Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Keep Your Relationships Alive & Healthy

If you want to be successful in bringing business to your CPA firm, you must be a relationship-builder. It surprises me when I hear CPAs, working in public practice, say they won’t, can’t or don’t know how to bring new business to the firm. It is simply liking people and getting to know them and letting them get to know you. CPAs are smart, well-educated, and nice. You have amazing knowledge about tax, accounting, audit and business practices. People will be naturally drawn to you – – SO, put yourself out there!

If you are a partner and you are not able to bring in business, why are you a partner?

Here’s a real-life story of how maintaining relationships works:

DruckerSharon Drucker, used to work for the New Jersey Society of CPAs. We met when she was involved in coordinating an event where I was speaking. Over the next few years we stayed in touch via email and social media.

Recently, she contacted me (via LinkedIn) to let me know that she has a new job as Director of Business Development on the new Surgent team (formerly Surgent McCoy). She will be working with firms across the US to identify and meet their professional learning needs, through both live and digital CPE programs.

I’m sure you are aware of Surgent, it has been around for more than 30 years (like me!). Surgent, LLC, is the largest independent provider of continuing education in the United States, offering more webinar, self-study, and live event offerings than any competitor in the marketplace. Their clients include 250 of the top 300 firms nationwide.

The moral of the story: Sharon kept our relationship alive by contacting me. I was delighted because I want to keep my relationships alive and healthy. We will both benefit (and can help each other).

  • Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold.
  • Proverb

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

A Shared Economy CPA

IMG_5667If you follow this blog regularly (you can sign-up for email updates on the right side of this page), you know I have been on vacation.

On the long drive home, I caught up on some reading. Yes, I actually had the paper copy of Accounting Today with me.

I really enjoyed the article by Tamika Cody titled, A CPA For The Shared Economy. Be sure to read it!

Derek Davis, discovered a need, an opportunity and pursued it! People working in the shared economy as independent contractors, need professional advice. He realized the confusion they faced with taxes. So, he left his Big Four position, followed the road to independence and launched a virtual accounting practice.

Stories like this are unfolding across the country. “Traditional” CPAs are becoming “New Age”!

How about you? No matter what your age – new opportunities, many that are actually more challenging, interesting and exciting are developing.

Are you and your firm ready for the future?

  • In case you never get a second chance: don't be afraid! And what if you do get a second chance? You take it!
  • C. JoyBell C., author

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Wrapped Up In Being Important

Sometimes I wonder why people think so much of themselves. Many people, once they have some power over others begin to believe that they are more important than other people. They seem to get caught up in a role they are playing.

I remember a story that a former Big Four partner told me one time after he dropped out of the Big Four world. He noted that it was a cut-throat culture there. Every one was focused on out-doing their peers. It became a world of “I know more successful people,” “I have become friends with the managing partner of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.” (the prominent law firm in town), or “You know, I have the top office performers on my team. They will work through the night if I ask them to.”

Many accounting firms have grown rapidly in recent years. What used to be a mid-size firm of 50 to 100 has grown to 400 and then merged-up to a 2,000 person firm. Sometimes along the way, some of the accountants forget “where they came from.”

If you are becoming more and more successful and your firm is growing significantly, I hope you will still find the time to stop by the newbie’s desk and say, “Good morning, how are things going for you here at the firm? Are there any questions I can answer or anything I can do to help you keep moving ahead?”

I hope you will never become so important and so busy that you can’t simply type Thanks rather than Thx.

  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
  • John Wooden

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

You Are Awesome Technically. Is That Enough?

EC50CC8658CPAs working in public accounting and CPAs working in a corporate environment as CFO face many of the same challenges. I find that most of the challenges, for CPAs in general, is that they are SO good at finance, tax, audit, accounting – all of the technical topics that make them so valuable, but still struggle with the everyday, practical aspects of their job – getting along with and leading people.

I am tired of calling them “soft skills”. They are business world survival skills.

I can’t count the number of firms who tell me that they have a highly-technical tax partner that they keep locked up in his/her office because they are valuable, yes but, they infuriate the team members, avoid networking or getting involved in the business community and never bring in business.

CPAs often drop out of public and enter the world of corporate CFO. Many probably think they will avoid all of that people stuff, yet they soon learn that they have more responsibilities relating to collaboration with people – departments heads, employees, owners or CEOs, etc.

According to a new survey via Robert Half, CFOs say learning to interact with a variety of personalities is the greatest challenge when working with other departments. It seems collaboration and cooperation are difficult for them.

So, whether you are working in public accounting or a CFO in private, you must continually build your leadership skill-set. CPA partners, you need to help your young accountants understand the great importance of relationship-building skills. It’s how you bring in business. Bringing in business in public accounting is how you become a partner.

Here’s an article from CGMA magazine that goes deeper into this topic.

  • Truth is, I'll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.
  • Tom Hanks

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Are You Normal?

I have the wonderful opportunity to work with and talk to all types of CPA firm leaders and team members across the country.

Most of them think that their firm is normal. Think about it.

TQD6HG84BPIs your firm normal? Are your clients normal? Is your accounting team normal? How about your admin team, are they normal? Does your firm administrator or COO perform normal duties? Do you have normal partners? This is July. Was yesterday a normal July work-day for you?

Read that paragraph again. Doesn’t it make you sound awfully boring?

I love the tagline for pistachios – maybe it’s time for you to Get Crackin’

  • Through the dry phases of calculations in her mind, she noticed that she did have time to feel something: it was the hard, exhilarating pleasure of action.
  • Ayn Rand

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Please Don’t Interrupt

Remember when you were a child and you wanted your mother’s attention even though she was talking with Aunt Helen?

More than likely she said, “Please don’t interrupt. It’s not polite.”

Next time you are tempted to briefly interrupt a colleague, your manager or a partner, when they are working, just to get their opinion on a task you are completing, please keep in mind that it will take them over 23 minutes to get back on task.

Interruptions kill productivity, for you and for others. Make a list of your questions and set a time to talk with your manager.

Ask people to do the same for you. Some busy managers tell their team, “I am available from 9 to 10 and again from 3:30 to 4:30 to answer questions.

Perhaps it’s time to have a Lunch & Learn session about the pros and cons of banning “friendly interruptions” in the office.

  • People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.
  • George Bernard Shaw

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