Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Sephens

Here’s a great video from the Illinois CPA Society about enabling your CPA firm to survive this era of disruption.

Allan Koltin is featured. It’s short and informative – please take 2 minutes to watch and listen.

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption.

  • In skating over thin ice our safety is our speed.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Level 5 Leaders

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline.” – Jim Collins

I certainly hope, by now, you have all read Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it he introduced us to the concept of Level 5 leaders. He found that truly great companies had what he coined as Level 5 leaders.

Level 5 leaders have humility. They don’t seek success for their own recognition. They see success as necessary so that the team and the firm can thrive. Level 5 leaders share credit for success and accept blame for failures.

Something interesting to me is that Collins found that these Level 5 leaders were often shy but fearless when it came to making decisions. Level 5 leaders possess fierce resolve with personal humility. That’s something rare to find when considering your next managing partner!

The Level 5 leaders also have the the skills of the other 4 levels of leadership. Here’s a link to a short video from HBR that explains Level 5 leadership.

  • Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
  • Jim Collins

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Staff Development

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

Most firms have some sort of coaching program for team members who are in their early years as a staff associate. The transition from campus life to professional work life can be rather overwhelming.

Some firms have buddies, coaches, mentors, sponsors and maybe other levels of on-going staff development activities for everyone at the firm. I believe that partners still need to have a mentor.

While all of that is going on, there is often an experienced person inside the firm, usually a long-time manager, who takes it upon themselves to be a real source of knowledge and support to the younger, less-experienced staff associates.

Often, this person goes unrecognized and maybe the firm does not even allow them some slack in their workload while they informally coach the younger workers.

Sharon_TrabbicThat’s why I love a comment made by Sharon Trabbic, PAFM, Chief Operating Officer of the William Vaughan Company, CPAs in Maumee, Ohio.

“Our coaching program is very similar to other firms. We ask for the coaches and protégés to connect formally four times a year and informally as often as they need to. We have one senior manger that is an excellent coach for staff members and she coaches 9 people. That role is almost as important to the firm as her client work.”

 

  • Confidence comes from discipline and training.
  • Robert Kiyosaki

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Be a Proactive Advisor

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” – W. Edwards Deming

Thanks so much to SageWorks for sponsoring my webinar yesterday: Women in Accounting – Thriving now and into the future and thanks to the hundreds of people who joined in. You are probably using ProfitCents in your accounting practice, if not, check it out.

At the end of my presentation, Colin Tierney of SageWorks shared some interesting points. I wanted to share some of them with you:

  • 25-40% of new business generated by top CPA firms comes from cross-selling to existing clients
  • 75% have changed firms because their CPAs are providing reactive services rather than proactive advice
  • 80% of the accounting market sees an immediate demand for advisory

I hope these numbers inspire you. Profession leaders are urging CPAs to move toward more advisory services. You are “the most trusted advisor.” Capitalize on that fact. Don’t compete on the price of your compliance services. Be more proactive and help your clients become more profitable.

  • Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.
  • Harper Lee

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Managers, Are You Ready?

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” – Peter Drucker

Being a manager in a CPA firm is often a thankless experience.

You are caught between the partners and the staff. You seem to be responsible for so many tasks and activities relating to both. Plus, you are responsible for your own productivity. On top of that, the partners want you to help market the firm and bring in new business.

You can only do all of this if you are performing as a true manager and not simply being a worker-bee producing billable work.

As next busy season approaches, are you ready to manage or will you simply be a firefighter putting out fires in reactionary mode, day after day?

Here are some steps to help you be a manager – that means getting things done through other people.

Work on your delegation skills. When a task comes you way, ask yourself, can someone at a lower billing rate do this task? Is there a team member with space on their schedule? Even if it might be difficult for them, let them try. Just because a partner delegates to you, it doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. YOU have to just be sure it gets done properly.

Do not participate in upward delegation. When a team member has difficulty completing an assignment, for a variety of reasons, don’t take the work back! After assigning the task, check with them every day to see what progress they are making and be available to answer questions. As the deadline approaches, you will know where they stand and might even be able to allow them more time.

Train, communicate, coach and delegate continually. That is how people improve in a CPA firm. They learn by doing and even re-doing. Provide helpful and insightful review notes so they learn from their mistakes. Give them verbal feedback daily. Don’t save up feedback for a formal performance review.

Hold them accountable. How do you do this? By simply asking questions – “Are you having any difficulties with the Jones assignment?” “Are you going to be able to hit the established completion date coming up in three days?” “Do you have any questions for me?”

Being a manager involves so much more than these few things. You must help direct reports establish goals and achieve them. You must encourage them to hit their goals and review their progress frequently. You must be a constant source of encouragement to others. You must also work on your own goals and be a life-long learner.

 

  • Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.
  • Warren Bennis

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Encouragement

“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” – Goethe

When those young, accounting majors graduate and enter a CPA firm, they sometimes procrastinate on taking the CPA exam.

Often, firms let them procrastinate. Don’t do it!

Studies show that a huge factor in young people passing the CPA exam is encouragement. Tell them boldly, “We are a CPA firm. We need CPAs. We will help you.”

Then be sure you back-up your words with action. Revamp your CPA exam policy (if you have one). Be generous with monetary support. The firm pays for study aids and courses, all fees associated with the exam. Provide generous work time for study time.

When they actually pass the exam, celebrate! When they received their official certificate, have it professionally framed for them. Sometimes, little things make the biggest difference.

  • Nine tenths of education is encouragement.
  • Anatole France

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Hard Driver Versus Non-Confrontational

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell

I have observed that CPA firms, over a period of many years, seem to develop cultures that encourage almost opposite behaviors.

As you probably know, I have been working in the CPA profession long enough to observe how changes in leadership drives culture.

I entered the profession when the Silent Generation was still in control. Traditionalists, known as the Silent Generation (because children of this generation were expected to be seen and not heard) were born during the mid-1920s to 1945. There are some (age over 72) still active in the profession but most have now retired.

The traditional era managing partner was a hard driver. He (and almost always it was a he) believed you make your own way through hard work which included long, grueling hours. Promotions and advancement was the result of tenure and proven productivity. They did not listen to the opinions of their staff before making decisions – it never occurred to them.

I observed that when this type of managing partner finally retired, the next generation (baby boomers) made a fairly significant swing towards not being hard on people. They avoided confrontation of any kind. They didn’t want to be the tyrant-type leader they had observed. Yet, they still believed that hard-work was the foundation of their culture.

Over time, baby boomers have mellowed and have realized that if you want to retain top talent you have to be flexible and willing to listen to the desires and needs of your employees.

Because they are still very non-confrontational they do not address situations that need to be addressed. Many retain employees that should have been out placed years ago. If one person complains about a new policy or procedure they almost panic and react too quickly. Some, to me, appear almost skittish.

I always suggest that you don’t want your CPA firm to be a sweat-shop culture nor do you want it to be a country club culture. Where do you fit?

  • World War II brought the Greatest Generation together. Vietnam tore the Baby Boomers apart.
  • Jim Webb

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Use Technology, Don’t Let it Use You

“You should not confuse your career with your life.” – Dave Barry

One of my wonderful clients shared an amazing blog post with me recently. I want to share it with you.

Now, that the 10/15 due date is history, take some time to contemplate your work life. Reflect and think about how you might be creating more stress than is needed. Are some of the work/life balance issues your own fault?

I work with and talk to many people in the CPA profession. The profession has become much more flexible and less demanding. The most progressive firms are truly focused on creating a workplace that does not consume 60 to 70 hours per week.

Sure, to be successful, it takes hard work and dedication. However, in our current age of connectedness, we might just go too far.

Here’s the post by John O’Leary – Will You See It? (Tips to make technology work for you).

  • Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
  • Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Reading About Leadership

2.0are

I have been reading a book titled, Leadership 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Here’s a passage that I want to impress upon CPA firm leaders. It’s something especially important when you are promoted to a leadership role.

What you can accomplish now and in the future has everything to do with what you can accomplish through others. It’s just not about you anymore.

Leaders who aren’t privy to this guidance early enough in their careers head down one of three possible paths:

  1. Micromanaging because they don’t trust anyone but themselves.
  2. Trying to be a superhero by being the only one who can save the day
  3. Trying to be a one-man or one-woman show because they seek all the glory.

If you are undertaking a more advanced leadership role in your firm, seek out a mentor, one that will hold you accountable – not one that just takes you to lunch to chat.

  • Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.
  • John Maxwell

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Afraid

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

Accountants are going to be replaced by robots. That’s not a fact.

13Some or even many of the things that accountant do now will be computerized (or robotized, as it is sometimes referred to now). That probably is a fact.

Don’t be afraid of the changes to come. Embrace them.

Yes, I am old enough to remember “the old days.” Certified Public Accountants used:

  • 13-column columnar pads
  • Lead pencils
  • Mechanical pencils (an expensive one, you bought yourself was a status symbol)
  • Lots of lead and eraser replacements for those mechanical pencils
  • Large pink erasers
  • Adding machine tape
  • Staples
  • Staple pullers
  • Paper
  • White-out
  • Desk top and handheld calculators
  • Green-bar paper for the one printer in the office

Accountants embraced computers – moving from the single-operator mainframe type to the PC (introduced over 35 years ago).

They embraced software – Lotus 1-2-3 and later the Microsoft suite. Tax software (and all the other extensive list of softwares used by accountants), replaced much of the manual work. Yes, accountants changed how they worked and what they used to get the work accomplished. They no longer filled-out manual time sheets.

CPAs had to hire people with the appropriate technology skills, different kinds of people. Someone who could only prepare a tax return by hand or complete accounting work on a columnar pad was no longer needed.

Now, CPAs are facing another, more-rapid change into an expanded world of technology. You will need to hire different kind of people and current employees will have to learn new skills.

It’s been done before. Don’t be afraid.

  • Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
  • Marie Curie