Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category
Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Have you see Jersey Boys? Or, are you old enough to actually remember when the Four Seasons’ songs were at the top of the hit list?
One song title stayed with me all these years and helped me travel the female career path: Big Girls Don’t Cry.
Later on, one of the lists from Gail Evans’ book, Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman brought me another line to remember. On the list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work That Women Can’t. Number 1 is: They Can Cry. You Can’t.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her book Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success: “Crying, I found in my research, is just one of a menu of communication blunders that, in a mere instant, can suck the executive presence right out of you.”
Mika Brzezinski commenting on when she got fired from CBS: “…..but there was no place for those tears in that moment. If anything, when you cry, you give away power.”
Here’s the best story…. from a post by Lisa Quast on Forbes: The next time you feel like crying at work, take a few slow, deep breaths, roll your shoulders up and down several times and try to relax. Picture in your mind the line from the movie “A League Of Their Own” when Tom Hanks’ character says to one of the female baseball players, “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Then try to laugh at yourself to help diffuse the emotions of the situation.
What worked for me, for many years, is that when I felt myself begin to tear-up…. I would simply excuse myself and take a brisk walk down the hall, around the office. It’s better to be abrupt and mysterious than to cry. Besides, as females KNOW, crying usually doesn’t really mean that you are upset, angry, hurt, happy, or sentimental…. it’s a pure emotion we really can’t control.
Men, if you are confronted with this situation – it’s not personal and usually not significant. When counseling and mentoring females and tears happen, simply hand them a tissue (keep tissues handy in your office), and ignore the tears.
Ladies, one more thing from Gail Evans’ list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work that Women Can’t: #6 – They Can Be Ugly. You Can’t.
It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
Many CPAs attended the AICPA Spring Council in Washington DC this week.
MOST of you did not. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to know what was discussed there. If you have a twitter account you could have had an on-going stream of relevant points from the Council meeting.
Here’s the hash tag: #AICPAGC15
If you just scan through the posts you will be rewarded with some vital information and comments. I followed along periodically throughout the day (each day) and enjoyed the important topics and comments.
I followed tweets by Tom Hood, Accounting Today, Scott Wiley and others. But if you go to the hashtag you can see everyone’s tweets.
So, here’s my bullet list of just SOME of the important comments made at the meeting:
- Meeting theme: Adapt-Innovate-Evolve
- Because of my CPA and CGMA, I’m allowed to be the only woman in the room – Arleen Thomas SVP Management Acctg. & Global Markets AICPA
- 77,000 accounting grads–all time high. New CPAs remains flat though.
- Quote used by Melancon – See picture above.
- 3 themes 1) pipeline/talent war 2) broader firm interconnected ecosystem 3) demand for specialization
- What concerns CPAs: CPA Pipeline. Relevancy. Brand perception. Competition. Increased complexity. Ability to adapt. Aging practitioners. Technology.
- What excites CPAs: Technology, Broader profession, Career opportunities, Opportunities for growth, Brand/Trust, Complexity, Specialization, Talented youth, Business advisor.
- AICPA plans to call on Congress to preserve the cash method of accounting.
- AICPA exceeded 400,000 members last year and is expecting to reach 408,000 this year.
- AICPA expects to have 5,000 credential holders of the new fair value measurement credentials by 2020.
- How do we keep young CPAs in the profession? We need to embrace disruption and innovation in our profession.
- There are SO many more great tweets by some impressive people at the Council meeting…..
Don’t have a Twitter account? Quit procrastinating and GET ONE. You don’t have to tweet but you can READ a lot of good information everyday
If outside is changing faster than inside your org, you are dying.
Monday, May 18th, 2015
Helping CPAs Be Awesome Communicators
I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Kristen Rampe, CPA. I am impressed with her down-to-earth, real-life approach to helping CPAs become better. Yes, better communicators but also better at so many of the other things that make accountants pursuing a career in public accounting successful.
I always enjoy talking with Kristen when our paths cross at conferences and meetings because she has actual, recent experience working in public accounting. She worked for the Big Four for 3 years, worked in industry and then 7 years at a regional firm. During her journey, she of course developed the accounting technical skills but she also developed and enjoyed the other important skills that a CPA needs to be a success in public accounting – the “success skills”! (Some call them “soft” skills.)
Here’s my interview with Kristen:
You have a lot of experience, what types of clients have you worked with in the past?
I’m fortunate to have a great mix of clients. I do leadership programs, training and practice consulting for CPA firms with 12 – 2,000 employees. I also enjoy sharing my work more broadly through industry news sources and associations by working with the AICPA and AccountingWeb, to name a few.
Why did you decide to launch a solo consulting practice for professional service firms?
Like any good GenX/Millenial (I was born in a grey area), I wanted to do what I loved. For me that was helping CPA firms build great teams and great clients.
My favorite part of working as a practice professional was creating dynamic and fun teams that had the happiest clients – the kind of teams that that shared an apartment in Paris for three weeks and had clients asking for us by name…five years later. I figured, why not bring that to the world rather than just the firm I was working at.
You do a lot of speaking, what is your favorite topic to address for CPAs?
Delegating Effectively. Most CPAs know they need to delegate in order to be successful at some level, but many have a hard time figuring out how or giving themselves permission to delegate. It can run in the face of billable hours, efficiency and quality…on the surface. But once we dive into the topic participants understand how delegating actually improves those metrics.
Watching my workshop participants come away from our time together feeling inspired to take their delegation further and understanding the benefits this has is one of my favorite moments. We also talk about Saying No when I cover this topic, and that’s a huge crowd-pleaser too.
What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great teams?
We have fun together. In my workshops, we are out of our seats a lot, bouncing inflatable animal beach balls throughout the room, and laughing often. I even had one participant write “I’m not a fan of cheesy team exercises, but found some of the things we did fun.” If I can convince the haters that team-building is fun, I’ve done my job right.
One other huge benefit is that I give teams a chance to get together and use their minds in a space that’s free from the day-to-day stresses of client work. It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand. When teams get to work together in a way that develops their relationships, it makes communication and collaboration easier when they’re back to the grind.
What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great clients?
I help them see that client service and brand is a true differentiator. Often this takes the form of a workshop where we explore the different touch-points a client has with a firm (e.g. engagement letters, document requests, issue resolution process, client gifts, etc.), how those touch-points are adding or detracting from the client relationship, and what CPAs can do about it as it relates to their organization’s goals.
There are so many opportunities to further client relationships, and not all require going out to lunch, though I am a huge fan of client lunches as part of the overall package!
What advice would you give a young, female accountant who wants to find a sponsor?
In finding a sponsor, look for someone who:
- Knows you do great work and appreciates your contributions.
- You respect and want to be associated with.
- Has influence at your organization and can create opportunities for you.
If you’ve found someone like this:
- Ask them for challenging opportunities and projects that are outside of your comfort zone.
- Make your sponsor look good, they are putting their reputation on the line for you, you must come through.
If no one immediately comes to mind, think of the person who is closest candidate and up your game with them. Do better work, be more visible – once you knock their socks off a few times you should be able to convert a colleague to a sponsor with ease.
I heard you’re writing a book, tell me more about that.
I am! It’s a humor book for current and former CPAs called Accounting Dreams. Because what could be funnier than accounting dreams or dreams accountants have, right?! But really, it’s about the challenges CPAs have with clients, and vice versa – showcased in a series of photos with captions about what you would LOVE to hear your client say.
I was inspired to write the book because there’s I believe there’s always room for more laugher and fun in the world, and especially our profession. One of my favorite pages is a photo of a client meeting with the caption “Wow, great rates! Who knew accounting fees could be so reasonable.” Which, generally speaking, is never going to happen, but this page highlights a dreamy situation in which a client feels that way.
Curious and fun-loving CPAs can find details about release dates and upcoming sample pages on my website.
Ways to connect with Kristen
It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand.
Friday, May 8th, 2015
Leadership development is not just a challenge for the CPA profession. $14 billion is being spent by U.S. corporations annually on leadership development and yet, public confidence in leadership has dropped considerably. 70% of Americans believe there is a leadership crisis that will lead to a national decline unless we find better leaders.
How’s that going at your firm? Inside your CPA firm, I imagine you have been spending lots of dollars on development of the next generation of firm leaders. Has the confidence, among your current leaders and your employees, in regard to future leaders increased or decreased in recent years?
According to an article on clomedia.com (Chief Learning Officer), if leadership programs do not produce the bench strength, performance and behaviors desired, one or more of six problems could be the culprit.
The one I want to focus on today is the CPA firm competency models. Here’s a quote from the article that sure got my attention:
“Competency models also can be used to define leadership. But competency models are idiosyncratic lists of skills and abilities composed by asking senior managers what is needed to lead in particular jobs. Because few senior managers are good leaders, asking them about effective leadership is like asking a doctor for investment advice. He or she probably has an opinion, but it may not be a good one.”
It is my observation that most firms simply obtain their competency models by copying other firms or using the standard resources provided by the AICPA and other broad resources specifically for the CPA profession.
Here are the six problems:
The evaluation problem – It is a dirty little secret that leadership development programs are rarely evaluated in a meaningful way.
The definition problem – Evaluation requires specifying desired outcomes, and this requires defining leadership correctly.
The people problem – Many of the people who attend leadership development programs are drawn to high-status and high-paying leadership positions, but they have little talent for leading a team. (Need I say… Amen!)
The content problem – Little of what is taught in leadership programs concerns the actual tasks of leadership.
The pedagogy problem – Most leadership programs are taught in inappropriate ways. They tend to be events with little follow-up support or accountability for transferring learning back to the job.
The rationale problem – Leadership development programs are often launched for questionable reasons.
Where do you go, what do you do? Read the detail in this article and discuss it with your partners and other internal leaders. The article provides seven recommendations that are not expensive but do require learning leaders to think differently about leader development.
Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.
Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Okay, you have read the title. Now, finish the sentence! Here’s my answers – Working in public accounting is rewarding, interesting, fun, continually educational, prestigious, admired and yes, cool.
What’s it like at your public accounting firm? I bet the good MORE than out weighs the bad. Being a CPA has immeasurable stature. CPAs are the trusted advisor to millions of successful small businesses (not to mention the large businesses).
The CPA profession needs to continue to attract great minds and every business is looking for those same talented, young employees.
Interesting article on the Forbes site about Dow CEO Andrew Liveris:
Leading a diversified chemicals company with 53,000 employees, Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is constantly on the hunt for new talent. So he has decided to send his company’s employees and retirees into schools to spread on simple message: Science is sexy.
Well, some of us think that accounting is sexy!
I applaud the work that state societies do to get school children interested in accounting and help them become more financial literate. I encourage individual CPA firms to get more involved.
One firm I talked to recently offers internships to high school students. What unique things is your firm doing to reinforce the talent pipeline?
One of the biggest issues public accounting faces is the drop-out rate caused by a young person having a bad experience at one particular firm. More on that in another blog soon.
We'll make talent the centerpiece of everything we're trying to do.
Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan (where Dow is headquartered)
Monday, May 4th, 2015
I have encouraged many women in accounting to read the book Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman by Gail Evans. Once I read it, I wished I had read it YEARS ago!
I am so pleased that the Michigan Association has asked me to facilitate a webinar where we will actively discuss the book and its implications.
Please join this the brand new VIRTUAL Women’s Leadership Discussion on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 from 11am – 1pm, developed by the MICPA‘s Women’s Initiatives Task Force. Women are encouraged to attend, bring colleagues to the table and participate in an open and honest conversation .
If you have read the book (or even if you haven’t), I hope you will join me and other women (and hopefully men), to talk about the topics and how we can put them to use in the workplace and use them to advance our careers.
Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Once again this year, Accountingfly will host ADVANCE 15 an online career summit to connect accountants with accounting firm employers.
It will be on June 18, 2015 – 1:00-5:00p EDT. Here’s the scoop:
WELCOME TO ADVANCE ’15!
This online career summit will connect you with your next accounting career opportunity without having to leave your home or office.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
Thursday June 18, participate in the online career fair where you can interact with employers of your choice. “Get in line” to chat in one-on-one text conversations with employers who have current job openings that match your interests. Build your network by continuing your conversations with employers after the event ends. New employers are signing up everyday – register today!
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
Accounting professionals across all specialties.
- This is a great opportunity to meet recruiters from different types of employers from across the United States.
- The webinars throughout the week will bring experts to show you future trends in our profession. You will receive more information on these webinars as the event approaches.
Read all about it and register here.
The future depends on what you do today.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
Just a reminder that my monthly CPA firm MAP newsletter went out yesterday.
Each month I offer two articles focused on current topics and trends in the CPA profession and a short, third article about me and what I do to help firms with the minefield called “practice management”.
Articles this month:
Making Too Much Of Emerging & Future Leaders
A Message For Emerging Leaders: Experience Counts!
Struggling With “Firm Of The Future”? – Rita Can Help.
If you are a CPA in public practice or someone working with CPAs and didn’t receive a copy, you can sign-up here.
By the time we've made it, we've had it.
Friday, April 24th, 2015
Maybe you just joined the firm and maybe you have just survived your first busy season. Are you getting noticed? Are you being assigned to some high-profile clients? Are you being sought out to work with the managers and partners who seem to “get it”?
It’s always important to make a good first impression and often inside CPA firms it might take a year to do that. You might think it is safe to keep your head down and grind through the work. That’s what you have heard gets your noticed by the partners. That’s part of it but not the most important part.
You want the partners and managers to notice you. What I have heard, time and time again from partners, is that they can teach bright, new people accounting and tax, but they want more than that.
Be visible, friendly and respectful – Ask questions but don’t interrupt them constantly. Don’t shy away from a partner when you have a chance to just be friendly.
Pay attention. Be a good listener – Out of the starting gate, don’t get the reputation of “being glued to her mobile device.” Seek conversations and advice where you can look them in the eye and soak it all in.
No matter what you think – how you look matters (especially in public accounting). – Looking professional is one of the easy things you can do to help bridge the generation gap with Boomers and Xers. No, you don’t have to wear a coat and tie (or a pantsuit) to look professional.
Speak-up in meetings. – If you are in a training session inside the firm, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for more detailed instructions, if you need them.
Show them that millennials are not afraid of hard work. – This is a big misconception with Boomers and GenXers. Research has shown that millennials are willing to devote extraordinary efforts to their work – they just want to do it differently with more flexibility. Explain how you feel and show them with results.
Ask them questions about building your career. – This will show them that you value their experience and want to make the most of being a CPA. If your firm doesn’t have an official mentoring program, informally seek one out. Pick the one you think can help you the most and just ask them.
Be prepared. – Yes, the old Boy Scout motto. Be ready to discuss the review comments you receive on your work. Speak clearly and concisely. Use eye contact and show that you are confident and are willing to absorb feedback and advice.
Be Genuine – This one applies every day. The best possible way to win people over, regardless of their age, is to be yourself. Find ways to open dialogue with all the different partners and managers. Absorb their good habits and build on yours.
Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.
Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
You probably saw it via Accounting Today, but it is worth repeating here (with my own editorial comments). It’s Allan Koltin’s Top Ten Things That Are Holding CPA Firm Back.
You have little or no capital to re-invest in the firm.
My take: Sometimes I think it doesn’t even occur to partners to leave some money in the firm to invest in the future. This is one of those things that should happen if you want to be a future-ready firm.
Your firm is too eager to accept clients.
My take: This is where CPAs get themselves in a squirrel cage. They work like crazy to serve clients that are not in one of their niches and have little future value. Also, they are not eager enough to out-place the D-level clients. Document and commit to a client acceptance policy!
The wrong mix of client service staff.
My take: I am completely in agreement with Koltin on this one – nothing to add (partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work, seniors looking for work and no one doing partner work)
Too much autonomy – or too little.
My take: Partner definitely pick and choose which policies and procedures they will follow. Firms that are future-ready have partners on the same page (or they go elsewhere).
Not enough emphasis on practice growth.
My take: The firm has one or two rainmakers they have relied upon for years. They are retiring and no one left behind is comfortable with rainmaking or even knows where to begin. There is a practice growth role for every person in the firm. “We are a marketing firm that does accounting work!”
Not enough emphasis on profitability.
My take: “We have to keep that rude, messy, slow-paying client. They pay us $75,000 per year!” (Even though we write-off $25,000 – $30,000).
Not enough young super stars.
My take: Often you have them inside your firm but you have not identified them and invested in them because you might hurt an average performer’s feelings. You have to be constantly hiring.
Autocratic leadership – or not enough.
My take: Firms need to not only invest in young super stars, they need to continually invest in partners and managers. No one is too old to learn something new or significantly improve their current skills.
Too many unproductive partners or staff.
My take (tongue in cheek): People in CPA firms would not have to work much overtime at all during tax season if they actually worked 8 or 9 hours per day and didn’t chat too much, get coffee too often, talk about non-work topics, gossip and arrive at the office on time without bringing their breakfast to fix and eat in the lunch room.
Partners aren’t on the same page.
Partners are comfortable. They don’t want to take a chance with upsetting the apple cart by pointing out some partners’ deficiencies.
Visit the Accounting Today site to read Koltin’s comments on each topic.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.