“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford
Over the years, I have spoken to so many groups of CPAs and groups of people who work for them.
I have to admit that I am disappointed that so many people always want to sit in the back of the room. Is it because they want an easy escape route in case I am overly boring? Is it because they actually want a place to sit and surf on their mobile device? Is it because they know it all already?
Actually, I think it is one of those weird human nature things. Just like going to church, the back pews always fill-up before the front pews.
I urge my session attendees to always set up front when they are attending CPE sessions or other learning opportunity sessions. I have actually observed some of them taking my advice the next time they are in one of my sessions.
Why sit up front? I have always done this because I want to observe the speaker up close. I want to hear every word. I want to contemplate their body language. I want to have them look me in the eye. Afterwards, I always would introduce myself to the speaker, maybe ask a question and always thank them for sharing their thoughts.
Why do I do this? Because they will remember me. And maybe if I have a question when I return to the office, they will answer my email. Maybe the next time they see me they will remember my name and face. Maybe they will enjoy having a one-off conversation with me and just maybe they will ask my opinion on some topic.
Want to be known as an expert? Hang out and get to know other experts.
Build your personal brand, one opportunity at a time. Sit in the front.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
Sure, you are an accountant. So, people look to you to understand (and enjoy working with) numbers. They believe all of you are good at math and can do advanced calculations in your head.
You are a CPA, so clients take it for granted that you have prepared their tax return or performed their audit correctly. Your clients (and others) judge you on other things. Mostly, on lots of little things.
One thing, that is not so little in my mind, is how you write. If you are a CPA, or work in a CPA firm, grammar, spelling and punctuation are very, very important when you start typing out communications on that keyboard (or mobile device).
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read a lot of things written by CPAs and accountants. Most of it is in the form of communication, to me, and to others. Here are the common mistakes I notice:
Improper use of commas.
Lack of any punctuation at all, at times, even the use of periods at the end of a sentence.
Lack of capitalization – everything is typed in lower case.
Confusion between chose and choose; spelling chose when they actually mean choose.
Improper use of there and their.
Improper use of to and too.
Using your when they should be using you’re.
When I first started working in public accounting, I had the opportunity to work with a CPA (partner), who excelled at the written word. His vocabulary was way beyond my experience. I kept a dictionary close by. I learned so much!
I also, during the same time, worked with some accountants that made me wonder if they actually graduated from college based on their spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Just be aware of how you may be judged. Take your time when writing. I think some of the poor punctuation and grammar is simply laziness or because you are in too much of a hurry.
Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.
I have worked with and talked to a fairly significant number of accounting firms. Speaking in general terms, they are almost all doing well (that means the partners are making money). A significant number of them are happy and complacent. That’s what scares me.
They could be doing so much better but status quo is comfortable. So much opportunity is being wasted.
As the old saying goes, someone needs to “stir the pot” in these firms. Yet, I often observe CPA firm partners remain silent when they should speak up. Accountants tend to avoid any sort of conflict or dissension unless things truly become unbearable. Then, some firms hire someone to come in and deal with the unrest rather than address it themselves. Too bad.
Some tension, disagreement, and conflict can be very healthy. It should be a normal part of partner discussions. However, after you have had some healthy arguing and differing viewpoints, come to an agreement as a group and stay united. Only disagree and argue behind closed doors.
I like this quote from Leadership Freak: “Teams without tensions have weak players.”
You don’t want weak players on your partner team. A weak firm will not attract top talent or strong clients.
Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein
I used to have a magnetic red sign with bold white letters that stated the title of this blog post (Stuff Happens) except it did not say “Stuff.” It was on the side of a filing cabinet where only I could see it. It helped put things in perspective, at times.
Yesterday, I had some troubles updating my WordPress site and had to go to a back-up (from Sept. 6). Thus, I lost my posts for Sept. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 and they can’t be retrieved. If you are a subscriber, you have them via the email you receive. I will try to re-post them from that source.
I pride myself on having a post for every business day. Once in a while, I might miss one day but never that may in a row.
When you have some small troubles or inconveniences, take them in stride. Because, as you know, “stuff happens!”
It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
No wonder so many firms are beginning to explore the option of doing away with formal, annual performance sessions with all of their individual team members.
I have observed that many firms can’t seem to get them done within the publicized timeline. Leaders procrastinate. Something else is always more important. So, they think that if they do away with the once-a-year system it will be easier with fewer hassles. Wrong.
Nothing is more important!
We can’t find people…. We have had more turnover this year than we have ever had…. One of our brightest up-and-comers just left the firm….
I hear these phrases and many variations of the same, day after day, from firm after firm.
Here it is September and you are scrambling to get the formal performance feedback task completed. Your guidelines say that the feedback should be communicated to your team members in June, yet here it is September. And, in all reality, you probably won’t complete the process with everyone until November.
I can offer you all kinds of suggestions on different methods to provide feedback to your team. It can be a formal rating system once per year with a periodic follow-up to check on the achievement of goals. It can be quarterly feedback meetings involving more casual feedback. It can be a simplified Keep Stop Start process. And, it can be a system of continuous feedback that requires better trained and equipped managers.
Whatever your system be sure you fulfill your obligation to do it timely and correctly. It’s not just your millennials that crave feedback, nurturing and support, it’s all of your team members.
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
I have been stressing the culture message for years: If you don’t create, mold, re-mold and monitor your firm culture, it will form anyway and might not be something you had in mind. It might even turn out to be rather ugly!
I was pleased to read, last week, as I followed the Boomer Technology Summit via Twitter that speaker Steven Anderson addressed the topic of culture stressing, “Every organization, whether it’s your firm, your client’s company, or even your family, has a culture, by design or by default.”
Dan Hood of Accounting Today was there in person and wrote a great recap of Anderson’s presentation. It cover’s Anderson’s “natural laws” for creating a place where people will want to work.
On my blog page, I searched for “culture” and found many additional readings you can access if you want to really WORK on your culture. You can access the search here. Do more reading, research, and soul-searching. Then talk with your partners and decide what you want your firm culture to feel like. Next step is to get busy creating it.
When you lavish praise on people they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.
During my presentations, I often ask a rhetorical question, “You don’t have any whiners at your firm, do you?” What I receive is usually a lot of snickers and sometimes outright laughter.
Yes, most of you have them, hopefully not many. The old adage, misery loves company, often applies to accounting firm teams. Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak) addressed the four hidden agendas concealed in complaints in a recent blog post. Here are the four:
“You should have ….”You caused the problem because you dropped the ball.
“What are you going to do about this?” Whiners want – no expect – you to make it better.
“I’m not happy.” Chronic complainers don’t own the real issue. They want something for themselves.
“I want to look good while I talk bad.” Complainers use compassion as camouflage. They’re complaining because they “care”.
It’s an old topic but continues to be a very important one.
Right now, I am hearing from so many CPAs say:
I am so busy.
We are so busy.
We won’t be able to get to that project this year.
We have good ideas but fail to implement them.
We have been talking about the same things at our retreat for 5 years!
Whether you are a sole practitioner, a 3-partner firm or a 33-partner firm, your managing partner (and partner group) needs a strong, right-hand to carry out initiatives. You need someone who has only one client – your firm!
Call them office manager, practice manager, firm administrator, chief operating officer, director of operations….. even an executive assistant.
I know many CPA practice managers who truly run the firm.
Free-up all partners from administrative projects and tasks. A COO can immediately save the MP ten hours per week. At an MP billing rate of $300/hour, that’s $3,000. Experienced CPA COOs save partners 40 hours per week and more.
Don’t have one? Have one but they are not performing at a high enough level? Deal with it now so you can go into busy season with an advantage.
“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.” – Albert Einstein
Some firms grab onto new ideas and quickly give them a try. Some firms wait and see what others are doing, whether the new ideas proves to be worthwhile, then they give it a try. Some firms wait until an idea is tested thoroughly over a period of time and then stick their toe in the water. Many firms like status quo and avoid new ideas.
If you are trying to get people inside your firm to try new ideas, think of it as a sunrise.
The new idea is like the color pink in a sunrise (like I observed this morning). A string of low spotty, very gray, clouds strung across the horizon. One small cloud caught the light and turned pink… then the next and the next until the sky was bright with a cascade of small, beautiful pink clouds.
But, before long the pink was gone and the clouds were no longer lit-up with the pink of a new idea. That’s how a new idea could catch on at your firm – a few bits of pink lights up the pink in others but if you don’t act quickly enough the pink could be gone!
If you are existing in a status quo firm, begin to gather a small group of people, no matter what level they occupy inside the firm, and begin talking about how beautiful a sunrise can be. Convince people to try a new idea by just testing it. Assure people that you’ll just give it a test drive and if it doesn’t work you can always return to the old way. Occasionally, you might have to return but most often the sun will catch the clouds and the new idea will become a beautiful way to move forward.
It's not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.