Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Is Your Holiday Greeting Inspiring?

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Year after year, CPA firms struggle with what kind of Christmas card or holiday message they should send to their clients. Some spend quite a bit of money on prestigious holidays cards and gifts. Then, the question comes up – how do we top that next year?

Why not live your holiday message? Do kind and helpful things for your community then share your story with your clients and business associates.

I recently received my holiday greeting from a law firm (Ice Miller). Sure, they send it out to hundreds or even thousands of people, but it made me feel good about them.

You could do the same. Check it out here.

  • It's not about giving back if you're successful or a celebrity or how much money you have. It's about your responsibility as an adult to help others.
  • Trisha Yearwood

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Who Is The Leader?

“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” – Adlai E. Stevenson

Accountants often struggle with making decisions. When they can’t make a decision, then that is a decision.

We’ve made a decision to make no decision. That will sure impress your team.

Some firms are managed by a group of partners. They decline to officially name any one partner as their managing partner, CEO or president. I hear comments like, “Joe is the president of the firm but Bob helps and so does Sue.” “We’ve been together since college so we trust each other and don’t need to have an official managing partner.”

We’ve made a decision not to have any one person in-charge, so we have no leader. That will sure impress your team!

I was talking to a client recently, the managing partner of a smaller firm in talks with a larger firm. Merging up is the succession plan for his efficiently and profitably managed firm. The smaller firm CPA explained to me that he had talked with a group of three partners from the larger (not a huge firm) several different times. His comment, “I don’t sense any real leadership. I’m not sure any one is actually in-charge of firm management.”

Do your team members (and clients) wonder who is actually in charge? Do they wonder how decisions are made? Do they get a sense that there is no one who is a strong leader, no one being held accountable?

Don’t shy away from naming and empowering a talented managing partner for your firm. If the best candidate isn’t quite ready, be sure to invest in their education and training. If they are qualified and ready, also invest in their education and training.

Here’s one great source for leadership training, Transformational Leadership Program from Convergence Coaching.

  • The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
  • William Arthur Ward

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Cancel Some Meetings

“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” – Seth Godin

Occasionally, I repost – word for word – something that Seth Godin has posted. He posts everyday and I encourage you to follow him.

Here’s the message I want all my CPA tribe to hear:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

  • One reason I encourage people to blog is that the act of doing it stretches your available vocabulary and hones a new voice.
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Cheating

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles

A headline via Fast Company caused me to ponder a familiar situation in an accounting firm. The headline – Is Your Workplace Encouraging Employees To Cheat?

Here’s the lead in paragraph:

Your company prides itself on having a culture of high performers who thrive under pressure. But could that very culture be encouraging employees to cheat?

Leaders of CPA firms, I ask you that question.

Think about it, if you reward the way many firms have rewarded employees for years, they are probably cheating. Of course, in the CPA world we don’t come right out and call it cheating.

If you reward for chargeable hours, they will give you more chargeable hours. (They record more hours than it actually takes them to complete the client work.)

If you reward for improved realization, they will give you improved realization. (They record fewer hours than it takes them to complete the client work.)

The result is that you never have a real picture of the effort (and time) it takes to complete a client’s engagement. On top of that, your employees are really uncomfortable and feel pressure to give you what you want.

It’s a common issue. The solution is to become better managers of our people. If you do still bill based on time (and many of you do), Ask for honesty and lighten up on the pressure.

  • In athletics there's always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you're not cheating. I think that's just a quirk of human nature.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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

Monday, November 6th, 2017

You Don’t Need A Crisis

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln

Inside a growing accounting firm, there is a lot of work going on. Some of it is performed quickly but a lot of it is slowly making its way through the pipeline. In accounting firms it is called WIP (work-in-process).

Then a crisis appears on the horizon (called a tax due date or an audit client’s board meeting). That due date (or crisis) pushes people forward.

Inside an accounting firm, there is also a significant number of internal improvement projects and strategic initiatives moving a lot more slowly than the client work. I describe it as partners (owners) being very comfortable with status quo. They have been successful over a period of year and have become complacent. “I’m making really good money and doing things that are easy for me, why change?”

It will also take a crisis to speed up these very important tasks. If you procrastinate too long, your competition will leave you behind. The business world is changing rapidly.

I like this advice from Seth Godin: If you’re the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. 

For the good of the firm and for the future of the firm, create internal deadlines relating to management projects – – don’t allow extensions!

  • My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.
  • Charles Dickens

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Guarantee Your Work

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

It’s that time of year when most of us are beginning to receive the pre-Christmas deluge of catalogs. I actually enjoy them. I have my favorites that I order from, whether I receive a catalog or not, but the vast majority I just browse through and then recycle.

Yesterday, I was browsing through catalogs and found something that made me think of CPA firms – The Vermont Country Store Customer Bill of Rights – 100% Guaranteed Satisfaction:

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Some accounting firms offer their clients a guarantee. I hope you are making it a prominent part of your verbal and written communication with prospects and clients. The Vermont Country Store has it inside the cover page of their catalog.

I put mine in every engagement agreement:

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable.

I hope you also provide your clients with a commitment statement describing the way you provide service. I prefer a double commitment statement – what you, as a firm, commit to and what you expect from your client. I will share it in tomorrow’s blog post.

  • Going above and beyond involves making customers feel special and helping them out even when it may not make sense.
  • Neil Patel

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Fear and Trust

 “The glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” –Brian Tracy

Some accounting firms continue to have an under-current of fear running through their culture. Many team members fear that if they provide their true feelings about the partners there will be repercussions.

The partners say, as a group, that there will never be negative repercussions if a team member provides honest feedback. Yet, people still fear that individual partners do not necessarily buy into that position.

Some accounting firms have purposely moved their culture, over time, to one of trust. Partners trust their team members to do good work. Team members trust that partners keep their word.

If your firm needs to move toward a culture of trust, begin now. Review your policies and determine if some of them are still old-school, making team members feel the lack of trust. Get people involved in the process and make the changes that need to be made. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over a period of time – take baby steps if you must!

  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
  • Warren Buffett

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Never Happy

During CPA firm partner meetings and retreats, there is often one partner who is never happy with whatever new thing the firm is trying to implement. They seem to want to argue about almost everything.

Every idea is challenged and the person usually qualifies their comments with words like “I’m playing devil’s advocate….”

That is why this recent, brief blog post by Seth Godin hit home with me:

Oppositional

When someone is frequently naysaying a proposal or a situation, it’s tempting to figure out how to make them happy. What can you change to find a compromise, how can you listen to their objections and respond in a way to gain their approval?

It might be, though, that being oppositional is making them happy. It may be that the best way to satisfy their objections is to let them keep objecting.

  • Dig your well before you are thirsty.
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

A Culture of Learning

Jason“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.” – Jim Rohn

I was so pleased to read a recent article titled, Creating A Culture of Learning, by Jason Ackerman, CPA, CFP, CGMA. Jason is a next generation CPA setting a great example and using his influence to guide BNA CPAs into the future.

In the article, he stresses many issues that I am very passionate about, too!

  • Hire for cultural fit.
  • New hires don’t know anything about how to do their job based on what they learned in college.
  • It is management’s responsibility to teach and train new team members, starting from the ground up, if necessary.
  • Involve less experienced team members in important client meetings where complex issues are discussed. They learn so much just observing and listening.
  • Give them the freedom to make mistakes – not sloppiness, but honest mistakes.
  • Don’t embarrass them or belittle them because of mistakes. Sometimes management takes too hard a line on errors.
  • Review notes should be given in person.

Be sure to take the time to read the entire article and share it with your partners and managers. Then begin building a culture of learning inside your own firm.

I also really like the BNA website. Explore it, it’s fun!

  • Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
  • Gandhi