Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Monday, April 30th, 2018

Abusing Technology

“I have so much I want to do. I hate wasting time.” – Stephen Hawking

Baby Boomer Partners complain:

Many of our staff are just looking for a job, not a career. They want to work 8:00 until 5:00, five days a week. Even while they are at work, they waste so much time on social media, texting their family and friends, and shopping on Amazon.

Millennial Staff complains:

Some partners send me emails at midnight. They also send me emails on weekends and sometimes at 5:00 a.m. I am expected to reply and it seems like I am on call 24/7.

Technology enables us to do so many things more quickly. It also allows us to use a lot of time we should be working on personal endeavors or to intrude on people’s personal time inappropriately.

Instant communication is not always a good thing. This might be a good discussion topic for a lunch and learn session. “How are we abusing the use of technology?” “What do we owe each other, as employer and employee?”

  • There's no good way to waste your time. Wasting time is just wasting time.
  • Helen Mirren

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Guarantee Your Work

“I have a place I got to in the Bahamas. It’s the only place that guarantees total anonymity and freedom.” – Johnny Depp

I guarantee my work. Do You?

I have written about this before but maybe you need a reminder about implementing this policy.

Your firm goes all out to provide over-the-top client service. You want to make your clients happy. Don’t be afraid to offer a satisfaction guarantee. Mentioning confidentiality is also important if you want to make your clients feel comfortable and have them trust you.

Here’s the wording I use in my proposals:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

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. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

  • Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
  • Bill Gates

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Processes

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

How did your processes and procedures work during your busy season? Be sure you contemplate this question. Also, be sure you ask your people how they thought the processes worked this season.

Now is the time to work toward making NEXT year better. Identify trouble spots and spend some time analyzing.

I have observed that in many firms they have very well-thought-out processes and they work well until you get to the partner level and then things fall apart.

As a partner, are you a partner or a sole-proprietor working in a multi-partner firm? Is your firm a one-firm firm or a silo firm? Do you act as though, because you are a partner, the rules don’t apply to you?

One-firm firms grow and prosper much quicker and easier than silo firms.

If you are the leader of the firm, maybe you need a partner commitment statement that declares partners will follow the firm’s processes, procedures, and guidelines. Your people will thank you!

  • If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.
  • Katharine Hepburn

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Accountability

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch

There are a lot of conversations in public accounting firm circles about accountability. Practitioners ask, “How do we hold people accountable?” They want to know exactly what to do and what to say.

In an accounting firm, it is almost always from the top down. As leaders, you want your people to be held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, accountability is a two-way street. If you are holding your people accountable for their performance, they should also be holding you accountable for your performance.

Is that happening at your firm? Do the members of your partner group hold each other accountable? Do you welcome upward feedback so that you are accountable to everyone in the firm?

  • Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.
  • Jim Whitehurst

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Take Your Vacation

“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” – Robert Orben

I have written a lot about people working in CPA firms not taking all their vacation time. Just type “vacation” in the search box – on the right – and browse the various posts.

The fact remains, many (probably a vast majority of) CPAs and other people working in public accounting firms do not take all of their vacation time. Sure, they can bank some of the time to use down the road for illness or family emergencies. That’s a good thing but studies tell us that vacation time is very valuable.

Here are 10 reasons to take your vacation time:

  1. Going on vacation shows you are competent.
  2. No one is impressed if you don’t.
  3. Your team is motivated.
  4. Your team gets more productive.
  5. Being unavailable helps people develop.
  6. You will be more productive.
  7. You will prioritize better.
  8. You let other people be “important.”
  9. Your company benefits.
  10. You need a break.

I recently read an interesting article via HBR – What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time.

The article even states that unlimited vacation policies do not work. Peer pressure is always there. You receive social signals that say you’re a slacker if you’re not in the office.

The company in the article adopted a policy of recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation. After working for seven weeks, you must take a week off. I can visualize how this might work in an accounting firm. Read the article and see if it could be modified slightly to work at your firm.

  • A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
  • Earl Wilson

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Define Your Firm’s Purpose – It Is Very Important to Young Workers

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” – Simon Sinek

In the past, when I have facilitated partner and management team retreats, I have urged them to focus on Purpose. Firm leaders struggled for years in defining their firm’s mission, vision and core values. A firm purpose was something new to most partner groups.

Firm leaders haven’t really thought about the difference between mission and purpose. A Mission is what you are trying to do and Purpose is why you are doing it.

Per a recent article via Fast Company – As Simon Sinek notes in his bestselling book Start with Why, most people know what an organization does, but few know why they do it. In other words, most purpose-driven leaders can articulate their mission–but many mission-driven leaders cannot articulate their purpose.

The article is titled: Want A Purpose-Driven Business? Know The Difference Between Mission And Purpose Young people want to work for a purpose-driven business but your purpose has to be something more than just rephrasing your business model.

There are some great tips in the article on steps you can take to connect with the WHY and purpose behind what you do.

Make this a topic of this year’s partner retreat.

  • There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
  • Simon Sinek

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Too Many Interruptions

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey

I hear it from so many people working in public accounting. The topic is distractions and interruptions. Several people have told me recently that even when they shut their door, people don’t take the hint – they simply knock and enter.

Distractions also include mobile devices, too many meetings, and noisy people when a group decides to chat in the cubicle next to you or outside your office door. Then there are those newer staff members who continually have questions.

Sharlyn Lauby, @hrbartender, has some helpful suggestions in her article, Workplace Distractions Are Impacting the Bottom Line.

  • Provide a place where employees can hang-out and talk without disturbing others.
  • Define, upfront, whether music can be played in work areas. Some people like quiet and some people like music – define your policy.
  • Provide employees with noise-canceling headphones.

Teach newer team members to compile a list of questions and let them know you will make yourself available at 11:00 and 4:00 to provide answers and guidance.

If you want to know more about the research behind Lauby’s article you can access Udemy’s 2018 Distraction Report for more information.

If you have HR responsibilities at your firm, follow Lauby on Twitter @hrbartender.

  • The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well. I don't like to use the word efficiency. It's creativity. It's a belief that every person counts.
  • Jack Welch

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

It’s The Little Things That Keep Clients Coming Back

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy

The bathroom facilities at Disney Parks are clean. It’s not a profit center. They don’t make them clean because they’re going to charge you to use them. They make them clean because if they didn’t, you’d have a reason not to come.

Take this thought process inside a CPA firm. Your clients judge you on little things. That is why the work is reviewed, reviewed again and again. The content of the tax return, financial statement, or other report being delivered to the client must be absolutely accurate.

The client assumes you are accurate in your work. That is why they hired a CPA in the first place. You know how to do things they do not know how to do. They assume you know accounting, tax, estate planning, profitability consulting, etc. if you offer those services. They judge you on the little things.

The client will judge you on:

  • A smudge on a page of their financial statement.
  • A crooked label affixed to an envelope.
  • Misspelling their name!
  • Sending something to the wrong mailing address.
  • Misspellings in emails.
  • The appearance of your office.
  • The way they are treated by your Director of First Impressions.
  • Not offering to hang up their coat.
  • Not offering them beverages.
  • Not having tissues available in the lobby.
  • Not returning their emails and phone messages quickly.

And, the one many of us have done but just hate it because it happened – sending an organizer or correspondence to someone who is deceased!

Why do you want to pay special attention to all these little things? If you don’t it might give them a reason not to come back.

  • Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

The Employee Experience

“Starbucks was founded around the experience and the environment of their stores. Starbucks was about a space with comfortable chairs, lots of power outlets, tables and desks at which we could work and the option to spend as much time in their stores as we wanted without any pressure to buy. The coffee was incidental.” – Simon Sinek

It seems we have evolved past employee engagement. It is now all about the complete employee experience. From a recent study via Deloitte:

Nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience very important (42 percent) or important (38 percent), but only 22 percent reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience. 

Large firms can leave most of this up to their HR departments. However, a vast majority of accounting firms really don’t have an HR department. It’s up to you – partners, managers, firm administrators and even the entire team to shape the employee experience.

Are you striving to have a “differentiated employee experience”?

  • An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.
  • Jack Welch