Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

What Else Can You Do?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Recently, I read an article via Fast Company about a commencement address by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, founders of Walby Parker.

When they graduated from college, they felt the way a lot of new grads do – extremely well-educated in a narrow range of really specific things.

It’s a lot like that with the accounting profession. You are college-educated about accounting and then you enter public accounting where you are required to earn more education (CPE) about the accounting (and tax) each year.

When do you have time to learn other stuff? Sure, you can do taxes…. but what else can you do?

Blumenthal and Gilboa learned much along the way on their journey as entrepreneurs. I think you can learn from three of their tips

  1. Presume Positive Intent – It’s human nature to presume the worst – don’t do it. Commit to getting better every day.
  2. Speed-walk, Don’t Cliff-Dive – Committing to something doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Speed-walking is constantly moving forward by taking deliberate step after deliverate step. Conquer fear by minimizing risk, not eliminating it.
  3. Treat Others The Way THEY Want to be Treated – Your business journey is enriched through exposure to a variety of perspectives. Seek to understand different points of view. Treating people the way YOU want to be treated does not always apply, people are complex and different.

One of the things that really impressed me with their story is their focus on kindness. They stated, “Kindness enables success while being the success we seek: a kind world. Let us all be proliferators of kindness.”

If you are not sure where to begin, start with a simple question. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone’s life better?”

Read the entire article.

  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
  • Aesop

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Summer is a Good Time to Think

“Training your mind to think is a process not just an activity – it gets better over time and through repetition.” – Jennifer Gluckow

Busy season is over. Perhaps, things are just a little slower in your work life. Plus, summer is a perfect time to do more thinking.

I have often reminded you to THINK. I want to remind you again today.

Jennifer Gluckow is an amazing sales resource. You can learn all about her here. She recently wrote about “Thinking About Thinking” and that reminded me of you – CPA firm leaders and CPA firm employees.

How often are you thinking strategically about your business, your sales, your clients, your future? How often are you thinking about your life? I imagine you rarely take time to slow down, relax and simply think (away from electronics of any sort).

Gluckow recommends ways to maximize your effectiveness at thinking:

  • Schedule time on your calendar.
  • Clear your head before you begin.
  • Drain your brain before you begin.
  • Be totally alone.
  • Maybe some music.
  • Create a peaceful thinking place.
  • 15 minutes a day.
  • Write them down.

Read more about each one of these tips in her article here.

  • Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.
  • Plato

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Finger-Pointing

“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” – Catherine the Great

Occasionally, something goes wrong on a client engagement. Somebody didn’t follow procedures. Someone talked to the client and didn’t pass along the information. A client phone call got lost in the shuffle and didn’t get returned. The list could go on and on.

When this happens inside some firms, the finger-pointing game begins….. “The manager didn’t tell me I had to do that…. The staff person didn’t do what I told them… I put the client note in the file…. I think admin didn’t follow up…. ” Again, the list of accusations and excuses can go on and on.

In the best firms, there is no obsession with placing blame. Leaders and team members put little emphasis on the past, they focus on the future. They focus on how to fix things so that the mistake doesn’t happen again. They learn from mistakes.

Here’s a motto I want you to adopt at your firm:

Don’t worry about why it went wrong. Just put it right!

  • I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Make Them Feel Important

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When your clients, prospects and others call your office, through the main line, do they feel welcome? Or, do they feel interrogated and unimportant?

Many successful accounting firms have adopted a “no inquiry” method of greeting callers. The person answering the phone answers with your firm standard greeting, identifies themselves and puts the call through immediately to the person the caller has requested. That person almost always answers the phone when it rings.

I wanted to review this today because I call a lot of CPA firms. When I reach a firm where the Director of First Impressions “screens” me I really do feel somewhat offended and think “I guess she is determining if I am important enough.” Some not only want your name, they continue and ask, “May I tell him/her what this is about?”

Just to clarify:

  • Whether you like it or not, screening calls puts a barrier between you and your clients.
  • Whether you like it or not, your client feels slightly insulted when they’re asked to state their name and a reason for calling.
  • Whether you like it or not, most clients hate it.
  • Whether you like it or not, many clients believe the only reason they’re being interrogated is so that you can be “out” when they call – – that is, it’s a “nice” way of telling them you’re there but you don’t want to talk with them. Actually, it’s an awful way of doing it and it’s dishonest.
  • Whether you like it or not, if you don’t know who’s on the phone, you have to answer it right away.

Sure, someone you might not want to talk to might be calling. Being a business professional, you can handle those easily by dismissing them quickly and professionally.

Sometimes I feel like most business professionals let every incoming call, whether through their office number or their mobile device, go to voice mail thinking they will handle it later.

Wouldn’t it make your firm stand-out if your professionals didn’t use the phone to dodge calls?

Read more about this, plus learn Action Steps for Phone Greeting via a blog post from October, 2012.

  • Great men show politeness in a particular way; a smile suffices to assure you that you are welcome, and keep about their avocations as if you were a member of the family.
  • John James Audobon

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Leaders Set The Tone

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of M&A activity going on in public accounting.

There are varying reasons but one of the most prominent is the fact that current firm owners have not groomed, trained or mentored people to take over the firm. So, what do you do? You sell-out so you get “something” out of the practice that you have been a part of for 30 years or more.

If you are a managing partner or sole-practitioner and are still several years away from that decision, you are responsible. You are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the future of the firm…

If your people usually arrive late in the morning…

If your people spend too much time on a job because they don’t have a clearly defined budget…

If your people make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed…

You are responsible. It is your responsibility to communicate what is okay and what’s not okay. You are enabling behaviors to continue when they think what they are doing is okay.

Begin planning to have those crucial conversations and maybe you can change your firm future.

  • We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Clear and Unclear

“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” – Gandhi

Studies tell us that accounting graduates are looking for an employer that can show them a well-defined career path. They want a firm that clearly communicates expectations.

Your firm has worked very hard at doing all of that. When new people join the firm you have documentation that shows them career paths. Your performance evaluation system gives them frequent feedback and sets expectations.

Leaders are pleased and assume all of effort put into developing and communicating career paths and expectations is working effectively. Everything is clear.

But, what about the grapevine? What about the unwritten ground rules that thrive inside every office? What about the things that are unclear?

Leaders tell new people to speak-up, make their opinions known. Peers may tell them to “be careful what you say when Nancy is in the room.” So, it is not always safe to speak-up?

Once again, it is all about your firm culture. If you have a culture that is productive and positive, one where there are few, if any, mixed messages, you will have better employee engagement and enhanced productivity.

Firm culture needs to be a strategic focus and continually fostered throughout the firm.

 

  • A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
  • Gandhi

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Conquer The Email Mountain

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.” – Jack Kerouac

I have posted many times on the topic of email. Here are a few, maybe you missed them:

What Kind of Impression Do Your Emails Make?

Don’t Read Email First Thing In The Morning.

CPA Live In The World of Email

If you need to be more efficient with our email, go to the search box on the right and type in “email” – you will find even more posts about email.

Email is one of the most frustrating things in the life of CPA firm citizens. It is often a love/hate relationship. It is convenient, easy and quick. It can also be tiring, over-whelming and frustrating.

Just a few more tips today:

  • Be very thorough when you are requesting something by email. It doesn’t mean you need a long email, just one that clearly explains the purpose.
  • Keep your emails short and sweet. People will glance at your email and if it is long, they will not read it!
  • Avoid sending an email to a big group of people – include only essential people.
  • Be cautious with your signature. Many people have way too much information in their signature box.
  • It is actually okay to NOT use a closing – just end the email. Think about how much time you spend mentally debating whether to end with best regards, thank-you, sincerely, warm regards…. depending on the person you are addressing. Because texts are so widely used, email can also be a quick back and forth, not signature needed.
  • My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places.
  • A. A. Milne

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Delay and Millennials – Not A Good Combination

“Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” – Charles M. Schulz

Think about it. Millennials have always had technology at their finger tips. The oldest Millennials are 37 years old this year. They are not kids and many are your employees and your clients.

As consumers, they do not expect delays. They are used to having access almost immediately to any kind of information via their mobile device. When making purchases, they are used to having their information (profile) “out there” so they don’t even have to spend time entering specific billing and shipping information. It is not just Millennials, we are all now used to speed when shopping on line.

The younger generation is also used to obtaining answers by looking at FAQ pages rather than calling a customer service rep. According to a Desk.com study, 80% of Millennials find calling customer service highly inconvenient.

Consider how this information relates to your accounting firm.

Your Clients:

Much of your current and most of your future client base expect information quicker. They do not want to wait until you can return their phone call – 4 hours later.

How user friendly and interactive is your website? Do you have a FAQ page to help people learn about and understand CPA services?

Your Employees:

Do your employees have to wait on performance feedback? I often hear about firms that have delayed the feedback scheduled for June until November or December!

Do your employees have to wait, maybe a week or more, on review notes that guide them as they work on client engagements?

Do your employees have to wait days to talk to a partner (the partner is out of the office, on the phone, in meetings, etc.)?

Do your employees have to wait YEARS to be promoted? Telling a new college grad that it might take 10 years to become a partner could be quite a shock.

As a partner group, do you table a decision until the next partner meeting… then the next partner meeting… and then the next partner meeting?

Beginning now, explore ways to speed things up at your firm…. or, you will find your firm lagging behind in many areas.

  • The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.
  • Mary Kay Ash

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Older People Might Not Be As Outdated As Young People Think

“When an elder dies, it’s like a library has burned down.” – Old Saying

I recently read a very interesting article on the HBR site: I Joined Airbnb at 52, and Here’s What I Learned About Age, Wisdom, and the Tech Industry by Chip Conley.

Just think about the vast knowledge and experience the accounting profession has among those often pushed-out-the-door Boomers. Here are just a few excerpts from the article. I hope they inspire you to read the entire article.

–I’ll offer you some emotional intelligence for your digital intelligence.

–Many young people can read the face of their iPhone better than the face of the person sitting next to them.

–I was surrounded by folks who were tech-savvy — but were perhaps unaware that being “emo-savvy” could be just the thing to help them grow into great leaders. I realized that we expect young digital-era leaders to miraculously embody relationship wisdoms, with very little training, that we elders had twice as long to learn.

–Boomers and Millennials have a lot to offer, and learn from, each other. Enter the “Modern Elder,” who serves and learns, as both mentor and intern, and relishes being both student and sage.

  • Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

All Those Meetings!

“The person who leaves the room without something to do, shouldn’t have attended in the first place.” – Leadershipfreak

After tax season has ended, many CPA firms begin Meeting Season. I am talking about internal meetings.

Meetings to address issues that surfaced during January thru April, meetings about performance, meetings about goals, meetings about whether to buy new software, audit team meetings, tax team meetings, admin meetings, fun committee meetings, staff meetings, manager meetings and yes, partner meetings.

leadershipfreakI love the quote (above) about meetings from Dan Rockwell  (@leadershipfreak).

Here’s Dan’s 10 Commandments of Great Meetings:

Law #1: Thou shalt always declare the purpose of the meeting before it happens.

The most important work of the meeting happens before the meeting. Confusion about purpose is always the result of inept leadership.

Law #2: All participants shalt understand and agree that the requirements of law #1 have been fully met.

Declaring the purpose of a meeting doesn’t mean everyone understands or aligns.

Law #3: Thou shalt meet to make decision, never to discuss.

Law #4: Everyone around the table shalt have a stake in the pie.

Law #5: The people closest to the work shalt talk the most.

Law #6: The most powerful person in the room shalt talk the least.

Law #7: Thou shalt engage in lively debate.

When law #6 is violated, law #7 won’t happen.

Law #8: The leader of the meeting shalt keep everyone focused and engaged.

Law #9: Thou shalt silence big mouths and engage quiet participants, even if it hurts someone’s feelings, .

Law #10: Thou shalt assign tasks to everyone in the room.

I always urge you to never leave a meeting without an Action Plan!

  • Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything.
  • John Kenneth Galbraith