Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Attracting The Millennials And Others

IMG_7704“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Everyone wants to work for a firm that “gets it.” If you can create that special culture within your CPA firm that really understands today’s current workforce, you will be a winner.

While millennials are the focus for most firms, it involves other team members, too. Experienced people will leave firms that are stuck in the past and move on to a high-profile firm with a vibrant culture.

LBMC, headquartered in Nashville, is a shining example.

Be sure you read this article from Accounting Today: The Millennial Riddle.

  • If you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs.
  • Anonymous

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Saying Good Things

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

Ever wonder what your valuable team members are saying about your firm? I wonder what they say to their friends. I wonder what they say to their parents. I wonder what they say to strangers. And, I wonder what they say to each other!

You should be wondering, too.

In the most progressive firms they are saying things like this:

I can see opportunity here.

They give me ownership of my projects.

I am encouraged to develop myself technically.

I am encouraged to be involved in the community.

This firm is a place for high performers.

They listen to us, we have influence here.

Early in my career, I was given opportunities to have face time with clients.

When something significant happens in your personal life, you get great support from the firm.

I have the feeling I am involved in something special and not just getting a paycheck.

They empower us and give us control over our own schedules.

I love being involved in our Staff Advisory Board.

When I moved to the area, I found the firm online and submitted an application.

These comments come from two, large, progressive, locally owned firms. They didn’t develop millennial-friendly cultures overnight. More and more firms are finding it extremely difficult to compete for top talent. You have to build the culture, the brand, the vision and purpose and… they will come.

  • Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Never Dodge Difficult Conversations

If you supervise other people there are times when you really need to have some open and honest conversations.

Of course, you need to have frequent and honest talks when people are doing well. Continually sprinkle praise on your top performers and also have periodic conversations with them about their career path and the progress they are making.

You also need to have some crucial conversations, critical conversations, and difficult conversations when people are not meeting your expectations. I have observed that while communication with your top performers is easy, it does not happen often enough. I have also observed that difficult conversations are often put-off for months and sometimes even years!

Partners and managers often ask, “How do we begin? How do we actually conduct these difficult conversations?”

I always recommend that you be very clear about the situation whether it is about performance on an engagement or even about the fact that they have body odor.

How do you begin? Be completely straight forward and say, “I need to have a difficult conversation with  you.”

Then you might want to use the BEER method (I have blogged about it before. Here’s a recap:

Talk directly with the person, in private and follow these steps:
B = Behavior – describe to the person what they are doing or not doing that is unacceptable
E = Effect – Explain why the behavior is unacceptable, how it hurts productivity, bothers others, etc.
E = Expectation – Tell the what you expect them to do (or not do) to change.
R = Result – Clearly explain what will happen if the employee changes (positive) or the consequences if this behavior continues.

 

  • A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.
  • Truman Capote

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

CPA Honored On A Topps Baseball Card

Robert_Card-copy“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra

Did you ever collect baseball cards? Topps baseball cards have been around since the late 1880s.

Who would think it, a CPA’s picture on a real baseball card?

I have blogged about my friend Robert Raiola many times. Why? Because he is unique among CPAs and exemplifies what being a CPA, famous for something, is all about.

Raiola is director of the sports and entertainment group at New York-based PKF O’Connor Davies. He appears on the 2016 Topps’ Allen & Ginter baseball card set, issued on August 13, which includes Major League Baseball players and other sports figures, such as radio host Mike Francesa and actor Kevin (“Field of Dreams”) Costner.

Inside Public Accounting covers the entire story very well. And, by the way, he has over 52,000 followers on Twitter – @SportsTaxMan.

Congratulations, Robert! (Read the entire IPA story here.)

What are you famous for?

  • You could be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball.
  • Cal Ripken, Jr.

Friday, August 19th, 2016

The Journey

IMG_1242“I think it’s my adventure, my trip, my journey, and I guess my attitude is, let the chips fall where they may.” – Leonard Nimoy

Accounting firms and the awesome people who populate them are on a journey. They have been on it for many years and the speed of the journey is increasing.

Around the year 2000, the journey to becoming a paperless firm started becoming a reality for some progressive firms. Around that same time, the journey included the wonder of the Blackberry. Then, in 2007, the iPhone was unveiled. Since then, mobile devices have definitely changed your communication style and habits.

LinkedIn was launched in 2003 and was the first social media tool that accountants and other professionals utilized. In 2004, Facebook was unveiled. While it took a while for CPAs to embrace Facebook, it is now unusual for me to interact with a firm that does not have a Facebook page.

Here it is 2016, and the AICPA and other advisory groups for CPAs are telling you that your foundation services (tax and audit) will be non-existent in the not too distant future. Profession leaders are urging you to increase the speed of your journey to becoming a full-fledged business advisor and consultant.

This journey, from accountant to consultant, will be exciting and fulfilling. I urge you to begin the journey immediately. Establish an action plan, assign responsibilities and affix due dates. Most of all, don’t look at this exciting part of the journey with dread and apprehension. It’s going to be revitalizing and will attract even more of the best and brightest college graduates to join the CPA profession.

In closing, remember, challenge yourself continually, embrace and enjoy life-long learning and while doing all of this, don’t forget to have some fun. It’s a recipe for a rewarding career and life.

  • Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.
  • Oliver Goldsmith

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Partners Are Not Exempt From Feedback

Often, accounting firm partners procrastinate when it comes to asking for feedback from their employees. Sometimes, firm partners seem to be actually afraid of receiving feedback. They fear it might not be very flattering.

I disagree with all of that. I facilitate a lot of upward feedback surveys for the accounting profession and it always turns out to be a very beneficial and helpful exercise.

If you want to boost morale and increase employee engagement, ask them their opinion.

Many experts have written about the benefits. Not only does it boost morale, it reduces turnover, and sets the stage for enhanced performance.

Your team members have the front-line knowledge of how the work is going within the firm. They know which partner writes the best review notes and which one is the best listener.

When asked, “What more could this partner do to help further your career development?” the team members are very insightful and provide excellent suggestions.

Many managing partners want this feedback for partners so they can help them set meaningful goals for the months ahead. My clients tell me that many great conversations have occurred by discussing the upward feedback with individual partners.

I have noticed, from various MAP surveys, that many firms have never conducted an upward feedback survey for partners. Here’s a link to more information.

 

  • Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.
  • Warren Buffett

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Unappreciated, Low-Value Work

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

I have coached many managing partners and firm administrators, the two people usually charged with “running” the firm properly.

I have often found that they try very hard, almost desperately hard, to please others. Often they end up doing many tasks that no one really appreciates or even needs.

“I run so many month-end reports out of our practice management system and I doubt if anyone even looks at them,” a statement I have heard from multiple firm administrators over the years. Do you wonder if your partners look at the month-end, miscellaneous reports you furnish them?

Simply stop producing reports that you think no one looks at. The sad thing that usually happens is that no one even notices you stopped producing the reports!

You can also develop a one-page recap of important KPIs at the end of the month and eliminate furnishing all the detailed reports.

This also applies to all the individual tax organizers you might still be printing and mailing (I hope you aren’t still doing this but….). The organizer comes back to you, unopened, with their year-end paper documents. Consider establishing a rule that only clients that ask for (or opt-in for) a printed organizer will receive one. The default is “no organizer.”

If you want to work at a higher level and take on more important work with more responsibility, get rid of the “busy work” no one cares about.

  • If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
  • Dale Carnegie.

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Becoming A Specialist

“If your clients aren’t actively telling their friends about you, maybe your work isn’t as great as you think it is.” – David Maister

Yesterday, I wrote about making yourself and your firm unique. Becoming well-known for a specialty means you attract clients that need your expertise. It is as simple as that.

I’m an example. I completely focus on CPA firm practice management. I do not work with other professional service firms, I don’t know enough about them. Under that unique niche, I am a generalist…. I don’t limit my CPA firm consulting to just marketing, just HR, just process improvement, just organizational alignment, just technology, just administration, just mergers, etc. I know how to run a CPA firm.

You, as an auto dealer CPA, for example, should know how to run an auto dealership with all it entails. You know about their HR, sales, operational challenges, etc. You attend the same industry conferences they attend and you read the same industry blogs, periodicals, magazines and newsletters they read. You immerse yourself in the auto dealer world. Just like I immerse myself in the world of public accounting.

Ed Mendlowitz, in Accounting Today recently, gives us some great insight on Becoming a Specialist – Types of Specialties. 

You need to start the process of deciding what might lead you on a lifelong professional path and Mendlowitz recommends five different types of specialization:

  1. Industry
  2. Service
  3. Size
  4. Geographic
  5. Practice management

His article explains each one.

If you are still a generalist CPA, it’s time to begin your journey to specialization. As David Maister always said…. figure out what you want to be famous for.

  • The way you get rich is don't get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don't like.
  • David Maister

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Is Your Firm Special?

I enjoyed a recent article via Accounting Today – Kick Start Growth With a Defined Niche by Amy Vetter. It opens with this:

What makes your firm stand out? Why do clients come to you over the competition?

As a heavily commoditized service, a one size fits all accounting practice can easily get left behind in today’s market. To get ahead of the pack, accounting firms need to find a niche offering that will kick their growth engine into a higher gear.

If you want to be unique and have clients seek you out, become an expert! I know many very successful CPAs who are auto dealership experts, business valuation experts, estate taxation experts, agricultural experts and so on.

Per Vetter’s article, a recent survey of accounting and professional services buyers, 35% of buyers ranked specialized expertise as their top deciding factor in choosing a firm, well ahead of referrals, reputation or customer service. Expertise even came out jut ahead of existing relationships as a deciding factor.

Think about attorneys. When you need labor law assistance, you seek out a labor law attorney.

  • The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer

Friday, August 5th, 2016

The Right People

“Good is the enemy of Great.” – Jim Collins

You have all heard the Jim Collins‘ advice from his book, Good to Great:

You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you.

Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision.  

In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.

I work with and talk to hundreds of CPAs in public practice every year. Few, if any, started their firm this way. Few manage their firm this way now.

Sure, many firm leaders talk about “the bus” scenario and tell me “we are working on it.” In reality, inside many firms are sacred cows. People the firm is not willing to fire. Maybe fire is too harsh a word. Most people who are trouble-makers, dissenters, whiners, unwilling to change just simply need to be coached into a new position with another firm or company. It can be done gently and maybe even slowly, but don’t shy away from doing it if you want your firm to leap into the future.

Read this article, Good to Great, by Collins on his website if you haven’t read the book.

  • The team with the best players wins.
  • Jack Welch