Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Do You Know What You Are Doing?

From a personal style aspect, there are all types of accountants.

While it is true that a person who chooses to become a CPA has an accountant mindset (detailed, accurate, high work ethic, cautious, etc.), they do have different personal traits and styles that drive them forward (or not) in their career.

I have found that nearly every CPA is competent in their field. You have proved it by obtaining the educational qualifications and passing the CPA exam. Plus, you have annual educational requirements and have accumulated years of experience.

Dr. Tony Alessandra says, “Competence goes beyond having a specific expertise. It certainly means being knowledgeable and skillful in your field. But it also means possessing a problem-solving ability that goes beyond your own speciality. If you don’t know the answer, or how to fix the problem, with competence as an ability, you know how to go about getting someone who does.”

Consider these two things relating to your accounting firm:

Do you personally communicate competence on a daily basis to your clients and to your team members? Does your body language strongly represent competence? Do you read and research about current business trends, not just accounting topics? Do you look competent… in all situations?

Many CPAs are extremely competent at accounting, tax, audit, etc. but are not so competent at management, operational, technology and HR issues within their own firm. Do you face issues that are beyond your scope of competence? That’s why you hire a firm administrator or COO!

  • You can choose to behave in a way that exudes competence, or you can choose to undercut what skills you do have by looking and acting as if you’re not sure of yourself.
  • Dr. Tony Alessandra

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Don’t Forget, You Are Selling To Women

“The shopping experience is very different for women than men; the male shopper’s experience is still the default position for many, even most, firms. And yet it is an unimpeachable fact that women are the premier purchasers–of damn near everything. (My message: Wake-up-ASAP-and-smell-the-enormous-opportunity.)” – Tom Peters

Tom Peter’s weekly quote (I get it every Monday), made me think of CPAs working in public accounting, for a couple of reasons.

One, most male CPAs target their sales to male business owners. I have observed that selling to a female business owner is not their main focus. I have also observed that sometimes the male even feels, and acts, awkward in these situations.

Males: Study, research and read about how to sell to females, practice better listening, learn body language, etc. It will also help you in managing your workforce. Also, when you are selling to a male, remember that there is a woman behind him probably telling him who to hire as their CPA.

Two, most accounting graduates are female. You are hiring a lot of them. Begin educating, teaching, and coaching them immediately on how to develop a relationship with a business owner or decision maker. Once the relationship is established, they can ask for their business.

Females: Don’t hide from business development assignments. Ask to accompany partners on visits to clients and future clients. Schedule lunches with attorneys who also serve your clients. Network in your business community as much as possible.

Selling professional services is all about building relationships – virtually and in person. Women have natural talent in this area – capitalize on it.

  • You don't earn loyalty in a day; you earn loyalty day by day.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Plod or Practice?

IMG_5278I am reading a new book. Just started it this week. The title is Practice Perfect, 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi. They are teachers and admit that they see the world from an educator’s perspective.

However, the book has a broad reach and definitely applies to the public accounting profession. After all, CPAs are teachers/educators in many aspects.

You teach your young accountants, in a large degree, by repetition. If they execute a certain procedure (maybe it’s a task that is part of an audit) they will eventually become very skilled at it. What if what they are doing is not the best, most efficient way?

Have you ever considered the mere fact of doing something repeatedly does not help us improve?

You have probably heard the stories about Robin Williams and how he practiced, tweaked, and practiced some more and it all looked so natural. In the Foreword of this book, written by Dan Heath, he tells the story of Chris Rock and how he would go to a small comedy club and try out new material, make note of audience reaction and make small changes, get rid of what didn’t work and get better by experimenting 40 times or more before he did it on Letterman.

Heath asks, “Will we be content to cruise along on autopilot or will we scramble and suffer to get better? Will we plod or will we practice?

I see a whole lot of plodding in accounting firms.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” – – Michael Jordan

Keep in mind, practice requires humility. It forces us to admit that we don’t know everything. Take time to contemplate how you train and educate inside your firm. Even the most experienced accountant should have a practice mindset. You must get better at getting better.

  • To practice isn't to declare, I'm bad. To practice is to declare, I can be better.
  • Dan Heath

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Accounting Firms Have A Strong Magnet To Attract Young People

According to an article via Huffington Post, college grads have been focused on the same few companies for the last several years

Business students choose these: Google, PWC, EY, Goldman, KPMG and Deliotte. The remainder of the top ten are Apple, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase and Procter & Gamble.

This tells us that these few companies are competing for the same students.

Google and Apple have a strong brand and a product. In accounting and banking, people are the product.

However, accounting has an advantage because firms can show the young people their career path.  It’s a very informative article – read it here.

Your firm might not be one of the Big Four but you need to be able to describe the future and how to get there when you are talking to college recruits.

Do your shareholders even know what the future really looks like? I talk to a lot of partner groups where all of the owners are definitely not on the same page. Make this summer the summer you finally identify and pursue becoming a firm of the future.

  • The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
  • Alice Walker

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Aggressively Seeking Experienced CPAs

You used to have to worry about your competitors luring away your younger accountants. After all, $5,000 to $10,000 more in compensation is quite tempting to someone fairly new in the job market.

During the current accounting firm talent wars, firms are pulling out all the stops to find and attract experienced talent. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that experienced accountants are now much more willing to jump ship. I believe there are various reasons for this, one being the fact that some more senior owners dig in their heels when it comes to change. Many of them don’t think they have to spend money to become a firm of the future because, after all, they will be retiring within the next several years.

If you are a 5 to 10-year CPA, even if you are a partner, you are probably being courted. If you are a niche leader you may even become the object of a bidding war.

The bigger firms are paying more for talented people. Smaller firms don’t seem to be as willing to keep pace. That’s what is interesting about the CPA firm model. The percentage that partners are very used to taking home might not be a sustainable model for the future. After all, if you have to pay your people more, it usually means the partners get less.

Here’s a good article via Crain’s Chicago that tells a story about the Chicago area CPA firm market.

  • Opportunity is a bird that never perches.
  • Claude McDonald

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Organized, Professional, No Nonsense

Because I love CPAs – old, young, middle-aged – I am thrilled when I get a call to go into a firm and provide some common sense advice on many of the little things that helps build a career in public accounting. It amazes me at the stories I hear about professional CPAs who do not dress the part or know how to host a business lunch!

Yes, for young accountants, “professional and organized” is about building, for middle-aged accountants it’s about enhancing and for older CPAs with lots of experience, it’s about not being embarrassed.

If you are not organized in your personal life, it sure bleeds over into your professional life.

One comment I hear from accountants that are under 40 – especially females – is the fact that partners have stay-at-home wives who “take care of all the little things at home”.

Younger accountants, working very hard to build their careers almost always have a working spouse, who is working very hard to build their own career. These young couples also often have children and they manage home-life as a true 2-person team. Each person has to know how to do a variety of things. Then there are the young accountants, just out of college and living the single life, on their own away from Mom and Dad, and learning to maintain a home life as well as a business life.

Organized at home helps being organized at the office. That’s why this video makes me smile and may help you fold the laundry!

 

  • Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.
  • Barbara Hemphill

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend

The weekend is time for something off-topic, humorous or even weird.

This weekend, I direct my lighten-up post to all of the young accountants just entering the CPA profession. You have such an exciting, challenging and never-boring life ahead of you that, if you focus, work hard and keep your sense of humor, it will give you an enormous payback. Not only a monetary payback but also the satisfaction that you have served your clients and employees well.

You will age and so will your peers and clients. So – lighten-up – and watch this young couple age from their 20s to their 90s – – enjoy the ride because you will be at retirement age in what will seem like a blink of an eye!

  • Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Working In The CPA Profession – My Walk To Work Today

IMG_5007Sometimes we are all so busy we forget to stop and smell the roses! You’ve heard that saying since you were a child. Do you think about it as an adult?

This week I am working with the CPA Network at the lovely Inn at Cedar Falls in southern Ohio. The group is here for renewal. To renew their own passion and plans and to capitalize on the brain-power of the entire group. The 2-day focus is on MAP issues and how to better manage their firms.

This morning I sat on the back porch of my cottage in the deep woods – no sounds of civilization – just birds, water dripping off the trees and a slight breeze. I waited for daylight (no sunrise views because of the deep woods). I didn’t read… I just let my mind wander (and it traveled a great distance).

I hope you take time this summer to think about your firm. Your culture develops by design or default – – make sure you are in control of the design and are continually guiding it.

The pictures are from my “walk to work” this morning. Ain’t life grand?

IMG_5006

  • Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Be A Woman. Be Yourself.

There is a lot of advice out there to supposedly help women succeed in the game of business.

I often offer some myself – specifically to women in accounting, to help them survive in the interesting world of public accounting.

Recently, I have been re-reading and reviewing the book, “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman.” I’ll be using this book for a Women’s Leadership Discussion webinar for the Michigan Association of CPAs on June 3.

The author of the book, Gail Evans, offers a full menu of “rules” for women to be aware of as they play the game of business. The final chapter titled: The Final Two Rules are so important AND simple: Be A Woman. Be Yourself.IMG_1071

Here’s an excerpt I want all women in accounting to keep in mind:

Intuition is one of the most powerful tools women have in the marketplace. To use it, all you have to do is listen–not just with your ears, but with your gut.

So employ your female instincts to your advantage–as long as you understand the effect these will have on the men in your office. It’s one thing to be privately nurturing with a male peer whose work is faltering, but don’t do it in a public forum or you’ll embarrass both of you.

Business relationships are first and foremost office alliances. This doesn’t mean that they’re not genuine, only that they exist to help all of you build a better, more profitable, more enjoyable work place.

  • I knew that if I didn't love my job, my performance would be second rate.
  • Gail Evans

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Women In Accounting – Don’t Cry

Have you see Jersey Boys? Or, are you old enough to actually remember when the Four Seasons’ songs were at the top of the hit list?

One song title stayed with me all these years and helped me travel the female career path: Big Girls Don’t Cry. 

Later on, one of the lists from Gail Evans’ book, Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman brought me another line to remember. On the list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work That Women Can’t. Number 1 is: They Can Cry. You Can’t.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her book Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success: “Crying, I found in my research, is just one of a menu of communication blunders that, in a mere instant, can suck the executive presence right out of you.”

Mika Brzezinski commenting on when she got fired from CBS:  “…..but there was no place for those tears in that moment. If anything, when you cry, you give away power.”

Here’s the best story…. from a post by  Lisa Quast on Forbes:  The next time you feel like crying at work, take a few slow, deep breaths, roll your shoulders up and down several times and try to relax. Picture in your mind the line from the movie “A League Of Their Own” when Tom Hanks’ character says to one of the female baseball players, “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Then try to laugh at yourself to help diffuse the emotions of the situation.

What worked for me, for many years, is that when I felt myself begin to tear-up…. I would simply excuse myself and take a brisk walk down the hall, around the office. It’s better to be abrupt and mysterious than to cry. Besides, as females KNOW, crying usually doesn’t really mean that you are upset, angry, hurt, happy, or sentimental…. it’s a pure emotion we really can’t control.

Men, if you are confronted with this situation – it’s not personal and usually not significant. When counseling and mentoring females and tears happen, simply hand them a tissue (keep tissues handy in your office), and ignore the tears.

Ladies, one more thing from Gail Evans’ list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work that Women Can’t: #6 – They Can Be Ugly. You Can’t.

  • It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
  • Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own