Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We Are Like Family – Maybe Not

“What people really want advice on is the interpersonal weirdness that comes with having a job.” – Alison Green

As I read an article via The New York Times – Your Workplace Isn’t Your Family (and That’s Ok!), I definitely thought about how the article should be read by many of you working inside accounting firms.

The article is an interview with Alison Green, author of a book titled: Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work.

I have heard it over and over from firms of varying sizes over many years – “we are like family.” I have always struggled with this topic. I have seen it used to avoid difficult conversations and to justify continuing to employ a poor performer over a long period of time. I have also seen it used to make unreasonable demands like working unreasonable hours and even seven days per week.

As you work at your accounting firm, always remember that this is business, not family, no matter what some people might think.

From the author: I want people to know it’s all right to treat work like work. We’re being paid to be there, and most of us wouldn’t show up otherwise. We don’t need to pretend that’s not the case.

Employment, underneath it all, is a contractual situation. It is a transaction:  I pay you and you do the work. You pay me and I do the work.

Be sure to read the article/interview.

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • Colin Powell

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Skilled Leaders Know How to Delegate

“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

It is a common problem inside accounting firms. As people gain experience and move up the ladder – staff to senior, senior to manager, manager to senior manager, senior manager to partner – they often cling to familiar work and hesitate to delegate.

It is a big step to move from doing to leading. You want to develop successors. You need future leaders for your firm. Delegate.

I have observed that in many accounting firms, partners are doing manager work and managers are doing senior work, seniors are doing staff work and staff are looking for work.

Why not reverse this long-time tradition? Adopt a different long-time tradition used at the large national firms – push work down to the lowest skill level. Staff members are super busy, seniors are pressing managers for more challenging work and managers are managing seniors and staff and asking partners how they can lighten their load. Partners are doing consulting work, maintaining client relationships, mentoring young people and most importantly, bringing in new business.

As you gain more experience and get promoted if you don’t delegate you will soon find yourself coming in earlier, staying later and feeling like the firm cannot survive without you.

I like this passage from an HBR article – How to be a great leader, you have to learn how to delegate well.

While it may seem difficult, elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: You need to be more essential and less involved. When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential. But the two are not the same — just as being busy and being productive are not necessarily equal.

As you address your workload this week, take a moment and ask yourself – How can I be more essential and less involved?

  • Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

Monday, August 6th, 2018

The Bus

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey

You’ve heard it many times – get the right people on the bus and get the wrong people off the bus. You have probably been working on that for a while and perhaps making slow progress.

Today, I am sharing a complete post by Seth Godin. I want you to ask yourself something. Is your firm the right bus? Is it the right bus for high-performers, people wanting to get somewhere, somewhere in the future, people who are not satisfied with the status quo and implementation that moves at a snail’s pace?

The Wrong Bus

Your first mistake was getting on the A53 bus, the one that goes crosstown instead of to where you’re going.

Mistakes like this happen all the time.

The big mistake, though, the one that will cost you, is staying on that bus.

I know it wasn’t easy to get on the bus. I know you got a seat. I know it’s getting dark outside. But you’re on the wrong bus, and staying on the wrong bus won’t make it the right bus.

If you really want to get where you set out to go, you’re going to have to get off the wrong bus.

  • On a bus, your eyes, ears, and pores are open absorbing in the variety the wonder, and the magic of the city. It's a wonderful way to get to know the city.
  • George Takei

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Outside & Inside

“The wrapper matters, but so does the experience within.” – Seth Godin

Your website is very important. It helps support the firm brand that is visible to the outside world.

You have spent years building that brand. The firm is viewed as successful and progressive. The firm is often said to be the best CPA firm in town.

You broadcast that your firm is the best place to work and it has been around for a substantial number of years. The firm has an extensive menu of services. It has well-known niche experts. You have made it to that short-list of firms that bankers and attorneys recommend to their client.

All of that matters. However, what goes on inside the firm matters more.

 

  • Create a beautiful inside and you will look beautiful on the outside.
  • Charles F. Glassman

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Drama at the Office

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

Some words about drama from Seth Godin’s recent post hit home with me. I have observed SO MUCH drama inside CPA firms, when I worked at one and as I have consulted with many.

Here’s an excerpt from Godin’s post titled, Two Ways to Solve a Problem and Provide a Service.

With drama. Make sure the customer knows just how hard you’re working, what extent you’re going to in order to serve. Make a big deal out of the special order, the additional cost, the sweat and the tears.

Without drama. Make it look effortless.

Talking behind people’s backs, gossiping, cliques, whining, blaming others are just a few of the descriptors. Stop doing it. You are not in high school anymore.

If you must vent, do it outside the office. If you are tempted to send a quick, harsh reply to an email, wait an hour before you type.

Most drama could be reduced if you made it a rule to avoid triangulation. That means if you have an issue with someone, talk only to them and don’t involve a third party.

Reduce the drama inside your firm by practicing The Four Agreements.

  • What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.
  • Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Six Habits of Mind

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

Alan Wurtzel, the former CEO of Circuit City, spent three years exploring the rise and fall of his company. He offers some important Habits of Mind. He wrote a book titled, Good to Great to Gone. Here are his Habits of Mind:

6 Habits of Mind:

1. Be Humble; Run Scared. Constantly doubt your understanding of things. Say, “I may not be right.”

2. Curiosity Sustains the Cat: Answers end curiosity. Keep curiosity alive by saying, “That’s a great answer are there other options?”

3. Confront the Brutal FactsIf you don’t confront the brutal facts now, they’ll confront you later.

4. Boldly Follow Through: Big ideas require bold leadership and attract loyal followers.

5. Mind the Culture: Create a caring and ethical culture where employees can make mistakes without fear of adverse consequences.

6. Encourage Debate: Encourage and learn from dissent.

  • There is no failure except in no longer trying.
  • Chris Bradford

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