Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Clients See Accountants As Reactive Rather Than Proactive

drewRead a good article by Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor on the JofA site: Competitive edge: The software vendors’ view.

For years we have been talking with practitioners about being proactive. Most tell us they are caught in the “reactive” trap because they are too busy to plan ahead. They are always putting out fires. Poor excuse.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Clients will be looking for help interpreting data and developing strategies for success—a view echoed in the most recent report by The Sleeter Group on what small and midsize businesses want from their CPAs, which found that the top reason clients leave their accounting firm is that it did not provide proactive advice. A recent poll of 393 small business leaders by hardware and software provider Wasp Barcode similarly showed that more than 4 in 10 complained that their accountants are more reactive than proactive.

  • You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.
  • Carl Jung

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Be Sure Your Firm Is Flying!

I read this quote in the Wright Brothers book and I thought of all of my CPA firm friends….

IMG_1568 - Version 2“Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come up and smite thee.” – William Kershner, pilot and author of numerous flight manuals between 1958 and 2002 that are regarded as “a must for any person learning to fly.

How are you doing at keeping your firm’s “airspeed” up? Some firms continually struggle with implementation. I almost always tell my audiences that what I am about to share with them is the same thing consultants have been sharing with them for about 20 years! There are some variations and of course some current trends but the basic concepts remain the same. Here are a few:

  • Treat your people well and they will take great care of your clients.
  • Hire the best, don’t settle for mediocre people. As Jack Welch says, “The team with the best players wins.”
  • Embrace change!
  • Embrace practice development (marketing, sales, building relationships).
  • Get rid of the bad apples (they ruin the whole barrel) – – applies to clients and staff.
  • Hold partners accountable.
  • Your admin team can make you or break you.
  • Try things! Do things! Take action!

I want your firm to feel the exhilaration of flight. I don’t want “the earth to come up and smite thee”.

  • More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
  • Wilbur Wright

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Time For Something Off-Topic, Humorous Or Even Weird

This week’s “lighten-up” post is more of a reflective nature. I continuously urge you to READ, READ, READ.

It doesn’t have to be books specifically about business. I get much of my inspiration for my writing and speaking from brief passages I read in books of all genres. I read historical fiction, lots of mysteries, some contemporary horror (think Stephen King). Read some books that make you laugh. I cannot read Dave Barry on an airplane because I can’t help laughing out loud (people give you strange looks).

As for business, on the right-side of this page you can select a month from the archive. Go to May, 2013 – Beginning on Monday, May 20th I feature business books on a “book week” post.

IMG_5749I’ve just started reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. There was a lot of interesting local news coverage here in Dayton when McCullough was here to research and then launch the book. Here in Dayton we are very proud of the Wright Brothers and I have always been interested in their story. My husband and I have visited the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park many times, the Wright Brothers Memorial and walk weekly at Huffman Prairie.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

In a speech years later Wilbur would remark that if he were to give a young man advice on how to get ahead in life, he would say, “Pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

The brothers were printers/publishers before they became aviators. They published a small community newspaper and selected items from other publications that they judged worthy of the readers’ attention such as “Encourage Your Boy” from Architect and Building News:

Do not wait for the boy to grow up before you begin to treat him as an equal. A proper amount of confidence, and words of encouragement and advice… give him to understand that you trust him in many ways, helps to make a man of him long before he is a man in either stature or years. If a boy finds he can make a few articles with his hands, it tends to make him rely on himself. And the planning that is necessary for the execution of the work is a discipline and an education of great value to him.

It is interesting how the above item, from the Wright Brothers’ newspaper published in 1889, applies to how you treat your young team members as they enter the profession of public accounting.

  • We were lucky enough to grow up in a environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate what ever aroused curiosity.
  • Orville Wright

Monday, August 10th, 2015

No Email. No Meetings. No Managers. Maybe You Should Think About It?

I know that most CPAs firms live and die by email. Most CPA firms also have way too many meetings.

My mission is to bring you new ideas. Some are a slam-dunk. The idea makes sense to you, you discuss it and give it a try. Sometimes, magic happens!

Some ideas are more “out there” for CPAs (like an open office, no limit vacation policies, 3-word performance review systems and so on). Some are WAAAAAY out there for CPAs, thought-provoking things to at least seriously contemplate and maybe even experiment with.

For instance, no internal email, no meetings, no managers. Just take the time to read this article about a tech company (yes, I know, tech companies are different) – so are CPA firms.

What if you communicated internally in real-time? What if you used a control panel type software that gave you access to all projects (client engagements and other work) and you could see what has been done from beginning to end of the project?

Read about how they eliminated meetings. A meeting is an interruption, usually to find out how everyone is doing on their assigned projects. What if you had fewer interruptions and could continually get more done? You could have a 4-day work week like this tech company.

Then there are the managers. I have long thought that the title manager inside a CPA firm is very misleading. We don’t teach them how to manage. They become a manager because they stay with the firm long enough, doing work they are proficient at. Here’s an excerpt from the article: “Lastly, we determined over a year ago that we wanted to work without managers. Now we do not need someone to control our progress, because everything is online and visible to all of our workmates — which project we are working on, how we are handling it technically, how long it is taking us, what resources we are using, and what results we have achieved.”

Just contemplate what pieces of this, or variations of this, might just fly inside your progressive firm.

  • There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Always Carve Out Time to Think

With my clients, I continually stress the importance of taking time to THINK. I also blog about it often. I was inspired by the story of Thomas Watson, Chairman & CEO of IBM from 1914 until 1956.

This summer, please take your vacation, take an extended weekend to get away, or occasionally report to the office that you simply won’t be in today… better yet – do all three.

I enjoyed a recent article from Fast Company (by Laura VanderkamIMG_5547) about how to create your own mini-retreat. It’s the story of how an author carved out time for a mini-retreat so she could create, think and work without distractions.

Are you a key leader in a CPA firm? Are you an accountant (young or old) who wants to advance in their career and be a bigger contributor? Then, carve out some time in your busy life to think and create.

Honestly, I am very tired of hearing, “I’m too busy!” every time a great idea needs to be implemented in a growing accounting firm. You choose to be busy, sometimes to avoid the fact that things need to change.

When you carve out some time (even a few hours) here are some tips from the article:

Why? – – Getting away is great but without intention it’s a vacation, not a retreat. Ask yourself what you would like to achieve.

Claim Your Time – – Determine what needs to happen to make getting away for a short time possible. Who will pick up the kids and take care of other daily responsibilities? Mark your personal retreat time on your calendar in advance.

Choose your space – – Check into a hotel alone. Borrow a friend’s vacation house or simply go to a library or to Barnes & Noble for a morning. Maybe your could go fishing or walk on a beach and let your mind wander.

Discipline – – Don’t check your phone. Avoid being disturbed by social media, emails or calls.

Read the entire article here.

  • For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
  • Lily Tomlin

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Two Million Hours Per Year on Performance Management

Maybe you read the article back in April. It came across on Twitter again this week.

It is on the Harvard Business Review site and is from their April, 2015 issue and it is about a Big Four firm that has drastically changed their performance feedback approach. The article – Reinventing Performance Management is by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

It goes something like this (and it makes sense). The big firm realized how labor intensive it is to gather, analyze, collaborate on and provide feedback on performance. The end result being that the feedback was not that helpful. They need something nimbler, real-time, and more individualized. I like that terminology. The Big Four and all of us working in CPA firm management want something focused on fueling performance in the future rather than assessing it in the past.

I have been saying for many years that if you don’t update your performance management system, everyone ends up dreading them – the people getting feedback and the people giving feedback. It is looked at as drudgery.

This particular Big Four firm found that their old way of creating the ratings consumed close to 2 million hours a year!

Please follow the link and read about the 4 future-focused statements that leaders/managers at the firm are being asked about their subordinates.

They are asking leaders what they would do with their team members, not what they think of them. I like that.

What I don’t like, personally, is that a Big Four firm gets written up in the Harvard Business Review for enacting this wonderful process and if you talk to people in the local offices, the well-publicized national initiatives (whatever they may be) are not being implemented.

Local and regional CPA firm partners, look at YOUR process this year and determine if it is time to revise it. Once revised, I know you will implement! It is part of your ammunition for retaining top performers.

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

A Shared Economy CPA

IMG_5667If you follow this blog regularly (you can sign-up for email updates on the right side of this page), you know I have been on vacation.

On the long drive home, I caught up on some reading. Yes, I actually had the paper copy of Accounting Today with me.

I really enjoyed the article by Tamika Cody titled, A CPA For The Shared Economy. Be sure to read it!

Derek Davis, discovered a need, an opportunity and pursued it! People working in the shared economy as independent contractors, need professional advice. He realized the confusion they faced with taxes. So, he left his Big Four position, followed the road to independence and launched a virtual accounting practice.

Stories like this are unfolding across the country. “Traditional” CPAs are becoming “New Age”!

How about you? No matter what your age – new opportunities, many that are actually more challenging, interesting and exciting are developing.

Are you and your firm ready for the future?

  • In case you never get a second chance: don't be afraid! And what if you do get a second chance? You take it!
  • C. JoyBell C., author

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Plod or Practice?

IMG_5278I am reading a new book. Just started it this week. The title is Practice Perfect, 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi. They are teachers and admit that they see the world from an educator’s perspective.

However, the book has a broad reach and definitely applies to the public accounting profession. After all, CPAs are teachers/educators in many aspects.

You teach your young accountants, in a large degree, by repetition. If they execute a certain procedure (maybe it’s a task that is part of an audit) they will eventually become very skilled at it. What if what they are doing is not the best, most efficient way?

Have you ever considered the mere fact of doing something repeatedly does not help us improve?

You have probably heard the stories about Robin Williams and how he practiced, tweaked, and practiced some more and it all looked so natural. In the Foreword of this book, written by Dan Heath, he tells the story of Chris Rock and how he would go to a small comedy club and try out new material, make note of audience reaction and make small changes, get rid of what didn’t work and get better by experimenting 40 times or more before he did it on Letterman.

Heath asks, “Will we be content to cruise along on autopilot or will we scramble and suffer to get better? Will we plod or will we practice?

I see a whole lot of plodding in accounting firms.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” – – Michael Jordan

Keep in mind, practice requires humility. It forces us to admit that we don’t know everything. Take time to contemplate how you train and educate inside your firm. Even the most experienced accountant should have a practice mindset. You must get better at getting better.

  • To practice isn't to declare, I'm bad. To practice is to declare, I can be better.
  • Dan Heath

Friday, May 8th, 2015

The Challenges of Developing Leaders – Get Real With Your Competency Models

Leadership development is not just a challenge for the CPA profession. $14 billion is being spent by U.S. corporations annually on leadership development and yet, public confidence in leadership has dropped considerably. 70% of Americans believe there is a leadership crisis that will lead to a national decline unless we find better leaders.

How’s that going at your firm? Inside your CPA firm, I imagine you have been spending lots of dollars on development of the next generation of firm leaders. Has the confidence, among your current leaders and your employees, in regard to future leaders increased or decreased in recent years?

According to an article on clomedia.com (Chief Learning Officer), if leadership programs do not produce the bench strength, performance and behaviors desired, one or more of six problems could be the culprit.

The one I want to focus on today is the CPA firm competency models. Here’s a quote from the article that sure got my attention:

“Competency models also can be used to define leadership. But competency models are idiosyncratic lists of skills and abilities composed by asking senior managers what is needed to lead in particular jobs. Because few senior managers are good leaders, asking them about effective leadership is like asking a doctor for investment advice. He or she probably has an opinion, but it may not be a good one.”

It is my observation that most firms simply obtain their competency models by copying other firms or using the standard resources provided by the AICPA and other broad resources specifically for the CPA profession.

Here are the six problems:

The evaluation problem – It is a dirty little secret that leadership development programs are rarely evaluated in a meaningful way.

The definition problem – Evaluation requires specifying desired outcomes, and this requires defining leadership correctly.

The people problem – Many of the people who attend leadership development programs are drawn to high-status and high-paying leadership positions, but they have little talent for leading a team. (Need I say… Amen!)

The content problem – Little of what is taught in leadership programs concerns the actual tasks of leadership.

The pedagogy problem – Most leadership programs are taught in inappropriate ways. They tend to be events with little follow-up support or accountability for transferring learning back to the job.

The rationale problem – Leadership development programs are often launched for questionable reasons.

Where do you go, what do you do? Read the detail in this article and discuss it with your partners and other internal leaders. The article provides seven recommendations that are not expensive but do require learning leaders to think differently about leader development.

  • Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, February 13th, 2015

First Female CEO of a Big Four Accounting Firm

I like the headline. To be honest, I had to chuckle when I read the opening line of the Accounting Today article, because they called one of the Big Four an accounting firm, something that the big 4 seem to shy away from. And, realistically, they are much more than accounting firms.

CathySMSeriously, I love what Cathy Engelbert, new CEO at Deloitte said about fostering women leaders in the accounting profession. I also definitely support her comments about taking risks. I find that women in accounting whine about being passed over for leadership positions, yet they shy away from taking risks, branching out and learning more.

Comments from Engelbert about making the most of experiences she was given:

“For me, this was about the experiences that I was given. I took some risks in my career to get a wider variety of experiences to be considered for a role like this, including sponsors, and partners who sat in rooms when there were deployment decisions being made on difference experiences. They would say, ‘Let’s let Cathy do this.”

We often talk about partner complacency at many successful accounting firms. I also believe that there is female manager complacency. They get promoted to manager, their earnings continually climb – – so why change?

You, as my audience, know how much importance I place on mentoring. Be sure to assess it inside your firm – work on making mentorship and sponsorship a larger part of your culture. Here’s Engelbert’s comments:

“Sometimes if you have a mentor who’s not in the room at the time they’re making decisions about the experiences you might be eligible for, you don’t get the development you want. Mentorship is really important for your own personal development, making sure that you’re seeking the right opportunities and then having the right people in the room when those decisions are being made about your deployment or the opportunities you might have.”

I urge you to read the Accounting Today article and share it with others inside your CPA firm. Be sure you take note of the comments about audit.

 

  • Our young people are excited that we're using technology in different ways to deliver the audit.
  • Cathy Engelbert