Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Mindfulness – Maybe Some CPAs Should Learn More About It

Public accounting really is a somewhat stressful profession. It doesn’t have to be. Many CPAs work diligently, serve clients well, make a great living and are not often stressed.

On the other hand, I come in contact with many of those who are almost the opposite. They are working WAY too many hours, dealing with many last minute crisis situations relating to due dates, worrying about keeping top talent, and obtaining successful, growing clients. Their plates are absolutely too full and they don’t take enough time off to vacation and enjoy life.

Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard, is an expert on mindfulness and here’s how she describes what it is:

Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting, doing all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.

We seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. (Sound like someone at your firm?) But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work. Actually, it causes you to lose control. Read more about Langer here.

When you mention “mindfulness” to a CPA here’s the image that pops up: Someone blissed out on a yoga mat, possibly with spa music playing in the background. In other words, it has nothing to do with the situation you likely find yourself in on any given Tuesday.

In a Fast Company article, the author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alernative, Scott Eblin says, “What I mean by mindful is being aware and intentional – aware of what’s going on around you, aware of what’s going on inside you as a response to what’s going on around you, and being intentional about what you’re going to do next.”

In busy accounting firms, some leaders are often not at all tuned in to what is really happening around them. They are self-focused – their priorities are everyone’s priorities.

Here are some tips on embracing mindfulness at work.

  • When's the last time you tried listening to someone without an agenda, and without distractions?
  • Scott Eblin

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Angie Grissom

My friend, Angie Grissom, President of The Rainmaker Companies, stressed some important insights in their recent newsletter.

Albert Einstein once said,To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

The best leaders get comfortable with being uncomfortable. They know that what once worked for their business, may not always continue to work. We will see this when working with firm leaders that are nearing retirement. The way in which your firm grew over the last 30 years is probably not the way it will grow in the next 30 years. We need to have a culture that is open to this reality.

Angie and the team members at Rainmaker have certainly embraced change and creativity during 2014. Read more about about what they have done in here.

  • Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Time To Get Registered for Winning Is Everything

I’m delighted to be speaking at Winning Is Everything in January in Las Vegas. I will also be learning SO much by getting the latest scoop on what’s happening in CPA firm management – join me and let’s learn together!

No matter what size your firm, you need to train so that you can stay competitive in the game of public accounting. No better place to train than at Winning is Everything 2015. WIE has caught up with industry front-runners to bring you the latest in practice management content.

Whether pressing your finest professionals to flex their talent muscle, or relaying your brand’s message to fuel business development, this year’s WIE is focused on coaching for leaner and tougher performance. Together, let’s train as we clear the hurdles and win the practice management challenge.

tulganbruceThe dates are: January 28-30, 2015 at the beautiful Aria Resort in Las Vegas.

Here are the details.

Check out the amazing list of speakers – Keynote is Bruce Tulgan.

  • There's a tremendous demand for skilled people at all levels of almost every organization and almost every industry and that's true in almost every part of the country.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Avoid The Blame Game

An observation – inside many accounting firms, people point fingers.

When something goes wrong there are always those who want to know who did it. “Find out how this happened! Who’s responsible?”

When something goes wrong, don’t focus on WHO to blame. Focus on HOW you and your team can improve a process to avoid making a similar mistake in the future.

Have some faith and trust in your team members and seek their input on how to improve your processes and procedures. They are the ones on the front line.

 

  • Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.
  • Joseph Campbell

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

QuickBooks Online & The CPA Firm

As I talk with CPA practitioners and their teams around the country, the minute QBO is mentioned (QuickBooks Online), the whining begins. I’m talking serious whining here!

I think you know by now, I am here to convey honesty and insight into the world of CPA firm management. I try to offer solutions and alternatives to every issue. That’s why I am addressing this QBO issue.

For years and years I have heard anguish and pain about the different “versions” of QB and how difficult it is to keep CPA firm clients on the most recent version of QB. Some firms report that they must keep a significant number of QB versions active on their servers just to serve the clients. Some firms have even adopted a policy to force all clients to stay current on versions.

All of that, of course, would be solved with an online version and the phasing out of all desktop versions. That is what Intuit is doing.

It doesn’t seem to be going so well, so far.  Users and practitioners are stirred-up and very negative. The most positive comment I have heard about QBO  is “Well, it has its limitations.”

Please note, I am not a user. I cannot do anything but communicate what I am hearing and reading and offer possible solutions.

As with most issues involving significant change, people (users) will get used to it. But, for now, this move to the cloud does not seem like an enjoyable experience.

Yesterday on AccountingWeb, Nate Stewart wrote, “Why QuickBooks’ Cloud Bet Matters To Everyone.” He notes that Intuit says, “QuickBooks Online is the future and it’s better to go with the tide than against it.”

Here’s a review by PC Magazine and it compares similar products.

When I read articles like these online, I always view the comments (I urge you to do the same). Sometimes they are very insightful. One comment seemed to be aligned with what I actually hear from CPA firm users, “With 15 years experience using Quickbooks both online and PC/MAC versions, I can honestly say avoid the online version like the plague.”

I’m sure it will get better, so be patient but I also recommend exploring options like Xero and others.

  • Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
  • A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Reminder About CPACA Succession Survey

CPA_LogoThis week, things at your firm just might be a little less hectic than they have been in recent weeks.

Back in September, I invited firms to respond to a survey that is being conducted to determine how partners in CPA firms view their firm’s ability to address the succession of their partners primarily as they approach retirement.

Because of the fall tax due dates, we are offering extended time to complete the survey. Thanks so much to those of you who have already completed the survey and for all others, now you have more time! The survey will now close on October 31.

The survey consists of 15 short, simple statements to which respondents will enter their level of agreement. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We will be releasing our findings in the form of an article that will include ideas and practical advice your firm can apply. All survey participants who supply us with contact information will receive a copy of the article as well as access to interviews we are doing with CPA firm leaders and emerging leaders.

Here is a link to where you can complete the survey.

 

  • For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
  • Lily Tomlin

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Chairman of PwC – Insight On Engaging The Millennials

Bob Moritz, the Chairman of PwC, in an article via Harvard Business Review, talks about how the firm has changed and what they must now do to engage (and retain) their young, Millennial workforce.

I have been attempting to help CPAs better understand Millennials for almost a decade and I believe that many CPA firm leaders have embraced proven trends in hiring and keeping top talent (which are Millennials and many of them female).

I think you will find Moritz’s comments very interesting – I know most of you keep an eye on what the Big Four are doing.

Some tidbits from Mr Moritz follow…. but please read the entire article here.

  • Things have definitely changed in the three decades I have been with the firm.
  • Bigger bonuses and promotions went to those who sacrificed more of their personal lives, whereas our current HR policies primarily reward quality and value the work and life needs of every person.
  • Millennials are vocal and extremely globally oriented – they know and care much more about what’s going on all over the world than I did at their age.
  • PwC’s Millennials don’t only demand to know the organization’s purpose – its reason for being – but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values.

PwC studied their Millennials and have made significant changes in their HR practices. PwC Boomers accepted the notion of making partner as the reward and justification for years of long hours in service to clients. But their current studies revealed that the allure of someday becoming partner is no longer enough to spark high levels of engagement.

Again, follow the link and read the article – it is very interesting and informative.

 

  • I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
  • Mother Teresa

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Productivity Hack of the Week

Fast-Company-Logo“To help you work smarter instead of harder, we’re hitting you with a productivity hack each Friday. Check out our hacks here.” – – this is from Fast Company.

If you are confused by the word hack, used in this context, learn more here.

I thought the Productivity Hack Of The Week for October 10, 2014 just might interest many accountants working in public accounting. You know…. the place where in most firms you track every single minute of your day! (Except for the very progressive firms where they have embraced the value pricing model.) Of course, whether you are tracking time or not – you can end up wasting a lot of time browsing the web.

Taking a Facebook break or reading a few blogs that you follow everyday (and find helpful… hopefully like mine), can still be good for you and also be productive, within limits. It is still very clear that there is only so much time you can spend with these browsing activities.

That is why, when I read about how to track how much time you waste, I thought it would certainly pique your interest.

There is an app that runs in the background while you work on your computer or smartphone that tracks each second you spend on applications and websites and gives you weekly reports and data based on your activity.

Then there is another app that helps you, after you have decided how much time you want to cut back (a productivity extension for Google Chrome) that allows you to restrict the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. If you lack self-control completely and need to put yourself on a productivity lock down, you can block specific sites completely using Chrome.

All this is interesting. I need to dig a little deeper and see if it could benefit me. I know that I get sucked into reading a post and following a link, then another link and end up reading, reading, reading….. which is good for my knowledge and expertise but I often have other more important priorities!

As mentioned above, Fast Company provides a productivity hack every week – read them here.

  • Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
  • Stephen King

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Challenging Conversations – Don’t Avoid Them

When I was working inside a busy, growing accounting firm, I would often have someone come to me and say, “Could you talk to Sally (or Joe or whoever), she……. (fill in the blank).”

Usually, it was something that needed to be discussed, however, some accountants are uncomfortable with confrontation so they would try to “pass the buck” to someone else.

Maybe you have a performance conversation coming up and maybe you will need to give some negative feedback. Don’t be afraid. Be honest.

Photo on 10-8-14 at 9.34 AMI recommend you consider sending your key communicators to Crucial Conversations Training. We sent key people from our firm and they reported “it changed my life.” You can even get one of your own people certified to be a trainer for your entire organization.

Formally trained or not, read the book and then you can take steps to become more comfortable when those challenging conversations need to happen.

Read this article on Fast Company, 5 Strategies to Prepare For A Difficult Conversation At Work, to help you prepare.

Focus on the other person – enter the conversation from the perspective of how you can help the person get better.

Think through your opening – Be direct, “here’s what I want to help you with.”

Practice out loud beforehand – Practice what you will say in the car while driving to work.

Call a peer for help – Some people get defensive. Practice with a peer on how you might address objections. It will boost your confidence and help you stay calm.

Don’t fear emotions – They might respond emotionally, that is a good thing because strong conversations can be a turning point in their career.

Follow the link, above, to read the entire article – then practice!

 

  • This is a breakthrough book. I found myself being deeply influenced, motivated, and even inspired.
  • Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Preparing Your CPA Firm For The Future

I was delighted to be part of a special blog post on the SmartCenter Blog. Thanks to William Hamilton of SmartCenter for reaching out to me.

They asked 9 thought leaders one question:

“What do modern tax & accounting firms need to do to prepare for the future.”

It was very difficult to offer just one idea!

Click here to read all the great comments and download some very helpful tools from SmartCenter.

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  • Have you taken time to identify your ideal client?
  • Jason Blumer