I hope that you are not in the office today, it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving a paid holiday for almost all citizens of an accounting firm. I know, some of you sneak in to the office to avoid the Black Friday hassles but I hope many of you are taking a walk in a park or woods, reading a great book or writing an article of your own.
It’s a perfect 4-day weekend to think about some secrets to happiness as you build your career in public accounting or elsewhere.
Live and let live – – Don’t micro manage. Don’t gossip and worry about what other employees are doing.
Be giving of yourself to others – – but some structure around your mentoring activities. Mentoring happens naturally inside CPA firms – enhance it and help others.
Sundays should be holidays – – When I began my career in a CPA firm, no one EVER worked on a Sunday. It had nothing to do about religion, specifically, it was just that our founder believed that everyone needed a day of rest, a time to recharge. The more hours you work in a week the bigger chance you will make errors or poor decisions.
Stop being negative – – I see this all the time. I continually say to people working in CPA firms – STOP WHINING! Public accounting is an honorable, prestigious career, you work with intelligent people, you work in beautiful offices, you make friends with other top-quality professionals, you get to see businesses grow and prosper (with your help), you become admired by others in the business community for your expertise – – focus on the positive!
Focus on the positives during this holiday season and carry it through until Spring!
Research tells us that many women have NEVER asked for a raise. It is my observation that inside accounting firms, employees, in general, rarely ask for a raise.
Yes, accounting firms pay well for experienced people. Sometimes those coming in from the outside are paid quite a bit more than someone with longevity with the firm.
Don’t settle for less than you are worth. Here are some points to consider.
Has your list of responsibilities expanded since your last pay increase? Keep a list of tasks you have taken on and be ready to discuss these during your salary conversation. Your firm does not provide a salary conversation session? Ask for one.
If you are really dissatisfied with your pay increases/salary do some research in the marketplace. Again, it is my observation that many people in accounting firms are overpaid as compared to the market. This includes partners.
Do your research. If you determine you are underpaid, schedule a talk with your boss (partner/mentor/department head). If the result is “No, no raise at this time,” then ask them to describe what you have to do to earn more and get a follow-up meeting with them on the calendar for 3 to 6 months down the road.
It is healthy for both boss and employee to talk about salary. If you are the employee, it’s about your future and your career path. The firm should be prepared to paint a picture of the future for you.
Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.
I love the following story from the Ohio Society of CPAs. If you follow this blog you know how much I love the world of marching band and appreciate what CPA firm leaders can learn from it.
Here’s a great story of a CPA firm’s flexibility and how it helped fulfill a dream a young accounting major and future employee. I have embedded a short video below….”Doting The i In Accounting.”
Ohio CPA firms getting creative with workplace flexibility to attract talent
Local accountant to dot the ‘i’ in Sunday’s OSU game—a dream his employer helped make possible
(COLUMBUS, Nov. 17, 2015) —Dotting the ‘i’ for script Ohio in The Ohio State University marching band was a longtime dream for Neil Steffens. That dream came true this past September in part because Steffen’s employer, Clark Schaefer Hackett, a regional CPA firm, was open to a flexible work arrangement as Steffens was transitioning from accounting grad to full-time tax accountant.
Arrangements like Steffens’ are becoming more common as the race for top talent has intensified in many professions. Companies are competing in a limited talent pool, and pulling out all the stops to attract and retain the most qualified candidates.
According to an EY survey, flexibility ranked second only to competitive pay and benefits when employees evaluate a potential job opportunity.
Flexibility was top of mind for Steffens, an accounting grad searching for his first job out of college. He had a special situation, as he explains in this video from The Ohio Society of CPAs. Despite having graduated from The Ohio State University, he was still a member of the OSU marching band and had the opportunity to dot the ‘i’ during theScript Ohio band performance, a special honor reserved only for fourth-year sousaphone section members. He will make a repeat performance this Saturday during OSU’s last home game of the season against Michigan State.
“I was going to dot the ‘i’ no matter what, even if it meant putting my life on hold,” Steffens said.
The band requires a huge time commitment, one that would interfere with a normal work schedule. Steffens approached his job search by only considering employers that would accommodate his practice schedule. Clark Schaefer Hackett, a large regional CPA firm in Ohio, fit the bill.
“For Neil and others who are granted opportunities like this it comes down to trust,” said Ed Walsh, CPA, shareholder-in-charge of the firm’s Columbus office. “He trusts us to allow him the flexibility to pursue his passions, and we trust that he’ll make it all work when it comes to helping us serve our clients.”
As job seekers, particularly millennials, continue to value flexibility, employers are bending to meet market demand. Walsh believes the key to making flexible arrangements work for both employer and employee is evaluating each request one at a time, to ensure the company can meet its needs. Open dialogue and clear communication about expectations are also imperative.
“Great people are hard to find,” Walsh said. “And when we hire those people we’re not just thinking about how to keep them happy for 6-12 months. More and more we really think long term, and what can we do to make this a place where people want to stay.”
“It was awesome to find Clark Schaefer Hackett and be able to earn a living while also accomplishing my dream,” Steffens said. “It’s one thing to say ‘We’re going to allow you to have a work life balance,’ but it’s another thing to truly support what you do outside of work.”
Steffens is a master at juggling responsibilities. In addition to marching in the band and working full-time in the firm’s tax practice, he is studying to pass the four-part national CPA exam. Some would say that’s a full time job by itself.
Workplace flexibility is one of several talent management topics featured in OSCPA’s video Spotlight series. The latest episode features Neil’s story and a profile of Kaiser Consulting, a Powell, Ohio-based firm founded on the concept of offering employees control over their schedules.
Here’s the video:
The Ohio Society of CPAs is a leading partner and influential voice for a thriving business environment. We empower Ohio’s 30,000 CPAs and financial professionals to drive value as trusted business advisors by advancing advocacy and education programs that strengthen Ohio’s tax and business climate and make our state a friendlier place to live and do business.
Today’s post is sort of a follow-on to yesterday’s Sacred Cow post (people who are protected, cannot be fired). There’s probably at least one of those inside your firm, probably more.
What about the people who really don’t want to stay at your firm but, over the years, they have performed adequately (but maybe not) and you have given them annual pay increases and now they make a VERY good salary. They are not passionate about the firm any longer (this could even be partners) and are just “putting in their time”.
I hear it all the time….. “There’s no where else in my area where I can make as much as I do here.” And from the other side, “She’s doing a pretty good job for us and it’s so hard to hire people now.”
Develop a “grow your own” culture where you are continually hiring new college grads and developing them. That way there is always someone who can stretch and fill a spot vacated by a more experienced person. People love challenges and promotions.
Identify your middle stars, people who are not all superstars but they are not falling stars either. Many middle stars are passionate about the firm. Challenge them and help them meet your expectations. If they are unwilling, and too comfortable with status quo, offer them the opportunity to work for another firm.
If you have someone who is working at your firm just because of the money – it’s time to deal with it. Give them a nice severance. Long-term, it’s the right decision.
From the other side, if you are that person, working for an accounting firm although it’s depressing, unchallenging, chaotic and poorly managed, don’t stay just for the money. Life is too short.
There's no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there's no excuse for boredom, ever.
Some years ago, when I was actively working in a growing firm, I faced an issue with our administrative team. They, like administrative teams in many CPA firms, were finding it difficult to keep a positive attitude. Honestly, they were whining, moaning, groaning, complaining and playing the drama game. It is easy for a CPA firm admin team to get caught in this trap.
In their eyes, they are at the bottom of the org chart. It’s hard for them to see the light at the top. I believe that the admin team, is the heart and soul of the firm. If they are not happy, no one is happy. They have great influence and their attitude affects all the people they come into contact with during the day.
I believe a positive attitude can make a huge difference in your career success and in your personal life. How do you attain or regain a positive attitude? I look to sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer. To help our admin team, I purchased his book, YES! Attitude for every team member and asked them to read it and keep it handy to pick up and read randomly when challenging situations arise. We often discussed chapters from the book at our administrative staff meetings.
Positive attitude is certainly not only an admin team issue. It is difficult for new hires, experienced accountants and even partners to keep a positive attitude. Per Gitomer, 80-100% of your success is dependent on your positive attitude.
Many of you reading this think you have a positive attitude but do you? Have you studied it?
Gitomer recommends reading and studying these four books:
Think and Grow Rich — Napoleon Hill
How to Win Friends and Influence People — Dale Carnegie
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living — Dale Carnegie
The Power of Positive Thinking — Norman Vincent Peale
I love to read famous quotations. There are so many on line and I have two books full of them. I find them thought-provoking, entertaining, sometimes sad and often motivating.
Here’s one I recently came upon from Margaret Thatcher: “You may have to fight the battle more than once to win it.”
I immediately thought about life in an accounting firm. I see this quote come to life often in my consulting practice and I experienced it first-hand during my many years working inside a CPA firm.
My response to fighting various battles was perseverance.
Here’s the definition: Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Maybe you are not the managing partner or an old-line partner. Maybe you are not even a partner. When you see things that need changing, when you have new ideas or a “better way,” I urge you to persevere.
Definition of persevere: Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.
After all, a little trickle of water persevered to form the Grand Canyon.
I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
We hear it talked about often inside accounting firms. I’m referring to the ugly label of being a micromanager.
Accountants, generally speaking, are detail oriented. CPA firms must, yes MUST, issue work that is accurate, perfect in every way (even if there is a small, black speck on the page of a financial statement, it cannot go out the door, perfect).
So, partner and managers MUST pay attention and closely supervise. I bet you can quickly name one or two people inside your firm that have the label of micromanager. Some people complain about them but there is something worse (and I see it often in CPA firms).
Author Patrick Lencioni calls it the abdication manager. In his work with people at the top level in organizations, for every real micromanager, he sees dozens of abdication managers.
Abdication managers know few details about what their subordinates are working on. They fail to set clear expectations and give timely feedback. They don’t have meaningful conversations about career paths or the challenges the employees are facing. They use the excuse that they are too busy.
I see more abdication managers in my work with accounting firms than I do micromanagers.
The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.
Many years ago I took an extensive time management course. It lasted several weeks and was a foundational part of continual self-improvement for me.
Some of the tips/tactics were challenging and some were very simple, as stated, but quite challenging to carry out.
My favorite: Never touch things twice.
Sounds simple, right? Back then, I had an “in tray” on the corner of my desk. I would take things from the “In” tray, review it and decide to respond or procrastinate. I also had another stack, near the inbox where I put things to deal with later…. it kept growing and growing.
I adopted the one-touch method: Act on it, delegate it or trash it. Honestly, it really helped. Sometimes I had to deal with dreaded things but it was better than having them hanging over my head like a dark cloud.
Give this method a try as you deal with paper items and digital items (emails, etc.).
Dr. Travis Bradberry, Coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, tells us that to be successful at this you have to master the tyranny of the urgent. The tyranny of the urgent refers to the tendency of little things that have to be done right now to get in the way of what really matters. The key is to delete or delegate or you will find yourself going for weeks without addressing the important stuff. Sound familiar?
CPAFMA is offering a fantastic opportunity for your firm’s valuable tech team (or tech person). The 2015 Technology Fly-In will be held in Chicago on November 10-11, 2015.
There is an elite list of speakers:
Eric McMillen, CEO and Chief Security Architect, The McMillen Group.
Christian James, Co-Founder, Xcentric
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA, CITP, CGMA, Director of Consulting, Xcentric
Here’s a quote from a past-attendee:
“Great information was shared at the Technology Fly-in in Chicago. While my role has changed, I always learn so much at this event. All of the speakers are exceptional; it is so evident that each loves what he/she does. The exchange of information is invaluable.”