Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Do You Like Working In Public Accounting?

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

I was recently reading an article about things to consider when you feel unhappy at work. I applied the items to the CPA profession and from what I observe, I think most people working in public accounting do really like their work.

Do you like what you do for work? Most staffers tell me that they really enjoy the work. They love working with clients and feel satisfied that they are actually helping people with their financial challenges.

Do you feel like you have ownership at work? Firms have come such a long way in involving team members in firm decisions and initiatives. People are encouraged to contribute ideas and efforts to keep the firm on the leading edge of technology and work environments.

Are you encouraged to learn at work? This is definitely a yes if you are working in a CPA firm. You are encouraged and supported in passing the CPA exam and receive formal, firm-paid CPE annually plus the day-to-day learning that comes with client engagements.

Do you feel appreciated at work? If you don’t feel appreciated working at a CPA firm these days, maybe you are working for the wrong firm! I always almost beg young accountants, if they are not happy in public accounting, to try working at another firm before they drop out and go private.

Contemplate the pluses and minuses of working at your firm. I bet the pluses out-weigh the minuses. I also think, that if you stick it out and gain experience, the reward and satisfaction gets better and better as the years pass.

  • If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.
  • John Wooden

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

May Day & Mayday

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” – William Shakespeare

May 1 is the 121st day of the year (122nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 244 days remaining until the end of the year. Historically, it originated as a Roman festival honoring the beginning of the summer season (in the northern hemisphere). Many, when they think of May Day, think of people dancing around a Maypole (a pole painted and decorated with flowers, around which people traditionally dance on May Day, holding long ribbons that are attached to the top of the pole.)

Mayday, an international radio distress signal used especially by ships and aircraft, has a more linguistic origin than the pragmatic approach of S.O.S. Although a connection to the month of May might seem likely, it is actually an anglicization of the French m’aidez or m’aider, meaning “help me”.

Where am I going with this as it relates to public accounting?

You have relaxed, taken some time off and recovered from the traditional busy season. May 1st is here and you should celebrate, but you only have 244 days remaining to focus on making improvements to position your firm for success before you are faced with another busy season.

You, as an individual can’t do it alone. Enlist the help of many at your firm. Never hesitate to say, “Help me!”

  • With the coming of spring, I am calm again.
  • Gustav Mahler

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Merger & Acquisition

“I always say, complacency is the kiss of death.” – Shari Redstone

So many firms that I have known over my many years in public accounting have disappeared. Yes, they have merged-up or merged-in. As founders of many firms have moved into retirement they have chosen to merge rather than pass the firm along to others.

Many other firms I know have become the acquirers. With them, the original firm has also disappeared to be replaced by a new name that incorporates names of firms they have acquired (usually if those other firms are large enough that their name carries significant weight).

Then there are the doubters, the undecideds. They want to grow by acquiring other firms or they want to enjoy less stress from management responsibilities by being part of a larger firm. This group wavers and worries especially if it is their first venture into the M&A world. They are afraid of the risk and wonder if they will actually like being part of something bigger. They worry if they will like their new partners. My advice? Get over it and move ahead. Don’t delay too long or some wonderful opportunities might pass you by.

  • The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.
  • Benjamin E. Mays

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Pretending

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

Do you ever feel yourself pretending that you love your work, your career, and your firm?

From time to time, perhaps we all feel that way. As busy season comes to a close for accountants and their teams, this might be something that enters your mind if you work at a CPA firm.

Don’t hide from it, explore it. Public accounting is a challenging profession. Even though firms have done so much to make work life more enjoyable for their employees, there are still long hours, a certain amount of stress, difficult clients, and various other challenges. If you dread going into the office and feel like you are pretending to be something you are not, don’t ignore those feelings. Decide what you really want to be doing with your life.

The good thing is most accountants working in a CPA firm tell me (via surveys and conversations) that the thing they enjoy most about their career is the work. They love working with clients and helping them succeed. They love the work but not most of the other things that surround the work. Things like keeping track of their time, the long hours, the expectation to bring in new business, the human resources challenges and other internal management issues.

Do you love the work and the firm or are you pretending?

Here’s a good article the gives you a list of the top 10 signs that you feel like an imposter at work.

  • It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.
  • Phillip Green

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Take Your Vacation

“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” – Robert Orben

I have written a lot about people working in CPA firms not taking all their vacation time. Just type “vacation” in the search box – on the right – and browse the various posts.

The fact remains, many (probably a vast majority of) CPAs and other people working in public accounting firms do not take all of their vacation time. Sure, they can bank some of the time to use down the road for illness or family emergencies. That’s a good thing but studies tell us that vacation time is very valuable.

Here are 10 reasons to take your vacation time:

  1. Going on vacation shows you are competent.
  2. No one is impressed if you don’t.
  3. Your team is motivated.
  4. Your team gets more productive.
  5. Being unavailable helps people develop.
  6. You will be more productive.
  7. You will prioritize better.
  8. You let other people be “important.”
  9. Your company benefits.
  10. You need a break.

I recently read an interesting article via HBR – What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time.

The article even states that unlimited vacation policies do not work. Peer pressure is always there. You receive social signals that say you’re a slacker if you’re not in the office.

The company in the article adopted a policy of recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation. After working for seven weeks, you must take a week off. I can visualize how this might work in an accounting firm. Read the article and see if it could be modified slightly to work at your firm.

  • A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.
  • Earl Wilson

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Accountant Saves The Day For The Chicago Blackhawks

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Accountants are often caught up in the stereotype game. Many people picture them as nerds wearing green eyeshades hunched over a desk living a life of little excitement.

Of course, I loved the movie, The Accountant. It was definitely exciting. Now, I know of a real-life, exciting accountant.

He is an accountant by day but last week’s game-saving hero for the Chicago Blackhawks. His name is Scott Foster, an accountant who plays in an amateur recreational hockey league as a goalie. Last week he was called upon to be an emergency backup goalie in the big leagues and he crushed it!

You will love this story – read all about it here. Watch the video, too!

  • I went to a fight the the other night and a hockey game broke out.
  • Rodney Dangerfield

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Circumlocution

“For me, the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” – Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Reading brings me a lot of relaxation, enjoyment, and knowledge. I hope you feel the same way and make reading a top priority.

Of course, you should read the latest and greatest business books but also read for entertainment. I mostly read on my Kindle. I like the feature where you hold your finger on a word and you get the definition. That’s how I discovered the word circumlocution. When I learned the meaning, it made me think of communication inside a CPA firm.

Here’s an example of using it in a sentence: “The firm partners finally shared some firm financial data with us after years of circumlocution.”

Circumlocution definition: The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

Here’s another example that Charles Dickens used in his writings:

“Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving – HOW NOT TO DO IT.”

Don’t allow circumlocution at your firm! Learn more here.

  • I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.
  • Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Generalizations

“Very few of us are what we seem.” – Agatha Christie

Early this morning, in the dark, I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. A brief passage from the book caused me to pause and think about life in a CPA firm. Also, about life in general in our current world.

Generalization can be described as the act of making vague or indefinite statements. Read the passage, below. Think about it. Do you ever attempt to address problems in your firm by making generalizations?

I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalize. Generalizations are seldom if ever true are usually utterly inaccurate. – from Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder at the Vicarage.

Maybe you can find 30 minutes to read this weekend.

  • I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
  • Agatha Christie

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Stay Safe Out There – Two-Factor Authentication

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know that CPA firms are fanatics about protecting the safety of their data. Their clients count on them to treat their information with the highest level of security. I also know that CPAs take this responsibility very, very seriously.

I have observed that some CPAs are not using two-factor authentication with their personal devices and some don’t even know what it is. Perhaps, you feel safe because your devices are tied to your firm and all its security. But, what about your clients and your family?

BillRecently, I have become aware of Bill Hess, founder of Pixel Privacy. On his site, Bill gives advice and creates easy to follow tutorials that anyone can use to protect their privacy and stay safe online, even if they have zero technical knowledge.

Want to learn more? Read Bill’s post, Two-Factor Authentication – What It Is and Why You Should Use it. His post is very informative, easy to understand. I hope you will share it with your team, your clients, and your family.

  • The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it.
  • Dudley Moore

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Accountants As Skilled Writers

“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

Many accountants say, “I’m a numbers person, I can’t really worry so much about grammar and spelling.” I have heard this phrase and very similar ones from CPAs for years!

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed by the misspellings and poor grammar emails I receive from accountants.

As a professional, it is so important for you to share your knowledge so that clients know you…..

  1. Are smart
  2. Want to share your knowledge
  3. Want to help them be successful
  4. Want to save them money

If you send them an email that doesn’t convey these messages, you could be influencing them to go elsewhere. Clients will think that if you are careless with your writing you might be careless preparing their taxes!

Some hints:

  • Don’t make your emails too long.
  • Be sure you use paragraph breaks.
  • Don’t use run-on sentences.
  • Don’t use slang words or crude language.
  • Strive to be clear, concise and brief.
  • If you have a long message – please, please just call the client!
  • You are college-educated – don’t misspell.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • If you have an important topic to convey to a client and must put it in writing, have someone proof it for you before you hit the send button.
  • Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  • Unknown