Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

You Didn’t Act

“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin

How many times have you contemplated the fact that you should have done something but you didn’t?

Maybe it was passing on hiring a new college graduate and several years later that young CPA is already well-known and active in your business community.

Maybe it was procrastinating on buying document management software and then when you finally did it, you realized all the efficiencies you had been missing out on.

Maybe it was not giving enough recognition to that up-and-coming superstar and they suddenly leave to take a job with a competitor.

  • You know you should offer at least one more holiday.
  • You know you should work with your partners to provide enhanced communication inside your firm.
  • You know you should be truly paperless.
  • You know you should offer flexibility and remote connectivity so people can work from anywhere.
  • You know you should hire a consultant to help you with a specific challenge.

You know you should do more of these things, but you don’t know for sure they will work or you don’t yet feel enough pain to act.

As Seth Godin says in a great recent post… “All the good stuff happens when we act even if we don’t know for sure.”

I think I’ll go buy a lottery ticket!

 

  • Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
  • William James

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Tracking The Time You Are At Your Desk

“Any privacy in public is a hard thing to negotiate.” – Benedict Cumberbatch

All of this technology is wonderful, right? It helps us get work done faster, it helps us shop, it helps us find places, it helps us do our banking and other chores, and it opens an amazing world of information for us.

I was with a friend recently who uses technology (Life360) to track her teenage daughter. Some people track their entire family.

Recently, Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady) wrote an article for Inc. that reported on a bank tracking the time their employees spent at their desks.

Supposedly, the bank says the purpose is to see what spaces employees use. It doesn’t track who is sitting at your desk. The information will be used for space planning.

But what if employers begin using such devices to track employees for other purposes.

It is kind of creepy but also interesting. I don’t really mind that Google knows where I am most of the time. I’m not so naive to think other entities may be tracking me. If you use a credit card, you become very public. But something about having your boss track the time you sit at your desk would be unacceptable.

Read the article, see what you think.

  • You already have zero privacy. Get over it.
  • Scott McNealy

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Using Fear as a Motivator

“Everything I’ve ever done was out of fear of being mediocre.” – Chet Adkins

There are plenty of people who argue the pros and cons of using fear as a motivator. While I can’t imagine building an organization via motivation by fear, we are hearing a lot about it in the workplace these days.

I believe, in the CPA firm world, we see very little management by fear. Not, that it never existed. I have been around long enough to remember when it did. However, it has become a thing of the past in well-run firms. We have been able to attract and keep people who have the passion for public accounting, the work they do for clients and the pride they feel in being part of a winning team – all the things I hope to bring to you, on a regular basis, with this newsletter.

As I work with accounting firms around the country, I see both sides of the coin.  Many employees want to see a little more discipline and structure in their firm.  They feel the partners let things slide and do not address issues of poor performance.  A dose of fear for some employees would be an improvement.  A lack of discipline culture can be very demotivating.

On the other side of the coin, team members in other firms tell me that partners are always looking over their shoulder and providing feedback in a very critical style.  Each partner wants things done in a different manner.  The fear from employees comes from dreading the extensive, critical review notes issued by those in charge.

Striking the right balance of discipline, structure, coaching and recognition will go a long way to inspiring employees to work a little harder, demonstrate teamwork and even be more creative and helpful to clients.

  • One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do.
  • Henry Ford

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Warm & Fuzzy

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many accounting firm owners/shareholders, in years gone by believed they were doing the right things.

  • We can get by with two monitors, no one needs three.
  • We need to stick with our professional dress code, our clients care.
  • Not everyone needs access to remote connectivity.
  • We don’t need to send more than one person to that management conference, they can come back and inform us all about what they learned.
  • We can just send one person to that leadership training, they can teach it at the firm.
  • It will be okay if we delay working on that succession plan until next year.
  • We don’t need to spend very much on Christmas gifts for the staff, they really don’t appreciate it anyway.
  • It is too hard to keep track of everyone’s birthdays, we don’t need to send a card to each person’s home.
  • It will hurt production if we close the office on Fridays in the summer.

Many partners called all of these things and other nice, little things they were expected to do for staff, “warm & fuzzy” stuff.

In the past, some of these did apply but they sure don’t now. Never be afraid to admit that you were wrong and make important changes that will guide your firm into the future.

  • We would all like a reputation for generosity and we'd all like to buy it cheap.
  • Mignon McLaughlin

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Toxic Behaviors

leadershipfreak“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

If you are a regular reader, you know that I follow Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak – his tweets and his blogs.

This morning, I read his blog titled, The Complete List of Toxic Behaviors That Poison Teams. Sadly, so many things on his extensive list I see happening inside CPA firms. Many of them apply to the partner group and a lesser amount apply to the entire team.

Here are just a few that I see happen most often, along with my specific comments. Please follow the link and read all the behaviors that are toxic. You might be surprised how many you see inside your own firm.

Assume silence is agreement – When I facilitate partner retreats and a tough issue comes up for discussion, I notice that some partners “look at their lap.” They avoid eye contact and remain silent. Other partners assume the silent partners are in agreement and usually they are not.

Allow power-mongers to drone on and on – You know them, the more powerful partners who believe everyone wants to hear what they have to say – over and over again and again. No one stops them!

Invite the same people to the table, year after year – Invite outsiders to your partner meetings – mix it up by inviting one or two managers, then some seniors. Involve a local advisor, like an attorney you trust or a professional outside marketer and use a facilitator familiar with the CPA profession

Solve every problem and address every imaginable contingency before you try something – Accountants are too risk adverse and too comfortable in status quo to risk trying new ideas.

Discuss, but don’t decide – I don’t think I have to explain this one. The most common comment I hear, “Let’s put that on the agenda for next year.”

  • In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Why Top Performers Leave Your Firm

“Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.” – HubSpot’s Culture Code

Thanks to Lisa Benson for making me aware of an article on LinkedIn – Why Millennials Keep Dumping You: An Open Letter to Management.

It addresses the issue of millennials leaving jobs but I think that it applies to every top performer in CPA firms, no matter what their generation.

Public accounting needs millennials, they are going to be the majority of the workforce in just a few short years. It’s time to take keeping them more seriously.

Here’s a summary of the article. It is a message for management about what is really behind a top performer’s resignation letter:

You tolerate low-performance. – CPA leaders you are SO guilty of this. It is very demotivating to a high-achiever to see Lazy Lily tolerated. You have heard this from me before – a bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.

ROI is not enough for me. – I want to do the best possible job for our client. I even spend weekends thinking about solutions. Then on Monday I hear about billable hours and realization. I want you to talk to me about how WE make a difference in the success of the firm clients.

Culture is more than free Panera. – Don’t confuse culture with collateral. I appreciate and enjoy the free food, etc. but more importantly I want to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing.

It’s ok to get personal. – Treat me like a number and I’ll return the favor. I will think of my job/career as a way to make a rent payment. I am desperate for you to show me that work we do here matters but I am NOT doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.

Creating a culture where people are inspired and excited is much more than focusing your energies on the bottom line.

PLEASE follow the link above and read the entire article. It is worth your time. Thanks to the author Lisa Earle McLeod.

  • We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don't get comfortable with our success.
  • Mark Parker, CEO, Nike

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Increase Your Firm’s Value

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures and policies that are well-documented in writing.  This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
  • Charles Darwin

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

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Can This Be A CPA Firm?

“We are trying to change this old culture to try to sustain our profession for the future.” – Bernie Ackerman, CPA

Quite a few years ago I met Bernie Ackerman and his son, Jason at an AICPA conference. For several years, we would meet-up and talk about their firm, current topics, other firms and the profession, in general.

BernieBernie and Jason have always been, to me, a great two-generational team that had a firm grasp on what they could do to take their firm, BNA, into the future.

Recently, they were featured in the Journal of Accountancy for the very innovative things they were doing. The title: BNA: A Completely Flat Hierarchy.

As the article notes, you might think they were a tech start-up because staffers set their own working hours and never touch a time sheet. All employees get their own offices, starting on day one. There is no path to partner because there are no partners!

While their practices are very unusual in the profession, they are Jasonpaying off in term of recruitment. Jason Ackerman reports that they receive 10 to 15 resumes a week, even when they are not hiring!

Follow the links above to read the article and to visit their website.

I hope this inspires you to create a great culture and a future for your firm.

 

  • The best way to predict your future is to create it.
  • Abraham Lincoln