“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou
One of my favorite sessions from PSTech this year was “Mom, Manager, Mentor…Maniac?” by Lindsay Stevenson, CPA.
I so often hear sad… should I say “sob” stories from women in accounting. They, and often rightly so, are challenged by the difficulties facing them as CPAs trying to advance their careers and the important life role of mother and wife.
That’s why Lindsay’s presentation was so refreshing and inspiring. She didn’t mince words about the difficulties but she was so energetic and positive about the fact that women, working in the CPA profession, can succeed in both roles. She provided a lot of good information and strategies that are helpful to finding work/life integration specific to mothers.
Female CPAs, you can do it too – you can succeed in both roles. What you learn as a mom can also apply to your role as manager at your firm.
Join your local women’s initiative groups or the one sponsored by your state CPA society. Continually reach out to other working moms and seek positive, can-do mentors.
Don’t just let things happen to you – blaze your own trail.
“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.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
Last week, the Ohio Society of CPAs unveiled their new brand. I love the “Advancing the State of Business” focus and the video that talks about what CPAs in Ohio really do to help Ohio advance the state of business.
CPAs in all states are really doing the same thing.
I want to share the video and I hope you’ll take three minutes to watch it.
Is this the year that your firm needs to rebrand itself? Is your logo stale and out-dated? Winning client opportunities and attracting top talent is ALL about your brand. What are people in your business community saying about you?
Whether you do a rebrand or not, why don’t you do a similar video to help your clients understand how you can help them move their business forward. Put the video on your website and use social media to “drive” people to your website. Mention the video to current clients and ask them to share it with their business friends
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
Each year Vault.com, a company that provides in-depth intelligence on what it’s really like to work within an industry, company, or profession, unveils it’s Vault Accounting 50 – a listing of the 50 best firms to work for.
After busy season your thoughts will more strongly turn to your people. Of course, you continue to think about them and their well-being during busy season but probably won’t take action on any items until after April 15.
Here’s a couple of things that many progressive firms are doing:
Stand-up, Get Moving – – Standing desks reduce health risks, encourage more activity (and we all know that more activity is good for us). Accountants sit way too much! Does your firm offer to provide stand-up desks for everyone? Do you offer ways to be more active during tax season (yoga classes, Zumba, or an office basketball league)?
Here’s some tips for office workers to keep moving (from an article in the Dayton Daily News):
Use a printer or restroom on a different floor
Take the stairs
Leave the office for an afternoon stroll or coffee run (walk to the coffee shop!)
Set a notification on your computer that reminds you to move every 30 minutes
Get up to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email
Have a walking or standing meeting (these are very popular)
Stand while talking on the phone (I’ve seen a lot of partners do this one)
Pause and stretch
Take a quick walk during lunch break (I know a managing partner and firm administrator that often take a walk during lunch hour and talk about operational and HR topics.)
The second thing to consider, that many firms are providing, is closing the office on Fridays (or half-day on Fridays) from June through August. There are a lot of variations:
Close for the entire day on Friday (summer Fridays are fairly “dead” anyway)
Stay open but allow half the staff to be off one week and the other half the next week.
Establish 10 hour work days from Monday through Thursday so that 40 hours are still worked.
Close on Friday afternoons (this one does not eliminate commuting for a day which is a big issue).
Most firms tell me that their clients don’t mind at all if the firm closes on Fridays. Check out the website of Payne Nickles. Look on the left at their hours. “Fridays from May 1 through Labor Day we close at noon.”
The problem is not the problem. the problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?
Your workday is very long this time of year. For many accountants, your workday is long almost every time of year. While some people say they disconnect when they get home… most people do not. A recent study found that 50% of people check work email before and after work hours and throughout the weekend.
In accounting firms, I bet the percentage is even much higher. I have heard some partners brag that they are ALWAYS available to their clients – 24/7. Personally, I don’t think that is healthy and a recent study found that the expectation that people need to respond to emails during off-work hours produces a prolonged stress response.
In his article for Forbes, Travis Bradberry, notes that we need to establish some boundaries between personal and professional lives. When you don’t, your personal life and health can suffer.
If you are working in an accounting firm and the partners (or even clients) expect you to be connected 24/7, you may need to set some of those boundaries. Bradberry suggests that you need to take a proactive step and say no to your boss because if you don’t, you are giving away somethings that are very valuable, like:
Give it a try in order to keep your sanity during tax season – set some boundaries. Read more here.
There is some positive news on the topic of women partners. A year or so ago, the surveys told us that the percentage of female partners had declined.
New research from the AICPA has found that women more often attain CPA firm partnership status in smaller firms – those with 20 accounting professionals or fewer.
Women make up nearly half of all accounting graduates entering the profession, yet are regularly under-represented at the partnership level. The good news is that 24 percent of partners at firms are women, up from 19 percent in 2012.
Here’s the breakdown of female partnership levels from the AICPA CPA Firm Gender Survey:
Email is losing the communication battle. Most people want you to text them. Your incoming generation of employees do not use email. Your young clients do not use email.
Not so long ago, you had to be in the office, sitting at your computer to answer and send emails. Now, you carry a small mobile device that allows you immediate connection no matter where you are located.
Your clients know you are looking at your mobile device. They don’t care where you are when they need to ask you a question. So forget the auto-responder. It just fills-up the inbox of the person sending you the original email.
Do not use auto-reply telling people you’re out of the office (for the holidays or otherwise). Either respond, or let them sit until you return. If I send you an email, I don’t really care where you are or what you are doing.
Yes, email is declining but it is not going away completely. It is still appropriate for certain types of communication. I have known accountants who actually brag about how many emails they receive in a day. There is something wrong with that picture.
Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup, it's relentless.
I’ve done hundreds of presentations over the last 20 years and my material has definitely evolved. Yes, speaking to accountants, I sometimes still use bullet points. Hopefully, I am getting better each year.
For you, enlightening clients and potential clients, you have to do it right. Here’s a great slideshow by Seth Godin that he shared on SlideShare.