Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

How Do They See You?

“Leadership has less to do with position than it does disposition.” John C. Maxwell

You are a partner in a CPA firm. Maybe you are a manager in the firm. You are responsible for taking care of clients and leading, managing, inspiring, mentoring, nurturing, encouraging, correcting, inspiring others. That’s a pretty big responsibility!

The “others” watch you. What do they see? As the quote above tells us, they notice a lot about your disposition. Those bright, young new hires can quickly assess your disposition and act accordingly.

Here’s some actual quotes I have heard during my consultations and surveys with CPA firm citizens:

About a high-profile, managing partner of a very large firm: “If you want to be inspired or talk about a problem you DO NOT go to (name of partner).”

About a long-time, successful managing partner of a mid-size local firm: “We never encourage staff to go to (name of MP) with questions, he doesn’t like to be interrupted.”

About another managing partner of a large, local very successful firm: “Most staff people don’t know (name) at all. He is out and about so much that he is rarely at the firm during normal business hours.

As a leader, do you have a welcoming, congenial disposition, one that encourages people to like and respect you? Or are you too busy to even think about what disposition you are communicating?

Be sure to read the quote below (on my blog page if you are reading this in your email).

  • I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances.”
  • Martha Washington

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

K.I.S.S.

“If we stopped doing this, who would notice?” – Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak

From my experience working in the CPA profession, we always used K.I.S.S. to mean “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” – – Whenever I used it, I always changed it to mean, “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.” It is always important to be kind.

In more recent years, we have been talking a lot about K.S.S. – Keep, Stop, Start as it relates to performance feedback. We share with others in the firm what we think they should keep doing, stop doing and start doing. I am happy that I now see many firms using this much simplified version of performance feedback.

I have now learned from @Leadershipfreak (Dan Rockwell) that he has added an “I” to Keep Stop Start to change it to K.I.S.S. and uses it for meeting agendas:

#1 – Keep: What do we need to keep doing?

#2 – Improve: What do we need to improve?

#3 – Stop: What do we need to stop doing?

#4 – Start: What do we need to start doing.

Read more about Dan’s version of K.I.S.S. here.

Most CPA firms have WAY too many meetings. Maybe K.I.S.S. will help you streamline some of them. Also, seriously consider which meetings you can actually eliminate.

  • People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.
  • Thomas Sowell

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Good Intentions…. No Implementation

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

I write about implementation often, it is one of my favorite, and sometimes frustrating, topics.

Summer conference season is upon us. You (a CPA firm leader), will go to a conference to gather new ideas and learn about current trends in the CPA profession. While at the conference, you begin to actually get excited about some of the ideas and begin to visualize how the ideas could work in your firm.

You gather more ideas, make numerous notes, meet some very interesting people and begin to really get a sense of renewal, optimism, and think: “We can do this at our firm!”

What happens when you return to your office? Many leaders immediately get BUSY with the day-to-day fire-fighting and soon the notes you took and the excitement you felt begin to fade. You think to yourself, “I’ll bring it up at our next partner/management meeting.”

Don’t allow yourself to become demotivated. Try some of these practical steps….. Wait! Don’t “try.” DO THESE THINGS:

  • Summarize your notes, identify the best and most critical ideas that your firm could use.
  • Meet with the key management leaders and explain the ideas verbally to them.
  • Send the summary to every parter and other internal management leaders and specifically ask them to read the summary. Let them know you will be talking to them individually about the points.
  • Give them one week and then begin making brief visits to each partner.
  • Share your excitement and stress the points that you believe are critical to the firm.
  • After this is done, ask that the points be put on the next partner meeting agenda and push for at least one or two to be approved.
  • Make an Action Plan (specific steps) that needs to happen and assign the steps to specific individuals.
  • Then take action! You can’t do it alone, enlist others to help you.
  • Have you got a problem? Do what you can where you are with what you've got.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

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