“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein
Ever wonder what your valuable team members are saying about your firm? I wonder what they say to their friends. I wonder what they say to their parents. I wonder what they say to strangers. And, I wonder what they say to each other!
You should be wondering, too.
In the most progressive firms they are saying things like this:
I can see opportunity here.
They give me ownership of my projects.
I am encouraged to develop myself technically.
I am encouraged to be involved in the community.
This firm is a place for high performers.
They listen to us, we have influence here.
Early in my career, I was given opportunities to have face time with clients.
When something significant happens in your personal life, you get great support from the firm.
I have the feeling I am involved in something special and not just getting a paycheck.
They empower us and give us control over our own schedules.
I love being involved in our Staff Advisory Board.
When I moved to the area, I found the firm online and submitted an application.
These comments come from two, large, progressive, locally owned firms. They didn’t develop millennial-friendly cultures overnight. More and more firms are finding it extremely difficult to compete for top talent. You have to build the culture, the brand, the vision and purpose and… they will come.
Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.
I have been stressing the culture message for years: If you don’t create, mold, re-mold and monitor your firm culture, it will form anyway and might not be something you had in mind. It might even turn out to be rather ugly!
I was pleased to read, last week, as I followed the Boomer Technology Summit via Twitter that speaker Steven Anderson addressed the topic of culture stressing, “Every organization, whether it’s your firm, your client’s company, or even your family, has a culture, by design or by default.”
Dan Hood of Accounting Today was there in person and wrote a great recap of Anderson’s presentation. It cover’s Anderson’s “natural laws” for creating a place where people will want to work.
On my blog page, I searched for “culture” and found many additional readings you can access if you want to really WORK on your culture. You can access the search here. Do more reading, research, and soul-searching. Then talk with your partners and decide what you want your firm culture to feel like. Next step is to get busy creating it.
When you lavish praise on people they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates
I have coached many managing partners and firm administrators, the two people usually charged with “running” the firm properly.
I have often found that they try very hard, almost desperately hard, to please others. Often they end up doing many tasks that no one really appreciates or even needs.
“I run so many month-end reports out of our practice management system and I doubt if anyone even looks at them,” a statement I have heard from multiple firm administrators over the years. Do you wonder if your partners look at the month-end, miscellaneous reports you furnish them?
Simply stop producing reports that you think no one looks at. The sad thing that usually happens is that no one even notices you stopped producing the reports!
You can also develop a one-page recap of important KPIs at the end of the month and eliminate furnishing all the detailed reports.
This also applies to all the individual tax organizers you might still be printing and mailing (I hope you aren’t still doing this but….). The organizer comes back to you, unopened, with their year-end paper documents. Consider establishing a rule that only clients that ask for (or opt-in for) a printed organizer will receive one. The default is “no organizer.”
If you want to work at a higher level and take on more important work with more responsibility, get rid of the “busy work” no one cares about.
If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
“If your clients aren’t actively telling their friends about you, maybe your work isn’t as great as you think it is.” – David Maister
Yesterday, I wrote about making yourself and your firm unique. Becoming well-known for a specialty means you attract clients that need your expertise. It is as simple as that.
I’m an example. I completely focus on CPA firm practice management. I do not work with other professional service firms, I don’t know enough about them. Under that unique niche, I am a generalist…. I don’t limit my CPA firm consulting to just marketing, just HR, just process improvement, just organizational alignment, just technology, just administration, just mergers, etc. I know how to run a CPA firm.
You, as an auto dealer CPA, for example, should know how to run an auto dealership with all it entails. You know about their HR, sales, operational challenges, etc. You attend the same industry conferences they attend and you read the same industry blogs, periodicals, magazines and newsletters they read. You immerse yourself in the auto dealer world. Just like I immerse myself in the world of public accounting.
“Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Many firms use personality profile testing as part of their hiring process and also as a means to help current employees assess their own performance and identify a focus for future goal-setting activities.
The first time I took one of these profile tests it was a group activity for our entire firm (every person) after we acquired another firm. At the time our firm was much smaller. Combined, we had about 30 people. It was part of a half-day event so that everyone could get to know each other better. It was actually very helpful and a lot of fun. I really enjoyed learning more about myself!
We used the DISC profile and the results were presented at our group meeting by a trained DISC facilitator.
Of course, you have many to choose from and I have taken several types over the years…. Predictive Index, Meyers-Briggs, etc.
If you’re not familiar with the DISC, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. And even if you’ve taken a DISC assessment before, you may not have realized how powerful it can be in helping you reach your business goals.
D = Dominance
I = Influence
S = Steadiness
C = Compliance
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
I receive many questions about what is often called partner payouts. This article by my friend, Bill Reeb, will help guide you as you tackle this important part of succession planning.
Part Two of the article will be featured in the next issue of Ohio CPA VOICE. When it is available online, I will also furnish you the link to that article.
As Reeb notes, before change is addressed, you have to first address short-term retirement issues…..
Because typically you won’t get any buy-in for change until the partners have looked at whether the current retirement system is paying at least roughly a fair market value to the near-term retiring partners.
Therefore, the first stake to put in the ground for building a succession plan is a fair retirement benefit. Generally, that is made up of two components. The first is a return of capital and the second is the retirement benefit. For small firms (one- to two-partner firms), this equates to buying the retiring partner’s book. For larger firms, it is about paying a benefit for the contribution that the retiring partner has made to the firm.
Be sure to follow the link above and read the entire article.
(Bill Reeb, is that you with Rita?)
If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.
“A nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore.” – Yogi Berra
I have heard firm leaders discuss return on investment relating to technology costs at many partner retreats and meetings. It always seems to be an elusive number and a never-ending conversation. In most cases, these conversations end with the comment partners apply to many things inside a CPA firm – “It costs too much.”
He also reminds us that there are a few key ideas behind what he discusses. Below are the key ideas. Follow this link to read the worthwhile article.
That you have a technology plan and budget. Our latest National CPA Firm Survey data indicates that only 14% of CPA firms have an IT budget. Firms “spend what is needed” which may or may not be true.
That each project should have an estimated return. Understand that some projects are dependent on other projects. For example, it is hard to implement eSignature if you don’t have your paperless project pretty far along.
That you don’t have to implement the latest technology to be successful. However, you won’t gain a significant competitive advantage if you are a technology laggard.
That, not every technology is for you.
Too many people spend money they earned to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.
“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn
We all know the talent wars are raging in public accounting. You have identified a top student and you landed them. They have accepted your offer. Begin the onboarding process immediately. After all, you not only want to hire the best and brightest, you want to RETAIN them, long-term. Onboarding is different from orientation. Orientation is the formal, get me signed-up, type activities. Onboarding is a year-long process to facilitate a new hire’s success and build a positive working relationship with the firm and other team members.
Here are some little things you can do, as part of onboarding, that can make a big difference. Let’s say the candidate/new hire is named Robert and he’s finishing up his last year of college.
Send a gift basket to his parent’s home welcoming Robert and his family to your firm’s family.
Provide an advance on Robert’s salary ($1,500 or so) to buy new clothes, to use for a deposit on an apartment or down payment on a new car.
Connect with Robert immediately via social media. He probably already has an online presence. Use it to introduce him to all of the firm’s online communities and keep him connected to people at the firm while he awaits his actual starting date.
Have his Guidetext him periodically just to touch base.
Let technology handle many aspects of onboarding. Let Robert complete all of the hiring paperwork online. This is not only what young people are used to; it is what we have all become comfortable with.
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
Some of you remember when we had a physical “In” and “Out” box on our desk. The daily U.S.Mail would land in our inbox along with various client “jobs” that were flowing through our office and perhaps memos from other people in the office.
We would go through the inbox a few times a day and throw some stuff away. We would write someone’s name on some other items and place it in our outbox. An admin person was the culprit for putting stuff in our inbox and the hero for taking things away from out outbox.
The time management killer was when we put something from the inbox into a “I’ll deal with this later” stack of papers, mail, memos, etc. sitting on another corner on our desk. This stack had a life…. it grew. Much of it was important stuff that we intended to deal with later. We would periodically go through the stack and maybe deal with one or two things. Sometimes, important things would eventually make their way to the bottom of the stack to be discovered days (or weeks or months) later.
This same process has evolved with our current, digital in-box usually called email in a CPA firm. Many accountants use their email as a to-do list and some things are “touched” (read) many times before we actually deal with it!
To help remedy this productivity killer years ago, I learned the TIO method (touch it once) in a time management course. Do it. Delegate it. Trash it.
Do it does not mean you have to do it completely right at that moment. The point is to decide immediately how it will be handled. With our tech tools today, it could mean adding it to our Task List.
Again, the point is…. decide right away how the email should be handled. Do not re-read it later in the day, the next day, the next week, etc.
Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup. It's relentless.