Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
I was reading the Delta Airlines magazine while flying to Key West yesterday. I enjoy reading the airline magazines. I find all of them to contain interesting news items and articles about a variety of topics.
In the opening editorial, written by the CEO Richard Anderson, he made a statement that CPA firms could certainly utilize: “At Delta, we take great pride in our culture of hard work, creativity, teamwork and a simple commitment to get the job done right.”
Did you notice those two words… hard work? The CEO communicates it clearly – they are not ashamed of their culture of hard work. They take pride in it.
Public accounting is hard work. If you work hard you can become very successful.
Do you communicate that to your people? Are you proud of your culture of hard work?
(Picture: Enjoyed my visit to the Hemingway House.)
A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
Monday, February 17th, 2014
CPA firm partners, owners, and other firm leaders hear it over and over again from speakers and authors focused on the profession of public accounting.
Think big picture. Be a visionary. Stay out of the day-to-day, be more strategic.
I, too, have written about it and talked about it. I do believe there is a time and place for contemplating the bigger picture.
However, much of what you do is about the here and now. If you are honest, most of what you do inside your firm and to help clients is about the here and now. And, it is important.
I was reminded of this when I heard a passage in a Wallander episode. I have also read all of the Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. If you are not familiar… Wallander is a brooding, dark character. A Swedish detective who investigates violent and terrifying murders. Kenneth Branagh is amazing in the role.
Here’s the passage:
“I don’t really think there is a bigger picture. This is where we live, here and now. These are our lives. They are fragile and precarious…. and miraculous. They are all we have.”
The majority of you and the people who work for you are living in the here and now.
Think about the big picture, the future but please don’t forget that the majority of life is in the here and now. How can you make life, the here and now, better for yourself and for all the people in your firm who depend on you. After all, life is all you have.
It's only when we can work with something that brings out our strengths that we're of any real use.
Henning Mankell, author The Fifth Woman
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
This is one of those topics to just get you thinking!
Why do so many CPA firms, during this time of year, provide dinner for their employees?
When I discuss this topic during my live presentations, I get some fairly heated debates going. ”We’ve always provided dinner!” ”It is a huge convenience to our people.” ”It provides a time for them to socialize and get to know each other.” ”Our people really appreciate it and it makes it easier to work longer into the evening.”
From the other side I hear, “They expect you to be there at dinner. If you are not you get frowned upon.” ”I just show-up, eat and then go home.” “It’s the workaholics and inefficient people who like dinner.” ”We used to do that but now most of our people do not want to work late into the evening.”
From firm administrators I hear horror stories of the hassles involved in providing dinner. It seems there are a great many whiners inside CPA firms.
- We have pizza too often.
- I only like pepperoni. I want deluxe. I want vegetarian.
- Let’s have subs. Let’s don’t have sandwiches.
- Why isn’t there chef salad? We need more than salad.
- Is that meatloaf??
The old saying definitely applies, “You can’t please everyone” and the administrative staff spend a huge amount of time facilitating dinner and doing their best to please people. Then, they have to clean-up afterwards. From them I hear, “I am an administrative professional not a waitress!” As Abraham Lincoln said:
“You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”
I advise my clients NOT to provide dinner. Provide remote access.
Send people home at 6:00. Let them eat dinner with their family, help their kids with homework, enjoy “bath time” with the toddlers and then log-on and put in a couple of hours if that is your firm requirements.
For some firms this will be a huge change but it is a step in the right direction of winning the talent wars. You must figure out how to make “busy” season more acceptable to the future workforce.
The following quote applies to many of the things that need to be changed inside CPA firms.
Serious change includes bad days, bad weeks, bad months, perhaps bad years.
Friday, January 24th, 2014
Sometimes I am puzzled by CPA firms. I know, you are probably laughing out loud right now! After so many years working with CPA firms you would think I would have a complete understanding of what makes CPA leaders tick. I guess it could be described this way: I know how they think and what they think but sometimes it amazes me WHY they think the way they do.
Once again I will stress to CPAs – the Talent Wars are here again. Your firm becomes who you hire and who you retain. These people help form your culture and your brand in your marketplace.
I frequently hear CPA firm administrators and HR Directors talk about their various personnel policies. PTO is often a topic. What I am CURRENTLY hearing is that many firms are very frugal with their PTO. Here is where I ask WHY?
Maybe to justify, I need to give you real life experience. At the CPA firm where I worked for so many years, SIX years ago when I left we were offering starting salaries that are very much in line with what I am hearing TODAY – 2014.
Probably about 8 to 10 years ago our PTO policy was extremely generous – 2 weeks PTO to new college grads the day they walked in the door. Upon the arrival of May 1st (the beginning of our “vacation” year), all accounting staff with 0-2 years of service received 15 days. Staff with 3-5 years received 20 days and all staff with 6+ years received 25 days.
I am still hearing that new hires, in many firms, become eligible for PTO (or vacation) after one year of service and maybe 10 years before they get 3 weeks and never for 5 weeks.
Why was our firm generous, why did we keep in-tune with market trends and attempt to hire the best talent?
Simple answer and one you should heed: Our competition was doing it!
A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
We’re still uncool at our house. We have three remotes to control our TV, BlueRay, sound system, Apple TV, etc. Our son comes to visit and asks why we don’t get the cool new type of control he has so he can do it all from one or why don’t we use our iPad or iPhone. We’ve been there… then you buy a new TV and start over! We’ll get there again. However, one button I know for sure is the Pause button.
I need a break, I need to think, the phone rings, someone’s at the door – I hit Pause.
If you are working inside a CPA firm you are entering one of the most challenging times of the year. It’s rush, rush, rush. When will that job be done? How much billable time did you have last week? Call so-and-so and have them hurry up and get their information to us.
Maria Shriver gave a commencement speech in 2012 to her daughter’s graduating class titled The Power Of The Pause – The importance of stopping and evaluating where you are in life. How often have you done that?
Shriver noted, “So remember to pause and reflect before you sign on with someone or some organization whose work you don’t admire and respect. Who you work for is as important as what you do.”
As a CPA firm leader, are you admired by your people? Are you pausing to explain the importance of the work you do? Are you sharing the success stories of your business clients and how an accountant’s role is to serve others and help them become successful? Are you encouraging your valuable people to pause once in a while to reflect on their work, their life, and their family?
You and everyone else at your firm have hectic, busy lives. People get tired, worn-down and lose sight of the positives. For yourself, remember to pause and reflect often. Am I truly happy in my work? Do I trust and admire my partners? Do I value my employees? Am I always honest with my team members? Am I always honest with my family?
Am I happy?
It's like what we're doing at this precise moment doesn't even exist. Everyone is focused on the next thing. Everyone is racing to the next thing.
Friday, January 10th, 2014
I try to provide CPAs and all the people working inside CPA firms with helpful information via my presentations, workshops, newsletter, consulting activities and this blog.
Much of it comes from my many years of actual experience working inside a growing, profitable CPA firm. Some of it also comes from my extensive reading…. of books, articles, newsletters, blogs, tweets, and so on.
There is so much great information out there now via the internet. Just a word of caution, as you probably already know – - not all of it is true. I’m trying to be very careful in what I pass along and I want you to also be very careful when you hear about or read about certain trends, strategies and best practices.
My mission today is to simply share an example.
On the topic of goal-setting, I have read about and heard about a study conducted by Harvard Business School over a 10-year period. The study reported that only 3% of Harvard MBAs actually write down their goals – 97% do not. The study also reported that the 3% ended up being much more successful and, over the 10-year period, were making ten times as much as the other 97% combined.
This study eventually was discovered to be fiction. Here’s the answer to an inquiry made to Harvard “Ask a Librarian” site:
I think you are referring to the “Harvard Goals Study,” reports of which periodically surface in motivational literature. We have been asked repeatedly about this research, but we have never been able to find such a study. It is frequently cited as having transpired at Yale, but librarians there have not found a trace either.
Read the entire Harvard response here.
You can also read more about this goal-setting story here. I found it quite interesting.
The moral of the story? Be careful out there!
Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thursday, January 9th, 2014
CPA firm managing partners, firm administrators, HR directors, marketing directors, IT managers – - You often get put on the hot seat.
You are stopped in the hallway and asked a random question that might be important and might not be important. The person wants an answer right away….. on the spot.
My advice is in most cases…. don’t do it, don’t answer! Simply say, “Let me think about that and get back to you by the end of the day.”
It could be as simple as, “Is it okay if I take Friday off as a PTO day?” It might be as important as, “Is it okay to go ahead and order those 22 new laptops today?”
Most firm administrators I know (and I know many), usually have a line of people waiting outside their door to ask a question. It can be very overwhelming and the answers you give might have repercussions.
Answer decisively where appropriate and move on. But be aware that it’s okay to be honest. “That’s not a question I can answer on the spot. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you tomorrow morning.” Just be sure you DO get back to them on time.
We are in an instant gratification world. People want answers NOW. Just be aware and be cautious. There isn’t much that can’t wait a few hours.
Upon the heat and flame of they distemper sprinkle cool patience.
Monday, January 6th, 2014
When you are managing your CPA firm, when you are inspiring your people, when you are dealing with your clients and when you are seeking new clients and team members:
- Little things matter.
- Little things make the biggest difference.
I believe that females more often remember to do the meaningful little things than males. Hopefully, you have some females in your partner group who speak-up, speak-out and work diligently at influencing your culture. Not that men don’t care or appreciate the efforts and contributions of others, they just seem to be less inclined to put it into words – spoken or written.
There is an old 60s song called “Little Things” that has the lyric, “Little things that you do make me glad I’m in love with you.” As 2014 unfolds, remember to do the little things for your people that will cause them to think, “Little things that you do make me glad I work for you!”
A little thing made me smile last week. I often blog about specific opportunities being offered to the CPA profession by various vendors and consultants. I received a handwritten thank-you note via U.S. mail from the folks at CPA Leadership Institute because I blogged about their new offering.
A simple handwritten note made my day. When is the last time you wrote a note to a top performer? When did you last send a thank-you note to a top client because they always pay on time?
You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.
Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
On January 2, 2006, I posted my first blog. Eight years ago today. Here’s what it said:
MONDAY, JANUARY 2ND, 2006
Happy New Year 2006 and Welcome to Rita Keller’s Blog.
I know that many of you visiting this Blog are part of my expanding team of CPA firm management explorers – seeking new ways and revisiting proven, old ways of efficiently and profitably managing the CPA firm of the future – the firm where young professionals will want to build their careers.
I am just getting started, so check back soon for more information.
I thought I would blog about something every weekday to help all of the hardworking professionals involved in managing accounting firms.
Other than a very few misses….. I have been doing that for 8 years!
You can check-our the archives on the right-side of this page. If you are wondering about a specific topic (mentoring, marketing, leadership, social media) you can also click on the category to maybe find some advise and comments on your topic.
I hope you’ll stick with me through 2014. Sign-up on the right and an email will come to you each day.
I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
At year-end, it is always tradition to reflect back on the year that we have survived. That’s okay. But don’t spend much time there. Today, tomorrow and perhaps over the coming week-end think about what you (whatever your position inside a CPA firm) are going to do in 2014 to make it a milestone year for you (and maybe even the entire firm).
During 2013, I talked to many of you about becoming a Linchpin inside your firm – a person that makes things happen. I got on the Linchpin topic from reading Seth Godin’s book titled, of course, LINCHPIN.
I believe Godin’s brief chapter, below, could apply to anyone working inside a CPA firm. See what you think:
Getting a New Job Without Leaving
One day, Binny Thomas stood up.
She stood up, spoke up, and started doing a new job. She didn’t leave her organization, didn’t even get a new title or new responsibilities. Instead, she started doing her old job in a new way. Binny stopped going to meetings with the goal of finding deniability or problems to avoid. Instead, she started leaning in and seeking out projects where she could make a difference.
Suddenly, Binny was inspired. She was looking for opportunities instead of hiding from blame. She was putting herself on the line, pushing through the dip, and making things happen. The fascinating (and universal) truth is that the opportunities came after she was inspired – she wasn’t inspired by the opportunities.
Binny’s old job was just fine. She did it extremely well. She followed the map, followed instructions, did what she was told and got paid what she was worth. Binny wasn’t in danger of losing her job, but she had already given up her soul. She had plateaued, this was the end. Then she changed her mind.
Six weeks later, she got a huge promotion and another, even better new job than the new job she had given herself. Binny is now running a worldwide program of motivated scholars. All it took was a choice. Binny didn’t ask for permission to do her job better; she merely decided to.
Are you looking to others to make your job better, more enjoyable? Are you sometimes in denial? Are you doing an adequate job but feel like you have plateaued? Read the last sentence of the chapter, above, again.
Have a fun tonight during your New Year’s Eve festivities. Happy New Year to all of you and to the MANY Linchpins in the CPA profession I met and talked with during 2013.
When you are having a tough day at the office in 2014, think of Mark Twain’s quote below and smile.
Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough.