Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Excuses

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

April 16th – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, we have to have some downtime for a while after April 15th.

May 1 – We can’t work on the new orientation/onboarding project now because everyone is taking some vacation since tax season is over.

June 1 – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, it’s time to do them and we’ll have to wait until this year’s process is over.

July 1 – We can’t right now… too many people on vacation.

August 15th – We can’t do an upward partner feedback survey, it’s time to focus on the September 15th due date.

September 16th – We can’t possibly work on that organizational alignment project, we have to focus on the October due date.

October 17th – We’ll work on our succession plan after the partner retreat.

November 1 – Let’s see what we can get done in November!

December 1 – We’ll have to put a halt on that workflow project because we are so busy in December with tax planning.

January 1 – We’ll have to wait until after April 15th.

Sound familiar?

  • When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get it.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, June 24th, 2016

A Simple Thought For Friday

One of my favorite t-shirts. THINK about it.

IMG_7104

  • I am convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
  • Steve Jobs

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

My View – Casual Dress

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” – Machiavelli

Most of you know, I worked for 30 years at a growing, profitable CPA firm. Most of those years, I believed that the CPA profession was a world of professional men and women who had the great responsibility of advising successful business people. I believed that I worked in a professional office and was delighted to dress in what the world then called professional dress. Our offices were beautiful, tasteful, high-class. I believed in making a great first impression. Why wouldn’t we, as individuals, want to be viewed the same?

Of course, years ago, the firm moved to business casual. We called it “dress appropriate” which meant the same thing that is being talked about now… dress for your day. But then business casual meant no jeans and always a collared shirt for days in the office and professional dress for client/prospect meetings, business networking events, etc.

Of course, business casual slowly became more casual and we had to enforce our dress code. That was certainly not a fun task!

I held out for years about females not wearing panty hose with skirts and dresses. A wonderful mentor of mine finally said to me, “Rita, get over it” and I did. That being said, I still cringe when I see an overweight, young female attorney walking down the street in a suit or short skirt with pasty-white legs. Oh, well.

Now, guess what? I’m “over it” with a lot of things. The world is more casual and the professional business world is more casual and I am certainly more casual in my dress.

It is all about what I continually urge you to do… embrace change! Institute a “dress for your day” policy that allows jeans. Close your office on Friday. Times have changed and CPAs must adapt more quickly than they have in the past.

If you want to attract and keep talented people, stay abreast of current trends and make changes quickly, as needed. Crowe did a survey of their workforce last fall, casual attire was ranked the most important workforce amenity.

  • One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.
  • Robert E. Quinn

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Managing Partner Is Not A Popularity Contest

“I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity.:” – Julius Erving

I’m sure you have noticed that I communicate a lot of observations about CPAs and their firms. It comes naturally to me because I have been observing the CPA profession for 35 years.

The observation I want to share today is that the most successful accounting firms have a strong leader, not a crowd pleaser personality. They have the power to propel the firm forward while understanding that they can’t please everyone all the time. Their partner peer group supports their vision.

Vivek Wadhwa, Director of research, Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research says, “Business leadership is not a popularity contest; the best companies are run by enlightened dictators.”

Managing partners must listen very carefully to their employees but they have to do what is best for the firm. The best ones give the praise for successful initiatives to others and take the blame for failed endeavors themselves.

A major disappointment for me is when I see firm leaders actually change direction and discard certain policies because one (or maybe two) people voice disapproval. Often, it is disapproval about very important changes that need to be made such as, being absolutely paperless, moving to the Cloud, or being willing to be held accountable for their performance.

I alway advise working with the healthy part of your firm, the people who are excited about the future and have the passion for the firm and the profession. Leave the nay-sayers alone and maybe they will eventually get on board. If they don’t, allow them to build their career elsewhere.

Here’s a good article by Wadhwa on this topic.

 

  • What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • Oscar Wilde

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