Friday, June 24th, 2016
One of my favorite t-shirts. THINK about it.
- I am convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
One of my favorite t-shirts. THINK about it.
“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!
“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.
“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.
Here’s a good article by Wadhwa on this topic.
“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!
“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J. Loren Norris
Tomorrow I will be talking at the AICPA Practitioners’ Symposium & TECH+ Conference about the importance of mentoring and how developing a mentoring culture can help the firm hire and retain talented people.
I usually get a lot of questions about the specifics, such as:
Here’s the answer to what’s in it for both sides:
For the Mentor:
Mentoring allows the mentor to give something back to the firm and to the CPA profession. It helps the mentor to become a much better listener. It is a way for the mentor to share some of the good things they have learned from their years of experience and also gives them a chance to share some warnings about bad things that could possibly happen. It gives them the opportunity to “see” the firm through another person’s eyes. Most mentors say they usually gain just as much, or even more, than the mentee.
For the Mentee:
A great mentor will help increase the mentee’s level of self-confidence. The mentee will learn how to say the right thing, when to speak up and when it is best to remain silent. It gives the mentee some direction on handling the feedback they receive on their performance. It provides important networking opportunities and introductions to people who may become influential to their careers. It helps the mentee more quickly understand the organization and even the CPA profession.
Simply put, creating a mentoring culture shows your people that the firm is willing to invest time and money in the success of its people.
I’ve heard it for years inside accounting firms….. “He’s (or She’s) a workaholic!” It usually refers to partners and managers. In recent years it has taken on more importance because being a workaholic is not what the younger generation sees in their future. I think they have the right idea.
I believe younger workers will work very hard and seriously strive for career advancement. Some young technology workers can definitely be tagged with the workaholic title. However, most are not going to do it the way it has always been done inside CPA firms.
Here are the seven criteria, as reported by Science Daily for being a workaholic:
Thinking of how to free up more time to work.
Spending more time working than intended.
Working in order to avoid feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
Being told by others to work less but not listening to them.
Becoming stressed when prohibited from working.
Prioritizing work over hobbies, leisure and/or exercise on a regular basis.
Working so much that health is negatively affected.
If any of these describe you, please takes some positive steps to change. Life is good outside a CPA firm. I can vouch for that!
Photo: Bart van Doorn on Flickr
“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been advising CPA firms on mentoring programs for nearly 20 years. Yes, mentoring has changed and evolved greatly over that time period.
I will be updating some of you next week at the AICPA PSTECH Symposium in Las Vegas.
Here are some highlights, just in case you won’t be there!
Maybe it is time to update your mentoring program. Times are changing and so has mentoring.
Many people are looking forward to the 3-day weekend coming up. We will all be observing Memorial Day on Monday.
This first “summer” holiday is anticipated by CPA firm citizens because of the not too distant memories of the long hours of tax season just behind them.
While holidays are treasured, I have observed that many CPAs and others working in public accounting rarely take all of the vacation days they have coming to them. It amazes me how almost everyone working in an accounting firm is “too busy” to utilize their vacation time. It’s not just partners and other CPAs. I know marketing directors, HR professionals and firm administrators never take all of their vacation time. They are “too busy.”
I urge you this year, whether you are an auditor or a tax person or a support professional, take all of your vacation time. See what it feels like. Enrich yourself outside of work.
This Monday, remember our military personnel who died in service to their country.