Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

We All Must Learn To Deal With Difficult People

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” – John W. Gardner

Yes, difficult people are all around us – friends, relatives and the people at work. We need to especially be equipped to deal with those difficult work people!

The Nitpickers: Critical, judgmental and perpetual complainers. (You don’t know any of these do you??)

The Megaphones: We answer the phone or we walk down the hall and these people talk non-stop for 20 minutes.

The Voiceless: These people have zero confidence or assertiveness. They’re full of whine, but rarely express an opinion.

The Bubble Busters: They have to be right – all the time. They love controlling and micromanaging.

The Volcanoes: The ones who are ready to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. They explode and leave a trail of damage.

What do you do? Remain neutral. Without compromising, protect your space and maintain your emotions.

Don’t take things personally. You can’t control their behavior but you can control your reaction to it.

I like the description – “cool, calm and collected.” – – That’s you!

  • The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
  • Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Seven Secrets of Career Success

“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb

I was browsing through some old digital files and found the following. I remember using these “secrets” many years ago in a presentation I did for a community college’s new graduates.

I think they definitely apply to life inside a busy accounting firm.

Seven Secrets of Career Success

Become a quick change artist

Commit fully to your career

Speed up

Behave like you’re in business for yourself

Practice lifelong learning

Manage your own morale

Be a fixer – not a finger pointer

  • Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it.
  • Katharine Whitehorn

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Use Email & Social Media To Remind Your Clients

“Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” – Edith Summerskill

My dentist and my doctor send me reminders about upcoming appointments. These reminders come via email, text and a phone message. It is all automated via their practice management software. I have always wondered why more CPAs aren’t using a tool like this.

We now live in the world of social media and digital communication. Be sure you are using these tools to remind your clients about supplying their tax information.

When I talk to firms, they often tell me that they call and remind their clients about furnishing their information. When I ask, “How many times did you call?” the answer is usually…. “Once”. Once is not enough.

Here’s an example of an email one of my clients sent out recently. Maybe it will help you compose your reminder message. It is important that the reminder only go to  those clients who are tardy – not to ALL clients.

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 22, 2017. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2016. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • Nothing external to you has any power over you.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, March 17th, 2017

You Might Think You Are Ordinary But You Are Not – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

“With good friends, you can’t lose.” – Kermit the Frog

I like this post for St. Patrick’s Day. I last used it in 2011. It still applies – So eat some green bagels or cupcakes and have a green beer this evening and think about NOT being green. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Can CPAs relate to Kermit and his tale about:  It’s not easy being green?

As Kermit says, “Wouldn’t it be nicer being red, or yellow or gold?  Green seems like you blend in with so many other ordinary things and people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water.

Perhaps, because you are a CPA you might feel ordinary or under-appreciated.  Well…. YOU ARE NOT!

As Kermit continues, “But green’s the color of Spring and green can be cool and friendly-like and green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.  When green is all there is to be it could make you wonder why, but why wonder why wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful and I think it’s what I want to be.”

  • My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.
  • Jim Henson

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Don’t Hide The WELCOME Mat

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

You made it through March 15th. It was challenging and sometimes very stressful. You have another month of the busy season life before you can relax a little.

And then, it is those darn clients. They keep emailing you and calling you. Don’t they understand how busy you are?? You just want to hide from them!

welcomeIf you are working in public accounting, please never forget that you are in the service business. Compare it to being in a restaurant and you ask the waiter for a water refill or another glass of wine. He flippantly and quickly responds. “I’m too busy right now. You’ll have to wait.” How much of a gratuity would you leave? Would you return to that restaurant anytime soon?

I email a lot of CPA practitioners and have received a lot of clever “out of office” automated responses. Here are two examples of the bad and the good.

I was saddened to receive one similar to this:

Due to the tax deadlines, I will not be able to respond in a timely manner to voicemail or email. If you need immediate assistance please contact Sally (phone number) and she will get a staff member to assist you.

What kind of message does this send to your client base? How many clients will hang around until you are not so busy? Never let clients know you are TOO BUSY for them and their needs. I guess the above message is better than never hearing back at all.

A few years ago I received an automated message from a long-time client when I emailed him during busy season. This message was warm and welcoming and explained an acceptable process for the busy time of year.

Greetings, Friends & Clients:

Due to the normal tax season high workload and to allow me to completely focus on the tasks at hand, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail daily at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm CT. You & your email is important to me and at the scheduled times, I will respond.

If you require urgent assistance please contact my assistant Juli Moses at (he provided phone number) or you can email her at (he provided her email address).

Even though you get this auto-response, rest assured that I do receive and am able to view the email you sent. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more and serve you better.

Sincerely,

Mike Shost

CPAs are in a business filled with tax due dates. Never be too busy for your valuable clients. Always have the WELCOME MAT prominently displayed, in your responses and in your personal behaviors.

  • The busy have no time for tears.
  • Lord Byron

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Excuses!

No excuses“Don’t make excuses, make good. – Elbert Hubbard

Sometimes, I see a lot of finger-pointing going on inside CPA firms. “Mary told me to do it that way.” “The partner didn’t tell me it was due today.” “The client won’t return my calls.” – – and so on. You have all heard them or maybe even made several excuses yourself.

I read a term this week – – EFE – Excuses for Everything.

After working a CPA firm for thirty years, I can assure you that I have heard a lot of excuses!

Some excuses are self-imposed – “I don’t have enough experience.” “I’ve never prepared that type of return before.” “I need more time to study.”

Some excuses are truly finger-pointing – “Mary said it was okay if I left early every day this week.” “Joe says we always do it this way on non-profit audits.” “No one told me the client was leaving town.”

Rather than focusing on all of the why’s you can’t do something, how about stop making excuses and move into action.

I have observed that in some firms, a lot of time is wasted trying to find out who was at fault for some mistake or miscommunication. Forget who is at fault, fix the problem and move forward.

If YOU are at fault, admit it, apologize and move on. Don’t waste time on excuses. Banish EFEs from your firm.

  • Don't do what you'll have to find an excuse for.
  • Proverb

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

John Garrett – The Recovering CPA

“Comedy is tragedy plus time.” – Carol Burnett

I enjoyed an interesting conversation recently with John Garrett. John is a CPA-turned corporate comedian on a mission to strengthen teams.

John-Garrett-wpJohn found me via a mutual friend, Rob Nance, who recommended John talk with me. Rob was right, I certainly enjoyed talking with John and learning about what he is doing to improve that age-old stereotype – that accountants work all the time and are basically, boring.

As far as boring goes, I know that is not true. I have been working in the CPA profession for over 35 years and I haven’t been bored one minute!

John’s mission is, through comedy, to help accountants expand their universe and share what they really enjoy doing outside of work. He explores this topic on his Green Apple Podcasts. He talks with rock star professionals who stand out at work by focusing on being different in order to get ahead. Accountants, consultants, lawyers and other professionals are doing some cool things after they leave the office.

Sometimes CPA partners are way too secretive about their personal lives. You can actually do a better job of engaging people by sharing more about yourself and what you are passionate about outside of work.

I hope you will help John with his research on corporate culture by taking part in a brief survey on his Green Apple website – it’s anonymous and it takes less than 2 minutes! Also, check out his homepage and learn about all his speaking activities and more.

John has spoken at many CPA conferences, events and to team members at various accounting firms. Maybe he would be a good addition to your Firm Day agenda.

  • Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
  • Peter Ustinov

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Be Sure You Are Listening

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

You have a lot on your plate, whether you are a partner or a first year team member. It’s a busy time and you are in a constant state of hurry-and-get-this-done.

Keep in mind that THE CLIENT is not realistically aware of the amount of work you are processing. They only know that you and your firm are taking care of THEM. It is important to remain focused on their needs and to keep in mind how you look from their viewpoint.

Never let them think you are TO BUSY for them.

Several years at my firm, we had a ban on the word BUSY. If anyone said the word they had to deposit a small fee into the busy jar. The theory was not to ever let clients, prospective clients and referral sources think we were too busy to take on NEW clients.

How do you communicate your intent? Here’s an example.

The firm that prepares my personal/business tax returns, Nolan Giere in Troy, Ohio, recently sent out their Winter 2017 newsletter. In the comments from the managing partner, Tom Giere states:

“We will do our best to fully understand your unique situation so we can do the very best job for you. We also encourage you to ask questions. We are not too busy, we do not mind the interruptions, and we know that the more informed you are the better can serve you.”

Be sure you are communicating to your clients that you WANT them to ask questions and that you don’t mind interruptions.

  • The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
  • Sydney J. Harris

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Be Sure to Give Your Employees C.R.A.P.

Kortes“From caring comes courage.” – Lao Tzu

It’s not what you think! This method comes from Jeff Kortes. He is an employee retention speaker, author and expert. Kortes has found that employers don’t give their employees enough C.R.A.P. and it is driving away valuable workers. Here’s the CRAP he’s talking about:

C – Caring

R – Respect

A – Appreciation

P – Praise

I became aware of Kortes this week, visited his blog site and thoroughly enjoyed his posts.

I know that in public accounting you are certainly challenged with attracting, developing and retaining people. Perhaps, the first thing you should do is develop a written employee retention strategic plan. Learn more about it, from Kortes here.

  • Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.
  • Harold Kushner

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Show Appreciation by Utilizing Stay Interviews

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward.” – Albert Einstein

Some accounting firms have been utilizing stay interviews for a while. However, I have observed that there are still many firms that haven’t embraced this excellent tool.

Anytime you devote individualized attention to one of your team members, asking them for advice and feedback, it’s a positive exercise for both sides – management and staff.

Elizabeth (Bitsy) Watson, PHR, the HR Manager for Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen & Russ shared the process they use for stay interviews. It would be a good best practice for you to emulate. Her comments follow:

BitsyWe started out with results from our recent engagement survey and identified about five areas where we wanted more insight, such as, if we felt our scores for recognition could be stronger or we wanted more insights into what aspects of compensation were most important to staff.

We then came up with some questions related to these areas and others (about 10 total). A few examples were:

  • What types of recognition are most meaningful to you?
  • What opportunities for development would you like that you may not be getting?
  • What type of work do you find most motivating or interesting?
  • Of the compensation and benefits we offer, what aspects are most important to you and what could be improved in this area?

We used a representative sample of our employees to participate in the stay interviews. I kept the names confidential. After the meetings were completed, our next steps were to summarize the overall themes and share the summary with the partners, not sharing names. I also included three recommendations for changes or new programs to implement. We’ll then share these new initiatives with the interview group. We want them to know that we really valued their opinions.

I tried to be as transparent as possible with everyone involved on what we were trying to accomplish and how valuable their feedback is. We received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the interviewees. They mentioned feeling like it was helpful to have a channel to be asked questions they might never have been asked. I think the most interesting thing that came from this was bringing to light some wrong assumptions we, as management, had been making.

Our plan is to do this annually utilizing a different group of employees each year.

  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
  • Thomas Edison