Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Off Topic – Thoughts About Air Travel

“Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.” – Amelia Earhart

I’ve flown a lot and on a variety of airlines. This year, I have cut back some and that makes me very happy.

Positives:

  • I have met and talked with many very interesting people.
  • Flying gets me to places far away, very quickly.
  • I enjoy the actual “flying” part.
  • I am still mystified by the fact that I am actually way above the earth and still can be fascinated by looking out the window.
  • Flying has enabled me to visit all 50 states.

Negatives:

  • Flights are delayed, changed or cancelled without any real honesty as to why.
  • There is very little of something called customer service (unless you are on a long – over the ocean – flight).
  • Planes and airports are dirty places.
  • While Americans get larger, seat space gets smaller.

Some males, as well as females, irritate me.

  • Men put the carryon item meant to be under the seat in the overhead bin, leaving less space for suitcases.
  • Men spread out – they crowd those next to them.
  • Men reading newspapers overlap into your “space” and assume that it is perfectly alright.
  • Women often ignore the 2-carryon rule – shopping bags, large purses plus the overhead suitcase.
  • It takes some women way too long to get settled in and even longer to depart.
  • It is usually women who talk too loudly and long on their phone to let relatives know they are taking off or have just landed, plus lots of other personal information – TMI.
  • People with backpacks don’t seem to notice that they hit people (who are already seated) in the head with their backpack when they stow their carryon.

This was more of a rant than a blog, I apologize, but I just had to express myself. Want to see some airline slogans? Click here.

  • Pilots take no joy in walking. Pilots like flying.
  • Neil Armstrong

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Don’t Waste So Much Time

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

I often talk about how much time is wasted inside growing CPA firms. Sure, most people work hard and often work long hours. But, I have observed that there is a lot of time not wisely used by CPA firm citizens.

Have you ever considered how much time you spend on someone who is already well known as a poor performer? Often, it is someone who has been with the firm for several years and has simply not met expectations.

You spend time talking about this person with others, you spend time counseling them, setting development plans, following up periodically and still haven’t seen much improvement. You notice that other team members spend time complaining to each other about a certain poor performer. If you are fortunate, someone finally makes the decision (after the partners talk about it over and over again) to out-place this particular low performer. Team members think, “Thank goodness, it’s about time!”

What if…. a huge portion of that time was spent on nurturing, coaching, mentoring and encouraging the top performers. Wouldn’t that be more pleasant? Wouldn’t that be a better investment of your time?

  • If time be of all the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Deadlines

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” – Napoleon Hill

CPAs and their entire workforce are driven by deadlines. Of course, most of you reading this know how many tax deadlines there are. I think that working in a CPA firm for so long has definitely made me deadline focused.

It seems inside the CPA firm, if the deadline is several weeks off, the attitude might be, “Why worry, we have plenty of time?”

The_Snowman_(Nesbø_novel)Occasionally, you might miss an important deadline. It happens. That is why I found a passage in the book “The Snowman” by Jo Nesbo, so interesting. I never knew the origin of the word “deadline.”

Here’s the passage:

Harry had read that the word deadline originated from the battlefields of the American Civil War, when, for lack of anything material to lock prisoners behind, the captors gathered together the prisoners and a line was drawn around them in the dirt. Which became know as the “dead line,” and anyone who strayed beyond it was shot. 

Maybe the word “deadline” will now have a whole new meaning for you. Don’t miss one!

  • A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.
  • Rita Mae Brown

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Adulthood Pushed Back

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” – John Maxwell

Several years ago, Rebecca Ryan warned the CPA profession that the twenty-somethings that CPAs were accustomed to managing had changed, dramatically. She noted that adulthood markers were happening during their thirties rather than in their twenties.

Just this week I found additional information on this topic that I want to share with you.

Think about it. Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) graduated from college, got a job, got married and had kids when they were in their twenties. Gen-X (born 1965 to 1976) pretty much followed this same tradition.

Millennials are different. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau compares how people born between 1941 and 1957 were living as young adults in the 1970s and how people the same age lived in 2016.

Researchers established four milestones of adulthood: 1) Moving out of your parents’ house, 2) Getting married, 3) Having a child and 4) Getting a job.

  • Younger generations are delaying marriage.
  • One in 3 people ages 18 to 34 (24 million young adults) live with their parents. In 1975, it was one in 5.
  • Women ages 25 to 34 who were out of the labor force to take care of their home and family dropped from 43% to 14% between 1975 and 2016.

So, remember many of those twenty-somethings working at your firm have not actually moved into the adult world. Keep that in mind as you mentor, nurture and supervise them.

  • You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.
  • Walt Disney

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Those Workaholics!

“If there is such a thing as a workaholic, I’m it and that’s what passes for leisure.” – Steve Earle

I hear it from so many CPA firm owners…. “We are trying to get Ginny to work less.”

I am talking about that staff person who seems determined to work more hours than anyone else at the firm. They work late into the evening, especially during the first quarter of the year. They work almost every Saturday, except maybe during June, July and August.

They have more total hours and more chargeable hours than any other employee at the firm.

I also find that this team member is usually a long-time employee, a manager and often female. But, when I encounter a male working unrealistic hours, it is almost always a partner.

As firm leaders, you love this team member – they have lots of billable hours, they provide amazing client service, they pitch-in and help others when needed.

On the other hand, you worry. Is all of that total time necessary? You actually become concerned about their well-being. You observe them showing more stress and often more negativity than other team members.

As for workaholic partners, who would want to be a partner in a firm where the partners work 2800-3000 hours per year? I actually know some partners that get almost 3000 billable!  Oh, my.

Counsel these workaholics, help them cut back, there is so much more to a career, and to life, than the number of hours you work.

  • I'm not driven by killer ambition, I'm not a workaholic. I'm a good team player. I don't have to be captain, but I do want to play on a winning team.
  • Jane Pauley

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Be Active and Involved In Your State CPA Society

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” – Martina Navratilova

I have met some of the most wonderful people by working with, and being involved in, The Ohio Society of CPAs.

I have also been very fortunate to have worked with and visited many of the other state societies around the country via my speaking and consulting activities.

I hope you are active in your state society and I also hope that you are encouraging the next generation of leaders in your firm to be involved.

I am especially pleased to offer my congratulations to my friend, Edward I. Guttenplan, CPA, CGMA of Wilkin & Guttenplan, the incoming President of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. Listen to Ed’s inspiring story, below. Not involved? Make a commitment to your state society today!

  • Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
  • Greg Anderson

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Yes, It’s July – But Be Thinking About November

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

An age-old challenge inside many accounting firms is the fact that the business client expects you to do their taxes from a very messy set of books.

I have observed that is usually the case when the business owner has a bookkeeper that is really not qualified (think wife, mother-in-law, sister – you know, someone you can’t fire).

Often, even a very qualified small business bookkeeper doesn’t really understand what your CPA firm needs and how/when you need it.

That’s why I suggest you hold a Bookkeeper/Controller Breakfast for your clients in late November. Invite all your client bookkeepers to the event and offer education along with breakfast and good conversation.

Make them feel special. Provide goodie bags with the firm trinkets (pens, pencils, firm logo post-it notes, candy, gum, maybe even a t-shirt). If you start at 8:00, they can be back in their office by 10:00.

The “program” can be very short and very informative. Explain to them the important role they play in making year-end an enjoyable and efficient experience for themselves (and the firm). It might even save their boss some accounting fees!

Many of them might not have a clue about the firm’s expectations. Plus, I have actually seen them learn some very helpful tips from each other.

  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
  • Albert Einstein

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Closed On July 3rd?

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

Firm leaders debate it. Some say yes. Some say no. Some partners think they will lose a day’s production. Some partners think – I don’t care if we close or not, I’m not going to be here. Many partners say, “Let them take a day of PTO.”

FullSizeRenderWhen a paid holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, do we also give our team a paid holiday on the Monday before or the Friday after? Almost every firm now gives the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday. It has become the normal. However, there is nothing normal about the policy for when there is just one day between the holiday and the weekend.

I imagine that the same amount of production will happen this week Wednesday through Friday as would happen if the office was open on Monday. I have found that people work harder if they know they are getting a day off.

On Monday, if the office is not closed, most people will take PTO and that means “someone” has to be at the office to answer the phone and support those who are working (usually partners). That is not a happy situation for those “someones.”

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I did a small survey to see if firms were closing today – July 3rd, 2017. The firms were all sizes from various locations around the continental U.S.

13 – No, we are not closing our office(s).

11 – Yes, we will be closed

One mid-size firm replied that they will be closed on Monday and Wednesday.

One large firm that answered “No” did note that they have unlimited PTO so they didn’t feel any need to close. Still, someone has to be there if the offices are open.

Another firm noted that they designate one floating holiday each year and this year it was assigned to July 3. I like this idea.

My wish is that most of you will be enjoying beautiful summer weather with family and friends. Take a hike, ride a bike, swim, golf, or have a picnic. Enjoy the great outdoors.

  • Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Training Your Clients

SethGodin“Differentiate to succeed.” – Seth Godin

Love this post by Seth Godin:

Training customers

If you frequently run last-minute sales, don’t be surprised if your customers stop buying things in advance. You’re training them to wait.

If you announce things six or seven times, getting louder each time, don’t be surprised if your customers ignore the first few announcements. You’ve trained them to expect you’ll yell if it’s important.

If you don’t offer someone a raise until they find a new job and quit, don’t be surprised if your employees start looking for new jobs.

The way you engage with your customers (students/bosses/peers) trains them on what to expect from interactions with you.

Drip, drip, drip.

I have blogged several time about setting expectations for your clients, yes training them. For example, training them to submit their 1040 information ON TIME.

As Godin notes, if you continue to accept slow responses from your clients, they know you are okay with them being tardy. If you accept shoddy, poorly document “books” from clients, they realize that they don’t have to expend much effort before they deliver their year-end info to you…. and so on. (We all know the “shoe box” clients!)

The same thing applies to your team. Godin’s point about giving someone a raise once they announce they are quitting sounds awfully familiar to what I have observed in the CPA profession.

  • Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
  • Seth Godin