People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. John C. Maxwell
Owners of accounting firms spend a significant amount of money on partner and/or management retreats. At these multi-day, off-site meetings they often update or draft their firm’s mission and vision.
People often get the two confused. To describe them simply: A mission describes why an organization exists. A vision is a description of the future.
When CPA firm owners design a vision statement it VERY often sounds something like this:
Vision: To be the most respected CPA firm in our business market providing quality services to our clients and providing careers for our people where they can grow professionally.
Keep John Maxwell’s quote (above) in mind as you approach the topic of creating a vision statement for your firm. If the leaders are not living examples of where the firm wants to go, then the team will not follow. Nor will they be inspired.
To the person who does not know where the wants to go there is no favorable wind.
“If you don’t like being a doormat, get off the floor.” – Al-Anon
There is so much going on right now centering on the topic of women. There are some good discussions and information and some bad.
I still firmly believe that there is a great opportunity for women in the accounting profession and I encourage young, college-bound females to consider accounting as a career.
I have been inside a significant number of accounting firms during my consulting career. Have I seen discrimination against women in the workplace (the accounting profession)? Yes, of course, many times. Have I seen women in the workplace behave badly? Yes, of course, many times. Have I seen women who, in my opinion, deserved to be fired but weren’t because the partners were afraid of consequences because they were female? Yes, I have, several times.
If you want to read some of the many blog posts I have done on the topic of women in accounting, I have sorted my blog site on the topic of Women. Click here to scroll through them and, hopefully, you will read many of them.
Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be dammed if you do, and dammed if you don't.
Many firms have a Managing Partner, CEO or President. Many firms are sole-proprietorships and that owner is the Managing Partner. People within the firm look to the person in this role as the firm leader, the person-in-charge, the visionary.
In firms with multiple partners, the employees also look to the other partners as leaders and expect as much leadership from them as they do from the CEO.
Some of these “other” partners believe that leadership is up to the Managing Partner and that as a client service partner they don’t have to worry as much about inspiring staff or guiding their careers or even about following firm processes and guidelines.
This brings to mind a quote I read recently from Queen Elizabeth I of England. She ruled from 1558 until her death in 1603 and was the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
“A thousand eyes see all I do.”
It was rough being the Queen during those times when even her most personal actions and even her health details were observed and closely monitored by not only her personal attendants but also her subjects.
As a CPA partner, many eyes see what you do. Keep that in mind when you short-cut a procedure, delay returning a phone call or answering a question for a team member.
To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it then it is pleasant to them that bear it.
Then, yesterday, I read the above quote from @leadership freak. I think he’s identified the correct term.
In accounting firms, you do all kinds of things to motivate people. You GIVE them an extensive list of benefits. You GIVE them words of encouragement. You GIVE them flexibility. You GIVE them a cool workplace. You even GIVE them opportunity.
The question is, as a leader, do you INSPIRE them? Even if you are not officially in a leadership role, do you inspire your peers?
Don’t GIVE them things continually. Try BEING an inspiration. Be the leader who works hard but is always available to help others. Be the leader who does not complain about peers, subordinates or clients. Be the leader who is active in the community and has even been recognized for charitable and community work. Be the person who has achieved great satisfaction and success from being a professional working in the accounting profession.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
I have always loved the above quote. It is so very descriptive of many of us and it is a quote that I think needs to be embraced by accountants, CPAs and others working in public accounting.
For the most part, public accounting is very traditional, conservative and risk-adverse. Many times I have heard practitioners state, “We can’t do that yet. Are other firms doing it? We need to see if it works for other firms first.”
I work with a lot of smaller firms and I believe that it is much easier for smaller firms to make significant changes, more quickly, than larger organizations. However, in reality, many small firms are lagging behind.
If you think you can’t become totally paperless. If you think you cannot have virtual employees. If you think you cannot have various flexible work arrangements. If you think your less experienced staff cannot take on more challenging work. If you think one of your long-time partners cannot change their behavior.
You are wrong. Yes, you can!
We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action.
“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” – George Washington
Well-managed CPA firms got the sexual harassment message a long time ago. But, have you continually educated your new team members and your long-time team members about the importance of a sexual harassment policy and how it works?
Your CPAs are advising your small business clients on many topics and making them aware of the need for a sexual harassment policy should be one of those topics.
Sometimes small businesses (like CPA firms and their clients) have a very casual, almost collegiate culture. There is nothing casual about sexual harassment.
Adopt a policy and be sure it is well communicated.
Be sure your people understand what sexual harassment is and what is suppose to happen if it occurs.
Always follow your policy.
Address sexual harassment before it occurs and you must adopt a zero tolerance policy. Many small businesses don’t want to upset their casual culture and try to ease into some sort of sexual harassment policy. There is no easing in – no middle ground. Let everyone know that going forward there will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
If you have a policy and don’t follow it, it is a killer – lawyers love it.
In an accounting firm, profitability is generally the result of the firm’s combined talents, business management skills, internal systems, and value proposition to its core clients. Therefore, many factors must be considered when determining the value of a partner to the firm, for example
What are the technical competencies of the partner?
Are the partner’s technical competencies up to date?
Are these competencies needed by the current client base?
Does the partner add value in other areas, such as leadership, mentoring, and so on?
Can he or she bring in business—the lifeblood of any organization?
Skills alone do not make a good partner. You must also look at the character of the partner, for example
Does the partner live the firm’s core values?
Do staff members want to work with the partner?
Is the partner ethical in his or her dealings with both staff members and clients?
Most firms are too small to have a partner justify his or her existence as solely an administrative, marketing, or human resources partner. Partners need to increase the economic value of the firm.
He goes on to explain that many firms do not conduct formal partner evaluations. They do not require partners to set goals.
Partners need feedback, including the managing partner, if they want to improve their performance….. or NEED to improve their performance.
Excellent firms don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change.
Don’t you feel wonderful when you hear those three little words?
Sure you do, everyone wants to hear “I love you.” I hope you hear them and say them daily. But wait, that’s not the “three little words” I’m talking about.
The three little words I’m referring to are three you do not want to hear. You probably hide from them and deny them.
I hear this saga very often from CPA firm managing partners, “We don’t have a succession plan. There is just no one at our firm who can take over from us. There is no one here that can do what WE do.” My question is “Whose fault is that?” – – – Baby It’s You.
If you are the managing partner at a firm (or a sole proprietor), you are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.
If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the firm…
If they don’t show up at the appointed time….
If they spend too much time on the web and social media for personal reasons during the day…..
If they put too much time in a job because they don’t have a budget….
If they make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed….
Who is responsible for these behaviors? The responsibility for all of these kinds of issues comes back to you…. the leader. Baby, it’s you.
Enjoy the Shirelles singing Baby It’s You.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.