Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Memorial Day Remembrance

VN soldiers1Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving their country’s armed forces.

While we do remember and honor all of our veterans on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day is the other special holiday for all who have served.

I have been fortunate in that I have only known one person who died serving their country. A boy from our high school, a year ahead of me, died in Vietnam. I did not know him well but I do look up his name on the Wall every time I am in Washington DC.

There is another name I always visit when I am at the Wall. I did not know him, personally, but I am very fond of his son. I have even been with his son to together look at the name on the Vietnam Wall. His son is my good friend, Roman Kepczyk, known to many of you in the CPA profession. Below is a picture of Roman’s father’s name on the Wall.

I hope you will take a few moments today to remember those who have died in service to our country.

Kepczyk - Version 2

 

  • One of the best ways to keep peace is to be prepared for war.
  • General George Washington

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Addicted to Work

“You shouldn’t have superhuman expectations.” – Mary Blair-Loy

Frequently, it appears to me that some experienced CPAs are addicted to their work.

I think this is a big issue when it comes to succession planning. Sure, the firm’s policy says they must “retire” at age 65. They must relinquish their stock and they do. But many of these “retirees” want to keep working, keep their office, keep their relationships with special clients and not stay at home or pursue other interests.

Most do not have other interests. They believe their career is their life, it defines them. Being a partner at the firm feeds their ego or makes them feel important. Without being affiliated with the firm they feel they have no identity.

There is a great article on this topic on the HBR site. You feel challenged by your work; you’re engaged by it; you’re learning new things; and you have the opportunity to shape other people’s careers. It is extremely rewarding but when you give all your attention to work, you eventually pay a steep price. 

Working long hours, taking few vacations and never truly being “off” (due to digital devices) is harmful to your relationships, your health and your productivity. It is also a bad example to set for your employees. No wonder many younger CPAs have no desire to become an owner.

Read the entire article here. It gives you some tips to overcome your addiction. Take an honest look at yourself, whether you are a retiring partner or a constantly busy accountant of any age working in a CPA firm.

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • Colin Powell

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Show The Love

IMG_6788“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

Sometimes just after busy season you might think you have seen enough of clients for a while. You are wrong about that!

So many times I have heard clients say they wish their CPA was more proactive. What kind of Action Plan do you have in place to continually communicate with clients?

I think it falls under the “this is how we do it here” category.

  • We take new hires along to client meetings.
  • We expect every person in the firm to have a role in marketing.
  • We provide continual performance feedback to our employees.
  • We close the office on Fridays in the summer.
  • We acknowledge every team members birthday.
  • We have a client service plan for “A” clients and a different one for “B” clients.
  • We send our clients a birthday card.
  • We thank our clients in different ways for simply trusting us as their financial and business advisor.

Should any of these “this is how we do it here” bullets apply to your firm? What else can you add?

Yesterday, I received some free drink coupons from Southwest. They remembered to thank me. It made me smile. Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do? You could certainly do some little expected things to show your clients that you appreciate them.

  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
  • John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

International Education

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

It has been my observation that even the smallest of CPA firms not only have interactions with international businesses on behalf of their clients but are also doing work directly for international clients.

Do your youngest team members know the basics about the international cultures of the people they may need to talk to on the phone, or meet in person? Do your experienced team members know? Does your partner group even know?

Maybe you won’t ever meet them in person but you may have frequent video conferences with them. What should you say and not say? What part of your body language might be offensive to a different culture?

My point today? Get some training for ALL you people on dealing with people internationally. You can probably find someone locally. Seek out help from your local Chamber of Commerce.

 

  • One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Communicate Your Expectations For Meetings

“Our meetings are held to discuss many problems which would never arise if we held fewer meetings.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

You have many meetings each week/month/year. To make your meetings better, why not define a list of expectations so that everyone knows and respects the rules?

Draft some suggested guideline points and ask people to identify the most important. Your list might be very long or it could be brief. The point is to set the expectation.

Here are some ideas:

  • Show up on time
  • Don’t leave early
  • No electronics (that’s what breaks are for)
  • Come back from breaks on time
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding sensitive matters
  • Speak-up
  • It is okay to respectfully disagree
  • If you do not clearly understand, ask for clarification
  • Do not leave the meeting unless there is an emergency
  • Do not interrupt others
  • People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.
  • Thomas Sowell

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Another Meeting? Oh, The Horror!

IMG_2515“To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” – Robert Copeland

Meetings, and the need for them, are on my mind currently.

During the last two weeks of April and into early May, I hear from many CPAs and their people. They save a lot up over busy season!

It is also the beginning of conference season. The time when CPAs and their people attend various conferences and gather some valuable and insightful information to help make their firm a better place to work and a better resource for their clients.

Some of these conversations and topics come back to an age old issue. We have too many meetings!!

CPA leaders really do want to include people. Retention of top talent demands that you have an inclusive culture. Younger generations want to be “in the know.” Yes, they want to be heard but they also want to simply listen. But, be aware, they do not want to attend a meeting that turns out to be a big waste of time.

There was a good article recently o the HBR site, “A Step-by-Step Guide to Structuring Better Meetings.”

Frequently, teams fail to link the structure (content, frequency, and duration) of their meetings with the job that needs to be accomplished. A one-size-fits-all meeting doesn’t work.

Here are some steps to follow (read the entire article to learn more about each step).

  1. Define the work of the team
  2. Parse the items into different categories so meetings can be tailored to the content
  3. Determine the frequency with which you need to discuss each category
  4. Set the length of the different meetings
  5. Plan for overflow

Get away from the “general” type meetings where you try to cover too many things and include too many people.

This also applies to partner retreats. Don’t try to cover too many topics. Focus on the most important (one or two) and work at getting something accomplished rather than sending people home with the feeling they wasted two days.

  • Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything.
  • John Kenneth Galbraith

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Dress Code For Casual Attire In A CPA Firm

“My first impressions of people are invariably right.” – Oscar Wilde

It seems that in many firms we really don’t have dress codes any longer. We have everything from shirt/tie to denim jeans every day.

9491182077_e9b8f2d0bf_bEven with jeans, there seem to be quite a few “qualifiers” surrounding when and when not to wear them.

Also, casual dress guidelines seem to be more challenging for females, especially when warm weather abounds.

A good friend of mine, a principal in a CPA firm, shared her firm’s guideline for defining “casual” dress in their firm. They made it very simple and straightforward. They call it “The 4 B’s” – – –

No bare Back – No bare Butts – No bare Bellies – No bare Boobs

Simple, direct and it sure made me smile. Have a great weekend!

Photo: Flickr, Ben Eekhof

  • The way you dress is the billboard that tells perceptive people how you feel about yourself.
  • Barbara Walters

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

How Many Times Have You Talked About “Added Value?”

“The more you become proficient at stating value in terms of the customer, the more it will be perceived as value by the customer.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I have mentioned it before but not recently. I enjoy reading blogs and articles by Jeffrey Gitomer. Sure, he’s a sales guy. But so are YOU Mr./Ms. CPA!

Much like Mr. Gitomer, I am very tired of listening to CPAs discuss how to prove to their clients that they bring “added value.” Gitomer says, “I recommend you leave ‘added value’ out of your sales lexicon forever. ‘Added value’ has an evil twin ‘value add.” Neither of which can be defined in terms of what the customer actually benefits or profits from.”

If you think the little extra things you do bring added value, put “perceived” in front of it because it is all about what the client perceives. If they don’t perceive it to be valuable, then it isn’t. Preparing their tax return in a timely manner is not value added, it’s what they pay you to do.

Your clients are looking for THEIR own increased sales, customer loyalty, employee loyalty, increased productivity, profit and so on. If you are not bringing these kinds of things to the relationship maybe it’s time you did.

To paint a true picture for your clients, develop a value proposition and a value statement the clearly explains how you help others.

I bring value to my clients by writing this daily blog, writing my newsletter, sending them personal emails outlining current trends in the profession, recapping content of conferences I attend, tweeting daily about CPA profession leadership issues, personal telephone conferences and many other ways.

Read much more here from Gitomer about value and it’s importance to existing clients and to prospective clients.

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

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Hear It From Them

“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.

10363724_10154114657826535_4176653492470208085_nYou 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.

You can always survey your Millennials first and then use the results for some lively roundtable discussions.

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.”

Photo: Lumsden McCormick Facebook

  • Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing.
  • Aristotle

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Accountants Are A Total Blast!

It’s April 15th. It’s Friday. Normally, that would be a great thing – tax season would be coming to a close…. but not this year. The government has extended the due date until April 18. For many of you, you will still be working this weekend.

But wait, you should still be in a light-hearted mood, it’s almost over and being an accountant is cool! How do I know it’s cool? Because a Facebook friend shared a flash card from a deck belonging to their child. Yes, to me you are a total blast… males and females in public accounting are certainly cool. Plus, this guy’s pretty cute.

IMG_6491