“Organizations are destroyed by behaviors that should be confronted but are condoned by silence.” – Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak
I have often operated by that old phrase, “Silence Is Golden”. There were just times when it was very appropriate, in my opinion, to say nothing. For instance, when someone was very angry.
I have also often operated by another old phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. That advice came from my mother and maybe from Thumper.
Communication is a difficult subject and a constant struggle inside many busy accounting firms.
However, never forget – You owe people feedback. You owe your partners feedback. You even owe your bosses feedback.
You should be comfortable speaking up immediately when you notice someone doing something wrong. Many “bosses” in CPA firms seem to have missed this message.
A partner notices that Judy is not following firm procedures, yet the partner saves up constructive feedback until there is a performance evaluation meeting or exercise.
Joe is new and struggling with some tax preparation issues. The manager is aware but is silent and instead writes 57 review notes.
Most of the partners notice “things” that should be addressed with a staff person or an admin team member and rather than address it on the spot, they ask the firm administrator… “Can you talk to Sally?”
Ted, tax partner, is what we call a “wild card”. The partners are even concerned about how he might be advising clients. Nothing is said.
Yes, you can bring a lot of negativity into the work place by saying too much, talking too much and whining too much. However, there are many times when inappropriate behaviors need to be addressed.
Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.
“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P.J. O’Rourke
I am a firm believer in the fact that reading is an invaluable career-building and character-building activity. I read for education and for pleasure. Last year I began keeping a log of the books I read (mostly I read on my Kindle). I read 20 books in 2016 and I am already on my 9th book for 2017.
It helps me have a broader understanding of the world – the whole world and the business world. I also read many blogs, articles and newsletters. I always recommend – read, read, read.
Sharpens Your Mind (I certainly can benefit from this one.)
Increases Your Vocabulary (I love the Kindle feature where you can press on a word and it gives you the definition. I also love to read books that challenge me in this area. An example is Lincoln at the Bardo.)
Lowers Your Stress (Almost every day at 4:00 or 4:30pm, I stop working and spend an hour reading. It relaxes me.)
Decreases Your Depression (In my case, it “lightens my spirit”.)
Improves Your Memory and Focus (I need all the help I can get here.)
Strengthens Your Writing Abilities (Oh yes, I have learned so much about writing by reading.)
“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.
“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.
“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!
If 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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed an interesting conversation recently with John Garrett. John is a CPA-turned corporate comedian on a mission to strengthen teams.
John 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.
“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.