization’s purpose had annual growth rates nearly three times the annual rate for their entire industry.

The survey also showed that 90% of people who worked in a purpose-driven organization reported feeling engaged in their work.

Forbes.com contributor, William Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group (an executive search firm focused on churches) discusses the great impact of focusing on purpose. Read his Forbes article here.

Do CPA firms have a strong purpose? You bet they do! I talk to a lot of CPAs and the thing they love the most is their clients. When I ask managers and staff of public accounting firms what they like best about working at a firm they almost always name “the clients” first.

CPAs are the most trusted advisor. They help businesses and individuals become more successful. They help family businesses survive. They help transition businesses from generation to generation. They help clients better understand tax issues and accounting practices. The healthier the business community, the healthier the community. CPAs play a huge role in that.

I know you can add to this list of what you do but do you talk about it? Do you identify your purpose and keep it in front of your employees? Are you persistent in pushing the importance of your core values? Are the core values meaningful and understandable? I admire the values of Mr. Vanderbloemen’s firm:

  • Broadband Love
  • Unusual Servanthood
  • Wow-Making Excellence
  • Ridiculous Responsiveness
  • Solution-Side Living
  • Ever-Increasing Agility
  • Stewardship of Life
  • Constant Improvement
  • Contagious Fun

Learn more about each value by visiting the website. It is under the “About” tab. For example, Solution-Side Living means:  The Vanderbloemen team members are problem solvers, always having a solution mentality and not a victim mentality.

They actually all nine of their core values them painted on a wall in their staff meeting room – covering the entire wall in big letters of different styles and sizes.

Take steps this summer to better define your culture. Make it a purposeful culture. Identifying your core purpose is not enough. It requires a deep and abiding commitment from the top. Your purpose needs to be visible in all your actions and activities from hiring people to serving clients.

 

  • 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

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Motto or Tagline

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.
– Henry David Thoreau

Most firms have them. Many firms have them prominently displayed on their website. I am referring to the firm motto or tagline. Most are rather boring. They are things like the following:

  • A Century Strong
  • Improving the lives of our staff, clients and community with innovation, trust and integrity.
  • Collaborative Approach.Practical Advice
  • Go Beyond
  • Serving clients since 1931
  • Strategy Meets Challenges
  • Helping You Meet Your Financial Goals
  • Experience, Financial Clarity and Confidence
  • Uncommon Expertise, Incomparable Service

Read more here. 

Some firms tout their longevity, some their client service and some have just copied something another firm has used. I remember hearing a very prominent managing partner from a very prominent and forward-thinking firm do a presentation on developing core values for his firm. We, the audience, were all very impressed with the list of six or so values and the meaning behind each one. Privately, in a later conversation, I asked him, “How did you come up with the values and meaningful descriptions?” He replied, “Oh, I just found them on the internet.”

Mottos and taglines are also used internally to motivate your entire staff. Maybe you need a different kind of motto for internal use, something that will actually motivate staff, something not so stiff, formal and vague. Here’s a motto, intended as a family motto, that I recently read in a magazine. I love it and think it would be a great motto for your CPA team:

Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

Whatever your motto – to make it relevant and truly alive inside your firm you must use it repetitively. Make posters and display them around the office. Engrave it on a paperweight for each person’s desk. Put it on t-shirts and give them out at the firm summer picnic.

My continuing message to all of you: Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

  • My motto is: Contented with little, yet wishing for more.
  • Charles Lamb