Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

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

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Talking and Writing

“The spoken word and the written — there is an astonishing gulf between them.” – Hercule Poirot 

The above quote from an Agatha Christie novel made me think of CPAs and all the other people working inside accounting firms.

Talking – – You have developed your own language. You never say individual tax return, you say 1040. You don’t say:

  • We need an Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate; you say we need a W-4.
  • We have the U.S. Return of Partnership Income; you say 1065.

Be careful, especially when talking to clients and new hires, that you answer questions in a way that is easily understandable for people not familiar with life inside a CPA firm. As for your new hires, they will soon be very comfortable with form numbers.

Writing – – So much is conveyed these days in writing. Email is our main form of communication with clients, business associates, and employees. I see first-hand that many CPAs rank poorly with grammar and spelling! After all, they are numbers people. More than once, I have talked with firm administrators and partners who are actually embarrassed, for the firm, because of a way a partner corresponds via email.

So, back to the quote. Are you easily able to put in writing clear, concise answers to your clients’ questions? Are you careful not to use CPA lingo that might not be understood by outsiders?

Some CPAs are skilled at putting things in writing yet find it difficult to convey verbally, and vice-versa. Talking and writing are things we can all work on to become more skilled and proficient.

  • It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
  • Robert Benchley

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

You Will Be Receiving Performance Feedback. Are You Prepared?

“Don’t spew about your weaknesses. Affirm your aspirations.” – Dan Rockwell

It’s that time of year. Firm leaders are gathering and preparing feedback information to communicate to various team members.

You are a various team member. What are you thinking? How are YOU preparing?

I have conducted a huge number of performance feedback sessions during my decades in public accounting and I have always been surprised and impressed when the team member had actually taken time to prepare.

Be prepared to talk about the future and don’t dwell on the past. Be prepared to talk about all the good or even outstanding things you accomplished in recent months. Everyone has weaknesses. Acknowledge them and work on them but start a conversation about your career progress, what excites you about your role and your hopes, desires, and aspirations going forward.

  • By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

More About Client Acceptance

“You get to choose your customers, not the other way around.” – Seth Godin

Yesterday I wrote about providing too much information and spending too much time with a potential client before you know they are a suitable fit for your firm.

This is a tough issue inside many CPA firms.

Firms are competing heavily for new clients. You need them. So, you add new clients without subjecting them to a rigorous client acceptance process.

Has your firm grown by accepting every client that comes along and keeping them even when they are a collection headache?  Is there pressure on your partners to bring in new business so that they can claim their share of the profits during the year-end compensation dance?  If these type of actions are in your past, think hard about your future.

Ask your team members about the quality of your client base.  They will tell you immediately which ones they would nominate for out-placement.

Even though you really know you should serve clients that fit your mission, clients you like and admire and get rid of those that are poor business people, most of you will continue to work with clients that you really don’t like very much, who treat your people disrespectfully and then don’t pay you.

Seth Godin had a good post on his blog about Choosing Your Customers. Seth says, “Yes, you get to choose them, not the other way around. You choose them with your pricing, your content, your promotion, your outreach and your product line.”

  • The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.
  • Michael Porter

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The History of Your Firm

“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.'” – Eduardo Galeano

Last week, I was on vacation in Gettysburg, PA. We have always liked history vacations and have done many and it usually involves visiting national parks. The Gettysburg National Military Park is one of our favorites.

We have been to Gettysburg numerous times and we always learn something new and see things we have never seen before. It is because they are continually updating the park and making it more like it was in 1863. They want to make it “real” for visitors.

How much do your people know about the history of your firm? Many firms do have a summary on their website and many do not. Why not make it more real for them?

To help your people better understand the firm and its leaders, try a timeline exercise at your next full-firm meeting (or do a lunch and learn).

Get a large roll of paper and affix a long sheet to a wall in the staff room – make it about 15 to 20 feet wide. Draw a long line and put the date of the firm’s founding at the beginning on the left. Note the current date (month) at the other end of the long line. Then have everyone (using markers) mark on the sheet when they joined the firm. For many firms, it will span several decades. Then have random people talk about “what it was like” when they joined the firm and encourage people to ask questions.

Some very interesting discussions will follow!

Follow this up with another session a month or so later and talk about something even more important – the future.

 

  • I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Friday, June 1st, 2018

The Best Agreements – Flashback Friday

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” – William Shakespeare

It’s Friday again. The week has flown by and it is time for a flashback post. You read lots of agreements – ones pertaining to your firm and others for your clients. Please put a book called The Four Agreements on your summer reading list.

Read more here.

  • Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt