Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Merger & Acquisition

“I always say, complacency is the kiss of death.” – Shari Redstone

So many firms that I have known over my many years in public accounting have disappeared. Yes, they have merged-up or merged-in. As founders of many firms have moved into retirement they have chosen to merge rather than pass the firm along to others.

Many other firms I know have become the acquirers. With them, the original firm has also disappeared to be replaced by a new name that incorporates names of firms they have acquired (usually if those other firms are large enough that their name carries significant weight).

Then there are the doubters, the undecideds. They want to grow by acquiring other firms or they want to enjoy less stress from management responsibilities by being part of a larger firm. This group wavers and worries especially if it is their first venture into the M&A world. They are afraid of the risk and wonder if they will actually like being part of something bigger. They worry if they will like their new partners. My advice? Get over it and move ahead. Don’t delay too long or some wonderful opportunities might pass you by.

  • The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.
  • Benjamin E. Mays

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Urgency

“Progressive improvement beats delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain

The heat is off. That is the way many CPAs are feeling today (even though the IRS gave taxpayers one more day).

Many CPAs working in public accounting will be taking a few days off to recuperate. I call it the after-tax-season coma. They certainly deserve some down time but often it turns into a few days off followed by a few weeks of inactivity.

During busy season, most people working in an accounting firm feel a great sense of urgency and work flows like water out the door. After mid-April, that sense of urgency dissipates.

This year it is even more important to take action on firm management matters sooner rather than later. Big change is approaching and leaders need to make decisions and outline plans for how the firm will grow and evolve into a consulting organization.

Don’t lose that sense of urgency.

  • Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Accountability

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch

There are a lot of conversations in public accounting firm circles about accountability. Practitioners ask, “How do we hold people accountable?” They want to know exactly what to do and what to say.

In an accounting firm, it is almost always from the top down. As leaders, you want your people to be held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, accountability is a two-way street. If you are holding your people accountable for their performance, they should also be holding you accountable for your performance.

Is that happening at your firm? Do the members of your partner group hold each other accountable? Do you welcome upward feedback so that you are accountable to everyone in the firm?

  • Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.
  • Jim Whitehurst

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Strategy and Tactics

“Hope is not a strategy.” – Vince Lombardi

Sometimes, accountants get so wrapped up in tactics that they forget about strategy and vice versa. Distinguishing between tactics and strategy sometimes get very blurry inside CPA firms.

I don’t often include an entire blog post by Seth Godin in my own blog post. But, today is one of those days because I think it is very important for you, and your firm, to clearly understand tactics and strategy. Here it is:

Why even bother to think about strategy?

There’s confusion between tactics and strategy. It’s easy to get tied up in semantic knots as you work to figure out the distinction. It’s worth it, though, because strategy can save you when tactics fail.

If a tactic fails, you should consider abandoning it.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your strategy. Your strategy is what you keep doing even after you walk away from a tactic.

A real estate broker could decide that her goal is to get more listings.

And her strategy is to achieve that by becoming the most trusted person in town.

There are then 100 tactics she can use to earn that trust. She can coordinate events, sponsor teams, host community meetings in her office, sponsor the local baseball team, be transparent about her earnings, hire countless summer interns at a fair wage, run seminars at the local library, etc. …

It doesn’t matter if one or two or five of the tactics aren’t home runs. They add up.

But if once, just once, she violates someone’s trust and expectations, the entire strategy goes out the window.

Tactics are disposable.

Strategy is for the long haul.

  • Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do.
  • Michael Porter

Monday, April 9th, 2018

A Functional, Consolidated Internal Management Team Is A Necessity

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

My consulting work is mostly with the internal management team at CPA firms. I call this team the IMT for short. Who are they?

  • CEO/Managing Partner
  • COO/Firm Administrator
  • Marketing Director
  • IT Director/Manager
  • HR Director/Manager
  • Training & Development Director/Manager
  • Controller/Finance Manager

Their titles varying depending on the size of the firm. In smaller firms one person may play multiple roles. As my firm was growing, I served in all these roles, except CEO.

I often find that this team suffers from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (made famous by author, Patrick Lencioni). There is 1) An absence of trust, 2) Fear of conflict, 3) Lack of commitment, 4) Avoidance of Accountability and 5) Inattention to results.

As with most things, in a CPA firm, it is all about communication, or the lack thereof.

Why should firms facilitate, train, encourage and demand teamwork from this group, even if the team is comprised of just two people, the managing partner and the firm administrator? It creates momentum to keep the firm moving forward. Simple as that.

In some firms, if there is not a strong administrative and support leader (COO/FA) working at the proper level, these managers work independently, maybe reporting to the MP or to “the marketing partner” or the “technology partner,” and so on.

In firms where there is a strong MP/FA team, working collaboratively and leading the IMT members, things get done. When this team is dysfunctional and disjointed problems creep in and then pour in.

Some may ask, “What does technology have to do with marketing?” “What does marketing have to do with HR?” If you think for just a moment, it will become clear. The problem is, in many firms, leaders don’t take the time to simply stop and think. The MP is too busy with a huge client load and solving dysfunctions between partners.

Marketing can be a huge benefit to HR (and has been during the last several years when the hunt for good people was high on the to-do list). Finance helps the entire IMT understand and prepare budgets. HR helps marketing, finance and technology educate the entire team about topics in their areas. And, technology is the foundation for most activities and tasks in all of these areas (websites, digital newsletters, processes and procedures, remote connectivity, portals for client service, on and on). Leading, coaching, coordinating and holding all of these people responsible is the firm administrator or COO.

If your IMT people are disconnected, even if it is just two (MP and FA), it’s time to switch to a “connected” model.

Begin having weekly or bi-weekly meetings involving the COO and the IMT team. Once a month or so, the MP should also be involved in the meetings. Develop an IMT Pipeline (things that need to be done and the progress that is being made).

In smaller firms and with new firm administrators, I always urge frequent meetings between the MP and FA (with a shared to-do list). In both models, frequent communication and teamwork will help the entire firm move forward

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim rohn

Friday, April 6th, 2018

As a Mentor, You Are Sculpting

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

A recent article via HBR – The Best Mentors Think Like Michelangelo – describes how Michelangelo considered a beautiful piece of art was already inside the stone and he worked to release it.

This is a beautiful thought to apply to your mentoring role. Here are some points from the article that might help you as your mentor the young, ambitious accountants in your accounting firm. As you have time later, be sure to read the entire article and apply these thoughts to your firm’s mentoring program.

  • The Michelangelo phenomenon refers to when a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner becomes committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form.
  • A skilled mentor can bring out a promising form that might be hidden from view.
  • Excellent mentors devote the time to truly “see” their mentees. It takes time and patience to see their ideal selves.
  • A mentor must earn trust, be accessible, and listen generously.
  • Research confirms that women face more barriers to finding a mentor and when they find a male mentor, it might not result in professional and psychological benefits.
  • One reason is that men sometimes struggle with the important skill of active listening.
  • Men can be great mentors to females if they work hard at understanding some of the challenges of cross-gender mentoring.

Read the entire article and share it. Maybe it’s time to refresh your program.

  • A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.
  • Bob Proctor

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Define Your Firm’s Purpose – It Is Very Important to Young Workers

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” – Simon Sinek

In the past, when I have facilitated partner and management team retreats, I have urged them to focus on Purpose. Firm leaders struggled for years in defining their firm’s mission, vision and core values. A firm purpose was something new to most partner groups.

Firm leaders haven’t really thought about the difference between mission and purpose. A Mission is what you are trying to do and Purpose is why you are doing it.

Per a recent article via Fast Company – As Simon Sinek notes in his bestselling book Start with Why, most people know what an organization does, but few know why they do it. In other words, most purpose-driven leaders can articulate their mission–but many mission-driven leaders cannot articulate their purpose.

The article is titled: Want A Purpose-Driven Business? Know The Difference Between Mission And Purpose Young people want to work for a purpose-driven business but your purpose has to be something more than just rephrasing your business model.

There are some great tips in the article on steps you can take to connect with the WHY and purpose behind what you do.

Make this a topic of this year’s partner retreat.

  • There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
  • Simon Sinek

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Getting Partners to Change

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

I hear comments like the following over and over again:

  • We’re stuck.
  • We’ve plateaued.
  • We have this one partner who won’t budge.
  • I know my partners and they are not going to change, so let’s focus on our young accountants.
  • Our partners are too comfortable.
  • I honestly don’t want the hassle involved with trying to get them to change.
  • Our owners simply don’t value firm management.
  • He is our rainmaker and he’s going to do things his way.
  • Most of our partners just aren’t very good businessmen.
  • We are just waiting for some of them to retire.
  • Our partners don’t want feedback from staff. They don’t want to hear it.

These are REAL comments I have heard in my discussions with managing partners and I could give you many more.  I know firms who have hired very expensive marketing and sales consultants to help their partners learn how to bring in new business.  I know firms who have hired extremely high-level ($25,000 plus for six months) personal coaches to help owners develop better relationship skills (relationships with other partners, staff, and even their own families).  Short-term change happens but it doesn’t last for very long.

When I hear these stories, it makes me sad.  I shake my head in sympathy (that’s usually what the whiner wants at that point in the conversation) and then I ask, “What are YOU going to do about it?”  That question is something they don’t want to hear.

I agree that you can’t change the basic personality of a CPA partner, but that partner can change their behaviors. If they want to. Most people inside CPA firms, who really need to change their behaviors to help make the firm more successful, really do not want to.  They have no reason to change.

You must develop a culture of accountability. I recommend applying constant, gentle pressure to complacent partners. Don’t back-off.  Plus, YOU have to give them a reason to change.

  • By not holding your partners accountable, you are promoting mediocrity, rather than excellence.
  • Gary Boomer

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Get Motivated – Take Action

joey-havens2_18-748750-edited“We need a wake-up call.” – Joey Havens

I follow Joey Havens, Executive Partner at Horne LLP on Twitter. His tweets often lead me to his blog posts and, to put it simply, he writes really good stuff!

Here’s one of his posts I want to encourage you to read – Mind the Gap: A Wake-Up Call for Professional Services Firms.

We see it every day—automation, implemented well, reduces the amount of compliance work we perform.

We experience it every day—fierce competition from outside our profession pursuing our clients. 

We feel it every day—the market for professional services is demanding and opening the door for “higher value services.”

You know you have to become a true business advisor and consultant but for some, it is a big leap from doing the comfortable compliance work. Take a minute or two to read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

  • It is always a wake-up call to get beat.
  • Usain Bolt

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Do You Listen?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

My favorite Habit from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits is Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.

In years gone by, when I was trying to initiate change, I couldn’t understand why people just didn’t “get it” and get on board with the new idea.

I still see a lot of this type of behavior in my consulting work.

I had a coach who used much of Covey’s work and she made me see the light… and it is so simple. It is natural for you to try to get people to understand, you want to get your point across and you probably expend great effort in doing so.

You have no way of knowing what is going on in someone else’s mind and life. Try to learn more about their viewpoint, their apprehensions, and fears and it will help you understand. You do this by becoming a better listener.

How do you get better? Read some books, schedule some training and, most importantly… practice!

 

  • I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.
  • Ernest Hemingway