Another weekend is here. This week my topic really isn’t a “lighten-up” topic like I usually post on Saturdays. It is more of an informational and thoughtful post because this Monday we observe Memorial Day.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It was originally called Decoration Day. That’s what the people in my small town called it when I was a child.
When Decoration Day was near, the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary would sell red paper poppies to be worn on Decoration Day to honor those who died serving the nation during the war. This practice seems to have disappeared in my area of the country. Read more about it here.
Here in Dayton, Ohio, it is a tradition for Boy and Girl Scouts to place a flag on the grave of each of the nearly 45,000 veterans’ graves at the National Cemetery located here in Dayton.
My small hometown always had a Memorial Day parade (and still does). I think this tradition seems to be alive and well. My son, now a high school band director in a small town near Columbus, Ohio, has two parades this week-end, in two small towns near his high school.
If you have ever been to Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, you probably can relate to the feelings about this holiday.
We cherish too, the Poppy red, that grows on fields where valor led, it seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.
Traditionally, public accounting firms focused all their recruiting activities around the “fall season.” Students were fresh.. back on campus… and their professors had prepared them for the beauty contest of the very active fall season.
I talk to many firms that still operate this way. I also talk to many firms who are just finishing-up the “spring season.” It involves just as much work and intensity from firm HR professionals, firm administrators and partners as the fall campaign.
If you are not hiring summer interns – wake-up. If you are not identifying and getting to know the students you will be talking to in the fall – wake-up. If you think that being visible on campus just in the fall is enough – wake-up.
Accounting majors at prominent universities don’t know much (if anything) about local and regional accounting firms. Read more about why and how four students were surprised to learn that they could have the resources and support they thought was only available at the national firms at a local/regional firm.
Just a few years ago (including at my former firm) we did not hire summer interns because we didn’t have anything for them to do. Now, you must find something for them to do to keep them in your hiring pipeline. Some of the best students need a summer job!
Find projects where they can help. Let them shadow the summer auditors – there is always some repetitive work they can help with on an audit. They can also shadow in the tax area – have your tax team become your tax teaching team in the summer by establishing mini seminars on tax research, state & local tax, etc.
Craft your sales pitch. Even if you think your firm’s value proposition is obvious, dig deeper. Think hard about what a twenty-something is going to get out of 8 to 10 weeks of working side by side with your experienced, knowledgeable people.
What will your intern walk away with? What skills and insights will he/she learn on the job that will shape their career path, strengthen their network or help them decide once and for all that accounting is the way to go long term (and that your firm is flexible, fun, cool and prestigious).
I have been talking and writing about the need to keep women in public accounting for years (and years).
It is once again in the spotlight mostly because of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Because of her high profile, success in the business world and I guess you could say her clout – people pay attention. They read her book. They like it or they hate it. They criticize or applaud via social media. Once the hoopla dies down, life will go on, especially inside CPA firms.
What matters to me most about women’s initiatives in public accounting is the fact that while there is a need, there is also a need for retaining young men in public accounting.
If you are not familiar with The Shriver Report, take a few minutes and read the executive summary. The report describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. For the first time in our nation’s history, women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. This is a dramatic shift from just a generation ago. The Shriver Report is not just a woman’s story.
In today’s families, both parents work. Both need flexibility because they are raising their families and taking care of households as a team.
I think it can be described best by what a female CPA said to me during one of my presentations, “When we have a sick child, we flip a coin to see who stays home.”
In the “old days” men did the yard work, took care of the car, coached the little league team and did handyman duties around the home. Women shopped, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and, if they worked outside the home, they stayed home when a child was sick.
Dads are so much more involved on the home front these days. So, don’t forget that male CPAs also need flexibility while they are building their careers in public accounting. I would like you to establish a flexibility initiative, a family initiative or simply a “life” initiative to support your team members, both married and single, who have other priorities outside of the office.
I love this Tide commercial. While you might think this is a stay-at-home Dad, I like to think that he does the laundry and is also a CPA with a full-time job outside the home.
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.
I have really been into simplifying things lately.
As Henry David Thoreau told us, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”
I have always thought that during my many years working inside a growing, busy CPA firm that we tended to make things harder, more difficult, and too complex. Often a project became so complex that it got put on the back-burner and we would attack it the next year.
Now, I see it happening all around me. People looking at little screens on their mobile device and often missing something awe inspiring.
Mark Goldfarb, Managing Director at SS&G, says, “This world of immediate information has helped us to become sharper at running our businesses, but it seems as though the communication overload is starting to blur our vision.”
I was checking out of my fellow bloggers over on the AccountingWEB blog site and I noticed one by well-known CPA firm Chief Marketing Officer, Sally Glick, a principal at Sobel & Co. Sally’s posts are always on the money but the title of this one puzzled me.
After I read her post, I realized that it sure applies to me. It applied to me as I worked my way up inside a CPA firm for 30 years, trying to get everyone on the same page and open to embracing constant change. It applies to me now as I do my best to help my clients (CPA firms) adapt to change and embrace new trends.
Sally learned from a speaker at a CPA firm marketing event that SWSWSW means…..
“Some will, some won’t, so what – SWSWSW!”
Early on in my career, I was told to “try to get ALL the partners on the same page and behind your initiatives.” Well, that was impossible. So, I adopted a theory and advised others to look at it the same way – - work with the healthy part of your firm. Don’t let one or two partners side-track the entire forward movement of the firm – work around them. In many cases, once they see success, they will jump on the band wagon (then again, maybe they won’t). So what!
After you read this and then you read Sally’s blog post, you might think it sounds like she and I have faced some similar barriers. We have. So what!
So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.
I was following a link to XCM’s “Our News” page and decided to look around at the XCM website.
I like their tagline – “Making life easier for accounting professionals” and how they have specific explanations of their products for the managing partner, firm administrator, partners and staff.
They have a page called Our Partnerships and if you follow it you see a list of company logos for some very prominent CPA profession resources. The thought that crossed my mind was why do so many CPA firms and CPA firm vendors and advisory resources have logos that are blue?
Sure, the color blue says…. authority, dignity, security, faithfulness, trust, reliability, belonging, coolness. Deep blues mean analytical, serious, scholarly, and academic. Pale blues mean calm, fresh, clean – - – so on an so on. How boring!
More than that, I am proud of women in CPA firms who do not feel like victims and help themselves become outstanding CPAs and influential, powerful women in the business world.
My advice to women working in CPA firms….. If you feel like you are not gaining ground, you are not gaining respect, you are not getting equal pay, you are not being considered for the appropriate promotions… – Do not wait for many years to pass by before you move on to more fertile ground. You are not helpless. You are responsible for your own circumstances.
Here’s some past blog posts that I have made under the category of “women.”
It struck a cord with me on how many times, inside public accounting firms, partners, managers and even team members lean towards thinking, “No, we can’t.”
While it comes to understanding complex tax laws and changing to comply with those demands and performing audit services with the utmost perfection, CPAs think – “Yes we can, this is our profession and we love this stuff.”
Yet when it comes to taking care of their own business, keeping pace with the times and what is going on in the management world, CPAs think, “No way, I like things just the way they are. It’s worked well for us all these years.”
What have the most successful firms embraced? They have embraced a YES attitude.
Nearly 30 years ago, most CPAs did not believe an administrative person could plan CPE, select the right people to hire, lead the marketing efforts and help bring the newest technology into the firm. Then they discovered the power of hiring a firm administrator.
We cannot advertise. It’s not professional and we don’t know how. Yes, we did.
I remember one of my first “No, we can’t” situations. We can’t possibly do away with our legal size files and move to letter size. Yes, we did.
No, we cannot let someone work a flexible schedule. Yes, we did.
No, we simply cannot put a computer on everyone’s desk. Yes, we did.
No, we cannot go paperless. Yes, we did.
No, we cannot allow our people access to the internet. Yes, we did.
No, we cannot get into all of this social media stuff. Yes, we did.
You might not even be aware you are displaying a “No” attitude and demeanor. Become aware! Stop thinking and saying “No” and identifying all the reasons why something cannot be done.
Think of the kid’s show Bob the Builder. His motto: Can we fix it? Yes, we can!
You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
We have been hearing it from the AICPA, state societies, consultants, writers, etc. for many years now. Baby Boomers are hitting age 65 at the rate of 8,000 per day – beginning in 2011 and continuing for 18 years.
Are you in this group? Are you 60 or older? If so, I bet retiring (or not) is on your mind from time to time.
Alan Weiss, consultant, speaker and author of Million Dollar Consulting (and many other books) described his feelings about turning 67 on his blog recently. I think you might enjoy reading how he looks at it. Here are some highlights but be sure to read the entire blog post.
“I have always tried to live life to the fullest. You may ask what alternative we have, but daily I see people throwing their lives away in part and by pieces, which to me is the equivalent of simply taking more time to end it. I don’t believe we’re here to stick our toes in the water. I believe we’re here to make waves.”
“I do know that so long as I’m on top of my game, I’ll keep doing what pleases me. When that’s no longer the case, then I’ll leave that particular stage. Sandy Koufax knew how to do that. Frank Sinatra did not.”
The question for you, as a Baby Boomer CPA, is are you staying on top of your game?
Whether you want to admit it or not, your “game” has changed significantly in the last few years and continues to change at a rapid rate. Are you active with social media? Do you communicate via text with your most important clients? Are you attracting younger business owners and CEOs as clients? Is your firm retaining bright, passionate, flexible people? Or, do you have partners stuck in the “I’m doing it the way I’ve always done it” world?
Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.
I was paging through a magazine last week when I saw an ad for Windex Touch-Up Cleaner. As with most things in life, it made me think of CPAs (yes, I’m weird that way).
Windex has been around for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those brands that people call glass cleaners even if they are another brand. It’s rather like saying, “Make a Xerox copy.” when you aren’t using a Xerox brand machine. “Hand me the Windex” – means almost any glass cleaner.
So, the ad made me realize how creative the people must be at SC Johnson, the makers of Windex. If they can take a widely-accepted, well-known product and keep re-packaging it so that people will buy more, why can’t CPAs do the same?
Watch a 30-second commercial here. Now, consider your agenda for your annual firm day or partner retreat. How could you use your combined creative powers to re-package your firm, your services, or your culture to make your clients keep buying and to make your people keep buying-in to your firm vision?
We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.