Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Enchant? Engage? Why Not Just Make Them Say… “Wow!”

Screenshot 2016-02-07 12.39.28I write a lot about engaging your employees in their work and engaging them in the mission of the firm. I read even more about employee engagement, what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. I just Googled “employee engagement” and received 24,200,000 possibilities.

This weekend, I read an article on HBR by Tim Leberecht about ways to enchant your employees. Oh boy, now engage is not enough, we must enchant!

Marketers for Apple and Disney use enchantment all the time. Enchantment leads to attachment, something that is even greater than loyalty.

Now, it seems, with our employees, we must use enchantment because satisfaction means our basic needs are met. Happiness means our emotional needs are met. Enchantment gives us meaningful experiences we didn’t even know we needed.

The author of the article admits that we can’t be enchanted every day because enchantment remains by its very nature an occasional, peak experience.

About 20 years ago, it seemed work life was much simpler. I was working in a growing, progressive CPA firm. One of our main goals was to make our people say, “Wow!”. We did this periodically, not every day, of course. We had very little turnover.

Back then I wasn’t aware of “engaging” or “enchanting” our team members. We simply did our best to hire great people and stay focused on their needs, their opinions and making our culture a positive one.

Keep it simple at your firm. Occasionally surprise your people with something that makes them say, “Wow!”.

Today’s quote, below, will give you food for thought!

  • Whatever deceives men seems to produce a magical enchantment.
  • Plato

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Engage & Retain Talent With Mentoring

I have talked about, written about and helped firms implement mentoring programs for years. Still, I am receiving lots of feedback about the lack of dedicated mentoring inside CPA firms.

I contend that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced accountant guides and teaches a younger, less-experienced accountant. It has been going on for decades. It is how young CPAs have always learned their trade.

Take that basic approach and incorporate more recognition, honest feedback, skilled listening and career advice and you have a mentoring program.

Engaging and retaining talent is a hot topic for the accounting profession. Mentoring can be an important tool.

Experienced CPAs question me…. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What exactly do I say? What do they expect of me? It will take too much time…. on and on.

Please keep in mind, when it comes to actually implementing a mentoring program, KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how, from a presentation I did for Boomer Consulting:

  • I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
  • Robert Frots

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Upward Feedback – A Growth Source For Partners

When was the last time you did an upward feedback exercise for your partners? Most CPA partners tell me it has been a very long time and some say they have never asked their valuable team members to provide any kind of critique about the partners.

I am sure most of your younger team members can give you quite a humorous view of the partners. I used to always take the interns to lunch a couple of times during tax season just to chat, no formal agenda. At these lunches I heard some hilarious stories and descriptions of partners.

An upward feedback survey is not intended to be comical. It is intended to give the partners honest feedback on what they should keep doing and what they should focus on for improvement. It can also be a goal-setting tool for the managing partner to use with the other partners.

Your team will be wondering what to do.

  • Do they tow the company line, if they know it?
  • Do they show agreement with the partners activities, whether or not they actually do?
  • Or, do they express their honest opinion, whether it is flattering or not?

If you do an upward feedback survey in 2016, be sure you send a clear message to your employees that you want them to be open and honest.

Use an outsider to gather the information and report it back to the managing partner. People are often more honest with an outsider.

One of my favorite activities (services) is facilitating upward feedback surveys for CPA leaders. Plan now for an upward feedback survey in the spring.  Learn more here.

  • Truth is the breath of life to human society. It is the food of the immortal spirit. Yet a single word of it may kill a man as suddenly as a drop of prussic acid.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Blogs To Follow

I am always encouraging you to read, read, read. I want you to read books, articles and, of course, blogs.

If you are trying to find some good blogs to follow. Here’s Ambir Technologies Top 10 Blogs To Follow for Accounting & Financial Tips for Your Small Biz. 

Some of them might be very helpful for your clients, too.

Take note of #10 – Thank-you Ambir!

  • If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Women In Accounting – Don’t Feel Guilty

IMG_4100CPA firms lose so many bright, savvy females because of the long-talked about stigma that when you want to start a family, you cannot work in public accounting.

Too many young female professionals tend to heed the old-fashioned advice that they should work in public accounting for a few years, get their CPA designation and then get a job in a private company so they can then raise a family. Fewer actually become “stay at home” moms because the millennials need two incomes to live the life style they desire.

So, I urge all young women in accounting, stick it out. The accounting profession is becoming more and more flexible all the time. It is a profession that can provide the career development and prestige that you desire.

Don’t feel guilty if you are working and also raising children. Children of working moms actually reap many benefits because they have working mothers.

According to a survey of 1,000 grown children of working mothers, many substantial benefits were identified

Strong Work Ethic – The grown children reported that watching their mothers go to work every day instilled in them a strong work ethic.

Independence – Working mothers know they won’t be there for everything so they have deliberately taught their children to be more independent.

Resilience – The children of working mothers reported being able to solve their own problems and bounce back from tough times better than children of stay-at-home mothers.

Prepared For The Work World – Watching their mothers face the many challenges at work helped the children feel better prepared for the working world. They have a better sense of what to expect when they enter the work world.

Daughters Benefit Most – Harvard found that daughters of working mothers earned 23% more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers.

All of this and more is in an article on FAST Company by Lisa Evans. She also references a book by Pamela LenehanMy Mother, My Mentor: What Grown Children of Working Mothers Want You to Know. 

Many female CPAs working in public accounting have told me, “The partners just don’t understand because their wives don’t work.”

By the way, my mother was a working mother. So was I.

  • Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.
  • Ambrose Bierce

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Don’t Read Email First Thing In The Morning

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.” – – Richard Whately

You know it’s true. If you arrive at the office, get your cup of coffee and then sit down at the computer and begin reading emails, an hour will fly by before you even realize it.

I read something in a magazine recently… just a little tip to get more work done: Schedule e-mail checking blocks – – two 45-minute chunks per day. The constant checking of email and social media is the number one enemy of productivity. Yes, it is a tough habit to break.

A8AAE8C9FFLike most of you, I get a lot of email. However, when I tried NOT checking email so often (3 times per day), I began to be extremely more productive.

Here is a great article (a quick read) from Sid Savara – 7 Reasons You Should Never Check Email First Thing In The Morning.

I like the #1 Reason – Ignorance Is Bliss…Fully Productive – – When it comes to email, ignorance is bliss. That’s why if you’ve got something you want to make progress on, I have these 4 words for you: Don’t check your email.

Reason #2 – It’s Not Your Todo List – – Do you know what is most important for you to work on? Do you know the first thing you want to do this morning? Then go ahead and do it! On the other hand, by checking email, you risk doing what someone else wants you to do….

Follow the link above to read more about #1, #2 and reasons #3 thru #7.

Maybe the first thing you want to do in the morning is read this blog… Oh, yeah!

  • Obstacles are those frightful things you can see when you take your eyes off your goal.
  • Henry Ford

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

What It Takes To Move Your Career Forward

I love it when I have the opportunity to work with the team members of firms without the partners present.

There is so much they don’t know about CPA firm management and why the partners do what they do. I ALSO learn so much from them and that input enables me to advise the owners on where to focus.

If you are new to the CPA profession and focused on moving your career forward, here’s some tips:

Become a quick change artist – The CPA profession is undergoing massive change. Be ready for it and help others in the firm get ready for it. Be a leader in showing the partners that adapting to change is necessary and that resistance to change can lead to a dead-end street.

Commit fully to your job – Don’t be surprised if the firm continually expects more from you. The marketplace is demanding and being fully committed will lead to rapid career advancement.

Speed up – Clients and partners seem to live in an impatient world. Help your firm improve turnaround time and always operate with a sense of urgency.

Behave like you are in business for yourself – Assume personal responsibility for helping clients. Be thinking how you could cut costs, find unique ways to serve the clients, improve your own productivity and then share those ideas with others.

Manage your own morale – Saddling someone else with the job of keeping you contented and upbeat would be a neat trick if you could pull it off. Sometimes you are treated unfairly. Some managers truly are jerks. As the old saying goes, “life is not fair”. Don’t let poor morale drain away precious energy and destroy your self-confidence. Surround yourself with positive people – stay away from the whiners.

  • If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining.
  • Guy Finley

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

It Is More Than A Lot Of Warm & Fuzzy Stuff

IMG_1071Employee engagement – We read about it everywhere. We have been reading about it for several years now (and I have been writing about it for several years, too).

Most of the information about employee engagement originates via the Gallup organization. A recent poll showed that 70% of employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

As a firm leader, please take a few minutes to really think about your own people and also take the time to observe them first-hand. Can you spot the ones who are truly “actively disengaged”?

Many of you (firms) have went to extreme lengths to provide your people with special perks to show them that you value them. However, your people care about a lot more than all the “warm and fuzzy” stuff (free food, free drinks, back massages, sport team shirt day, mini-golf in the hallways, etc.).

According to a recent HBR article, there are three things that leaders should be mindful about giving their employees:

Inspiration. Your culture should be alive with meaning. Share stories how the firm has helped clients succeed. Show them you give back by getting people involved in charitable activities. Your people want to know the firm gives back to your community.

Kindness. Sometimes workplace interactions are cool and distant. Be sure you work on your culture, if you don’t it will develop anyway and might not be something you are proud of. Positive and warm relationships are important. A healthy mentoring program can help. Manage By Wandering Around – talk to your people casually and often.

Self-Care. This is an important one for the accounting profession. Don’t work them too long and hard! You know it happens in public accounting. You might even offer a wellness program with free gym memberships but do your people have time to take advantage of it? Consider taking time during the day (maybe a lunch and learn) to teach people about meditation or consider office exercise breaks. Encourage them to get enough sleep.

It’s all about inspiring employees, being kind and encouraging them to take care of themselves. If your people are happy, your firm will be a winner in the recruiting game.

  • Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.
  • J.K. Rowling, author

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Prequalifying Clients and Baker’s Law

Ron Baker, is that you with Rita?I like to give you information that is helpful. Much of it comes from my own viewpoint and observations. Some of it comes from the writings of others. Some I simply point you in the right direction and some I just put the “CPA spin” on it because it was not originally directed to the accounting profession.

A recent article by Ron Baker is a MUST READ for you: Avoiding Baker’s Law: Bad Customers Drive Out Good Customers.  

He begins with a quote from Tom Peters: “You’re as good–or as bad–as the character of your Client List. In a very real sense, you are your Client List!”

Most of you have now at least developed a list to use when grading clients, usually A, B, C and D. Baker’s article gives you two different samples of criteria and much more to contemplate.

What’s your criteria for accepting new clients? The most successful firms have rigorous prequalifying standards, and they do not accept all comers. Many of the accounting firms I observe, take on almost every client that comes their way. Read Baker’s article and be proud that there are many clients that you DO NOT have.

  • Indeed, you are your client list.
  • Ron Baker

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

The Ideal Partner – Good Advice From August Aquila

AquilaMy friend, August Aquila, provided us an insightful look at what the ideal partner looks like in his recent newsletter.

I hope your firm has already defined the role of a partner by now. Many firms have not taken this step. What an ideal partner looks like would be a healthy discussion for your January partner meeting.

Here’s Aquila’s top five characteristics that today’s great partner should possess.

  1. We all work for the same firm and there is only one.
  2. We believe in good intentions so there is no finger pointing.
  3. We encourage feedback from our fellow partners, employees and clients since we know we can always do better.
  4. No matter what we say, it is always what we do that counts at the end of the day. If we say we are going to do something we do it. Our word is sacred.
  5. We spoil our clients by providing extraordinary service.

You can reach August Aquila at aaquila@aquilaadvisors.com

Need feedback for your partners?  I can help with that via my Upward Feedback Survey services.

  • Better to fight for something than to live for nothing.
  • George S. Patton