Friday, July 7th, 2017

Flashback Friday – The Importance of Persistence

“What you have learned is never enough.” – Cher Wang

Here’s a story that explains the importance of persistence. Persistence has been a foundational piece of my career success. I hope you practice it, too.

When you have new ideas, practice persistence.

Have a great summer weekend.

  • "Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air."
  • John Quincy Adams

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

No Email Day

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.” – Mike Krzyzewski

An article via Fast Company caught my eye recently: My Entire Company Avoids Email For One Full Day Every Quarter.

When you email somebody at LaSalle Network, a recruiting and staffing agency, there’s a one in five chance you’ll get this auto-response: “It’s no-email day at LaSalle Network! Today we’re embracing live communication and collaboration. I’m here, just not in my inbox . . . call me! I want to hear from you!”

For the past three years, the company has set aside one day a quarter to abstain from emailing, forcing everyone on staff to get up from their desks and go talk to one another—or at least to pick up the phone. “It’s easy to hide in your inbox, especially when there’s a client issue,” CEO Tom Gimbel concedes. But he’s found that “live collaboration allows us to be more creative. When talking through an issue, we’re faster at coming up with possible solutions and generating new ideas.”

Why couldn’t an accounting firm do this? Here’s how to experiment – what have you got to lose!

Declare a “no email day” for an entire weekday. Everyone is off email from 8:00a to 5:00p except for two 20 minute breaks to identify any REAL emergencies.

Everyone powers down their email and sets a notification – like the one above.

You must talk to people in person or on the phone.

Assess if it cuts down on miscommunications and actually causes more face-to-face dialogue and communication.

Might be a fun experiment this summer and maybe you will make it a habit.

As the business founder, Tom Gimbel, notes, “It’s not perfect. We’ve had people who do get upset or don’t understand why we do it, but overall it’s helping build camaraderie among employees. And most of our clients and vendors have been really supportive.”

 

  • "The kinds of errors that cause plane crashes are invariably errors of teamwork and communication."
  • Malcolm Gladwell

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Yes, It’s July – But Be Thinking About November

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

An age-old challenge inside many accounting firms is the fact that the business client expects you to do their taxes from a very messy set of books.

I have observed that is usually the case when the business owner has a bookkeeper that is really not qualified (think wife, mother-in-law, sister – you know, someone you can’t fire).

Often, even a very qualified small business bookkeeper doesn’t really understand what your CPA firm needs and how/when you need it.

That’s why I suggest you hold a Bookkeeper/Controller Breakfast for your clients in late November. Invite all your client bookkeepers to the event and offer education along with breakfast and good conversation.

Make them feel special. Provide goodie bags with the firm trinkets (pens, pencils, firm logo post-it notes, candy, gum, maybe even a t-shirt). If you start at 8:00, they can be back in their office by 10:00.

The “program” can be very short and very informative. Explain to them the important role they play in making year-end an enjoyable and efficient experience for themselves (and the firm). It might even save their boss some accounting fees!

Many of them might not have a clue about the firm’s expectations. Plus, I have actually seen them learn some very helpful tips from each other.

  • "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."
  • Albert Einstein

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Enjoy This Special Day!

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” – Erma Bombeck

IMG_5236

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Closed On July 3rd?

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

Firm leaders debate it. Some say yes. Some say no. Some partners think they will lose a day’s production. Some partners think – I don’t care if we close or not, I’m not going to be here. Many partners say, “Let them take a day of PTO.”

FullSizeRenderWhen a paid holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, do we also give our team a paid holiday on the Monday before or the Friday after? Almost every firm now gives the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday. It has become the normal. However, there is nothing normal about the policy for when there is just one day between the holiday and the weekend.

I imagine that the same amount of production will happen this week Wednesday through Friday as would happen if the office was open on Monday. I have found that people work harder if they know they are getting a day off.

On Monday, if the office is not closed, most people will take PTO and that means “someone” has to be at the office to answer the phone and support those who are working (usually partners). That is not a happy situation for those “someones.”

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I did a small survey to see if firms were closing today – July 3rd, 2017. The firms were all sizes from various locations around the continental U.S.

13 – No, we are not closing our office(s).

11 – Yes, we will be closed

One mid-size firm replied that they will be closed on Monday and Wednesday.

One large firm that answered “No” did note that they have unlimited PTO so they didn’t feel any need to close. Still, someone has to be there if the offices are open.

Another firm noted that they designate one floating holiday each year and this year it was assigned to July 3. I like this idea.

My wish is that most of you will be enjoying beautiful summer weather with family and friends. Take a hike, ride a bike, swim, golf, or have a picnic. Enjoy the great outdoors.

  • "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
  • Frank Lloyd Wright

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Flashback Friday – The Generations

“Aging only happens to people who lose their lust for getting better and disconnect from their natural base of curiosity.” – Robin Sharma

There is a lot of info out there about the generations in the workforce. The Boomers are disappearing and the Millennials now number Gen-X.

For this Friday, here is a blog post flashback that will give you a picture of the generations.

Many of you will not be working Monday – so have a great expanded 4th of July weekend!

 

  • ""I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 year older than I am."
  • Francis Bacon

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Training Your Clients

SethGodin“Differentiate to succeed.” – Seth Godin

Love this post by Seth Godin:

Training customers

If you frequently run last-minute sales, don’t be surprised if your customers stop buying things in advance. You’re training them to wait.

If you announce things six or seven times, getting louder each time, don’t be surprised if your customers ignore the first few announcements. You’ve trained them to expect you’ll yell if it’s important.

If you don’t offer someone a raise until they find a new job and quit, don’t be surprised if your employees start looking for new jobs.

The way you engage with your customers (students/bosses/peers) trains them on what to expect from interactions with you.

Drip, drip, drip.

I have blogged several time about setting expectations for your clients, yes training them. For example, training them to submit their 1040 information ON TIME.

As Godin notes, if you continue to accept slow responses from your clients, they know you are okay with them being tardy. If you accept shoddy, poorly document “books” from clients, they realize that they don’t have to expend much effort before they deliver their year-end info to you…. and so on. (We all know the “shoe box” clients!)

The same thing applies to your team. Godin’s point about giving someone a raise once they announce they are quitting sounds awfully familiar to what I have observed in the CPA profession.

  • "Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell."
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Thinking of Suing a Client For Fees? – Read This

“The payment for certain sins can be delayed. But they can’t be avoided.” – Shawn Ryan

IMG_3046I was recently talking with a client about pursuing litigation to collect outstanding fees. It is a difficult topic and something CPAs usually avoid, at all costs.

My good friend, Stephen Vono of NAPLIA (North American Professional Liability Insurance Agency) reminded me of an excellent article on the NAPLIA website titled, “Suits for Fees – ways to avoid them and their liability.”

He, and I, recommend taking steps to reduce the potential for unpaid fees in the first place. It is your best defense.

In the article, it notes that there are three basic billing practices which, when implemented regularly and effectively, can dramatically reduce the number of collection problems your office will face.

Retainers – Retainers should be used on small engagements and on large engagements.

Bill Frequently – Never hesitate to progress bill. A few smaller bills are much better than hitting the client with one huge bill at the end of the engagement.

Payment on Delivery – The preparation of tax returns is a natural for asking for payment upon delivery. I have found that most clients who are new to the firm, actually expect to pay upon delivery.

Follow the link above to read the entire article on the NAPLIA website. Also, take note of the many other wonderful resources on the website. I love the Engagement Letter resource.

  • "The time to save is now. When a dog gets a bone, he doesn't go out and make a down payment on a bigger bone. He buries the one he's got."
  • Will Rogers

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Do What You Love

I am very lucky. I found a career that I simply love and it has evolved into a real purpose in life for me.

When I was younger, I knew many people who actually hated their job, yet they continued to work at the same place for many years. It always puzzled me. What a miserable way to spend your life!

I believe that the profession of public accounting would be an excellent choice for many young people just beginning their careers. Not every firm is alike, so I strongly warn young professionals, it may not be public accounting you dislike, it may just be the firm you are currently with.

If you are thinking about leaving your firm, please give another CPA firm a try before you leave public accounting altogether. My career growth has been a joy to me without a single boring minute. I have learned so much and, hopefully, have matured quite nicely. And, while I have been working in public accounting for decades, I still love it and enjoy the ways I can strive to help others succeed.

As Steve Jobs said:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” 

I love a recent post by Rebecca Tamsen of Self Development Secrets. It is titled, Do what you love. Find your purpose in life.

Here’s an excerpt:

When you don’t know what you’re passionate about and aren’t doing what you love, your life lacks a deeper meaning. There are several other reasons why you need to do what you love:

  1. You will know no stress
  2. Your productivity will increase
  3. You will remain motivated
  4. Your work will have a touch of passion
  5. You will push yourself to be more successful
  6. You will enjoy a gratifying life
  7. You will always be ready to face new challenges
  8. You will always be learning
  9. Procrastination won’t be your cup of tea
  10. You will be an efficient leader

I feel like all of these apply to me! Be sure to follow the link, above, and read about each of these points. Then find YOUR purpose and do what you LOVE.

  • "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work."
  • Aristotle

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • "Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."
  • Mother Teresa