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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I would have changed my last name if being famous were my goal.
“The worst curse to befall anyone is stagnation, a banal existence, the quiet desperation that comes out of a need for conformity.” – Deepak Chopra
Stagnate: To stop developing, progressing, moving, etc.: to be or become stagnant.
Stagnation: The state of being still, or not moving, like a sitting puddle of water where stagnation attracts mosquitoes.
I think you get the picture. Are you in a state of stagnation? Is your accounting firm in a state of stagnation?
Some people have an excuse for inactivity during this time of year. They call it the dog days of summer.
Dog days: The sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun (now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11). It is a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.
You should have several things on your firm’s Cultural Action Plan. There are some issues that are a high priority yet you find excuses to postpone action.
Don’t stagnate until you are faced with the fall deadlines! The future of your firm is too valuable. Imagine what you could accomplish in the next few weeks before Labor Day!
Don’t be “some people!” Don’t make your firm a puddle attracting mosquitoes.
“Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” – Abraham Lincoln
Today’s post is one of those “this happens in real life inside many CPA firms” type stories.
A firm leader has an idea on how to inspire team members to become more involved in marketing and pursuing new business for the firm. They will give a nice bonus ($1,500) to the team member who brings in the most “leads” to the firm on a quarterly basis. The rules are established and well-communicated. The contest will run for a full year – 4 quarters. Team members seem excited about the opportunity.
After the first quarter, a team member named Mike wins the quarterly contest. After the second quarter, Mike wins again.
One partner hears some whining from a few team members that “Mike always wins.” This isn’t fair, etc. He consults with the other partners and they decide to discontinue the contest after the second quarter.
Just an example of how not to retain and inspire top talent.
Often inside accounting firms, the leaders seem to go whichever way the wind blows. A very small minority is unhappy, so let’s punish everyone equally. How many times has everyone received an email about leaving a mess at the coffee station when everyone knows the ONE person who is the offender?
Let your soul sand cool and composed before a million universes.