I have been stressing the culture message for years: If you don’t create, mold, re-mold and monitor your firm culture, it will form anyway and might not be something you had in mind. It might even turn out to be rather ugly!
I was pleased to read, last week, as I followed the Boomer Technology Summit via Twitter that speaker Steven Anderson addressed the topic of culture stressing, “Every organization, whether it’s your firm, your client’s company, or even your family, has a culture, by design or by default.”
Dan Hood of Accounting Today was there in person and wrote a great recap of Anderson’s presentation. It cover’s Anderson’s “natural laws” for creating a place where people will want to work.
On my blog page, I searched for “culture” and found many additional readings you can access if you want to really WORK on your culture. You can access the search here. Do more reading, research, and soul-searching. Then talk with your partners and decide what you want your firm culture to feel like. Next step is to get busy creating it.
When you lavish praise on people they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.
During my presentations, I often ask a rhetorical question, “You don’t have any whiners at your firm, do you?” What I receive is usually a lot of snickers and sometimes outright laughter.
Yes, most of you have them, hopefully not many. The old adage, misery loves company, often applies to accounting firm teams. Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak) addressed the four hidden agendas concealed in complaints in a recent blog post. Here are the four:
“You should have ….”You caused the problem because you dropped the ball.
“What are you going to do about this?” Whiners want – no expect – you to make it better.
“I’m not happy.” Chronic complainers don’t own the real issue. They want something for themselves.
“I want to look good while I talk bad.” Complainers use compassion as camouflage. They’re complaining because they “care”.
“If your clients aren’t actively telling their friends about you, maybe your work isn’t as great as you think it is.” – David Maister
Yesterday, I wrote about making yourself and your firm unique. Becoming well-known for a specialty means you attract clients that need your expertise. It is as simple as that.
I’m an example. I completely focus on CPA firm practice management. I do not work with other professional service firms, I don’t know enough about them. Under that unique niche, I am a generalist…. I don’t limit my CPA firm consulting to just marketing, just HR, just process improvement, just organizational alignment, just technology, just administration, just mergers, etc. I know how to run a CPA firm.
You, as an auto dealer CPA, for example, should know how to run an auto dealership with all it entails. You know about their HR, sales, operational challenges, etc. You attend the same industry conferences they attend and you read the same industry blogs, periodicals, magazines and newsletters they read. You immerse yourself in the auto dealer world. Just like I immerse myself in the world of public accounting.
Each summer (spring, fall, and winter, too), I encourage you to READ. Not just CPA stuff! Read fiction and non-fiction for enjoyment and inspiration.
I am currently reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Henson had a knack, skill, aptitude, whatever you want to call it for finding and hiring the right people. He also said, “The beauty of nature has been one of the great inspirations in my life.”
So, do three things this weekend – read, take a walk, and…. Lighten-up this weekend and enjoy The Swedish Chef making a banana split.
Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it.
I receive many questions about what is often called partner payouts. This article by my friend, Bill Reeb, will help guide you as you tackle this important part of succession planning.
Part Two of the article will be featured in the next issue of Ohio CPA VOICE. When it is available online, I will also furnish you the link to that article.
As Reeb notes, before change is addressed, you have to first address short-term retirement issues…..
Because typically you won’t get any buy-in for change until the partners have looked at whether the current retirement system is paying at least roughly a fair market value to the near-term retiring partners.
Therefore, the first stake to put in the ground for building a succession plan is a fair retirement benefit. Generally, that is made up of two components. The first is a return of capital and the second is the retirement benefit. For small firms (one- to two-partner firms), this equates to buying the retiring partner’s book. For larger firms, it is about paying a benefit for the contribution that the retiring partner has made to the firm.
Be sure to follow the link above and read the entire article.
(Bill Reeb, is that you with Rita?)
If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde
I’m sure you have heard the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It is from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack album and has been immensely popular. Here’s the lyrics to the chorus:
Because I’m happy Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof Because I’m happy Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth Because I’m happy Clap along if you know what happiness is to you Because I’m happy Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
While we often moan and groan about the challenging work inside a CPA firm and the long hours (at times), I believe things have definitely changed for the better and CPA firm employees are happy. While performing my survey work for various accounting firms, I have found that most employees really are pleased with their work and proud of their firm.
Employees in most progressive CPA firms can now wear jeans on Fridays and in some firms every day. Firm leaders are involving all levels of employees in major firm decisions and if they have to work late to meet the needs of a client, they can do so from the comfort of their own home.
There is an interesting article via the Journal of Accountancy titled: How To Increase CPAs Happiness On The Job. Happiness researcher, Marsha H. Huber, CPA, Ph.D administered a survey on happiness to 1,200 CPAs in various industries asking them questions about topics including their satisfaction at work and in life and whether they found their work meaningful.
She discovered three factors
HOPE – She found the most important ingredient for job satisfaction to be hope – the belief in a better professional future based on concrete goals and multiple paths through which to achieve them.
CALLING – It’s a sense of purpose, excitement, and passion.
AUTONOMY – Nobody wants to be stuck in a job with no freedom.
“You shouldn’t have superhuman expectations.” – Mary Blair-Loy
Frequently, it appears to me that some experienced CPAs are addicted to their work.
I think this is a big issue when it comes to succession planning. Sure, the firm’s policy says they must “retire” at age 65. They must relinquish their stock and they do. But many of these “retirees” want to keep working, keep their office, keep their relationships with special clients and not stay at home or pursue other interests.
Most do not have other interests. They believe their career is their life, it defines them. Being a partner at the firm feeds their ego or makes them feel important. Without being affiliated with the firm they feel they have no identity.
There is a great article on this topic on the HBR site. You feel challenged by your work; you’re engaged by it; you’re learning new things; and you have the opportunity to shape other people’s careers. It is extremely rewarding but when you give all your attention to work, you eventually pay a steep price.
Working long hours, taking few vacations and never truly being “off” (due to digital devices) is harmful to your relationships, your health and your productivity. It is also a bad example to set for your employees. No wonder many younger CPAs have no desire to become an owner.
Read the entire article here. It gives you some tips to overcome your addiction. Take an honest look at yourself, whether you are a retiring partner or a constantly busy accountant of any age working in a CPA firm.
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
Your employee handbook is important to firm leaders AND it is important to CPA firm employees.
Most mid- to large size CPA firms have an employee handbook in place. Many smaller firms also have one in place, too. However, I find that firms without a full-time firm administrator or HR professional haven’t updated, or even read, their employee handbook in ages.
Recently, I reviewed an employee handbook used by one of my newer clients. I opened the pdf copy and immediately recognized something about 20 years old and probably straight out of the old MAP Handbook. It was dated to say the least.
Here’s the point of this post: Employers need to have their policies and procedures documented in writing and have it easily accessible (online) to all employees. Employees need to actually read the entire employee handbook and sign-off.
The trouble is that new employees are over-whelmed when first joining the firm, meeting new co-workers and getting up-to-speed on their duties as soon as possible. Often the reading of the employee handbook gets put on the back burner. They may even sign-off without actually reading the handbook. After all, some handbooks can be 20 to 40 pages long!
Eventually, the firm administrator, MP or HR person will be faced with a situation where an employee has violated a policy. During the ensuing conversation, the employee admits they have not read the handbook.
I recommend that during orientation, one hour be set aside for the new employee to have uninterrupted time to read the firm’s employee handbook.
Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
I hope you are a digital firm doing work on the frontier, on the edges of creativity and where answers are being found. The preceding thoughts come from a recent blog post by Seth Godin. I periodically share one of his entire posts because I think they actually speaks to the CPA profession. I love the words, “attitude trumps background”. People may tell you that you are too young or that you are too old. You are not.
It’s not your turn, is it?
If you’re moving forward and moving fast, you’ve no doubt heard it:
People who look like you aren’t qualified to do this work.
Your resume is thin.
You don’t know the right people.
You’re too young to take this one on.
This isn’t for someone as cute as you.
The thing you failed at, all those years ago, that disqualifies you from this.
I don’t trust the ___s.
You live where?
We were hoping for someone younger.
I’m not sure you’re a good cultural fit.
You’re particularly overqualified to do this.
I once knew someone your age/race/demographic and they let me down.
I’ll get back to you.
Hear these lines too many times and you might begin to believe them.
Now, more than ever, attitude trumps background, productivity defeats ignorance, particularly when it comes to the work done on the frontier, on the edges of creativity, where answers are still being found.
Too many people have told you ‘no’. And many of them were wrong. Not wrong about what they wanted–perhaps what you have isn’t for them. But wrong about what you could contribute.
Pick yourself, and keep making art until someone can’t ignore you any longer.
It’s not fair, but it’s better than the alternative.
Don't try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.