With Memorial Day behind us, we now thinking summer. Ah, summer…… at least as far as the weather goes. Although, in some parts of New England they had significant snow on Memorial Day.
Yes, that reminds me of life inside an accounting firm. Just when you think the worst of “it” is over, you get hit with a blizzard. Many firm leaders are telling me that we got what we wished for.
What I mean by that is, if you have been working in public accounting for 15 or 20 years you might remember that we agonized over the fact that we couldn’t keep people busy in the summer. We worked very hard at identifying niches and services where our people could be productive all year long.
What I am hearing from many CPA firm leaders is that there is no “down” time any more. We go from year-end season (the time from January through April when we provide tax and accounting services to our clients with December year-ends) into non-profit or pension audit season (summer), into our Fall tax season (working on all those extended returns due 9/15 and 10/15) into year-end planning season.
Seems like we got what we wished for and now it’s becoming very painful. Today, I just want to remind you that yes, client service and making a profit are very important but please don’t forget… as beautiful summer weather sweeps across the country, that Life is also important.
So – QUICKLY – get your vacation scheduled and don’t delay or postpone it. Be sure your entire team does the same.
Meeting the needs of clients is important but so is down-time, vacation-time and think-time. Embrace them all with enthusiasm. As a firm leader it is important that you set the example. If you are working 3,000 hours per year, who would ever want to be an owner in your firm? – - What’s important? It’s ALL important.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
If you want to see for yourself, simply Google Sheryl Sandberg and see all the chatter out there about her and the book. I think it is a great read for both men and women and I understand that lots of men are actually reading it.
I liked it. Many of the topics she covers have been covered in multiple books on the topic of women at work (and she gives credit to all her sources), however, I appreciated having lots of great data in one book. Many of her stories are classic.
My favorite is the Heidi/Howard study – watch this short video where Oprah and Sandberg discuss the Heidi/Howard study and ask the question: Can a businesswoman be nice and competent? The Heidi/Howard research supports what has already clearly been shown: success and likeability are positvely correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.
Here’s a promo video about the book – being a promo, of course it is all positive. Whether you are a man or a women in business, do some research yourself – read the book and decide if it applies to you (and your spouse).
If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on.
I have been talking and writing about the need to keep women in public accounting for years (and years).
It is once again in the spotlight mostly because of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Because of her high profile, success in the business world and I guess you could say her clout – people pay attention. They read her book. They like it or they hate it. They criticize or applaud via social media. Once the hoopla dies down, life will go on, especially inside CPA firms.
What matters to me most about women’s initiatives in public accounting is the fact that while there is a need, there is also a need for retaining young men in public accounting.
If you are not familiar with The Shriver Report, take a few minutes and read the executive summary. The report describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. For the first time in our nation’s history, women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. This is a dramatic shift from just a generation ago. The Shriver Report is not just a woman’s story.
In today’s families, both parents work. Both need flexibility because they are raising their families and taking care of households as a team.
I think it can be described best by what a female CPA said to me during one of my presentations, “When we have a sick child, we flip a coin to see who stays home.”
In the “old days” men did the yard work, took care of the car, coached the little league team and did handyman duties around the home. Women shopped, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and, if they worked outside the home, they stayed home when a child was sick.
Dads are so much more involved on the home front these days. So, don’t forget that male CPAs also need flexibility while they are building their careers in public accounting. I would like you to establish a flexibility initiative, a family initiative or simply a “life” initiative to support your team members, both married and single, who have other priorities outside of the office.
I love this Tide commercial. While you might think this is a stay-at-home Dad, I like to think that he does the laundry and is also a CPA with a full-time job outside the home.
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.
I think all of you know that I try my best to keep you informed of the various products and services “out there” in the accounting world that might help you make your CPA firm a better place. I like to share topics that might help you build strong teams within your firms and also help you serve clients.
Today, I just wanted to share this video because it is interesting, fun and beautifully done.
Experts tell us that we learn more and better when we are told a story. Check out this story of a small business owner, Arthur, a tree-house architect, Lucy, his bookkeeper and Charles Green, his accountant.
Are you telling stories about your firm and how you serve clients?
When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.
I still meet many CPA firm owners who have never heard Ron Baker speak, nor read any of his books, blogs or articles. If you fit into that category and want to learn a whole lot in a very short time, read Baker’s guest blog post on the Xero blog site.
Baker explains the concept of Fixed Price Agreements (FPAs). If you are caught in the we-can-only-bill-by-the-hour trap, it’s time to broaden your horizons.
Take a few moments to read his brief explanations of each of the following points that clearly describes just some of the advantages of the FPA:
Pre-qualifies the customer
Opportunity to cross-sell
Value pricing gains “ego investment” from the customer
Quoting fixed prices projects confidence and experience
Increases a customer’s switching costs
Forces your firm to be effective
Overcomes buyer’s emotions
The firm maintains the pricing leverage
Prices can be increased each year
Provides a competitive differentiation
Just like many CPAs are unfamiliar with Baker, many have never heard of The Association For Accounting Administration (and it’s been around for 30 years). AAA is the national association for “professionals managing accounting firms.”
Ron Baker will be speaking at the Ohio Chapter of AAA meeting in Columbus, Ohio on May 16, 2013. It’s a special opportunity for CPAs and firm administrators in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to simply drive a few hours to Columbus and hear Baker speak about value pricing in person and have the chance to ask lots of questions. Believe me, the room will be filled with high-energy.
Your can register online here. I’ll be there and hope to have the chance to meet and talk with you, too.
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
CPA firm branding is often misunderstood. It is not spending a fortune on a full-blown branding project nor is it as simple as redesigning your logo.
I love Jean’s description…. “Simply put, it is who people think you are, from the way a person answers the phone, to the way you do business, to the look of the invoice.”
That’s where I think CPA partners might get off-track and try to pinpoint developing a brand into a specific activity when actually it is the whole story of how you run your firm.
When I was developing the brand for my firm, many years ago, I always declared to my partners and team members…. “We want to appear bigger and better than we are!”
For example, when business people at a business networking event or charitable fund-raising event said to me, “Your firm must really be growing, I just met three other people from your firm.” It didn’t necessarily mean we were growing, it just meant we organized our efforts to be well-represented at important events. Of course, we were actually growing but maybe not as fast as was perceived from the outside.
In her article, Jean recommends surveyingyour partners and people to determine what the firm stands for, what the unique strengths of the firm are and what attracted them to join the firm and remain with the firm.
Follow the link above to read Jean Caragher’s helpful article.
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
It’s an on-going issue inside CPA firms, getting young accountants to pass the CPA Exam.
One of the most important things you can do, when hiring, is to set the expectation right away. When I was working inside a successful, growing firm, we only interviewed college students who had the necessary 150 hours. We called them “exam ready” candidates. Our managing partner personally took an interest in their progress and openly declared, “We are a CPA firm. We need CPAs.”
Our friends at Bisk Education have developed an infographic that you might want to share with those in your firm who have not yet passed the exam.
Guess what? Not necessarily because of me but because of many advisors to the CPA profession, firms got with it and updated their websites. During the last couple of years there has been a lot of updating going on. I don’t often run into the very old-fashioned, boring template used in the early years.
So, what’s bugging me? Now, almost every CPA website I visit looks exactly the same!!
Okay, got that out of my mind and, hopefully, into yours.
We need to get out of the mindset that we have to do what every other CPA firm is doing. I challenge you, this year – 2013, to figure out how to actually be different than your competitors. Accountants all seem the same to most outsiders (and potential clients). They usually hire you because one of your clients said you provide really great service. Do you?
Why not make 2013 the “year of phenomenal client service.”
If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.
People work for many reasons. Some work for personal fulfillment, some for accomplishing certain personal goals and some because they like the interaction with people. Some people simply find work that they love and stick with it. That’s the category that I believe most accountants fit in. I talk accountants across the country and almost every one of them say “I love what I do. I love the work.”
However, the bottom line is that almost everyone works for money – compensation and benefits. Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstone of a successful business. Don’t underestimate the importance of this foundational piece of why your employees stay with you.
So, you provide competitive pay and solid benefits. How do you then motivate people? Reward and recognition guru, Bob Nelson, says “More than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem.” Many years ago I heard Dr. Bob Nelson speak and I believe he was one of the first people to inspire me to RECOGNIZE people and their efforts.
Yesterday, I was honored to be part of a great employee recognition event for the team at Accounting & Consulting Group, a growing CPA firm in the Southwest. Over 100 people came together from all seven offices for the 7th Annual ACHIEVE Awards Day. Each year there is a theme. This year it was Rock & Roll and there are awards for the best costume. Each office did a 3-minute rock video that was shown at the event, there was the state of the firm address by Ray Roberts, there was a fun team-building exercise and I got to talk about teamwork, each person’s role in practice growth and the power of client service. The day ended with the ACHIEVE award presentations (one for each letter in ACHIEVE). Team members nominate people for one of the 7 awards – finalists are named and the winner announced.
It is a major statement for a CPA firm to close ALL their offices and bring everyone together. At yesterday’s event, people were having so much fun, they were enjoying meeting face-to-face some team members they had only talked to via phone.
Many firms do similar events. YOU can do this for your people.
Pictured: Award winner Robert Gonzales and Team Member of the Year, Shelley Olson.
Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they're doing it because they care about the team.
Patrick Lencioni, author of 5 Dysfunctions of a Team