“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates
I have coached many managing partners and firm administrators, the two people usually charged with “running” the firm properly.
I have often found that they try very hard, almost desperately hard, to please others. Often they end up doing many tasks that no one really appreciates or even needs.
“I run so many month-end reports out of our practice management system and I doubt if anyone even looks at them,” a statement I have heard from multiple firm administrators over the years. Do you wonder if your partners look at the month-end, miscellaneous reports you furnish them?
Simply stop producing reports that you think no one looks at. The sad thing that usually happens is that no one even notices you stopped producing the reports!
You can also develop a one-page recap of important KPIs at the end of the month and eliminate furnishing all the detailed reports.
This also applies to all the individual tax organizers you might still be printing and mailing (I hope you aren’t still doing this but….). The organizer comes back to you, unopened, with their year-end paper documents. Consider establishing a rule that only clients that ask for (or opt-in for) a printed organizer will receive one. The default is “no organizer.”
If you want to work at a higher level and take on more important work with more responsibility, get rid of the “busy work” no one cares about.
If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
“A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” – Craig Kilborn
Busy season is over. You worked long hours. You focused on clients and probably ignored important things at own firm. You have served your clients well.
Did you, really? How do you know?
There is an easy solution to this important question. Simply ask them.
This is a perfect time to do a client survey. Find out how they really feel and if you are meeting their expectations. Find out what you can do to exceed their expectations. Find out what other services they need from your firm. Find out if they are even aware of all the services you can provide.
If you don’t do a full-blown survey, at least call your “A” clients and ask them if you met their expectations. Thank them for their business. Show them some love!
It’s Christmas Eve. Some of you are working but many of you have the day as a holiday. I’ll be posting today but will also take the long weekend off.
For the weekend – be sure to lighten-up and think plenty of happy thoughts and enjoy family and friends. I hope you’ll take some time to watch this “happy” video – people dancing.
What is different is that it is 1940s famous dance stars dancing to 2015 music. Perhaps your parents or grandparents watched these talented people way back then. It is also something good to share with the young dancers in your family – for inspiration. (I know many of us have sat through those very l o n g spring dance recitals.) This one is only about 5 minutes long but worth it.
You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening, and live like it's heaven on earth.
I hope that you are not in the office today, it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving a paid holiday for almost all citizens of an accounting firm. I know, some of you sneak in to the office to avoid the Black Friday hassles but I hope many of you are taking a walk in a park or woods, reading a great book or writing an article of your own.
It’s a perfect 4-day weekend to think about some secrets to happiness as you build your career in public accounting or elsewhere.
Live and let live – – Don’t micro manage. Don’t gossip and worry about what other employees are doing.
Be giving of yourself to others – – but some structure around your mentoring activities. Mentoring happens naturally inside CPA firms – enhance it and help others.
Sundays should be holidays – – When I began my career in a CPA firm, no one EVER worked on a Sunday. It had nothing to do about religion, specifically, it was just that our founder believed that everyone needed a day of rest, a time to recharge. The more hours you work in a week the bigger chance you will make errors or poor decisions.
Stop being negative – – I see this all the time. I continually say to people working in CPA firms – STOP WHINING! Public accounting is an honorable, prestigious career, you work with intelligent people, you work in beautiful offices, you make friends with other top-quality professionals, you get to see businesses grow and prosper (with your help), you become admired by others in the business community for your expertise – – focus on the positive!
Focus on the positives during this holiday season and carry it through until Spring!
I was reading an article on Fast Company about how Uber approached their markets differently. What would work in NYC wouldn’t necessarily appeal to someone in Seattle or Washington, DC.
When you are branding your firm, serving your clients and hiring talented people, are you trying to do it like “a firm you know” in a completely different part of the country? Perhaps, it is even a very different size firm?
It’s not that any one firm is right and another wrong. You must know your market.
I get so many questions about starting salaries. It depends on where you are located.
What about what your clients like, why they come to you? A lot of it could depend on your geographical location.
Figure out what works for you and then do it.
Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.
Yesterday, on my local TV station during the noon-time news/talk show, the two hosts took part in a trivia game about Independence Day conducted by a local trivia expert. It was a LIVE show, they failed miserably, not even knowing the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. So, because I have been amazed by the stories of so many Americans not knowing why we actually celebrate the 4th of July, here’s the scoop via Wikipedia:
Independence Day of the United States, also referred to as Fourth of July or July Fourth in the U.S., is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire.
May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country.
Never feel guilty about “moving on” when you feel like a mentoring relationship has run its course. Seems like in this day and age, nothing is forever.
Long-term mentoring relationships that continually enrich both parties are rare and should be treasured. They are gold.
However, always be open to exploring new experiences. I usually recommend to my clients that they should collect mentors like sea shells. Let me explain. I am definitely a people watcher and I enjoy watching people stroll along the beach (usually on Hilton Head Island). Most of the shells that end up on shore are broken so when a person finds a whole one they can’t resist picking it up, even though they already have several “whole” ones.
Same thing applies to finding mentors. When you meet someone who like an undamaged sea shell – is whole.. has it altogether – latch onto them. In my early years in the CPA world, I called these people my heroes. I would meet someone at a conference or business meeting and realize they really knew what they were doing. I introduced myself and eventually became very close friends with many. Many experienced, competent, professionals helped me along my career path.
Eventually, some mentoring situations seem to simply wear out. That’s okay – don’t draw it out, be honest, disengage with gratitude and be direct. Both of you will be happier. Always keep the door open for the future.
Steve Jobs said, “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” While I agree with that sentiment, my way is not quite so pushy – – I apply constant, gentle pressure and eventually they lean in the right direction. Constant is the key word.
The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.
I love to walk along the beach at Hilton Head and not only observe the birds, ocean, sky and ships but also observe the people.
As I walked yesterday, my thoughts turned to mentoring and how having multiple mentors is a valuable thing. Many firms are realizing the benefit of formal mentoring programs and are working hard to build strong mentoring cultures.
A question I am almost always asked during my mentoring training sessions is, “Can you have more than one mentor?” I like to compare it to people collecting sea shells as they walk along the beach.
Consider people walking along the beach in the early morning, like me this week, collecting sea shells.
They continually scan the shore for “perfect ones.” As most of the shells here are in pieces, the whole, undamaged ones are rare and precious. Even if people have many perfect shells, they will pick up the undamaged ones. They just can’t resist.
Mentors are like that. As you walk the beach of your professional life, you come across people who have it all together. They are rare and precious. They are undamaged. Search for these people in your life and ask the for help. I have been so fortunate in having had many in my life and certainly more than one at a time.
Some of your best advice and counsel come from these people. I have had bosses as mentors, teachers as mentors, friends as mentors, business acquaintances as mentors and paid mentors/coaches… who became friends… collect them all!
When you are considering a mentor, think of seashells – – when you meet a person who “has it all together” – latch on to them!
If you are a mentor in your CPA firm, please keep in mind that younger accountants are searching for role models, leaders, people who will give them honest feedback and career guidance. Keep your own professional life “together” so you can be an inspiration for the next generation of accounting firm leaders.
Yes, clients can be trained. I know that you are thinking that the client is king/queen and whatever they want you need to provide, referring to it as QCS (quality client service).
Yet, firms that learn to manage and train their clients are not only able to attract more clients, they are able to create a culture where talented people will stay and build their careers.
Of course, talented people staying at your firm is the answer to the succession problem that continually gets so much attention.
Clients that drive your staff crazy (you all have them) should go. Immediately, partners say to me, “They pay us $100,000 per year!” It seems that many CPAs don’t really think that assisting difficult clients is an issue of client service, they look at it more honestly as I just mentioned…”they pay us a lot of money!”
I’ve known and talked extensively with many CPA partners over the years and here’s my assessment of what they are truly THINKING but not saying out loud to their partners: “Yes, we need to out-place a few very difficult and challenging clients… but those are NOT MY clients.”
Here’s what to do. Meet with your partners and identify the clients that give you headaches and heartburn; the ones that continually frustrate your team members. (I have a form I share for identifying that type of client.)
You have probably already done that… several times. But, that where it stalls – partner do not take action. This time take the next step. Set-up a meeting with those clients and have an honest conversation with them about what you and your firm expects from them in the future.
Try using a commitment statement – – identify the things you (your firm) will do and also define the things you expect from them, the client. (I also have a sample of this that you can use.)
After you have the face-to-face conversation with the client and discuss your expectations, if they are not willing to comply – let them go. Better yet, help them go.
Why not simply say, “We have valued you as a client but we don’t seem to be a good match any longer. Let me help you find a CPA firm that would be a good match for you.”
Next, set-up an on-boarding system for clients that clearly defines your expectations and give them a timeline for submitting their information. Preventive medicine is the best.
Okay, you have out-placed a few difficult clients. Now, maybe your team members can work less extended hours this coming busy season.
Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.