Friday, March 9th, 2018

It’s Friday – A Brief Message

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Believe it or not, because it is a very busy time of year for most of my readers, I am striving to keep my daily blog posts shorter. It is because I want you to read them!

My husband recently mentioned a phrase (or slogan) that was used when he was in the Army. While most of the things he tells me they said in the Army are not appropriate for me to repeat, this one actually seemed to apply to some accounting firms. He calls it the Six Ps:

Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

  • "Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans."
  • Peter Drucker

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Accountants As Skilled Writers

“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

Many accountants say, “I’m a numbers person, I can’t really worry so much about grammar and spelling.” I have heard this phrase and very similar ones from CPAs for years!

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed by the misspellings and poor grammar emails I receive from accountants.

As a professional, it is so important for you to share your knowledge so that clients know you…..

  1. Are smart
  2. Want to share your knowledge
  3. Want to help them be successful
  4. Want to save them money

If you send them an email that doesn’t convey these messages, you could be influencing them to go elsewhere. Clients will think that if you are careless with your writing you might be careless preparing their taxes!

Some hints:

  • Don’t make your emails too long.
  • Be sure you use paragraph breaks.
  • Don’t use run-on sentences.
  • Don’t use slang words or crude language.
  • Strive to be clear, concise and brief.
  • If you have a long message – please, please just call the client!
  • You are college-educated – don’t misspell.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • If you have an important topic to convey to a client and must put it in writing, have someone proof it for you before you hit the send button.
  • "Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."
  • Unknown

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Want To Be More Profitable?

“A part of kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.” – Joseph Joubert

Per Paul Epperlein of ADP:  Organizations with high employee engagement experience 22% higher profitability.

This is a big statement that applies to your firm. Do you really have employee engagement? You might think you do because you offer free coffee and soft drinks. You offer 9 or more holidays. You have an attractive lunch room with lots of amenities. You have a relaxed dress code and many other little things that make a big difference.

But… also per Epperlein: 60% of people leave their job due to a lack of relationship with their front line manager.

People like to feel connected to the people they work for. They want to feel like they are noticed, included and cared about by their boss.

How good are your firm’s partners and managers at building and nurturing caring relationships with your people? You might want to focus on that more this year. Make it a performance expectation.

  • "The simple act of caring is heroic."
  • Edward Albert

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Don’t Worry About Your Competition

“Do your work with your whole heart and you will succeed – there is so little competition.” – Elbert Hubbard

I have known CPA partners who seem to be obsessed with their competition. What are they doing extra for their clients? Are they allowing their people to wear jeans every day? How much are they paying their staff?

Forget it. Worry about yourself first.

I enjoyed this quote shared by Bill Sheridan on Linkedin:

“Your competition is not other people but the time you kill, the ill will you create, the knowledge you neglect to learn, the connections you fail to build, the health you sacrifice along the path, your inability to generate ideas, the people around you who don’t support and love your efforts, and whatever god you curse for your bad luck.” — James Altucher

  • "There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there."
  • Indira Gandhi

Monday, March 5th, 2018

2018 Top New Products For Accountants

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Just in case you missed it, Accounting today has published their 2018 list of new products for accountants.

Accountants do really use more tools (software, hardware, and other stuff) to serve their clients than almost anyone else. Have you counted the number of different software products used inside your firm lately? I bet your tech person can tell you. They just love managing all that.

Per Dan Hood:

This year’s trend is somewhat different, in that it focuses on a service area, rather than a technology or a type of tool. The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of tools available for auditors, and this year saw more than ever. This matches a growing expectation that this most-traditional of accounting services is on the verge of a revolution — a revolution driven, in no small part, by the new tools available to its practitioners.

Click here to view the list. I think you will find it informative and interesting. Stay curious and improve your practice!

I love today’s quote at the bottom of my blog page. I think it describes a lot of CPAs.

  • "People are very open-minded about new things - as long as they're exactly like the old ones."
  • Charles Kettering

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Decide Who Will Decide

“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney

When your firm was first founded, probably one, two or three partners (owners) made all the decisions. Somehow, as the ranks of partners grew, they all thought that they should be part of every decision. That’s why the role of the firm administrator was created and the joke that resulted was, “How many partners does it take to decide which copier to buy?”

The theory was that administrative and operational aspects of the CPA firm would be under the umbrella of the firm administrator. Still, many partners thought that they should be allowed to have an opinion and weigh-in on the decision to buy anything that cost more than $100!

That decision-making format lasted with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 partners. Then an Executive Committee was formed of 3 or 5 partners who still thought they should be involved in daily operations.

Progressive firms decided that the Managing Partner should actually manage the firm with a chief-of-staff type person – the firm administrator or COO. Of course, owners are kept informed but their job is to take care of client relationships, mentor younger staff and bring in business.

Is it time for your firm to actually operate like a business? Is it time for your owners to “decide who will decide”?

  • "He that has a choice has trouble."
  • Dutch proverb

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

In Public Accounting There Are Always Extra Hours

 “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true–hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” – Ray Bradbury

Soon it will be March. In CPA firms, that usually means even longer hours must be worked now until April 16, to properly serve the clients.

It’s crunch time and if you are working in public accounting you should not be surprised. When you majored in accounting and then joined a CPA firm, you knew there would be a busy season.

In progressive firms, busy season now, unlike the old days, is much more flexible. Team members are able to work those extra hours whenever and wherever. It doesn’t mean sitting in a cubicle for 60 hours per week.

After April 15, it becomes a 40 hour per week job. We used to always be concerned about how to find enough work for team members as the rest of the year unfolded. Most firms have solved that problem and now we seem to have a second busy season during September and October.

Yes, if you work in public accounting there will almost always be extra hours at peak times but you are working most of those extra hours when it is winter. Hopefully, that makes it a little better.

Firm partners, be sure you have an adequate scheduling system so that certain people are not completely overloaded. Firm administrators, be sure you are providing some enjoyable distractions during those dark, dreary, cold, often snowy winter months.

  • "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work"
  • Peter Drucker

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

It’s An Important Role – DOFI

“Without hard work and discipline, it is difficult to be a top professional.” – Jahangir Khan

A key role in your firm is one that I call the Director of First Impressions (DOFI). Many firms have adopted this title because it really is very descriptive. Some firms just say it is their Receptionist or the front desk person. For some reason, and it probably goes back to the old days, team members look down on this position and no one wants to “sit at the front desk” even when that person goes to lunch!

I think you should be very selective in hiring for this position and demanding when it comes to their performance – set some high expectations. It really is NOT a no-brainer job!

Historically, this person just greeted clients and answered the phone. There wasn’t much else they could do without physically leaving their desk. Technology has changed all of that. Now, they can do a lot of what the other administrative assistants do. Plus, phone traffic has decreased in many firms because of direct phone numbers for your team.

One very important task this person should be handling in your firm is the monitoring of 8879s and releasing returns. Many firms have actually established this procedure and it is working very well. Reminding clients and following up if they don’t respond and then monitoring the release of returns is something that can be done without leaving the front desk.

Your DOFI also is an important part of your client service and marketing efforts. They make everyone feel welcome when they visit the firm, offering them refreshments and hanging up their coats. They have a smile (in their voice) when they answer the phone.

Many CPAs have told me that some clients call the firm’s main number just so they can talk to the DOFI. At my firm, we once landed a big client and in their acceptance letter, they mentioned how nice they were treated by Sonya (DOFI) when their executive team visited our firm.

If you are fortunate enough to have a top performer in this position, pay them well. They are worth more than an average administrative assistant.

  • "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
  • Red Adair

Monday, February 26th, 2018

It Is More Than Performance Review

“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

You have read about them, the firms that have abolished the annual performance feedback session. I can understand why. In many firms, they have become a dreaded exercise, dreaded by the person being reviewed and also by the reviewer.

Something that you may have missed is that doing away with the actual face-to-face formal session does not mean you do not provide feedback. That meeting is only one part of a performance management system!

Performance feedback sets the stage for promotions and compensation adjustments, too. If you don’t have the traditional feedback system you must train your managers (and partners) to provide performance feedback on an on-going basis. If carried out properly, I think it is absolutely the best way to provide feedback – immediate and continual. It’s called managing people and CPA firms haven’t been very good at it in the past.

Here is an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby, @HRBartender. Be sure to read item #3, about training managers!

  • "Make feedback normal. Not a performance review."
  • Ed Batista

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

It’s Great To Work In Public Accounting

Maybe you haven’t thought about it lately. Maybe it never crosses your mind January through April, but working in public accounting is pretty cool.

You work your entire career with a group of professionals, people dedicated to helping others. After all, CPAs are the most trusted advisor to small business owners across the nation.

The people that surround you are intelligent, well-educated and dedicated to giving back to their local communities. Some of the clients you get to work with are the movers and shakers in the business community.

You learn something new almost every day and you become more knowledgeable and professional with each passing year.

I noticed this hard-working young man yesterday, a chilly winter day, and it came to mind how fortunate I was (and you are) to work in public accounting.