Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

What Makes A Great Culture

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

Culture is what attracts top talent to your firm.

I have observed that many firms really haven’t focused on culture or even thought about it much. The fact is, they have one (a culture) anyway and often it is not a culture that will attract the best talent or even the best clients.

A great culture evolves inside an accounting firm when great people are engaged.  Per Gallup, only about 70% of U.S. workers are working at their full potential.

You can build a great culture by being more inclusive, by involving everyone in planning for the future, by clearly communicating the firm purpose, vision and values, by setting a good example as a leader, by continually giving them more meaningful and challenging work and by taking them along. And, that is just a few of the actions you can take.

Why not make 2017 the year you begin to shape a winning culture?

  • We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don't get comfortable with our success.
  • Mark Parker, CEO, Nike

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

A Great Micro-Publishing Platform For CPAs – Blogging

I visit CPA firm websites all the time. I want to see what YOU are doing and how you are doing it. I want to see the firms that “get it” and the firms that have no clue. It helps me with ideas for this blog and ways I can assist my clients.

Recently I visited a site and the firm did have a blog link at the top of the page. However, the page was blank. Frequently, I visit CPA firm blog sites and the last blog post was six months ago or longer. If you do blog, do it on a regular schedule – weekly or monthly – be consistent.

Don’t shy away from blogging. You have some great business minds within your firm and CPAs have so much to write about and to share. The writing itself is a great way to reflect upon your work and your professional purpose.

Remember the old advertising slogan? “Try it, you’ll like it.”

Try blogging, you will like it! It’s only two or three paragraphs. If no one follows, it is still a good mental exercise. The more you blog the better you get. Then people will follow and you’ll attract new clients to your firm.

Watch this short video from Seth Godin, one of the most famous bloggers and Tom Peters.

  • I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.
  • Tom Clancy

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Bringing In New Business

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.

Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.

Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!

Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.

Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.

Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).

You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.

Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.

Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.

Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”

  • Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
  • Robert McKee

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Indefatigable

“Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

You work very hard. You care about your firm. You want things to get better and better.

To accomplish this, no matter what your title, you need to be an indefatigable person.

Indefatigable definition: persisting tirelessly.  Synonyms: tireless, untiring, unflagging, unwearied, determined, tenacious, industrious, hard-working, unswerving, unfaltering, unshakable, resolute, relentless and so on.

But my favorite description is persistent. You must persevere!

Don’t ever give up hope.

  • Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Do Some Partners Drive Staff Nuts?

fullsizerenderI enjoyed a recent post from Leadership Freak (Dan Rockwell) discussing ways leaders drive people nuts.

It won’t surprise any of you that this topic applies to the CPA profession.

I hear reports from my clients (and other firms) frequently about certain partners being a problem.

There is the KNOW IT ALL partner, talks constantly often repeating the same theme over and over again and never listening to others. Often, nothing is done about this partner’s behavior.

There is the WILD CARD partner, the one people actually worry about how they are advising their clients. Often, nothing is done about this partner’s behavior.

There is the RETIRED IN PLACE partner, the one who comes in late, leaves early, plays a lot of golf and contributes very little toward moving the firm forward. Often, nothing is done about this partner’s behavior.

There is the CONTROL FREAK partner, actually works too hard and doesn’t seem to trust staff members, support professionals, admin, or even other partners, to help them with their workload. Often, nothing is done about this partner’s behavior.

Here are Leadership Freak’s 3 ways leaders drive people nuts – see if you agree (or see if it sound like you)!

#1 They respond emotionally to problems, failure, or tough situations.

#2 They show up unprepared for meetings.

#3 They appear disinterested during one on ones.

He also lists seven more ways…. read his article here. To me, these 7 Ways certainly apply to some public accounting firm bosses.

Oh yes, about those partners’ behaviors, maybe you should coach them up!

  • To hear, one must be silent.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin

Monday, November 7th, 2016

THINK AND THANK

“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” – Charles Schwab

It is November, a month when many people might make time to think about what they are thankful for. How about you, as it relates to your accounting firm and the people who populate it?

This month, leading up to Thanksgiving Day (here in the USA), I hope to remind you about some of the “I am so glad at my firm…..” things.

thinkFor today, set aside some time to THINK.

Here are some past blog posts about the value of actually setting aside some time to THINK and reflect upon who you are, where you are and what your work life means to you. After you think about the many wonderful things and wonderful people in your life…. I bet you will be thankful that you are part of an accounting firm.

Always carve out time to think – from August 2015. I think the word “carve” makes it appropriate for November.

Think it over – from January 9, 2014.

Make November your THINK and THANK month.

 

  • Gratitude is best and most effective when it does not evaporate itself in empty phrases.
  • Isaac Asimov

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Show Your Clients You Care

No excusesDon’t take your individual tax clients for granted. Don’t make excuses why you can’t personally meet with clients.

As we become more and more digital, we might endanger some relationships because we do not make the extra effort to secure the relationships with our clients.

What I often see happening in firms is that we ask the client to drop off their tax information, use the portal or mail it in. Then we have a staff person touch base by phone during the process, if necessary.

We avoid personal, face-to-face interaction with these clients and they live nearby. You can’t delegate personal advice and relationships. Plus, when you set aside some time to meet with clients, you open the door to discovering additional services your firm could provide.

Consider these ideas to cement client relationships:

  • Set an appointment to meet with your local clients and include the date and time in the organizer package (or communication).
  • Have your administrative team call to confirm the appointment a few days before.
  • Meet with the client (their place or yours… yours if at all possible) for 30 minutes and talk about their year (often results in additional projects for your firm).
  • Send them away with a checklist of missing information and a due date (with a second copy given to your admin team).
  • Admin calls to remind them if the missing information is not in by an agreed upon date.
  • If at all possible, have them return for a 15-minute meeting to discuss the final return (at the very least YOU should talk to them via telephone).

You can’t delegate personal service. It will keep them coming back and most importantly, it will cause them to say, “My CPA meets with me and explains things.”

  • Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.
  • George Burns

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Test Your Own Listening Skills

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

I write a lot about the importance of listening.

I can write even more about it and will naturally do so as I continue on my blogging journey.

Today, maybe it is time for you to assess your own, personal listening skills.

You can access a self-assessment on the Mindtools website. Take the test, do the scoring and read about what it all means.

Why not share the test with your peers and see how everyone compares? It might be a great learning exercise for all of you. Or, it might be a great lunch & learn to do with all team members.

  • There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.
  • Lisa Ford

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Forget About The Goof-Ups.

“Inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.” – Sigmund Freud

Many of you working at accounting firms have recently been through some sort of performance feedback process. While I urge firm leaders to provide feedback more frequently, most still have a once-a-year, larger, more significant feedback session.

While these sessions are supposed to happen in May or June, they usually get delayed and are often not wrapped up until September. These conversations almost always focus on what you can improve. That’s a good thing to know and it should be valuable information for you to receive. Hopefully, you also received some praise for what you are doing well.

So, while that performance conversation is still rather fresh in your mind, begin preparing for next time.

Begin now – today – tracking the positives. Track the good things, the wins, the great learning moments, the times you helped someone else… the new technology you mastered… all the skill enhancing moments that occur on a daily basis.

I mean it. Keep a long list of the positive moments. Spend less time making note of minor setbacks. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Be prepared to share all of this good news during your next performance conversation and also be the one that identifies some areas where you need to improve. Be the one to guide the conversation.

You are the one who owns your career-enhancing journey. Make it a positive one!

  • Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.
  • Washington Irving

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Listening Is A Magical Skill

“Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?” — David M. Bader

Have you ever found yourself explaining something to another person or asking a specific question about something work related and you can tell that they are only half-listening or are completely focused on something else?

I recently observed a conversation between a grandchild and a grandfather that demonstrated the magical power of listening. You could easily observe how much the child loved and wanted to always be near the adult. The child delighted in exploring rocks, weeds, flowers and even dirt while accompanied by the grandfather.

I think that this close relationship developed because the grandfather always listened intently to what the grandchild said. During a story the child was telling about a swimming outing, the grandfather focused his eyes and complete attention on the child. He frequently asked questions… “Did you get your hair wet? Did daddy help you float? Did you wear your new bathing suit? And then what happened? And then what happened?”

Have you ever tried to talk to a partner, across the desk from them in their office and their eyes keep darting away to their computer screen (to see what the latest email might be about or who it was from)? Have you ever asked for information from a supervisor and they pace and focus on looking at the floor? Have you ever tried to explain something to a direct report and they do not maintain eye contact and fidget with something in their pocket or on their desk?

Developing close working relationships and building an amazing, responsive team takes work. Make time for conversations and practice your listening skills. Then focus on what they are saying, look directly at their face, show emotion (surprise, curiosity, pride, happiness, amazement). Ask leading questions. They will admire and respect you for it and might always want to be working with you.

  • If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.
  • Marge Piercy