“Mentoring is easy and natural; it does not have to be just another dreaded task on your to-do list.” – Rita Keller
Thanks so much to Accounting Today and Sean McCabe for featuring many of my comments in the article, “Molding the Future of the Profession – Mentoring young staff should be a crucial part of the recruiting and retention toolkit of more accounting firms.”
Follow the link to read the entire article. And, thanks to Edi Osborne for all of her great comments in the article.
Here are some bullet point highlights:
Mentoring is just as important as salary and technology.
Mentoring requires an investment of time and money.
It is about attracting and strengthening future leaders for the profession.
Young people will buy into the vision of what it means to be a CPA and stay in the profession longer if they make a solid connection with someone who has already been down that road.
CPAs are great at teaching young people the technical skills but fail to impart knowledge about relationship-building and career-building skills.
Showing and not telling is vital to the mentor-mentee relationship.
Effective mentoring has become a strategic focus for the most progressive and successful firms.
We became acquainted by doing a panel webinar about unique career paths you can take in the accounting profession for what is now AccountingFly. We continue to stay in touch and we both are passionate about tweeting.
His name is Robert Raiola and he is Director of the Sports & Entertainment Group at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP.
At the time, Robert (@SportsTaxMan) was tweeting on a regular basis about his specialty – sports – and he had a few thousand followers. As of today, Robert has done over 29,800 tweets and has over 51,500 followers – that’s a home run for a CPA.
Just to show you the power of Twitter, it has helped him expand his reputation for being an expert – something every CPA should do – and he has been featured on a national level via Sports Illustrated, ESPN, etc.
David Maister, the guru advisor to professional service firms, always said you have to decide what “you want to be famous for” and then pursue it with passion. How is that working for you?
Below is a recent example of the great exposure being an expert has gotten for Robert. Over the years I have blogged six times about @SportsTaxMan (just type his name in the Search box on the right).
Robert knows what he wants to be famous for and he is achieving it. How about you – think about it this weekend!
I would have changed my last name if being famous were my goal.
Some of you remember when we had a physical “In” and “Out” box on our desk. The daily U.S.Mail would land in our inbox along with various client “jobs” that were flowing through our office and perhaps memos from other people in the office.
We would go through the inbox a few times a day and throw some stuff away. We would write someone’s name on some other items and place it in our outbox. An admin person was the culprit for putting stuff in our inbox and the hero for taking things away from out outbox.
The time management killer was when we put something from the inbox into a “I’ll deal with this later” stack of papers, mail, memos, etc. sitting on another corner on our desk. This stack had a life…. it grew. Much of it was important stuff that we intended to deal with later. We would periodically go through the stack and maybe deal with one or two things. Sometimes, important things would eventually make their way to the bottom of the stack to be discovered days (or weeks or months) later.
This same process has evolved with our current, digital in-box usually called email in a CPA firm. Many accountants use their email as a to-do list and some things are “touched” (read) many times before we actually deal with it!
To help remedy this productivity killer years ago, I learned the TIO method (touch it once) in a time management course. Do it. Delegate it. Trash it.
Do it does not mean you have to do it completely right at that moment. The point is to decide immediately how it will be handled. With our tech tools today, it could mean adding it to our Task List.
Again, the point is…. decide right away how the email should be handled. Do not re-read it later in the day, the next day, the next week, etc.
Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup. It's relentless.
“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” – Hubert H. Humphrey
Next week I will be in Baltimore for the CPAFMA (formerly the Association for Accounting Administration) National Practice Management Conference.
If you are a partner in a CPA firm and your firm administrator or COO is not attending, shame on you. You must invest in the education, skill-building, and knowledge of this key role in your firm. The payback is phenomenal.
Notice that the title includes National and Practice Management. It is rare to find a conference, national or otherwise, that is completely devoted to the improved management of an accounting practice (MAP).
This conference is targeted to those responsible for the efficient, profitable operation of an accounting firm. That includes managing partners.
This year, we are seeing many more transitions from long-time managing partners to the new, less experienced managing partner. There is no other place to obtain SO MUCH firm management knowledge and support.
Whether you are attending or not, check out the agenda. One of the best and most appreciated sessions is the break-out by firm size. You don’t get to talk to people working inside a similar size firm from across the United States very often.
Now, firm administrators, shame on you. I have heard many of you say, “I’m not going the conference, it’s expensive and the partners wouldn’t pay it.” I asked, “Did you ask them and provide a value proposition?” The answer, “Well, no, I didn’t ask because I knew they wouldn’t send me.” This situation makes me very sad. BUT, at the conference next week, sure I will speak but I will also learn AND, I will have so much fun doing it!
This is a good example of why I write and speak about the need for improved communication inside accounting firms!
Here are just a few pictures of fun and life-long friends!
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has take place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Here’s the issue: The firm’s long-time, experienced and valuable firm administrator receives their performance feedback from the firm’s managing partner.
Year after year the same person gives feedback to the same person. Very often I hear from firm administrators that they no longer receive formal performance evaluations nor on-going feedback about their performance because they are doing a good job and nothing has changed.
I could give you a very long list of why this is a terrible situation…. for both sides. But, I would rather give you a solution to improving this situation.
Every year, have a different partner gather input and conduct the face-to-face feedback conversation with the firm administrator. If you only have two or three partners, continually rotate this duty.
The value of this activity is two-fold. The “other” partners get to see and hear, first-hand, the volume of duties and challenges faced by the firm administrator and the firm administrator gets to hear comments and advice from several sources within the firm.
The dual-value comes from all partners and the firm administrator getting to know and understand each other better.
"Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou
One of my favorite sessions from PSTech this year was “Mom, Manager, Mentor…Maniac?” by Lindsay Stevenson, CPA.
I so often hear sad… should I say “sob” stories from women in accounting. They, and often rightly so, are challenged by the difficulties facing them as CPAs trying to advance their careers and the important life role of mother and wife.
That’s why Lindsay’s presentation was so refreshing and inspiring. She didn’t mince words about the difficulties but she was so energetic and positive about the fact that women, working in the CPA profession, can succeed in both roles. She provided a lot of good information and strategies that are helpful to finding work/life integration specific to mothers.
Female CPAs, you can do it too – you can succeed in both roles. What you learn as a mom can also apply to your role as manager at your firm.
Join your local women’s initiative groups or the one sponsored by your state CPA society. Continually reach out to other working moms and seek positive, can-do mentors.
Don’t just let things happen to you – blaze your own trail.
“I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity.:” – Julius Erving
I’m sure you have noticed that I communicate a lot of observations about CPAs and their firms. It comes naturally to me because I have been observing the CPA profession for 35 years.
The observation I want to share today is that the most successful accounting firms have a strong leader, not a crowd pleaser personality. They have the power to propel the firm forward while understanding that they can’t please everyone all the time. Their partner peer group supports their vision.
Vivek Wadhwa, Director of research, Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research says, “Business leadership is not a popularity contest; the best companies are run by enlightened dictators.”
Managing partners must listen very carefully to their employees but they have to do what is best for the firm. The best ones give the praise for successful initiatives to others and take the blame for failed endeavors themselves.
A major disappointment for me is when I see firm leaders actually change direction and discard certain policies because one (or maybe two) people voice disapproval. Often, it is disapproval about very important changes that need to be made such as, being absolutely paperless, moving to the Cloud, or being willing to be held accountable for their performance.
I alway advise working with the healthy part of your firm, the people who are excited about the future and have the passion for the firm and the profession. Leave the nay-sayers alone and maybe they will eventually get on board. If they don’t, allow them to build their career elsewhere.
“Genius is the capacity to retrieve childhood at will.” – Erik Wahl
Again this year, I am very fortunate to be able to speak at this great conference.
The opening keynote on Sunday afternoon was one of the most amazing presentations I have ever experienced (and I have seen a lot of excellent keynotes!). The presentation titled Unthink was by renowned graffiti artist, Erik Wahl.
His presentation (and message) was unique, different and fun. How about your firm….. is it unique, truly different and fun? Or, do you let fear keep you repeating the status quo?
Here’s Wahl’s take on FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.
He challenged accountants to use their creative skills, to break the mold and to dare to be unique.
I have observed that CPAs always want to follow the leader; do what every other firm is doing. However, I am seeing a lot of change happening.
You are probably familiar with some of the high-profile firms (of all sizes) that are truly becoming digital firms and providing some very non-traditional services in non-traditional ways.
Just recently I met a couple of additional CPA firm owners who are going down this uniqueness road. I met one in the Las Vegas airport on Sunday and one at an OSCPA meeting. They were both females. That is also an interesting observation!
Most of our inspirations for solutions and creativity come from interactions with others.