Friday, May 12th, 2017

Leaders Set The Tone

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of M&A activity going on in public accounting.

There are varying reasons but one of the most prominent is the fact that current firm owners have not groomed, trained or mentored people to take over the firm. So, what do you do? You sell-out so you get “something” out of the practice that you have been a part of for 30 years or more.

If you are a managing partner or sole-practitioner and are still several years away from that decision, you are responsible. You are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the future of the firm…

If your people usually arrive late in the morning…

If your people spend too much time on a job because they don’t have a clearly defined budget…

If your people make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed…

You are responsible. It is your responsibility to communicate what is okay and what’s not okay. You are enabling behaviors to continue when they think what they are doing is okay.

Begin planning to have those crucial conversations and maybe you can change your firm future.

  • "We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future."
  • George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Are You Without A Sail?

SethGodinOccasionally, I read a blog post by Seth Godin that I feel I must share with all of you.

Here’s his recent post. Think about it and your firm.

Without a sail

A sailboat without a sail might float. 

For a long time, in fact.

But without a sail, it can’t go anywhere, can’t fulfill its function.

Floating is insufficient.

  • "In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you."
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Clear and Unclear

“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” – Gandhi

Studies tell us that accounting graduates are looking for an employer that can show them a well-defined career path. They want a firm that clearly communicates expectations.

Your firm has worked very hard at doing all of that. When new people join the firm you have documentation that shows them career paths. Your performance evaluation system gives them frequent feedback and sets expectations.

Leaders are pleased and assume all of effort put into developing and communicating career paths and expectations is working effectively. Everything is clear.

But, what about the grapevine? What about the unwritten ground rules that thrive inside every office? What about the things that are unclear?

Leaders tell new people to speak-up, make their opinions known. Peers may tell them to “be careful what you say when Nancy is in the room.” So, it is not always safe to speak-up?

Once again, it is all about your firm culture. If you have a culture that is productive and positive, one where there are few, if any, mixed messages, you will have better employee engagement and enhanced productivity.

Firm culture needs to be a strategic focus and continually fostered throughout the firm.

 

  • "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people."
  • Gandhi

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Conquer The Email Mountain

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.” – Jack Kerouac

I have posted many times on the topic of email. Here are a few, maybe you missed them:

What Kind of Impression Do Your Emails Make?

Don’t Read Email First Thing In The Morning.

CPA Live In The World of Email

If you need to be more efficient with our email, go to the search box on the right and type in “email” – you will find even more posts about email.

Email is one of the most frustrating things in the life of CPA firm citizens. It is often a love/hate relationship. It is convenient, easy and quick. It can also be tiring, over-whelming and frustrating.

Just a few more tips today:

  • Be very thorough when you are requesting something by email. It doesn’t mean you need a long email, just one that clearly explains the purpose.
  • Keep your emails short and sweet. People will glance at your email and if it is long, they will not read it!
  • Avoid sending an email to a big group of people – include only essential people.
  • Be cautious with your signature. Many people have way too much information in their signature box.
  • It is actually okay to NOT use a closing – just end the email. Think about how much time you spend mentally debating whether to end with best regards, thank-you, sincerely, warm regards…. depending on the person you are addressing. Because texts are so widely used, email can also be a quick back and forth, not signature needed.
  • "My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places."
  • A. A. Milne

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Delay and Millennials – Not A Good Combination

“Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” – Charles M. Schulz

Think about it. Millennials have always had technology at their finger tips. The oldest Millennials are 37 years old this year. They are not kids and many are your employees and your clients.

As consumers, they do not expect delays. They are used to having access almost immediately to any kind of information via their mobile device. When making purchases, they are used to having their information (profile) “out there” so they don’t even have to spend time entering specific billing and shipping information. It is not just Millennials, we are all now used to speed when shopping on line.

The younger generation is also used to obtaining answers by looking at FAQ pages rather than calling a customer service rep. According to a Desk.com study, 80% of Millennials find calling customer service highly inconvenient.

Consider how this information relates to your accounting firm.

Your Clients:

Much of your current and most of your future client base expect information quicker. They do not want to wait until you can return their phone call – 4 hours later.

How user friendly and interactive is your website? Do you have a FAQ page to help people learn about and understand CPA services?

Your Employees:

Do your employees have to wait on performance feedback? I often hear about firms that have delayed the feedback scheduled for June until November or December!

Do your employees have to wait, maybe a week or more, on review notes that guide them as they work on client engagements?

Do your employees have to wait days to talk to a partner (the partner is out of the office, on the phone, in meetings, etc.)?

Do your employees have to wait YEARS to be promoted? Telling a new college grad that it might take 10 years to become a partner could be quite a shock.

As a partner group, do you table a decision until the next partner meeting… then the next partner meeting… and then the next partner meeting?

Beginning now, explore ways to speed things up at your firm…. or, you will find your firm lagging behind in many areas.

  • "The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang."
  • Mary Kay Ash

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Older People Might Not Be As Outdated As Young People Think

“When an elder dies, it’s like a library has burned down.” – Old Saying

I recently read a very interesting article on the HBR site: I Joined Airbnb at 52, and Here’s What I Learned About Age, Wisdom, and the Tech Industry by Chip Conley.

Just think about the vast knowledge and experience the accounting profession has among those often pushed-out-the-door Boomers. Here are just a few excerpts from the article. I hope they inspire you to read the entire article.

–I’ll offer you some emotional intelligence for your digital intelligence.

–Many young people can read the face of their iPhone better than the face of the person sitting next to them.

–I was surrounded by folks who were tech-savvy — but were perhaps unaware that being “emo-savvy” could be just the thing to help them grow into great leaders. I realized that we expect young digital-era leaders to miraculously embody relationship wisdoms, with very little training, that we elders had twice as long to learn.

–Boomers and Millennials have a lot to offer, and learn from, each other. Enter the “Modern Elder,” who serves and learns, as both mentor and intern, and relishes being both student and sage.

  • "Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit. "
  • Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Create Turnover – Keep People Moving!

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” – George S. Patton

Think about it. Your firm turns people over on a regular basis. I don’t mean that you have people resigning from the firm. I mean they change jobs inside the firm.

They go from intern to staff. From staff to senior. From senior to manager and so on. The best thing you can do is to clearly define the roles in your firm so that people don’t have to leave the firm to get a new challenge or to enjoy a new opportunity.

A warning, you need to be sure there really is a difference between what a staff person does compared to a senior, and so on. In many firms, I find partners doing manager work, managers doing senior work and seniors and staff looking for work.

This summer, explore the options and do your research. Then better define the duties of each level. Once they can proficiently perform the duties of a staff accountant, they can take on a completely new job as a senior accountant.

Spread the word among clients, the business community and on the college campus that there is a clear, well-defined career path in public accounting at your accounting firm and team members don’t have to change employers, lose seniority, start over accruing benefits to achieve it.

  • "Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don't leave jobs; they leave managers."
  • Travis Bradberry

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

All Those Meetings!

“The person who leaves the room without something to do, shouldn’t have attended in the first place.” – Leadershipfreak

After tax season has ended, many CPA firms begin Meeting Season. I am talking about internal meetings.

Meetings to address issues that surfaced during January thru April, meetings about performance, meetings about goals, meetings about whether to buy new software, audit team meetings, tax team meetings, admin meetings, fun committee meetings, staff meetings, manager meetings and yes, partner meetings.

leadershipfreakI love the quote (above) about meetings from Dan Rockwell  (@leadershipfreak).

Here’s Dan’s 10 Commandments of Great Meetings:

Law #1: Thou shalt always declare the purpose of the meeting before it happens.

The most important work of the meeting happens before the meeting. Confusion about purpose is always the result of inept leadership.

Law #2: All participants shalt understand and agree that the requirements of law #1 have been fully met.

Declaring the purpose of a meeting doesn’t mean everyone understands or aligns.

Law #3: Thou shalt meet to make decision, never to discuss.

Law #4: Everyone around the table shalt have a stake in the pie.

Law #5: The people closest to the work shalt talk the most.

Law #6: The most powerful person in the room shalt talk the least.

Law #7: Thou shalt engage in lively debate.

When law #6 is violated, law #7 won’t happen.

Law #8: The leader of the meeting shalt keep everyone focused and engaged.

Law #9: Thou shalt silence big mouths and engage quiet participants, even if it hurts someone’s feelings, .

Law #10: Thou shalt assign tasks to everyone in the room.

I always urge you to never leave a meeting without an Action Plan!

  • "Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything."
  • John Kenneth Galbraith

Monday, May 1st, 2017

One of My Favorite Topics – Implementation

“A good idea is about 10% – implementation, hard work and luck is 90%.” – Guy Kawasaki

I have blogged about it often. Why? Because there is such a need for CPAs to do what they intend to do!

I like two word phrases and I use them to describe CPAs when they return to their firm after a management conference or after the partner group returns from the annual planning retreat. Do these two, two-word phrases describe you?

Good Intentions
No Implementation

gary-adamson-598x747Last week Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory published an article via Accounting Today titled, Strategic Planning Lives or Dies With Implementation.

Here are his Five Keys to Achieving Strategic Goals:

  1. Limit the plan to 3 or 4 key objectives
  2. Select a champion
  3. Set reasonable schedules
  4. Include staff members
  5. Balance day-to-day responsibilities with plan goals

Take a few minutes to read the entire article.

  • "Do something wonderful, people may imitate it."
  • Albert Schweitzer

Friday, April 28th, 2017

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Because of all the concerns about cybersecurity and the opportunity that it provides for CPAs to provide cybersecurity-related assurance services, I wanted to share a press release from the AICPA this week.

AICPA Unveils Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework

Voluntary Engagement Will Help Companies and Auditors Communicate Cyber Risk Readiness

NEW YORK (April 26, 2017) – At a time when organizations around the world are facing cybersecurity attacks, it is more important than ever for them to demonstrate to key stakeholders the extent and effectiveness of their cybersecurity risk management efforts. To help businesses meet this growing challenge, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has introduced a market-driven, flexible and voluntary cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.

“Cybersecurity threats are escalating, thereby unnerving boards of directors, managers, investors and customers of businesses of all sizes – whether public or private,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, AICPA executive vice president for public practice. “While there are many methods, controls and frameworks for developing cybersecurity risk management programs, until now there hasn’t been a common language for companies to communicate about, and report on, these efforts.”

The AICPA’s new framework will enable all organizations – in industries worldwide – to take a proactive and agile approach to cybersecurity risk management and to communicate on those activities with stakeholders. Two resources that support reporting under the framework are being released today:

  • Description criteria – For use by management in explaining its cybersecurity risk management program in a consistent manner and for use by CPAs to report on management’s description.
  • Control criteria – Used by CPAs providing advisory or attestation services to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the controls within a client’s program.

A third resource for CPAs will be available in May:

  • Attest guide – This guidance, Reporting on an Entity’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Controls, will be published next month to assist CPAs engaged to examine and report on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program.

Building on CPAs’ experience in auditing information technology controls, the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee identified the emerging need for cybersecurity-related assurance services. The goal was to enable companies to more effectively communicate the robustness of their cybersecurity risk management programs to key stakeholders.

“The framework we have developed will serve as a critical step to enabling a consistent, market-based mechanism for companies worldwide to explain how they’re managing cybersecurity risk,” Coffey explained. “We believe investors, boards, audit committees and business partners will see tremendous value in gaining a better understanding of organizations’ cybersecurity risk management efforts. That information, combined with the CPA’s opinion on the effectiveness of management’s efforts, will increase stakeholders’ confidence in organizations’ due care and diligence in managing cybersecurity risk.”

For more information and links to valuable resources for CPAs providing cybersecurity advisory and assurance services, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.

  • "Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward."
  • Maxwell Maltz