Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Cubicle Courtesy Guidelines

“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” – W. Edwards Deming

A long time ago, I did a blog post about tips for living in a cubicle. Many accountants who have their own office (like partners and managers) sometimes forget how cubicle life can sometimes be very frustrating.

Keep in mind, that some millennials like the open floor plan concept, but most people aspire to have a private office. I like to see cubicles arranged in quads so that four people can have their backs to each other yet are able to swing around to a centralized round table to confer with colleagues.

Working in a cube when you are a beginner is often very helpful in that you can overhear what others are learning and benefit from the conversations in the adjoining cubicle.

A big frustration, however, is the lack of privacy and the fact that associates and coworkers stop by whenever they want resulting in many interruptions.

To remedy that, how about establishing some Cubicle Courtesies to protect those working in cubes and those visiting them.

The following is a modified re-post of the cubicle post I did in 2008 – maybe it will help you design your own office cubicle and shared space protocol.

    • Keep your voice down. Be aware of how it projects, especially when laughing.
    • Don’t enter someone’s cubicle or stop to chat unless invited to do so.
    • Never take something from someone’s cubicle or desk without asking first.
    • Be respectful of those people passing your desk. Don’t assume they have time to chat.
    • If you don’t want to be interrupted, don’t make eye contact with those passing your desk.
    • Respect other’s work time and flow of concentration. If they look deep in thought, they probably are.
    • If the person is on the phone, do not interrupt.
    • Confidential information should not be discussed in an open setting. Move to one of the meeting rooms.
    • Avoid using speaker phones.
    • Do not read what is on someone elses desk or computer screen.
    • Reduce clutter in your desk area or cubicle.
    • Don’t leave food and trash at your desk.
    • Keep eating and snacking at your desk to a minimum. And avoid foods that smell up the office. (Some firms have a “no eating meals at your desk” policy.)
    • Return items to their proper place after using them.
    • Replace immediately anything you use up (paper, staples, etc.).
  • Other people's interruptions of your work are relatively insignificant compared with the countless times you interrupt yourself.
  • Brendan Francis

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Yes! Reading Can Make You More Successful

FullSizeRender“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P.J. O’Rourke

I am a firm believer in the fact that reading is an invaluable career-building and character-building activity. I read for education and for pleasure. Last year I began keeping a log of the books I read (mostly I read on my Kindle). I read 20 books in 2016 and I am already on my 9th book for 2017.

It helps me have a broader understanding of the world – the whole world and the business world. I also read many blogs, articles and newsletters. I always recommend – read, read, read.

If you select the category “Reading” on the right-hand side of my webpage, you can read the many blog posts I have done about reading.

Recently I read a blog post on Self Development Secrets site, titled 10 Reasons Why Reading Is Important. 

Here are the 10 reasons:

Sharpens Your Mind (I certainly can benefit from this one.)

Increases Your Vocabulary (I love the Kindle feature where you can press on a word and it gives you the definition. I also love to read books that challenge me in this area. An example is Lincoln at the Bardo.)

Lowers Your Stress (Almost every day at 4:00 or 4:30pm, I stop working and spend an hour reading. It relaxes me.)

Decreases Your Depression (In my case, it “lightens my spirit”.)

Improves Your Memory and Focus (I need all the help I can get here.)

Strengthens Your Writing Abilities (Oh yes, I have learned so much about writing by reading.)

Enhances Your Imagination (Harry Potter, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, 11/22/63 sure helped my imagination. I also love ones that are mildly creepy – Stephen King, Dean Koontz. My favorite detectives are Harry Hole and Kurt Wallander.)

Boosts Your Sleep (On an airplane, I begin to read and keep nodding off.)

Enjoy Your Entertainment and Peace (Quiet time. Reading enhances expanding thoughts.)

Reading Can Brighten Your Day (I cannot read Dave Barry books on an airplane because I laugh out loud.)

Click here to visit the article and read their reasons for each of the ten (they are quite a bit more informational than my ramblings).

  • There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all.
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Friday, March 24th, 2017

CPAFMA – The CPA Firm Management Association

I hope you are a member of CPAFMA. I also hope you have the opportunity to attend chapter meetings that happen around the country.

Here is where you can find a chapter near you.

I recently attended the Ohio Chapter of CPAFMA, hosted by the Ohio Society. To help you understand the value, I am listing the topics that were discussed in the after-lunch roundtable discussion. In the morning we had an amazing update about employment law, always an important topic for firm administrators, COOs, and HR Directors.

  • Practice Management Software
  • CCH Engagement vs. Thomson EngagementCS
  • Employee recognition
  • Fun things during tax season
  • Banking verifications (confirmations)
  • Competition
  • Thomson UltraTax (problems and issues)
  • Partner retirement
  • MP Transition
  • Helping partners find their seat on the bus
  • Employee time off during busy season.

If you need some answers and some quality advice from others facing the same issues – join CPAFMA.

  • It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.
  • Napolean Hill

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

We All Must Learn To Deal With Difficult People

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” – John W. Gardner

Yes, difficult people are all around us – friends, relatives and the people at work. We need to especially be equipped to deal with those difficult work people!

The Nitpickers: Critical, judgmental and perpetual complainers. (You don’t know any of these do you??)

The Megaphones: We answer the phone or we walk down the hall and these people talk non-stop for 20 minutes.

The Voiceless: These people have zero confidence or assertiveness. They’re full of whine, but rarely express an opinion.

The Bubble Busters: They have to be right – all the time. They love controlling and micromanaging.

The Volcanoes: The ones who are ready to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. They explode and leave a trail of damage.

What do you do? Remain neutral. Without compromising, protect your space and maintain your emotions.

Don’t take things personally. You can’t control their behavior but you can control your reaction to it.

I like the description – “cool, calm and collected.” – – That’s you!

  • The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
  • Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Seven Secrets of Career Success

“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb

I was browsing through some old digital files and found the following. I remember using these “secrets” many years ago in a presentation I did for a community college’s new graduates.

I think they definitely apply to life inside a busy accounting firm.

Seven Secrets of Career Success

Become a quick change artist

Commit fully to your career

Speed up

Behave like you’re in business for yourself

Practice lifelong learning

Manage your own morale

Be a fixer – not a finger pointer

  • Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it.
  • Katharine Whitehorn

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Use Email & Social Media To Remind Your Clients

“Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” – Edith Summerskill

My dentist and my doctor send me reminders about upcoming appointments. These reminders come via email, text and a phone message. It is all automated via their practice management software. I have always wondered why more CPAs aren’t using a tool like this.

We now live in the world of social media and digital communication. Be sure you are using these tools to remind your clients about supplying their tax information.

When I talk to firms, they often tell me that they call and remind their clients about furnishing their information. When I ask, “How many times did you call?” the answer is usually…. “Once”. Once is not enough.

Here’s an example of an email one of my clients sent out recently. Maybe it will help you compose your reminder message. It is important that the reminder only go to  those clients who are tardy – not to ALL clients.

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 22, 2017. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2016. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • Nothing external to you has any power over you.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

2017 Accounting Today Top 100 Firms

Dan Hood, Accounting Today

Dan Hood, Accounting Today

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain

Those of us working in, or affiliated with, the world of public accounting are always interested in the performance of CPA firms across the country. What are they doing that we could do? How do their numbers look compared to ours? What new trends should we be aware of?

That’s why I wanted to share a link to a podcast from Dan Hood, Editor In Chief of Accounting Today. Their annual ranking of leading firms in the profession offers up a host of insights and secrets; in this podcast, Hood shares some of the most interesting, such as, over-all growth in revenue was 8.8%

If you don’t have time, right now, to listen to the entire 13 minute podcast, bookmark this page and take time over the weekend (or after mid-April) to listen and learn.

Here a link to the podcast, A Deep Dive Into The Top 100 Firms.

  • It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Practice Management Software

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire

I often receive questions about the pros and cons of practice management software. Which one should we be using? Is one better than the rest? What’s the best one for a small firm? What’s the best one for a large firm?

Recently, Accounting Today published A Comparison Guide To Vendors’ Offerings.

Per the article accompanying the Guide…. Looking at the accompanying comparison chart, you will notice that different vendors have taken very different approaches with their application. That’s a good thing, as it offers a wider variety of capabilities that will hopefully sync up with your firm’s needs without providing lots of unneeded functionality.

You will find the article here and from it you can access the Comparison Guide.

  • No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
  • Warren Buffett

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Give Them A Weekend!

“I’m not driven by killer ambition. I’m not a workaholic. I’m a good team player. I don’t have to be captain, but I do want to play on a winning team.” – Jane Pauley

FullSizeRenderAs March 15th nears, every year, I think of all the people I know working inside growing, successful accounting firms.

They have been working tirelessly beginning more slowly in January picking up speed (and extra hours) throughout February and putting renewed effort leading up to the March 15th due date.

CPA firm leaders, please consider giving your entire staff a real weekend on March 18 and 19 – the first weekend after the March 15th due date.

We did this at my firm for years and it was greatly anticipated and appreciated by our people.

Now, the good news is that many accounting firms have eliminated Saturday work during tax season completely (except for those die-hard partners that always work weekends).

Your team will come back to work on Monday morning with renewed vigor to focus on the tasks ahead, leading up to April 18. Their families will also be very happy.

  • There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Aristotle

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Create An Inspired Workplace

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Recently, Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender, posted a story about Kronos (a provider of human capital management cloud solutions) and how they have created an exceptional candidate and employee experience.

“Being a great place to work is quite literally one of a small number of high-priority imperatives that are communicated to all employees each year as part of the company’s overall business strategy. In other words, being a great place to work is every bit as important as our traditional business priorities as a global software provider, such as application development and migrating customers to the cloud.”

Can your CPA firm make a similar statement?

Here are 3 ways to improve the candidate experience. The headlines are from the article, the descriptions are mine directed to public accounting:

Make it easy for job seekers to find and apply for jobs – Visibility on the college campus is imperative. For experienced hires, you have to be where candidates are and that means social media. One experienced tax manager I met recently told me she joined my client firm because she moved to their city and found them online. From her online assessment, they looked like a firm she would enjoy… and she does!

Create a robust internship experience – I strongly recommend that you treat your interns like full-time employees.  Subsidize their parking, provide them with business cards, involve them in all team meetings and in some committee meetings or task forces. The MP should take them to lunch, individually and in small groups, etc.

Give candidates a realistic job preview – Be very open and honest when you talk to candidates. I know a very successful CPA firm that has an extensive interview process. People of all levels are involved and they tell the truth! Working in public accounting requires intelligence, hard work and flexibility. There will be extended hours during certain times of the year.

Read the full article to learn about 3 Way to Improve Employee Experience, too. Upward feedback is part of it!

  • Human resources isn't a thing we do. It's the thing that runs our business.
  • Steve Wynn