Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Grace and Radical Kindness

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

You have heard it and read it over and over again. I am talking about news and conversations about arguments, disagreements, biases, hate, and lack of understanding. Like many, I am very tired of the whole thing. I’m tired of people who can’t seem to tolerate anyone who thinks differently than them.

On a smaller scale, how are things inside your CPA firm? How’s morale? Are people happy? Are there certain people you know NOT to approach at certain times because they are in a bad mood? Are there bossy people, closed-minded people and people who simply don’t want to rock the boat when it involves change? Are there egotistical people or even greedy people?

Maybe it is time for Radical Kindness. That’s the term the Director of the new documentary about Mister Rogers uses to describe him. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article I read in the Dayton Daily News about the film. The director is the filmmaker Morgan Neville:

“I’ve thought a lot about why the film moves people. Fred kind of digested his message down to what I call radical kindness, but Fred himself called it grace. And to him, grace was an idea that could be expressed as – Be good to others, even if they don’t deserve it.”

“Fred saw life as a struggle between fear and love. What we see today, rage and anger and resentment, are the byproducts of fear. What he tried to do was quell that fear in children, to keep them from manifesting those toxic emotions. Fred chose love, and that is his legacy.”

Here is a link to the trailer for the documentary. There is also a movie in the works about Fred Rogers, starring Tom Hanks. It is to be released in 2019.

For now, I hope you act with grace and practice radical kindness.

  • There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."
  • Mister Rogers

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Lack of Sleep

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

If you are working for a CPA firm, you are working hard. Often, it is fast-paced, challenging, stressful and frustrating – but not all the time. Sometimes, it is slow and boring – but that is rare (my opinion).

You get up early so you can get to the office early so you can have some quiet time before the crowd arrives. Then, you also often stay late for the same reason. You still have home duties and want to spend time with your family so you probably stay up later than you should. You rise at 4:30 or 5:00 and get to bed at 11:00, 11:30 or 12:00. You are definitely not getting enough sleep.

All of this affects your productivity. Some experts have actually noted that showing up for work sleep deprived can be the equivalent of showing up to work intoxicated!

Experts also tell us that you should be getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. I know when I worked in a growing firm, I usually got about 5-1/2 to 6 hours of sleep – for years. Now that I work from home, I can attest that getting 7 hours sleep per night makes a big, positive difference.

Lack of sleep not only affects your productivity at work, it affects your health.

Here’s a good article to share with your team via Fast Company: Why We Can’t Sleep And What It’s Doing to Our Work.

 

  • Sleep is the best meditation.
  • Dalai Lama

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The History of Your Firm

“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.'” – Eduardo Galeano

Last week, I was on vacation in Gettysburg, PA. We have always liked history vacations and have done many and it usually involves visiting national parks. The Gettysburg National Military Park is one of our favorites.

We have been to Gettysburg numerous times and we always learn something new and see things we have never seen before. It is because they are continually updating the park and making it more like it was in 1863. They want to make it “real” for visitors.

How much do your people know about the history of your firm? Many firms do have a summary on their website and many do not. Why not make it more real for them?

To help your people better understand the firm and its leaders, try a timeline exercise at your next full-firm meeting (or do a lunch and learn).

Get a large roll of paper and affix a long sheet to a wall in the staff room – make it about 15 to 20 feet wide. Draw a long line and put the date of the firm’s founding at the beginning on the left. Note the current date (month) at the other end of the long line. Then have everyone (using markers) mark on the sheet when they joined the firm. For many firms, it will span several decades. Then have random people talk about “what it was like” when they joined the firm and encourage people to ask questions.

Some very interesting discussions will follow!

Follow this up with another session a month or so later and talk about something even more important – the future.

 

  • I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
  • Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Young CPAs – Start Sooner!

“Life is short, and it is here to be lived.” – Kate Winslet

If you are not a young CPA – I hope you share this blog post with young CPAs.

You are fairly new to your CPA career. You graduated with a history of good grades. You landed an entry-level job, right out of college, with a prestigious, growing public accounting firm.

Major accomplishment: You passed the CPA exam and are now a twenty-something CPA – congratulations, you have the momentum going for you!

You have been working on a variety of client engagements. You may be focused on tax and you may be focused on the audit side of things. You might be in a small to mid-size firm and have the opportunity to work in both areas and will probably soon declare your future focus.

You are focused on the work. You are getting better and better at the work. It seems the partners are happy with your technical abilities and the way you complete the work.

Wait! There is so much more to becoming a successful CPA than just knowing how to do the work. You must be:

  • A great conversationalist
  • A “reader” of people
  • An interesting dinner (or lunch) companion
  • A good speaker
  • Known as a “professional”
  • A contributor to your community
  • Good at time management
  • Good at motivating other people
  • Good at setting the perfect example for subordinates and peers
  • Thinking about the future
  • Able to change and evolve with the times and influence the firm to do so
  • And more – –

Don’t wait years and years to get started on this list. Learn the success skills as you are learning the technical skills. Life is short – get busy!

 

  • Life is short and the older you get, the more you feel it. Indeed, the shorter it is. People lose their capacity to walk, run, travel, think, and experience life. I realize how important it is to use the time I have.
  • Viggo Mortensen

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Do You Like Working In Public Accounting?

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

I was recently reading an article about things to consider when you feel unhappy at work. I applied the items to the CPA profession and from what I observe, I think most people working in public accounting do really like their work.

Do you like what you do for work? Most staffers tell me that they really enjoy the work. They love working with clients and feel satisfied that they are actually helping people with their financial challenges.

Do you feel like you have ownership at work? Firms have come such a long way in involving team members in firm decisions and initiatives. People are encouraged to contribute ideas and efforts to keep the firm on the leading edge of technology and work environments.

Are you encouraged to learn at work? This is definitely a yes if you are working in a CPA firm. You are encouraged and supported in passing the CPA exam and receive formal, firm-paid CPE annually plus the day-to-day learning that comes with client engagements.

Do you feel appreciated at work? If you don’t feel appreciated working at a CPA firm these days, maybe you are working for the wrong firm! I always almost beg young accountants, if they are not happy in public accounting, to try working at another firm before they drop out and go private.

Contemplate the pluses and minuses of working at your firm. I bet the pluses out-weigh the minuses. I also think, that if you stick it out and gain experience, the reward and satisfaction gets better and better as the years pass.

  • If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.
  • John Wooden

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

May Day & Mayday

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” – William Shakespeare

May 1 is the 121st day of the year (122nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 244 days remaining until the end of the year. Historically, it originated as a Roman festival honoring the beginning of the summer season (in the northern hemisphere). Many, when they think of May Day, think of people dancing around a Maypole (a pole painted and decorated with flowers, around which people traditionally dance on May Day, holding long ribbons that are attached to the top of the pole.)

Mayday, an international radio distress signal used especially by ships and aircraft, has a more linguistic origin than the pragmatic approach of S.O.S. Although a connection to the month of May might seem likely, it is actually an anglicization of the French m’aidez or m’aider, meaning “help me”.

Where am I going with this as it relates to public accounting?

You have relaxed, taken some time off and recovered from the traditional busy season. May 1st is here and you should celebrate, but you only have 244 days remaining to focus on making improvements to position your firm for success before you are faced with another busy season.

You, as an individual can’t do it alone. Enlist the help of many at your firm. Never hesitate to say, “Help me!”

  • With the coming of spring, I am calm again.
  • Gustav Mahler

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

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Pretending

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

Do you ever feel yourself pretending that you love your work, your career, and your firm?

From time to time, perhaps we all feel that way. As busy season comes to a close for accountants and their teams, this might be something that enters your mind if you work at a CPA firm.

Don’t hide from it, explore it. Public accounting is a challenging profession. Even though firms have done so much to make work life more enjoyable for their employees, there are still long hours, a certain amount of stress, difficult clients, and various other challenges. If you dread going into the office and feel like you are pretending to be something you are not, don’t ignore those feelings. Decide what you really want to be doing with your life.

The good thing is most accountants working in a CPA firm tell me (via surveys and conversations) that the thing they enjoy most about their career is the work. They love working with clients and helping them succeed. They love the work but not most of the other things that surround the work. Things like keeping track of their time, the long hours, the expectation to bring in new business, the human resources challenges and other internal management issues.

Do you love the work and the firm or are you pretending?

Here’s a good article the gives you a list of the top 10 signs that you feel like an imposter at work.

  • It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.
  • Phillip Green

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Take Your Vacation

“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” – Robert Orben

I have written a lot about people working in CPA firms not taking all their vacation time. Just type “vacation” in the search box – on the right – and browse the various posts.

The fact remains, many (probably a vast majority of) CPAs and other people working in public accounting firms do not take all of their vacation time. Sure, they can bank some of the time to use down the road for illness or family emergencies. That’s a good thing but studies tell us that vacation time is very valuable.

Here are 10 reasons to take your vacation time:

  1. Going on vacation shows you are competent.
  2. No one is impressed if you don’t.
  3. Your team is motivated.
  4. Your team gets more productive.
  5. Being unavailable helps people develop.
  6. You will be more productive.
  7. You will prioritize better.
  8. You let other people be “important.”
  9. Your company benefits.
  10. You need a break.

I recently read an interesting article via HBR – What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time.

The article even states that unlimited vacation policies do not work. Peer pressure is always there. You receive social signals that say you’re a slacker if you’re not in the office.

The company in the article adopted a policy of recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation. After working for seven weeks, you must take a week off. I can visualize how this might work in an accounting firm. Read the article and see if it could be modified slightly to work at your firm.

  • A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
  • Earl Wilson

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Accountant Saves The Day For The Chicago Blackhawks

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Accountants are often caught up in the stereotype game. Many people picture them as nerds wearing green eyeshades hunched over a desk living a life of little excitement.

Of course, I loved the movie, The Accountant. It was definitely exciting. Now, I know of a real-life, exciting accountant.

He is an accountant by day but last week’s game-saving hero for the Chicago Blackhawks. His name is Scott Foster, an accountant who plays in an amateur recreational hockey league as a goalie. Last week he was called upon to be an emergency backup goalie in the big leagues and he crushed it!

You will love this story – read all about it here. Watch the video, too!

  • I went to a fight the the other night and a hockey game broke out.
  • Rodney Dangerfield