Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

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

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

It’s Up To You

Sure, you want to be successful.

Sure, you want your firm to be successful.

It’s not magic. It’s called hard work.

Take this advice from Pharrell Williams, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer:

“If you don’t do it for yourself, you can’t depend on others to do it for you.”

  • Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.
  • Dalai Lama

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Clear and Unclear

“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” – Gandhi

Studies tell us that accounting graduates are looking for an employer that can show them a well-defined career path. They want a firm that clearly communicates expectations.

Your firm has worked very hard at doing all of that. When new people join the firm you have documentation that shows them career paths. Your performance evaluation system gives them frequent feedback and sets expectations.

Leaders are pleased and assume all of effort put into developing and communicating career paths and expectations is working effectively. Everything is clear.

But, what about the grapevine? What about the unwritten ground rules that thrive inside every office? What about the things that are unclear?

Leaders tell new people to speak-up, make their opinions known. Peers may tell them to “be careful what you say when Nancy is in the room.” So, it is not always safe to speak-up?

Once again, it is all about your firm culture. If you have a culture that is productive and positive, one where there are few, if any, mixed messages, you will have better employee engagement and enhanced productivity.

Firm culture needs to be a strategic focus and continually fostered throughout the firm.

 

  • A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
  • Gandhi

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Conquer The Email Mountain

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.” – Jack Kerouac

I have posted many times on the topic of email. Here are a few, maybe you missed them:

What Kind of Impression Do Your Emails Make?

Don’t Read Email First Thing In The Morning.

CPA Live In The World of Email

If you need to be more efficient with our email, go to the search box on the right and type in “email” – you will find even more posts about email.

Email is one of the most frustrating things in the life of CPA firm citizens. It is often a love/hate relationship. It is convenient, easy and quick. It can also be tiring, over-whelming and frustrating.

Just a few more tips today:

  • Be very thorough when you are requesting something by email. It doesn’t mean you need a long email, just one that clearly explains the purpose.
  • Keep your emails short and sweet. People will glance at your email and if it is long, they will not read it!
  • Avoid sending an email to a big group of people – include only essential people.
  • Be cautious with your signature. Many people have way too much information in their signature box.
  • It is actually okay to NOT use a closing – just end the email. Think about how much time you spend mentally debating whether to end with best regards, thank-you, sincerely, warm regards…. depending on the person you are addressing. Because texts are so widely used, email can also be a quick back and forth, not signature needed.
  • My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places.
  • A. A. Milne

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Create Turnover – Keep People Moving!

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” – George S. Patton

Think about it. Your firm turns people over on a regular basis. I don’t mean that you have people resigning from the firm. I mean they change jobs inside the firm.

They go from intern to staff. From staff to senior. From senior to manager and so on. The best thing you can do is to clearly define the roles in your firm so that people don’t have to leave the firm to get a new challenge or to enjoy a new opportunity.

A warning, you need to be sure there really is a difference between what a staff person does compared to a senior, and so on. In many firms, I find partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work and seniors and staff looking for work.

This summer, explore the options and do your research. Then better define the duties of each level. Once they can proficiently perform the duties of a staff accountant, they can take on a completely new job as a senior accountant.

Spread the word among clients, the business community and on the college campus that there is a clear, well-defined career path in public accounting at your accounting firm and team members don’t have to change employers, lose seniority, start over accruing benefits to achieve it.

  • Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don't leave jobs; they leave managers.
  • Travis Bradberry