Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The Threat From Artificial Intelligence & More

“It’s beauty that captures your attention; personality that captures your heart.” – Oscar Wilde

I receive a newsletter from a long-time business friend, Norm Bobay of  HireMAX. Check them out if you have a need to use DISC for your firm.

This month’s newsletter has two articles that I think will be of interest to you – CPA firm citizens.

The first explains the threat many are feeling because of AI replacing their jobs. The second article – Leaders Excel With These Different Leadership Styles – is also insightful.

The leadership styles are:

  • Action-Oriented
  • Transformative
  • Encouraging
  • Empowerment
  • Reflective
  • Idealistic

Follow the link to the article and read more about these styles.

  • The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
  • Ernest Hemingway

Monday, April 30th, 2018

Abusing Technology

“I have so much I want to do. I hate wasting time.” – Stephen Hawking

Baby Boomer Partners complain:

Many of our staff are just looking for a job, not a career. They want to work 8:00 until 5:00, five days a week. Even while they are at work, they waste so much time on social media, texting their family and friends, and shopping on Amazon.

Millennial Staff complains:

Some partners send me emails at midnight. They also send me emails on weekends and sometimes at 5:00 a.m. I am expected to reply and it seems like I am on call 24/7.

Technology enables us to do so many things more quickly. It also allows us to use a lot of time we should be working on personal endeavors or to intrude on people’s personal time inappropriately.

Instant communication is not always a good thing. This might be a good discussion topic for a lunch and learn session. “How are we abusing the use of technology?” “What do we owe each other, as employer and employee?”

  • There's no good way to waste your time. Wasting time is just wasting time.
  • Helen Mirren

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Guarantee Your Work

“I have a place I got to in the Bahamas. It’s the only place that guarantees total anonymity and freedom.” – Johnny Depp

I guarantee my work. Do You?

I have written about this before but maybe you need a reminder about implementing this policy.

Your firm goes all out to provide over-the-top client service. You want to make your clients happy. Don’t be afraid to offer a satisfaction guarantee. Mentioning confidentiality is also important if you want to make your clients feel comfortable and have them trust you.

Here’s the wording I use in my proposals:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

  • Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
  • Bill Gates

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Guidelines For Clients

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

You have them. You keep them. Sometimes you shouldn’t keep them. But, if you do, figure out how to deal with them. I am talking about those clients that drive you crazy!

Talk to new clients and current clients about how to help YOU serve THEM better (How to be a better client.)

Here’s a sample that you discuss with clients and include in your new client packet.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.
  • Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.
  • Billy Graham

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Accountability

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch

There are a lot of conversations in public accounting firm circles about accountability. Practitioners ask, “How do we hold people accountable?” They want to know exactly what to do and what to say.

In an accounting firm, it is almost always from the top down. As leaders, you want your people to be held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, accountability is a two-way street. If you are holding your people accountable for their performance, they should also be holding you accountable for your performance.

Is that happening at your firm? Do the members of your partner group hold each other accountable? Do you welcome upward feedback so that you are accountable to everyone in the firm?

  • Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.
  • Jim Whitehurst

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn

Friday, April 6th, 2018

As a Mentor, You Are Sculpting

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

A recent article via HBR – The Best Mentors Think Like Michelangelo – describes how Michelangelo considered a beautiful piece of art was already inside the stone and he worked to release it.

This is a beautiful thought to apply to your mentoring role. Here are some points from the article that might help you as your mentor the young, ambitious accountants in your accounting firm. As you have time later, be sure to read the entire article and apply these thoughts to your firm’s mentoring program.

  • The Michelangelo phenomenon refers to when a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner becomes committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form.
  • A skilled mentor can bring out a promising form that might be hidden from view.
  • Excellent mentors devote the time to truly “see” their mentees. It takes time and patience to see their ideal selves.
  • A mentor must earn trust, be accessible, and listen generously.
  • Research confirms that women face more barriers to finding a mentor and when they find a male mentor, it might not result in professional and psychological benefits.
  • One reason is that men sometimes struggle with the important skill of active listening.
  • Men can be great mentors to females if they work hard at understanding some of the challenges of cross-gender mentoring.

Read the entire article and share it. Maybe it’s time to refresh your program.

  • A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.
  • Bob Proctor

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Define Your Firm’s Purpose – It Is Very Important to Young Workers

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” – Simon Sinek

In the past, when I have facilitated partner and management team retreats, I have urged them to focus on Purpose. Firm leaders struggled for years in defining their firm’s mission, vision and core values. A firm purpose was something new to most partner groups.

Firm leaders haven’t really thought about the difference between mission and purpose. A Mission is what you are trying to do and Purpose is why you are doing it.

Per a recent article via Fast Company – As Simon Sinek notes in his bestselling book Start with Why, most people know what an organization does, but few know why they do it. In other words, most purpose-driven leaders can articulate their mission–but many mission-driven leaders cannot articulate their purpose.

The article is titled: Want A Purpose-Driven Business? Know The Difference Between Mission And Purpose Young people want to work for a purpose-driven business but your purpose has to be something more than just rephrasing your business model.

There are some great tips in the article on steps you can take to connect with the WHY and purpose behind what you do.

Make this a topic of this year’s partner retreat.

  • There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
  • Simon Sinek

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Too Many Interruptions

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey

I hear it from so many people working in public accounting. The topic is distractions and interruptions. Several people have told me recently that even when they shut their door, people don’t take the hint – they simply knock and enter.

Distractions also include mobile devices, too many meetings, and noisy people when a group decides to chat in the cubicle next to you or outside your office door. Then there are those newer staff members who continually have questions.

Sharlyn Lauby, @hrbartender, has some helpful suggestions in her article, Workplace Distractions Are Impacting the Bottom Line.

  • Provide a place where employees can hang-out and talk without disturbing others.
  • Define, upfront, whether music can be played in work areas. Some people like quiet and some people like music – define your policy.
  • Provide employees with noise-canceling headphones.

Teach newer team members to compile a list of questions and let them know you will make yourself available at 11:00 and 4:00 to provide answers and guidance.

If you want to know more about the research behind Lauby’s article you can access Udemy’s 2018 Distraction Report for more information.

If you have HR responsibilities at your firm, follow Lauby on Twitter @hrbartender.

  • The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well. I don't like to use the word efficiency. It's creativity. It's a belief that every person counts.
  • Jack Welch

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Circumlocution

“For me, the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” – Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Reading brings me a lot of relaxation, enjoyment, and knowledge. I hope you feel the same way and make reading a top priority.

Of course, you should read the latest and greatest business books but also read for entertainment. I mostly read on my Kindle. I like the feature where you hold your finger on a word and you get the definition. That’s how I discovered the word circumlocution. When I learned the meaning, it made me think of communication inside a CPA firm.

Here’s an example of using it in a sentence: “The firm partners finally shared some firm financial data with us after years of circumlocution.”

Circumlocution definition: The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

Here’s another example that Charles Dickens used in his writings:

“Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving – HOW NOT TO DO IT.”

Don’t allow circumlocution at your firm! Learn more here.

  • I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.
  • Vincent Van Gogh