Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Accounting Firm Websites

 “If you want success, be unique.” – Natalie Massenet

Many firms I have talked to recently are focusing on updating their website this summer. Your website is so important. It is the first impression that a new client has of your firm. Does it look modern and trendy or does it look conservative, boring and old?

BNA logoI look at a lot of CPA firm websites and my favorite remains BNA CPAs & Advisors in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Their site is modern and trendy, clean and sleek and so are their offices and attitudes.

I met Bernie and Jason Ackerman many years ago at a conference and have stayed in touch over the years. They have been so proactive in improving their firm and its processes. They embrace technology to the fullest. Their focus remains on how they can provide even better client service.

Visit their site and explore. Learn how BNA delivers tax returns in 3 days. Then, compare it to your website. How do you stack up?

  • My personal ambition remains the same - to be creative, to be modern, to stay one step ahead, to enjoy life.
  • Natalie Massenet

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Be Careful What You Say and Where You Say It

“A secret spoken finds wings” – Robert Jordan

Client confidentiality is a very important issue inside a CPA firm. So, my warning to all CPA firm team members, including new hires and the administrative team (includes techies and marketers) is – Be careful what you say and where you say it!

This shouldn’t happen, but it does. Team members joke about clients. Perhaps, inside your firm you even have “pet” names for clients, i.e., Mr. Always Late (or even more unflattering names). Be careful!

Never forget that people sitting in your lobby or conference room can overhear many conversations. Develop a culture where clients are always talked about with respect except behind doors and for a good reason.

Here are some examples to avoid and to educate everyone in your firm to avoid:

One firm had a stairway in the lobby leading to the upstairs staff offices and meetings rooms. Anyone sitting in the lobby could hear what was said in the upstairs landing. After an incident occurred, continual reminders kept people from having any kind of client discussions on that upper landing.

Another firm had a client approach a partner to warn him that he, the client, was dining in a popular business lunch spot and overheard a table of administrative people discussing a client of the firm. The client didn’t want his business discussed in public places.

These examples are just one segment of client confidentiality. Some clients don’t even want people to know who handles their financial affairs.

Again, be careful and educate everyone working at the firm.

 

  • Confidentiality is an ancient and well-warranted social value.
  • Kay Redfield Jamison

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Motto or Tagline

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.
– Henry David Thoreau

Most firms have them. Many firms have them prominently displayed on their website. I am referring to the firm motto or tagline. Most are rather boring. They are things like the following:

  • A Century Strong
  • Improving the lives of our staff, clients and community with innovation, trust and integrity.
  • Collaborative Approach.Practical Advice
  • Go Beyond
  • Serving clients since 1931
  • Strategy Meets Challenges
  • Helping You Meet Your Financial Goals
  • Experience, Financial Clarity and Confidence
  • Uncommon Expertise, Incomparable Service

Read more here. 

Some firms tout their longevity, some their client service and some have just copied something another firm has used. I remember hearing a very prominent managing partner from a very prominent and forward-thinking firm do a presentation on developing core values for his firm. We, the audience, were all very impressed with the list of six or so values and the meaning behind each one. Privately, in a later conversation, I asked him, “How did you come up with the values and meaningful descriptions?” He replied, “Oh, I just found them on the internet.”

Mottos and taglines are also used internally to motivate your entire staff. Maybe you need a different kind of motto for internal use, something that will actually motivate staff, something not so stiff, formal and vague. Here’s a motto, intended as a family motto, that I recently read in a magazine. I love it and think it would be a great motto for your CPA team:

Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

Whatever your motto – to make it relevant and truly alive inside your firm you must use it repetitively. Make posters and display them around the office. Engrave it on a paperweight for each person’s desk. Put it on t-shirts and give them out at the firm summer picnic.

My continuing message to all of you: Be kind. Have fun. Work hard. Learn a lot.

  • My motto is: Contented with little, yet wishing for more.
  • Charles Lamb

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

You Probably Have One – A Bad Apple

“Bad apples spoil teams and healthy team dynamics, it is more important than top talent.” – Will Fleps

Over the years, I have often talked and written about bad apples inside accounting firms. A recent blog post by @leadershipfreak brought this important topic to light again.

As I always say, “One bad apple can ruin the whole barrel.” that means that the constant whiner inside your firm is doing significant damage in the long-term. Yet, CPAs are nice people and they just shy away from firing people – even bad apples.

Per the article, one bad apple lowers team performance up to 40%! Maybe that gets your attention.

Read the blog post here. Maybe it will inspire you to have a more critical look at some team members.

The first step is to let the bad apple know they are causing problems. Be honest and straight-forward. Give them a chance to change – but, don’t give them too long.

Warning! – Make sure your culture isn’t cultivating bad apples.

  • In marketing you must choose between boredom, shouting and seduction. Which do you want?
  • Roy H. Williams

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Grace and Radical Kindness

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

You have heard it and read it over and over again. I am talking about news and conversations about arguments, disagreements, biases, hate, and lack of understanding. Like many, I am very tired of the whole thing. I’m tired of people who can’t seem to tolerate anyone who thinks differently than them.

On a smaller scale, how are things inside your CPA firm? How’s morale? Are people happy? Are there certain people you know NOT to approach at certain times because they are in a bad mood? Are there bossy people, closed-minded people and people who simply don’t want to rock the boat when it involves change? Are there egotistical people or even greedy people?

Maybe it is time for Radical Kindness. That’s the term the Director of the new documentary about Mister Rogers uses to describe him. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article I read in the Dayton Daily News about the film. The director is the filmmaker Morgan Neville:

“I’ve thought a lot about why the film moves people. Fred kind of digested his message down to what I call radical kindness, but Fred himself called it grace. And to him, grace was an idea that could be expressed as – Be good to others, even if they don’t deserve it.”

“Fred saw life as a struggle between fear and love. What we see today, rage and anger and resentment, are the byproducts of fear. What he tried to do was quell that fear in children, to keep them from manifesting those toxic emotions. Fred chose love, and that is his legacy.”

Here is a link to the trailer for the documentary. There is also a movie in the works about Fred Rogers, starring Tom Hanks. It is to be released in 2019.

For now, I hope you act with grace and practice radical kindness.

  • There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."
  • Mister Rogers

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Important Survey

“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” – John Naisbitt

My friends at ConvergenceCoaching®, LLC, are committed to helping firms succeed through the adoption of NextGen strategies, including flex. They are seeking participants in their Anytime, Anywhere Work™ Survey 2018.

The goal of this survey is to collect data on the adoption of flexible work programs (Anytime, Anywhere Work™ programs) by public accounting firms and the experiences firms have had with these initiatives.

Follow the link to find out more and please consider participating in the survey. The survey is open through June 15. By participating you will receive a copy of the survey results.

  • It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The History of Your Firm

“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.'” – Eduardo Galeano

Last week, I was on vacation in Gettysburg, PA. We have always liked history vacations and have done many and it usually involves visiting national parks. The Gettysburg National Military Park is one of our favorites.

We have been to Gettysburg numerous times and we always learn something new and see things we have never seen before. It is because they are continually updating the park and making it more like it was in 1863. They want to make it “real” for visitors.

How much do your people know about the history of your firm? Many firms do have a summary on their website and many do not. Why not make it more real for them?

To help your people better understand the firm and its leaders, try a timeline exercise at your next full-firm meeting (or do a lunch and learn).

Get a large roll of paper and affix a long sheet to a wall in the staff room – make it about 15 to 20 feet wide. Draw a long line and put the date of the firm’s founding at the beginning on the left. Note the current date (month) at the other end of the long line. Then have everyone (using markers) mark on the sheet when they joined the firm. For many firms, it will span several decades. Then have random people talk about “what it was like” when they joined the firm and encourage people to ask questions.

Some very interesting discussions will follow!

Follow this up with another session a month or so later and talk about something even more important – the future.

 

  • I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

We Are So busy

“Never mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

I love the above quote and it is something that I think applies to CPA firm citizens.

I hear it all the time:

  • We are so busy.
  • No one has time to help me.
  • I hesitate to add new clients because I can’t ask the staff to work more hours.
  • And, many similar statements.

I also see it all the time. A huge amount of talking, debating and worrying with very little actually being accomplished. I observe it often in my coaching clients – lots of talk and excuses (we were too busy) and little achievement.

Analyze what you are so busy doing. The best thing you can be doing, no matter what level of staff you are (or partner), is to focus on developing others. Delegate to them and get yourself out of the busy-work and focus on achieving something bigger.

  • Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Bringing In New Partners

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill

Recently, Marc Rosenberg contributed an article to CPA Practice Advisor titled 7 Must-Haves for Accounting Firm Succession Plans. 

Rosenberg notes that 80% of first-generation firms never make it to the second generation because they have non-existent or ineffective succession plans.

If you want your firm to survive into the future, choosing the right partners is an important step. Often, owners make someone a partner without them truly understanding the expectations and responsibilities of a partner. Firms also often make someone a partner just because they don’t want them to leave the firm.

In his article, Rosenberg kindly shares his one-page list of criteria for promotion to partner. You can download it here. Be sure to read his entire article. Thanks for sharing, Marc.

  • Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.
  • George Washington Carver

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

The Partner Pledge

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

I have talked with many firms about the use of a partner commitment statement. It is a list of things that a person commits to when they become an owner (partner) in a CPA firm. The first example I ever saw was from Sam Allred of Upstream Academy.

Over the years I have encouraged all firms to establish some guidelines for partners to follow. In so many firms, it is a sort of “now I am a partner so I can do whatever I want” culture. Progressive firms are setting the expectation for partners and I think it would be helpful to all partner groups.

Thanks to the CPAFMA discussion board, I recently read a sample Partner Pledge shared by Scott Chicoine, Firm Administrator for KerberRose, a prominent Wisconsin firm. They have kindly agreed to share their Partner Pledge with all of you. Thank-you, KerberRose!

kerberrosecclogo01

 

 

 

 

 

PARTNER COMMITMENT PLEDGE

Mission:
To Make our Clients and Employees Successful

Core Values:
• Honesty
• Integrity
• Respect
• Balanced Life
• Community Orientated

As a Partner of KerberRose, S.C., I understand that partnership is a privilege and not a right…this privilege must be continuously earned. I have a responsibility to KerberRose, the Partners, and the team members. As a Partner, I understand that I am on display for all to see and serve as a role model. My effort, attitude and desire will serve as a constant point of reference for employees. As such I pledge to:

-Commit to the Core Values of KerberRose in all interactions with all of The Firm’s Team Members
-Make myself more valuable every year and strive for continuous improvement
-Ensure the perpetuation of KerberRose through the transfer of knowledge and talents to future firm leaders
-Support firm efforts to develop and train future firm leadership
-Foster a culture that promotes inclusivity, family values, and opportunity for team members
-Continually engage with Team Members… be accessible, show them they are valued and help them to achieve their goals
-Be a great role model for success and judgment… be an inspiring Partner
-Make myself available for meetings with Firm Administrator and Managing -Partner to help monitor my personal goals and firm goals
-Delegate as appropriate, giving proper direction and setting reasonable expectations
-Commit to a unified and cohesive Partner group, but allow for creative thinking and challenging the status quo
-Commit to spirited involvement rather than grudging compliance
-Act in a modest manner and set ego aside
-Promote the full offering of available services to clients and prospects
-Ensure the services I offer are beneficial to clients
-Understand that we should provide clients exceptional service
-Always put the business interests of KerberRose ahead of my personal business interests
-Use my best efforts to meet or exceed my new business goals on an annual basis
-Use my best efforts to attain both chargeable and non-chargeable goals each year
-Establish non-chargeable hour goals that enhance the future of KerberRose
-Prepare billing timely and fairly
-Follow established collection policies and requirements of Partners
-Record my time daily
-Always give my best attitude, effort, and desire
-Make a lifelong commitment to learning

I, ________________________________have read, understand, and agree to do my best to approach my daily work in accordance with this KerberRose Partner Commitment Pledge.

 

  • Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans.
  • Peter Drucker