It is my observation that most accounting firm partner and manager groups have members of a variety of personality types. Big picture, that’s a good thing. It allows for differing opinions and viewpoints.
Experts say that up until the sixties, in the American culture, humility was taught and encouraged. Then it seems, we switched to a much more intense focus on self-esteem. Self-confidence and assertiveness became the admired traits and has grown even stronger over the last decade. I bet you see it in your CPA firm.
You want to have strong-willed, aggressive leaders but don’t let them forget that humility aspect of leadership and setting a good example.
I believe that the vast majority of CPAs are naturally humble. That being said, I also believe that the ones who are more aggressive, even to the point of being a bully, make it to the top positions.
Humility is simply an attitude of service. The humble person looks for opportunities to be of service to others, even to the little things like holding a door open for others.
Just something to keep in mind as you mentor your future leaders. These thoughts were inspired by a newspaper column by John Rosemond, an expert on parenting.
Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes in life.
My long-time business friend, Norm Bobay, is the President of HireMAX. Norm’s firm focuses on Hire and MAX – Hire the best people. MAXimize their performance through leadership.
I always enjoy his monthly newsletter and this month an article by Dr. Phillip Shero really seemed to apply to my favorite clients – CPA firm leaders.
Dr. Shero asks, “Are Your People In A Leadership Drought?” He compares it to the lush, irrigated fields in a California valley to the area, right next to it, where there is no irrigation – Green, lush vs. Brown, brittle.
When you verbally recognize good work, write a short note of acknowledgement or praise specifics actions of the team, you are irrigating your field.
Here’s the 3 Key Components of Effective Praise:
Praise a specific behavior
Recall details of a mini-story about the behavior
Tell what the behavior meant to you
Dr. Shero notes that he did not invent this method but has seen it used to great effect in a company called Strata Leadership. Here’s where you can download a sample Recognition Worksheet, if you need help.
Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They are worth a fortune.
My crowd, as a teenager, had many favorite expressions that we used on each other. I’m sure today’s young folks do the same but I wouldn’t know, or understand, what they mean. Anyway, a favorite was if someone said, “Huh?” you would quickly respond: “Huh, Hell, pay attention!” You can’t imagine how many times I wanted to utter that phrase in my business life, but didn’t.
I’m sure you have experienced the frustration first-hand. Most firms have the partner famous for constantly checking their computer screen when they are in a direct conversation with you. I bet there are many people in your office who walk down the hall, faced glued to their mobile device, ignoring everyone around them and maybe not even looking up if you ask them a direct question.
How many times do you check your email when you are deeply involved working on a task or project? In the accounting world, you are not alone when it comes to the challenges of attention span.
Per www.statisticbrain.com: Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. It’s no surprise attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation. Questions: What is the average human attention span? How long in seconds is the average attention span?
The average attention span in 2015 – 8.25 seconds
The average attention span in 2000 – 12 seconds
The average attention span of a gold fish – 9 seconds
Average number of times per hour an office worker checks their email inbox – 30
According to surveys over the many years I have been involved with the profession of public accounting, CPA firms are the most profitable businesses.
It’s nothing new but I think sometimes CPA firm owners don’t think much about it, probably because they are used to the profit margins.
I read about it again last week via Accounting Today – “Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services are collectively the most profitable industry in the U.S., according to a new ranking.”
I know that most CPAs firms live and die by email. Most CPA firms also have way too many meetings.
My mission is to bring you new ideas. Some are a slam-dunk. The idea makes sense to you, you discuss it and give it a try. Sometimes, magic happens!
Some ideas are more “out there” for CPAs (like an open office, no limit vacation policies, 3-word performance review systems and so on). Some are WAAAAAY out there for CPAs, thought-provoking things to at least seriously contemplate and maybe even experiment with.
What if you communicated internally in real-time? What if you used a control panel type software that gave you access to all projects (client engagements and other work) and you could see what has been done from beginning to end of the project?
Read about how they eliminated meetings. A meeting is an interruption, usually to find out how everyone is doing on their assigned projects. What if you had fewer interruptions and could continually get more done? You could have a 4-day work week like this tech company.
Then there are the managers. I have long thought that the title manager inside a CPA firm is very misleading. We don’t teach them how to manage. They become a manager because they stay with the firm long enough, doing work they are proficient at. Here’s an excerpt from the article: “Lastly, we determined over a year ago that we wanted to work without managers. Now we do not need someone to control our progress, because everything is online and visible to all of our workmates — which project we are working on, how we are handling it technically, how long it is taking us, what resources we are using, and what results we have achieved.”
Just contemplate what pieces of this, or variations of this, might just fly inside your progressive firm.
There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.
I work with CPAs and their firms. I visit many, many CPA firm websites on a continual basis. For many, it is definitely time to rebrand.
My clients and other CPAs I meet ask me, “What are other firms doing?” or “Can you give me a good example?”. Thanks to my friends at LBMC, headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, I can.
Here is a video about their new rebranding project.
LBMC is a very large firm and can afford to spend a lot more money than many other firms. That’s no excuse for you not to consider rebranding. You can do it! Establish a budget and go forward. It is one step in becoming a firm of the future.
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
I hope you read Seth Godin’s blog every day. I admire how he can use a few words to say something impactful.
Here’s an image of his website. Clean, simple message: GO. Make something happen. Doesn’t it seem similar to the message I continually communicate to you, CPAs in public practice: Do Things!
Here’s his blog post from August 1 – I hope you think about it.
Yes!, please and thank you
Don’t jerk people around
Here’s a simple marketing strategy for a smaller company trying to compete in a big-company world: Choose your customers, trust them, treat them well.
Bend the rules.
Show up on time.
Keep your promises.
Don’t exert power merely because you can.
Be human, be kind, pay attention, smile.
Not everyone deserves this sort of treatment, not everyone will do their part to be the kind of customer you can delight and serve. But that’s okay, you don’t need everyone.
When in doubt, be the anti-airline.
Key phrases and points for growing your CPA firm: Smaller firms can compete with larger firms. Choose your clients well, don’t just take anyone you meet. Not every client measures up. You don’t need everyone.