Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Increase Your Firm’s Value

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures and policies that are well-documented in writing.  This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
  • Charles Darwin

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

What Else Can You Do?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Recently, I read an article via Fast Company about a commencement address by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, founders of Walby Parker.

When they graduated from college, they felt the way a lot of new grads do – extremely well-educated in a narrow range of really specific things.

It’s a lot like that with the accounting profession. You are college-educated about accounting and then you enter public accounting where you are required to earn more education (CPE) about the accounting (and tax) each year.

When do you have time to learn other stuff? Sure, you can do taxes…. but what else can you do?

Blumenthal and Gilboa learned much along the way on their journey as entrepreneurs. I think you can learn from three of their tips

  1. Presume Positive Intent – It’s human nature to presume the worst – don’t do it. Commit to getting better every day.
  2. Speed-walk, Don’t Cliff-Dive – Committing to something doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Speed-walking is constantly moving forward by taking deliberate step after deliverate step. Conquer fear by minimizing risk, not eliminating it.
  3. Treat Others The Way THEY Want to be Treated – Your business journey is enriched through exposure to a variety of perspectives. Seek to understand different points of view. Treating people the way YOU want to be treated does not always apply, people are complex and different.

One of the things that really impressed me with their story is their focus on kindness. They stated, “Kindness enables success while being the success we seek: a kind world. Let us all be proliferators of kindness.”

If you are not sure where to begin, start with a simple question. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone’s life better?”

Read the entire article.

  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
  • Aesop

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Leaders Set The Tone

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of M&A activity going on in public accounting.

There are varying reasons but one of the most prominent is the fact that current firm owners have not groomed, trained or mentored people to take over the firm. So, what do you do? You sell-out so you get “something” out of the practice that you have been a part of for 30 years or more.

If you are a managing partner or sole-practitioner and are still several years away from that decision, you are responsible. You are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the future of the firm…

If your people usually arrive late in the morning…

If your people spend too much time on a job because they don’t have a clearly defined budget…

If your people make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed…

You are responsible. It is your responsibility to communicate what is okay and what’s not okay. You are enabling behaviors to continue when they think what they are doing is okay.

Begin planning to have those crucial conversations and maybe you can change your firm future.

  • We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Are You Without A Sail?

SethGodinOccasionally, I read a blog post by Seth Godin that I feel I must share with all of you.

Here’s his recent post. Think about it and your firm.

Without a sail

A sailboat without a sail might float. 

For a long time, in fact.

But without a sail, it can’t go anywhere, can’t fulfill its function.

Floating is insufficient.

  • In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Clear and Unclear

“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” – Gandhi

Studies tell us that accounting graduates are looking for an employer that can show them a well-defined career path. They want a firm that clearly communicates expectations.

Your firm has worked very hard at doing all of that. When new people join the firm you have documentation that shows them career paths. Your performance evaluation system gives them frequent feedback and sets expectations.

Leaders are pleased and assume all of effort put into developing and communicating career paths and expectations is working effectively. Everything is clear.

But, what about the grapevine? What about the unwritten ground rules that thrive inside every office? What about the things that are unclear?

Leaders tell new people to speak-up, make their opinions known. Peers may tell them to “be careful what you say when Nancy is in the room.” So, it is not always safe to speak-up?

Once again, it is all about your firm culture. If you have a culture that is productive and positive, one where there are few, if any, mixed messages, you will have better employee engagement and enhanced productivity.

Firm culture needs to be a strategic focus and continually fostered throughout the firm.

 

  • A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
  • Gandhi

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Older People Might Not Be As Outdated As Young People Think

“When an elder dies, it’s like a library has burned down.” – Old Saying

I recently read a very interesting article on the HBR site: I Joined Airbnb at 52, and Here’s What I Learned About Age, Wisdom, and the Tech Industry by Chip Conley.

Just think about the vast knowledge and experience the accounting profession has among those often pushed-out-the-door Boomers. Here are just a few excerpts from the article. I hope they inspire you to read the entire article.

–I’ll offer you some emotional intelligence for your digital intelligence.

–Many young people can read the face of their iPhone better than the face of the person sitting next to them.

–I was surrounded by folks who were tech-savvy — but were perhaps unaware that being “emo-savvy” could be just the thing to help them grow into great leaders. I realized that we expect young digital-era leaders to miraculously embody relationship wisdoms, with very little training, that we elders had twice as long to learn.

–Boomers and Millennials have a lot to offer, and learn from, each other. Enter the “Modern Elder,” who serves and learns, as both mentor and intern, and relishes being both student and sage.

  • Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, May 1st, 2017

One of My Favorite Topics – Implementation

“A good idea is about 10% – implementation, hard work and luck is 90%.” – Guy Kawasaki

I have blogged about it often. Why? Because there is such a need for CPAs to do what they intend to do!

I like two word phrases and I use them to describe CPAs when they return to their firm after a management conference or after the partner group returns from the annual planning retreat. Do these two, two-word phrases describe you?

Good Intentions
No Implementation

gary-adamson-598x747Last week Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory published an article via Accounting Today titled, Strategic Planning Lives or Dies With Implementation.

Here are his Five Keys to Achieving Strategic Goals:

  1. Limit the plan to 3 or 4 key objectives
  2. Select a champion
  3. Set reasonable schedules
  4. Include staff members
  5. Balance day-to-day responsibilities with plan goals

Take a few minutes to read the entire article.

  • Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Maybe a Sabbatical Program Would Make Your Firm Unique

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

In the accounting profession, we have been talking about sabbaticals for years. Few firms offer this benefit.

Some firms established a sabbatical program for partners, urging them to take six weeks away from the office with NO CONTACT. The mission being to prove to the partner that they could get along just fine without them and client service would not suffer. These types of programs were a half-hearted attempt at succession planning. Honestly, I haven’t heard of many firms offering sabbaticals in any form. It seems CPAs love to work!

Rather than focusing on partners, why not establish a sabbatical program for your team members. Maybe it would differentiate you from your competitors and help retain top talent.

Kabbage_logo_wo_tag_vertKabbage®, the pioneering financial services technology, and data platform, out of Atlanta is offering a unique benefit to its employees. Perhaps, you can learn from them.

Kabbage is now offering a sabbatical option for team members who have been with the company for 5+ years. And it’s quite the package – a 6-week sabbatical that is fully paid plus the company gives a $6k stipend to encourage its employees to do something memorable ( a trip of a lifetime?)

Check out their career webpage. They offer:

Dynamic Environment
Daily catered lunches, ice cream freezer & snacks
Dog-friendly office
Cold/brewed coffee & beer on tap
Onsite fitness & meditation classes
Adjustable sit/stand desks

Competitive Benefits
Unlimited PTO
Equity in the company
Full coverage of individual health benefits
Six-week sabbatical program
Free parking
Annual bonus

Learning & Development
Shadowing program
More than 20 onsite courses
Interactive career development
Leadership development
Mentoring program

All of this makes me ask the big question. How does your firm’s career webpage stack up?

  • Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

What Will You Do Next Week?

“The mind should be allowed some relaxation, that it may return to its work all the better for the rest.” – Seneca

It’s here. Tax day 2017. After today it will be officially over for a while.

What will you do next? I’m sure many of you will take a few days off. Some will take more than a few days off. Then what?

I repeat my message every year around this time….. don’t wait on focusing more intensely on issues that need to be addressed at your firm.

I used to joke and say that most CPAs go into a coma-like trance for about three weeks basically doing nothing and then they take a week’s vacation claiming they must “recover” from tax season.

Go ahead, recover but you better make it quick. Times are changing, technology is changing, the workforce is changing, firms are changing and the profession is changing. Don’t wait until June or July to tackle firm initiatives. Make a list of high priority items and begin NO LATER than May 1.

If retaining top talent is an initiative for your firm, please don’t procrastinate on giving them feedback. Some firms put off the official feedback meetings until fall. Something else is always more important.

If you haven’t identified your firm’s most pressing initiatives, get your retreat scheduled quickly – have your retreat in July rather than November!

For tomorrow and maybe even the rest of this week, put all of this out of your mind. Then next week take action.

  • It is necessary to relax your muscles when you can. Relaxing your brain is fatal.
  • Sterling Moss

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Your Cultural Norm

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes it is the little things that make up what your firm culture is really like.

  • When a client has left a voice message for you to call them back, do you do it right away or procrastinate for a day or more?
  • Partners often short-cut firm processes.
  • When the front desk person is really busy and the phone rings more than three times, does almost everyone ignore it?
  • When the coffee pot is empty, the last person simply puts it back on the burner and walks away.
  • When the printer is out of paper, the next user simply decides to use another printer rather than load paper.
  • When a client is sitting in the lobby, employees pass through and just ignore them.
  • Yes, when there is no toilet paper left on the roll in the wash room, it is simply ignored by most people.

Or, do you really have a culture of caring, teamwork and passion for the firm?

  • Client calls are returned (almost always) within 4 to 6 hours.
  • No one dodges an incoming telephone call.
  • All partners set a good example.
  • Partners and team members never hesitate to pick up trash in the parking lot.
  • Everyone cleans up messes in the lunch room and makes coffee.
  • “It’s not my job” is never even a fleeting thought among the team.
  • Someone occasionally brings in Starbucks coffee and treats for the lunch room.
  • People seem almost anxious to tell outsiders where they work and how great it is.
  • Partners return reviewed jobs within a day or let you know why they can’t and when it will be returned.

Just contemplating, this morning, how firm cultures are built. If you don’t help build a firm culture one will form anyway – on its own – and it might not be what you want it to be.

  • Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.
  • Edward Abbey