Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

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

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Do What You Love

I am very lucky. I found a career that I simply love and it has evolved into a real purpose in life for me.

When I was younger, I knew many people who actually hated their job, yet they continued to work at the same place for many years. It always puzzled me. What a miserable way to spend your life!

I believe that the profession of public accounting would be an excellent choice for many young people just beginning their careers. Not every firm is alike, so I strongly warn young professionals, it may not be public accounting you dislike, it may just be the firm you are currently with.

If you are thinking about leaving your firm, please give another CPA firm a try before you leave public accounting altogether. My career growth has been a joy to me without a single boring minute. I have learned so much and, hopefully, have matured quite nicely. And, while I have been working in public accounting for decades, I still love it and enjoy the ways I can strive to help others succeed.

As Steve Jobs said:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” 

I love a recent post by Rebecca Tamsen of Self Development Secrets. It is titled, Do what you love. Find your purpose in life.

Here’s an excerpt:

When you don’t know what you’re passionate about and aren’t doing what you love, your life lacks a deeper meaning. There are several other reasons why you need to do what you love:

  1. You will know no stress
  2. Your productivity will increase
  3. You will remain motivated
  4. Your work will have a touch of passion
  5. You will push yourself to be more successful
  6. You will enjoy a gratifying life
  7. You will always be ready to face new challenges
  8. You will always be learning
  9. Procrastination won’t be your cup of tea
  10. You will be an efficient leader

I feel like all of these apply to me! Be sure to follow the link, above, and read about each of these points. Then find YOUR purpose and do what you LOVE.

  • Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
  • Aristotle

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

K.I.S.S.

“If we stopped doing this, who would notice?” – Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak

From my experience working in the CPA profession, we always used K.I.S.S. to mean “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” – – Whenever I used it, I always changed it to mean, “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.” It is always important to be kind.

In more recent years, we have been talking a lot about K.S.S. – Keep, Stop, Start as it relates to performance feedback. We share with others in the firm what we think they should keep doing, stop doing and start doing. I am happy that I now see many firms using this much simplified version of performance feedback.

I have now learned from @Leadershipfreak (Dan Rockwell) that he has added an “I” to Keep Stop Start to change it to K.I.S.S. and uses it for meeting agendas:

#1 – Keep: What do we need to keep doing?

#2 – Improve: What do we need to improve?

#3 – Stop: What do we need to stop doing?

#4 – Start: What do we need to start doing.

Read more about Dan’s version of K.I.S.S. here.

Most CPA firms have WAY too many meetings. Maybe K.I.S.S. will help you streamline some of them. Also, seriously consider which meetings you can actually eliminate.

  • People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.
  • Thomas Sowell

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Lighten Up – Summer Fridays

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

fullsizeoutput_4085I am going to take my own advice. I’m doing things other than working all day on Fridays! Like last Friday, for example, I enjoyed watching my grandkids paddle board for the first time.

So, this summer I will not be writing a new blog post on Fridays.

On most Fridays this summer, I will be simply posting a link to a previous blog post that I think is important for you to read.

This Friday:

Here’s one from June last year (2016): My View – Casual Dress.

Have a great weekend.

  • A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.
  • Robert Orben

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Think About Quality

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.” – Sam Walton

Many firms proclaim, “We provide quality client service.”

A recent post by Seth Godin caused me to think about quality service in a more critical light.

Is your firm simply meeting client expectations? Or, are you exceeding client expectations? Do dare go for service that is even higher?

socksYear ago at Accountants Bootcamp, we learned that the goal should be much more lofty than meeting expectations.

I you want to distinguish yourself from other accounting firms, aim high and aim to provide awesome client service – you might call it “Knock your socks off client service.”

  • Every great business is built on friendship.
  • J. C. Penney

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Remembrance – In Flanders Fields

poppyIn Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In my small Ohio town as I grew up, the ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary sold small paper, red poppies that we would buy and wear on our lapel, shirt, or jacket. Some mothers wore them on their aprons (back when moms wore aprons). It was a symbol of remembering the brave military members who died in service to our country. It is still a special memory for me. The tradition originated with the above poem.

Learn more about the author, the poem and the tradition here.

  • I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
  • Joh Adams

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Summer is a Good Time to Think

“Training your mind to think is a process not just an activity – it gets better over time and through repetition.” – Jennifer Gluckow

Busy season is over. Perhaps, things are just a little slower in your work life. Plus, summer is a perfect time to do more thinking.

I have often reminded you to THINK. I want to remind you again today.

Jennifer Gluckow is an amazing sales resource. You can learn all about her here. She recently wrote about “Thinking About Thinking” and that reminded me of you – CPA firm leaders and CPA firm employees.

How often are you thinking strategically about your business, your sales, your clients, your future? How often are you thinking about your life? I imagine you rarely take time to slow down, relax and simply think (away from electronics of any sort).

Gluckow recommends ways to maximize your effectiveness at thinking:

  • Schedule time on your calendar.
  • Clear your head before you begin.
  • Drain your brain before you begin.
  • Be totally alone.
  • Maybe some music.
  • Create a peaceful thinking place.
  • 15 minutes a day.
  • Write them down.

Read more about each one of these tips in her article here.

  • Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.
  • Plato

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Finger-Pointing

“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” – Catherine the Great

Occasionally, something goes wrong on a client engagement. Somebody didn’t follow procedures. Someone talked to the client and didn’t pass along the information. A client phone call got lost in the shuffle and didn’t get returned. The list could go on and on.

When this happens inside some firms, the finger-pointing game begins….. “The manager didn’t tell me I had to do that…. The staff person didn’t do what I told them… I put the client note in the file…. I think admin didn’t follow up…. ” Again, the list of accusations and excuses can go on and on.

In the best firms, there is no obsession with placing blame. Leaders and team members put little emphasis on the past, they focus on the future. They focus on how to fix things so that the mistake doesn’t happen again. They learn from mistakes.

Here’s a motto I want you to adopt at your firm:

Don’t worry about why it went wrong. Just put it right!

  • I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart