Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Stuff Happens

“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.
  • John Wooden

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Don’t Procrastinate When Providing Performance Feedback

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.
  • Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

A Leader’s Mission: Create THE Culture

“Culture drives great results.” – Jack Welch

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.

Read all about the three “Laws” in Dan’s article here.

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.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

You Don’t Have Any Whiners, Do You?

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:

  1. “You should have ….” You caused the problem because you dropped the ball.
  2. “What are you going to do about this?” Whiners want – no expect – you to make it better.
  3. “I’m not happy.” Chronic complainers don’t own the real issue. They want something for themselves.
  4. “I want to look good while I talk bad.” Complainers use compassion as camouflage. They’re complaining because they “care”.

Follow this link to read Dan’s entire blog post – he tells you more than the four hidden agendas, he gives you solutions. You should follow @leadershipfreak on Twitter. I love the picture and quotation he featured on this blog post. Hopefully, you are not one of the complainers in your office!

chronic-complainers-want-to-look-caring-and-innocent-while-talking-mean-and-ugly

  • Anyone can start something new. It takes real leaders to stop something old.
  • Dan Rockwell

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Make A Wish

What will you be doing in ten years?

This beautiful video comes from David Wolfe.

  • Make your life spectacular!
  • Robin Williams

Friday, August 12th, 2016

High Priority: Hire A Firm Administrator/COO

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.

For inspiration, Read this article that features Sharon Trabbic, COO of William Vaughn Co. in Maumee, Ohio.

  • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

New Ideas

“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.

DSC03008The 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.
  • Edwin Land

Friday, August 5th, 2016

The Right People

“Good is the enemy of Great.” – Jim Collins

You have all heard the Jim Collins‘ advice from his book, Good to Great:

You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you.

Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision.  

In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.

I work with and talk to hundreds of CPAs in public practice every year. Few, if any, started their firm this way. Few manage their firm this way now.

Sure, many firm leaders talk about “the bus” scenario and tell me “we are working on it.” In reality, inside many firms are sacred cows. People the firm is not willing to fire. Maybe fire is too harsh a word. Most people who are trouble-makers, dissenters, whiners, unwilling to change just simply need to be coached into a new position with another firm or company. It can be done gently and maybe even slowly, but don’t shy away from doing it if you want your firm to leap into the future.

Read this article, Good to Great, by Collins on his website if you haven’t read the book.

  • The team with the best players wins.
  • Jack Welch

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Too Many Meetings

I didn’t begin writing this blog post because I read an article or another blog post about the too many meetings issue. I am writing it because I have heard DIRECTLY from my clients and others working in accounting firms that “we have way too many meetings!”

This topic has been addressed, very humorously by Dilbert, on many occasions:

Boss: We’re having a meeting to discuss employee retention.

Dilbert: Tell them that employees quit because there are too many useless meetings.

Boss: We won’t be getting into reasons at the first meeting.

Seriously, does your firm have too many meetings? It is an on-going danger inside CPA firms because:

  • Partners want to be sure they are communicating with everyone.
  • Partners want to show their people that they care about their opinion.
  • Partners and managers think that what they discuss is of interest to everyone.
  • Partners have a strong “need to know” about way too many things!
  • Partners think they have to be in on every decision.

Some suggestions:

  • Don’t make most meetings mandatory.
  • Invite and involve fewer people.
  • Invite and involve the right people.
  • Demand that people be on time.
  • Always have an agenda.
  • Set an end time and stick to it.
  • Leave the meeting with Action Steps.

If you involve people in meetings that are important and they don’t talk or contribute. Don’t invite or involve them again.

As for partner meetings….. if you are a partner in a CPA firm it is your duty, your responsibility, to speak up in meetings. You opinions must be heard and silence, if you disagree, is not an option.

Another issue with some partners… they NEVER attend meetings and it is always someone else’s responsibility to make sure they are in the loop.

Read my blog post from November, 2015: Bad Meetings Are A Reflection Of Bad Leaders.

  • Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

A Strong Niche Focus Can Make You Famous

Back in 2012, I blogged about a tax guy.

We became acquainted by doing a panel webinar about unique career paths you can take in the accounting profession for what is now AccountingFly. We continue to stay in touch and we both are passionate about tweeting.

His name is Robert Raiola and he is Director of the Sports & Entertainment Group at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP.

At the time, Robert (@SportsTaxMan) was tweeting on a regular basis about his specialty – sports – and he had a few thousand followers. As of today, Robert has done over 29,800 tweets and has over 51,500 followers – that’s a home run for a CPA.

Just to show you the power of Twitter, it has helped him expand his reputation for being an expert – something every CPA should do – and he has been featured on a national level via Sports Illustrated, ESPN, etc.

David Maister, the guru advisor to professional service firms, always said you have to decide what “you want to be famous for” and then pursue it with passion. How is that working for you?

Below is a recent example of the great exposure being an expert has gotten for Robert. Over the years I have blogged six times about @SportsTaxMan (just type his name in the Search box on the right).

Robert knows what he wants to be famous for and he is achieving it. How about you – think about it this weekend!

Screenshot 2016-07-22 06.55.42

  • I would have changed my last name if being famous were my goal.
  • Zach Galifianakis