Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Do What You Love

I am very lucky. I found a career that I simply love and it has evolved into a real purpose in life for me.

When I was younger, I knew many people who actually hated their job, yet they continued to work at the same place for many years. It always puzzled me. What a miserable way to spend your life!

I believe that the profession of public accounting would be an excellent choice for many young people just beginning their careers. Not every firm is alike, so I strongly warn young professionals, it may not be public accounting you dislike, it may just be the firm you are currently with.

If you are thinking about leaving your firm, please give another CPA firm a try before you leave public accounting altogether. My career growth has been a joy to me without a single boring minute. I have learned so much and, hopefully, have matured quite nicely. And, while I have been working in public accounting for decades, I still love it and enjoy the ways I can strive to help others succeed.

As Steve Jobs said:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” 

I love a recent post by Rebecca Tamsen of Self Development Secrets. It is titled, Do what you love. Find your purpose in life.

Here’s an excerpt:

When you don’t know what you’re passionate about and aren’t doing what you love, your life lacks a deeper meaning. There are several other reasons why you need to do what you love:

  1. You will know no stress
  2. Your productivity will increase
  3. You will remain motivated
  4. Your work will have a touch of passion
  5. You will push yourself to be more successful
  6. You will enjoy a gratifying life
  7. You will always be ready to face new challenges
  8. You will always be learning
  9. Procrastination won’t be your cup of tea
  10. You will be an efficient leader

I feel like all of these apply to me! Be sure to follow the link, above, and read about each of these points. Then find YOUR purpose and do what you LOVE.

  • Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
  • Aristotle

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
  • Mother Teresa

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Client Service – Incoming Phone Calls

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” – Clarence Thomas

It’s been a while since I have written about the importance of incoming phone calls. As you might expect, I often call Certified Public Accounting firms. How I am greeted tells me a lot about the firm, the partners and the Director of First Impressions.

The DOFI’s job is to make people feel welcome, not to make them feel like they are interrupting them from something more important.

I urge you not to interrogate your callers. The first thing that enters your client’s (or prospective client’s) mind is, “When I tell them who I am it helps them decide if I am important enough for XXX to take my call.”

I urge you not to have a completely automated phone greeting process. CPAs are in the service business. The CPA profession is a word of mouth business. Potential clients call you because they have been referred by a friend, attorney, banker or by someone else they rely upon for good advice. Don’t disappoint these important referral sources.

Do you have experienced team members designated to receive potential new client calls when the caller does not have a specific name to ask for? Most firms have a few tax managers who actually don’t mind taking these calls and handling them with professionalism, care and concern. Have you considered making your Marketing Director or Director of Practice Development part of this taking-cold-calls-team?

Be sure that your team members understand that sometimes the best calls with the most potential might come at a very busy time and the manager might be inclined to say “take a message” or let the call go into voice mail. The caller will probably seek professional services elsewhere.

So, you ask, “Why do I bother when most of these types of calls go no where?”

It is about brand, image and reputation in your community; about CPAs being the most trusted advisor. Besides, that caller asking about individual tax preparation might say, “I called Smith & Company about my taxes. CPAs are sure expensive but I was impressed, they treated me so nicely and gave me the name of a smaller firm who was a perfect fit for me.”

  • Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

How Dangerous is a Handshake?

“Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority.” – Tom Hopkins

This week I read an article about banning handshaking in hospitals.

I think I get that one. Hospital acquired infections are a serious issue.

I have observed that many people are beginning to use the fist bump as an alternative greeting and a protection from passing along so many germs.

In business, the handshake has always been important:

A handshake is more than just a greeting. It is also a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, a handshake is an important tool in making the right first impression. While the art of handshaking does vary within cultures, in the United States the “rules” are pretty universal.

In the CPA profession, we often have to teach our beginners the importance of the handshake and how to do it properly, creating a favorable first impression.

Think about all the hands you shook when you attended that recent conference or local business networking event. Did you feel like you were endangering yourself?

For me, I enjoy the connection made by a proper handshake. I am assuming that the person I am greeting has at least washed their hands in the last 24 hours… whereas, a door handle to my favorite coffee shop probably hasn’t been properly washed in months, if ever! How many public doors have you opened lately? And don’t even think about all the things you touch with your finger-tips during a trip to the grocery!

  • Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.
  • Plato

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Accounting Firm Interns

fullsizeoutput_4028“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – Chinese Proverb

The larger firms, who can afford full time HR professionals, have programs dealing with interns fairly well developed. However, mid- to small firms, if they hire an intern, often treat them like an extra administrative person.

Here are some tips and ideas regarding interns:

  • Treat them like full time hires.
  • Give them structured orientation (like a new hire).
  • Provide a job description – expose them to both tax and A&A.
  • Keep in mind that they don’t know the CPA lingo – teach them.
  • Give them real work – it has always been amazing to me how quickly interns can get up to speed on individual tax returns and even smaller business tax returns.
  • They love going in the field. Expose them to visits to the clients’ sites, in person.
  • Praise their efforts and keep in mind they are beginners – what they learn in college doesn’t relate to what they will do inside your firm.
  • Don’t give them administrative work – no shredding, no mindless data entry.
  • Provide them with business cards and take their picture when presenting the cards to them (after all, it is usually their FIRST business card). Send the picture to them and suggest they share it with their parents.
  • Challenge them to give away their business cards and keep track of the efforts. This makes them aware, right from the beginning, that marketing is important. At my firm, we had a give your card away game – you need at least two interns for this game. They give them to whoever…. grandma, mom, dad, dentist, college friends – how many can they give away in five days. They must keep good records. The winner gets a gift card.
  • Teach them to put their business card in restaurant fish bowls when they go to lunch – and place them in the bowl so the firm name shows!
  • I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.
  • Lee Iacocca

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

The Skills That Are Needed

“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude.” – Ralph Marston

Many of us rest upon our current skills – we know a lot and that has gotten us to where we are. That’s all fine and good but you can never stop learning and improving your knowledge base if you are working in the CPA profession.

Recently, Barry Melancon, CEO of the AICPA, shared the Top 10 Skills that will be need in 2020. CPA firm leaders and their teams must prepare for the future beginning now! (Thanks to @J_Maiman for the photo.)

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  • It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.
  • Wilbur Wright

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

What Else Can You Do?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Recently, I read an article via Fast Company about a commencement address by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, founders of Walby Parker.

When they graduated from college, they felt the way a lot of new grads do – extremely well-educated in a narrow range of really specific things.

It’s a lot like that with the accounting profession. You are college-educated about accounting and then you enter public accounting where you are required to earn more education (CPE) about the accounting (and tax) each year.

When do you have time to learn other stuff? Sure, you can do taxes…. but what else can you do?

Blumenthal and Gilboa learned much along the way on their journey as entrepreneurs. I think you can learn from three of their tips

  1. Presume Positive Intent – It’s human nature to presume the worst – don’t do it. Commit to getting better every day.
  2. Speed-walk, Don’t Cliff-Dive – Committing to something doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Speed-walking is constantly moving forward by taking deliberate step after deliverate step. Conquer fear by minimizing risk, not eliminating it.
  3. Treat Others The Way THEY Want to be Treated – Your business journey is enriched through exposure to a variety of perspectives. Seek to understand different points of view. Treating people the way YOU want to be treated does not always apply, people are complex and different.

One of the things that really impressed me with their story is their focus on kindness. They stated, “Kindness enables success while being the success we seek: a kind world. Let us all be proliferators of kindness.”

If you are not sure where to begin, start with a simple question. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone’s life better?”

Read the entire article.

  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
  • Aesop

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Summer is a Good Time to Think

“Training your mind to think is a process not just an activity – it gets better over time and through repetition.” – Jennifer Gluckow

Busy season is over. Perhaps, things are just a little slower in your work life. Plus, summer is a perfect time to do more thinking.

I have often reminded you to THINK. I want to remind you again today.

Jennifer Gluckow is an amazing sales resource. You can learn all about her here. She recently wrote about “Thinking About Thinking” and that reminded me of you – CPA firm leaders and CPA firm employees.

How often are you thinking strategically about your business, your sales, your clients, your future? How often are you thinking about your life? I imagine you rarely take time to slow down, relax and simply think (away from electronics of any sort).

Gluckow recommends ways to maximize your effectiveness at thinking:

  • Schedule time on your calendar.
  • Clear your head before you begin.
  • Drain your brain before you begin.
  • Be totally alone.
  • Maybe some music.
  • Create a peaceful thinking place.
  • 15 minutes a day.
  • Write them down.

Read more about each one of these tips in her article here.

  • Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.
  • Plato

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Finger-Pointing

“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” – Catherine the Great

Occasionally, something goes wrong on a client engagement. Somebody didn’t follow procedures. Someone talked to the client and didn’t pass along the information. A client phone call got lost in the shuffle and didn’t get returned. The list could go on and on.

When this happens inside some firms, the finger-pointing game begins….. “The manager didn’t tell me I had to do that…. The staff person didn’t do what I told them… I put the client note in the file…. I think admin didn’t follow up…. ” Again, the list of accusations and excuses can go on and on.

In the best firms, there is no obsession with placing blame. Leaders and team members put little emphasis on the past, they focus on the future. They focus on how to fix things so that the mistake doesn’t happen again. They learn from mistakes.

Here’s a motto I want you to adopt at your firm:

Don’t worry about why it went wrong. Just put it right!

  • I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Always Strive For Personal Development

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

Working inside a busy CPA firm you strive for improvement. Improvement for the firm, improvement for a particular department, improvement for a process, and improvement for those you supervise (and even your peers).

Don’t forget that YOU also need to improve. You need to always maintain a personal development plan. The work on self-improvement is never done – it’s on-going.

I get a lot of questions about structuring personal development plans for team members at accounting firms. It’s usually a case where someone is not meeting expectations. But, that’s not the only situation where personal development plans are a benefit.

samIn a recent Boomer Consulting newsletter, Samantha Zerr, Boomer’s Operations Accountant, shares her story about personal development. It was a journey in moving from a job she wasn’t a good match for to a future role that matched her abilities and enthusiasm.

Here’s Samantha’s advice on a personal development plan.

Personal Development Plan

What areas do you need to develop to be future ready? Whether it is in leadership, management, or communication, the steps I took can be applied:

  1. Identify what you do now, and what you will need to be able to do in the future to have the career path you want and help your firm be successful
  2. Identify the skills you need to develop to prepare for your future role – getting feedback from your peers, mentors and coaches can help ensure you’re on the right path.
  3. Identify resources to develop those skills. These might be courses, leadership development programs, or peer communities.
  4. Personal development doesn’t happen by accident. Finding a mentor and coach to give hands-on, one-on-one guidance and creating a plan of action is one of the most important steps you can take to develop yourself for the future.

Read her entire article here.

 

  • A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
  • Albert Einstein