Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

You Don’t Always Have to “Give In”

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

Accounting firms, in recent years, have gone to great lengths to be more flexible, to be more understanding, to be more tolerant, compassionate and caring towards their valuable workforce.

All that is good. However, firm leaders, and accountants, in general, are non-confrontational so it seems like they eventually give in to almost any request.

arrow-down-4-xxlYou dumb things down, you go to great lengths to make things simple and easy. You strive to eliminate any discomfort and stress. You want people to have fun and enjoy their work.

I have observed that this fear of offending any team member leads to more work getting done by those at a more experienced level in the firm. Leaders not only fail to set high expectations, they fail to set any expectations. An environment evolves where partners and managers are doing the work and the staff are looking for work.

Many experts tell us that young people want to know exactly what is expected of them. Thus, they can judge when they are making progress on their career path.

I believe that there are still talented people working in the CPA profession who want to be challenged, who want to learn more and do better. They want assignments that are not boring and cause them to stretch to a higher level of performance.

Develop a culture of high performance and high expectations. Create a reputation of being extremely professional, well-disciplined and knowledgeable. You don’t always have to give in to lowering your standards. It is a downward spiral.

  • Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.
  • Joe Biden

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Afraid

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

Accountants are going to be replaced by robots. That’s not a fact.

13Some or even many of the things that accountant do now will be computerized (or robotized, as it is sometimes referred to now). That probably is a fact.

Don’t be afraid of the changes to come. Embrace them.

Yes, I am old enough to remember “the old days.” Certified Public Accountants used:

  • 13-column columnar pads
  • Lead pencils
  • Mechanical pencils (an expensive one, you bought yourself was a status symbol)
  • Lots of lead and eraser replacements for those mechanical pencils
  • Large pink erasers
  • Adding machine tape
  • Staples
  • Staple pullers
  • Paper
  • White-out
  • Desk top and handheld calculators
  • Green-bar paper for the one printer in the office

Accountants embraced computers – moving from the single-operator mainframe type to the PC (introduced over 35 years ago).

They embraced software – Lotus 1-2-3 and later the Microsoft suite. Tax software (and all the other extensive list of softwares used by accountants), replaced much of the manual work. Yes, accountants changed how they worked and what they used to get the work accomplished. They no longer filled-out manual time sheets.

CPAs had to hire people with the appropriate technology skills, different kinds of people. Someone who could only prepare a tax return by hand or complete accounting work on a columnar pad was no longer needed.

Now, CPAs are facing another, more-rapid change into an expanded world of technology. You will need to hire different kind of people and current employees will have to learn new skills.

It’s been done before. Don’t be afraid.

  • Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
  • Marie Curie

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Acting

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. – – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.   

If you have a job, especially if you have a job in the CPA profession, acting is probably, or should be, part of your skill set.

Sometimes you get a less-than-enjoyable client assignment. If you are new to the CPA profession, you probably act like you are pleased with the assignment and are learning something meaningful from the experience.

If you are more experienced, you might not be such a good actor and tend to whine about the assignment.

No matter what your experience, you never let the client know that you dread the assignment or project.

Clients need and expect you to care about them. It is natural that you care more about some clients. But, with some clients, it takes more acting than it does with others.

Read Seth Godin’s take on “Appearing to care.”

  • If you care, that's great. If you don't, at least right now, well, it's your job. That's the hard part.
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Understanding Blockchain

“Blockchain is the foundational technology of transactions.” – Karim R. Lakhani

You have been reading about it, hearing about it and probably wondering about it.

I continue to be curious about blockchain and want to know more. If you want to know more and to understand it better, here is a great video to watch:

HBR Whiteboard Session: How Does Blockchain Work? The session is conducted by Karim R. Lakhani, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He makes it understandable!

I found it very interesting and valuable. It’s nine minutes long and gives you five points to help you understand how blockchains work. Time well spent for you as a CPA.

 

  • Transactions were always private. Now, we are going to make them open and public.
  • Karim R. Lakhani

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Disruption, Future-Ready and All That Jazz

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

I enjoyed a recent post by Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief of CPA Practice Advisor, titled, CPA Tomorrowland.

Gail talks about the word disruption and how often it is included in CPA conversations. As she notes, it is not disruption in small letters, it is DISRUPTION in capital letters and it is happening SO fast. Changing FAST is not something most CPAs are not used to.

  • A McKinsey study suggests that 49% of work currently being done by accountants is likely to be automated.
  • Accenture reports that 21% of organizations have blockchain in production and that 40% of basic accounting work will be automated or eliminated by 2020 – in 3 years!
  • The AICPA and state society leaders are pushing members to quickly move from personally doing compliance work (let AI and bots do that) and evolve into business consultants.

What makes all of this very interesting and puzzling to me is the fact that so many consultants, media and profession leaders are strongly advising that the older CPAs need to get out of the way because they are not suited for this new world of CPA-ing.

In my work consulting work with firms, I have observed that automation has been increasing inside firms for years. Sure, there might be a bigger and quicker leap in the coming years but most well-managed practices with savvy (and usually mature) leadership will make that leap.

Successful, older CPAs do not love grinding out compliance work. In fact, many older CPAs (partners), don’t even know how to use the elaborate software and automated systems the firm has now.

I have observed that in multiple partner firms, the more experienced CPAs (older) are the ones ALREADY consulting with clients. The next generation (managers and “next” partners) have been groomed to be production units. They don’t network, they don’t bring in business, they don’t go to management conferences or keep on top of current trends – they are too busy grinding.

I recently asked a CPA how many of their eight partners were already spending the majority of their time consulting. The answer was two! The others have become complacent and comfortable doing compliance work.

Before you push your older, more experienced partners out the door, identify which ones are already consultants. Be sure they are working very hard at training younger partners and next leaders on how to really consult with, and advise, clients. They need to develop the skills necessary to help their clients become more profitable and successful.

We want retiring partners to transition the client relationships. It is a whole lot more than getting the client to call Joe Young rather than Bob Old, when they have a problem.

As for the automation part, here’s what Nick Chandi notes in his article on Forbes – How AI Is Reshaping The Accounting Industry: “..since accounting professionals will still remain as the final approvers of all the tasks performed by the AI, they will keep control of any sensitive information they want. As long as they have everything backed up to the cloud, they are good to go.”

CPAs are going through some very exciting times. The CPA profession is interesting and challenging and unlike many outside the profession believe, it is never, ever boring.

  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Robert C. Gallagher

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Evolving Into a Consultancy Firm

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare

Here’s the message from the AICPA, state societies, top management consultants and your peers:

Your CPA firm must move from

compliance to consultancy if you want

to survive into the future!

Learn from the Big 4. They haven’t claimed to be a CPA firm for years. I think you must admit they have been rather successful. Recently, while reading an article in National Geographic I thought of most of you – those working in local, regional and even national firms “below” the Big 4. Most of you I meet don’t think of yourselves as consultants, you identify with CPA, Certified Public Accountant.

Does your local press, your business community and your clients think of you as a consultancy firm? Now is the time to re-invent yourself. Here’s the passage that got me thinking about all this:

From Skitch

  • People evolve and it's important to not stop evolving just because you've reached adulthood.
  • J. K. Simmons

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Tracking The Time You Are At Your Desk

“Any privacy in public is a hard thing to negotiate.” – Benedict Cumberbatch

All of this technology is wonderful, right? It helps us get work done faster, it helps us shop, it helps us find places, it helps us do our banking and other chores, and it opens an amazing world of information for us.

I was with a friend recently who uses technology (Life360) to track her teenage daughter. Some people track their entire family.

Recently, Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady) wrote an article for Inc. that reported on a bank tracking the time their employees spent at their desks.

Supposedly, the bank says the purpose is to see what spaces employees use. It doesn’t track who is sitting at your desk. The information will be used for space planning.

But what if employers begin using such devices to track employees for other purposes.

It is kind of creepy but also interesting. I don’t really mind that Google knows where I am most of the time. I’m not so naive to think other entities may be tracking me. If you use a credit card, you become very public. But something about having your boss track the time you sit at your desk would be unacceptable.

Read the article, see what you think.

  • You already have zero privacy. Get over it.
  • Scott McNealy

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Off Topic – Thoughts About Air Travel

“Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.” – Amelia Earhart

I’ve flown a lot and on a variety of airlines. This year, I have cut back some and that makes me very happy.

Positives:

  • I have met and talked with many very interesting people.
  • Flying gets me to places far away, very quickly.
  • I enjoy the actual “flying” part.
  • I am still mystified by the fact that I am actually way above the earth and still can be fascinated by looking out the window.
  • Flying has enabled me to visit all 50 states.

Negatives:

  • Flights are delayed, changed or cancelled without any real honesty as to why.
  • There is very little of something called customer service (unless you are on a long – over the ocean – flight).
  • Planes and airports are dirty places.
  • While Americans get larger, seat space gets smaller.

Some males, as well as females, irritate me.

  • Men put the carryon item meant to be under the seat in the overhead bin, leaving less space for suitcases.
  • Men spread out – they crowd those next to them.
  • Men reading newspapers overlap into your “space” and assume that it is perfectly alright.
  • Women often ignore the 2-carryon rule – shopping bags, large purses plus the overhead suitcase.
  • It takes some women way too long to get settled in and even longer to depart.
  • It is usually women who talk too loudly and long on their phone to let relatives know they are taking off or have just landed, plus lots of other personal information – TMI.
  • People with backpacks don’t seem to notice that they hit people (who are already seated) in the head with their backpack when they stow their carryon.

This was more of a rant than a blog, I apologize, but I just had to express myself. Want to see some airline slogans? Click here.

  • Pilots take no joy in walking. Pilots like flying.
  • Neil Armstrong

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Don’t Waste So Much Time

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

I often talk about how much time is wasted inside growing CPA firms. Sure, most people work hard and often work long hours. But, I have observed that there is a lot of time not wisely used by CPA firm citizens.

Have you ever considered how much time you spend on someone who is already well known as a poor performer? Often, it is someone who has been with the firm for several years and has simply not met expectations.

You spend time talking about this person with others, you spend time counseling them, setting development plans, following up periodically and still haven’t seen much improvement. You notice that other team members spend time complaining to each other about a certain poor performer. If you are fortunate, someone finally makes the decision (after the partners talk about it over and over again) to out-place this particular low performer. Team members think, “Thank goodness, it’s about time!”

What if…. a huge portion of that time was spent on nurturing, coaching, mentoring and encouraging the top performers. Wouldn’t that be more pleasant? Wouldn’t that be a better investment of your time?

  • If time be of all the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.
  • Benjamin Franklin