Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Merger & Acquisition

“I always say, complacency is the kiss of death.” – Shari Redstone

So many firms that I have known over my many years in public accounting have disappeared. Yes, they have merged-up or merged-in. As founders of many firms have moved into retirement they have chosen to merge rather than pass the firm along to others.

Many other firms I know have become the acquirers. With them, the original firm has also disappeared to be replaced by a new name that incorporates names of firms they have acquired (usually if those other firms are large enough that their name carries significant weight).

Then there are the doubters, the undecideds. They want to grow by acquiring other firms or they want to enjoy less stress from management responsibilities by being part of a larger firm. This group wavers and worries especially if it is their first venture into the M&A world. They are afraid of the risk and wonder if they will actually like being part of something bigger. They worry if they will like their new partners. My advice? Get over it and move ahead. Don’t delay too long or some wonderful opportunities might pass you by.

  • The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.
  • Benjamin E. Mays

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Pretending

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

Do you ever feel yourself pretending that you love your work, your career, and your firm?

From time to time, perhaps we all feel that way. As busy season comes to a close for accountants and their teams, this might be something that enters your mind if you work at a CPA firm.

Don’t hide from it, explore it. Public accounting is a challenging profession. Even though firms have done so much to make work life more enjoyable for their employees, there are still long hours, a certain amount of stress, difficult clients, and various other challenges. If you dread going into the office and feel like you are pretending to be something you are not, don’t ignore those feelings. Decide what you really want to be doing with your life.

The good thing is most accountants working in a CPA firm tell me (via surveys and conversations) that the thing they enjoy most about their career is the work. They love working with clients and helping them succeed. They love the work but not most of the other things that surround the work. Things like keeping track of their time, the long hours, the expectation to bring in new business, the human resources challenges and other internal management issues.

Do you love the work and the firm or are you pretending?

Here’s a good article the gives you a list of the top 10 signs that you feel like an imposter at work.

  • It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.
  • Phillip Green

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Take Your Vacation

“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” – Robert Orben

I have written a lot about people working in CPA firms not taking all their vacation time. Just type “vacation” in the search box – on the right – and browse the various posts.

The fact remains, many (probably a vast majority of) CPAs and other people working in public accounting firms do not take all of their vacation time. Sure, they can bank some of the time to use down the road for illness or family emergencies. That’s a good thing but studies tell us that vacation time is very valuable.

Here are 10 reasons to take your vacation time:

  1. Going on vacation shows you are competent.
  2. No one is impressed if you don’t.
  3. Your team is motivated.
  4. Your team gets more productive.
  5. Being unavailable helps people develop.
  6. You will be more productive.
  7. You will prioritize better.
  8. You let other people be “important.”
  9. Your company benefits.
  10. You need a break.

I recently read an interesting article via HBR – What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time.

The article even states that unlimited vacation policies do not work. Peer pressure is always there. You receive social signals that say you’re a slacker if you’re not in the office.

The company in the article adopted a policy of recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation. After working for seven weeks, you must take a week off. I can visualize how this might work in an accounting firm. Read the article and see if it could be modified slightly to work at your firm.

  • A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
  • Earl Wilson

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Accountant Saves The Day For The Chicago Blackhawks

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Accountants are often caught up in the stereotype game. Many people picture them as nerds wearing green eyeshades hunched over a desk living a life of little excitement.

Of course, I loved the movie, The Accountant. It was definitely exciting. Now, I know of a real-life, exciting accountant.

He is an accountant by day but last week’s game-saving hero for the Chicago Blackhawks. His name is Scott Foster, an accountant who plays in an amateur recreational hockey league as a goalie. Last week he was called upon to be an emergency backup goalie in the big leagues and he crushed it!

You will love this story – read all about it here. Watch the video, too!

  • I went to a fight the the other night and a hockey game broke out.
  • Rodney Dangerfield

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Circumlocution

“For me, the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” – Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Reading brings me a lot of relaxation, enjoyment, and knowledge. I hope you feel the same way and make reading a top priority.

Of course, you should read the latest and greatest business books but also read for entertainment. I mostly read on my Kindle. I like the feature where you hold your finger on a word and you get the definition. That’s how I discovered the word circumlocution. When I learned the meaning, it made me think of communication inside a CPA firm.

Here’s an example of using it in a sentence: “The firm partners finally shared some firm financial data with us after years of circumlocution.”

Circumlocution definition: The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

Here’s another example that Charles Dickens used in his writings:

“Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving – HOW NOT TO DO IT.”

Don’t allow circumlocution at your firm! Learn more here.

  • I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.
  • Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Generalizations

“Very few of us are what we seem.” – Agatha Christie

Early this morning, in the dark, I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. A brief passage from the book caused me to pause and think about life in a CPA firm. Also, about life in general in our current world.

Generalization can be described as the act of making vague or indefinite statements. Read the passage, below. Think about it. Do you ever attempt to address problems in your firm by making generalizations?

I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalize. Generalizations are seldom if ever true are usually utterly inaccurate. – from Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder at the Vicarage.

Maybe you can find 30 minutes to read this weekend.

  • I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
  • Agatha Christie

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Stay Safe Out There – Two-Factor Authentication

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know that CPA firms are fanatics about protecting the safety of their data. Their clients count on them to treat their information with the highest level of security. I also know that CPAs take this responsibility very, very seriously.

I have observed that some CPAs are not using two-factor authentication with their personal devices and some don’t even know what it is. Perhaps, you feel safe because your devices are tied to your firm and all its security. But, what about your clients and your family?

BillRecently, I have become aware of Bill Hess, founder of Pixel Privacy. On his site, Bill gives advice and creates easy to follow tutorials that anyone can use to protect their privacy and stay safe online, even if they have zero technical knowledge.

Want to learn more? Read Bill’s post, Two-Factor Authentication – What It Is and Why You Should Use it. His post is very informative, easy to understand. I hope you will share it with your team, your clients, and your family.

  • The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it.
  • Dudley Moore

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Accountants As Skilled Writers

“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.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

Many accountants say, “I’m a numbers person, I can’t really worry so much about grammar and spelling.” I have heard this phrase and very similar ones from CPAs for years!

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed by the misspellings and poor grammar emails I receive from accountants.

As a professional, it is so important for you to share your knowledge so that clients know you…..

  1. Are smart
  2. Want to share your knowledge
  3. Want to help them be successful
  4. Want to save them money

If you send them an email that doesn’t convey these messages, you could be influencing them to go elsewhere. Clients will think that if you are careless with your writing you might be careless preparing their taxes!

Some hints:

  • Don’t make your emails too long.
  • Be sure you use paragraph breaks.
  • Don’t use run-on sentences.
  • Don’t use slang words or crude language.
  • Strive to be clear, concise and brief.
  • If you have a long message – please, please just call the client!
  • You are college-educated – don’t misspell.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • If you have an important topic to convey to a client and must put it in writing, have someone proof it for you before you hit the send button.
  • Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  • Unknown

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Decide Who Will Decide

“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney

When your firm was first founded, probably one, two or three partners (owners) made all the decisions. Somehow, as the ranks of partners grew, they all thought that they should be part of every decision. That’s why the role of the firm administrator was created and the joke that resulted was, “How many partners does it take to decide which copier to buy?”

The theory was that administrative and operational aspects of the CPA firm would be under the umbrella of the firm administrator. Still, many partners thought that they should be allowed to have an opinion and weigh-in on the decision to buy anything that cost more than $100!

That decision-making format lasted with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 partners. Then an Executive Committee was formed of 3 or 5 partners who still thought they should be involved in daily operations.

Progressive firms decided that the Managing Partner should actually manage the firm with a chief-of-staff type person – the firm administrator or COO. Of course, owners are kept informed but their job is to take care of client relationships, mentor younger staff and bring in business.

Is it time for your firm to actually operate like a business? Is it time for your owners to “decide who will decide”?

  • He that has a choice has trouble.
  • Dutch proverb

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

In Public Accounting There Are Always Extra Hours

 “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true–hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” – Ray Bradbury

Soon it will be March. In CPA firms, that usually means even longer hours must be worked now until April 16, to properly serve the clients.

It’s crunch time and if you are working in public accounting you should not be surprised. When you majored in accounting and then joined a CPA firm, you knew there would be a busy season.

In progressive firms, busy season now, unlike the old days, is much more flexible. Team members are able to work those extra hours whenever and wherever. It doesn’t mean sitting in a cubicle for 60 hours per week.

After April 15, it becomes a 40 hour per week job. We used to always be concerned about how to find enough work for team members as the rest of the year unfolded. Most firms have solved that problem and now we seem to have a second busy season during September and October.

Yes, if you work in public accounting there will almost always be extra hours at peak times but you are working most of those extra hours when it is winter. Hopefully, that makes it a little better.

Firm partners, be sure you have an adequate scheduling system so that certain people are not completely overloaded. Firm administrators, be sure you are providing some enjoyable distractions during those dark, dreary, cold, often snowy winter months.

  • Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work
  • Peter Drucker