“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
I am working with the Ohio Society of CPAs on an upcoming program. It’s called the Business Excellence Symposium and is being held May 11th in Westlake, OH (Cleveland suburb).
I’m excited by the work OSCPA is undertaking to advance business across Ohio by helping CPAs and finance and accounting professionals be positioned to meet today’s business challenges head on to drive growth. The topic selection, and the expertise brought forth is really on-point for the greatest challenges facing our businesses, large or small.
Attend and gain strategies and insights from national leaders in the business and accounting community:
Create a culture that top talent can’t pass up – with tips from the leadership coach for The Ohio State University’s football program.
Maximize staff resources and harness the power of diversity.
Unlock growth strategies that leverage your specific skill sets as an accounting professional.
Develop practices to deliver better solutions to organizational challenges.
Learn about harnessing business growth potential via a panel discussion with me and Katie Tolin, CPA Growth Guides
All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a great event, you can see the details here. Also, if you can’t make the trip, note there is a live webcasted option.
This is a perfect symposium (and affordable) to send several of your millennial accountants.
If you decide to attend, you can use my personal invitation to get a 20% “friends of BES” discount. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying you learned about the Symposium from me and you would like to attend.
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
“Live your life and ignore your age.” – Norman Vincent Peale
I’ve done many presentations about and written extensively about generations in the workplace. I am convinced that ALL generations better understanding each other, and not putting each other in “boxes” because of their age, can solve most if not all of the misunderstandings inside the firm.
That being said, I do probably focus more on the Millennials. This week, I read an article on the Forbes site by Paul Armstrong. It was directed to marketers and listed three things they need to know so they can better understand the Millennial customer.
You can read the short article and take what you need because the Millennials working in your accounting firm ARE your customers.
The second of the three things was the most important to me because it stressed the fact that we need to hear directly from Millennials so we can better understand what they want and how they feel.
I’ve been guilty. I stand before an audience and tell them what Millennials are like, how they behave (in general) and what they want. I do get much of this directly from Millennials and a lot of it from research, articles, etc. What you really need is to hear it directly from them.
Here’s a quote by an IBM executive from the article: “I still don’t get how middle aged men on stage can tell us what Millennials want. Surely we should hear this from real Millennials?”
Rather than listening to us older, non-Millennial male and female consultants tell you what Millennials want, why not ask them yourselves?
Host some roundtable discussions at your firm. Put an older partner at each table with several Millennials and begin gathering information. Ask specific questions and just listen.
One of the first things that caused me to focus on Millennials was a statement from a Millennial panel at a conference several years ago. The young man said: “I have an 18-month old daughter at home. Bath time is important to me. At my current firm, I can go home for dinner and bath time and then work for several hours after she goes to bed. That’s why I joined this firm.”
“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” – Tom Peters
Yesterday, I blogged about flexibility. Since it is such a popular topic, I wanted to continue to provide information to you today.
Isaac O’Bannon, Managing Editor of CPA Practice Advisor, in a recent post tells us that many firms really do offer flexibility. If your firm does not, it’s time to learn more about it and begin making some changes.
Here’s O’Bannon’s take on the rules:
As long as you comply with RULE #1: Get the job done. It is also recommended that you comply with RULE #2: Be damn good at your job, consistently. Oh, and RULE #3: Be responsive to your boss, your clients, and anyone else you do business with or for- so that it’s just like you were in the office.
Here’s some firms that made Fortune’s list of the 50 Best Workplaces for Flexibility. #1 was Ryan, an international tax firm. Other accounting firms on the list: PwC at #12, Plante Moran at #27 and DeLeon & Stang at #30.
You absolutely must have the discipline not to hire until you find the right people.
“You let professionals be professional, and you don’t sweat the small stuff? I love it!” – – New employee at William Vaughan Company
If you are a member of the CPA Firm Management Association, you have access to their extremely helpful discussion board. If you are involved in what goes on behind the scenes in any CPA firm, you should be a member.
When I talk to firms about flexibility, I get many reactions. Some are general disbelief! Yes, things have changed significantly when it comes to how the work gets done in many firms across the country. Flexibility is one of the most visible changes. When I actively worked at a firm, we initiated flexibility in February, 1986 – 30 years ago! Some firms are still lagging.
On the question of flexibility, Sharon Trabbic, Chief Operating Officer at William Vaughn & Company in Maumee, Ohio provided this response to a question on the CPAFMA discussion board:
We also have flexible hour arrangement, and I think you will find that many CPA firms have embraced it and it’s working out nicely. When we first implemented flex time, we asked for employees to be in the office between 9 and 3, but we’ve virtually abandoned that now.
Here’s what we ask our employees to work at a minimum:
January 2 to February 15 or so – 40 hours a week
February 15 to April 15 – 55 hours a week
April 16 to Labor Day – 36 hours a week
Day after Labor Day to October 15 – 40 hours a week
October 16 to Thanksgiving – 36 hours a week
Monday after Thanksgiving to December 31 (tax planning season) – 40 hours a week
It doesn’t matter how they get the hours in, which days or hours they work. We also allow employees to work from home if they need to (we have a secure cloud environment which makes that easy). We don’t monitor hours except during tax season, and only if there is a problem, which there hasn’t been. We all are professionals and we feel that flexibility for many is a perk they really like and easy for us to allow.
We also have chargeable hour goals and a few of our employees reach their chargeable hour goals but don’t work more than 40 hours outside of busy season but work perhaps 65 during busy season, and that is fine with us too.
Flexibility is a high priority for the new generation of employees. Of course, entry level people need to gain a certain amount of experience before they earn the right to occasionally work from home.
Position your firm so that you come out a winner in the talent wars. You cannot have an A+ firm if you attract and hire B players.
Thanks to Sharon and William Vaughn & Company for sharing!
“Work to become, not to acquire.” – Elbert Hubbard
There are some recent reports that tell us that many young CPA professionals do not possess many of the skills necessary to carry them into the future.
Some recent studies (such as some done by the Maryland Association of CPAs) hint at an emerging crisis because of a significant gap between the skills young professionals need to succeed and those they actually possess.
Here’s a list that was compiled by a strategy session involving managing partners of 14 local, regional and national CPA firms facilitated by MACPA:
Writing skills / memos
Critical and strategic thinking
Advanced Excel skills
Time management / organization
Take some time to assess if this list is valid with your own young professionals. Read much more on this topic here.
The best way to predict the future is to create it.
“Management is nothing more than motivating other people.” – Lee Iacocca
I have observed that employees in accounting firms really don’t demand too much of their bosses. If you are a partner, manager, supervisor, senior or an associate, there are times when someone else in the firm is looking to you for guidance. What you owe them is something very easy… simple recognition. A kind word, a quick “thank-you” or “good job” goes a long way.
Take about 3 minutes to listen to why recognition is so important, especially during busy season.
Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.
Progressive CPA firms have been focusing on people-centered management for many years. Some of the best firms are attracting talented students to public accounting. Great firms are helping younger accountants realize the benefits of public accounting and providing a culture where they want to stay and build their careers.
Then there are the others. Thousands of firms are lagging behind. Yes, I hear some horror stories.
Contemplate this quote from Tom Peters. It describes the CPA profession. Demanding sometimes works better than warm and fuzzy!
“We desperately need people-centered management. But it’s not.. warm and fuzzy, it’s demanding in the context of deep esteem, the provision of supporting tools and training, the absence of silly and unnecessary procedures, and guidance by a worthwhile vision for personal and organizational achievement.”
“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter
It is important for CPA firms to continually demonstrate the value they bring to their clients.
“Value-added” has been bantered around the profession for years and still some accountants find it difficult to put into words. One way is to offer your clients additional services. Usually, they don’t realize that a service they are contemplating from an outside consultant is already offered by their CPA firm.
You not only need to communicate with the clients, you need to communicate with your own staff.
Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits, know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location? Have experienced partners tell them stories how they landed a lucrative engagement by chatting with a client while they were working at the client’s site.
Have you educated your team about all of the firm’s service offerings? Sometimes the newer employees really don’t know what the firm offers in addition to tax, audit and accounting. At a lunch & learn, set up a panel of 3 or 4 niche leaders to talk about how the services from their niche can benefit clients.
Can all of your team members talk intelligently about your menu of services? Provide them with an Additional Services Checklist so they can at least convey the opportunities (and who to talk to at the firm) to the client.
Design a Cross-sell Brochure to help your team and make it nice enough they can even leave it behind with a client. Here’s one-side of a sample I share – it is in tri-fold format. If you want a sample, let me know. Sometimes a piece of paper still gets your message across!
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.
On the topic of salary transparency. We need more of it.
Thanks to Jennifer Wilson for pointing out the article on salary transparency via Going Concern. I think it is right on target. Younger CPA team members are reading Going Concern. Older team members should also be reading.
From Going Concern:
Salary transparency We’ve touched on this topic a coupleof times, but this HBR post has an example that could come in handy for anyone toying with the idea of salary transparency:
Whole Food’s John Mackey says that salary disagreements have a purpose at Whole Foods and spur a deeper conversation about pay. When people challenge him about a particular person’s salary, comparing it to their own, he often responds, “That person is more valuable. If you accomplish what this person has accomplished, I’ll pay you that too.”
I’m not sure most accounting firms have the will to tell the majority of their people that they are underachieving. But, HEY, this could be the kind of detailed feedback Millennials are looking for. Although, most of us need to work on the whole communication thing.
I have strongly urged my client firms and others who attend my presentations that when a staff member complains that a “superstar” is getting more perks, more opportunities or more salary to address it directly. Let the “middle star” know exactly what they have to do to earn superstar status. You also owe it to the “falling stars.” Coach them to become middle stars, then superstars. If it doesn’t work, coach them to become a “former” star.
Truth is always exciting. Speak it, life is dull without it.
I have stated many times, I believe the CPA profession has been a flexible profession for many years. So why are so many firm leaders concerned about flexible schedules?
By the way, according a Convergence Coaching 2015 Flex Survey, 97% of firms surveyed (155 firms with more than 75 CPAs) offered flexible work arrangements. I find flexible work arrangements (FWAs) in many firms that are much smaller. My firm offered FWAs nearly 30 years ago!
The concern I hear from some leaders is that production will decrease if we allow flex schedules. Just keep in mind flexibility is not less work or reduced output. It means that your people have a variety of choices as to how, when and where their work is done.
We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.