Monday, March 13th, 2017

Give Them A Weekend!

“I’m not driven by killer ambition. I’m not a workaholic. I’m a good team player. I don’t have to be captain, but I do want to play on a winning team.” – Jane Pauley

FullSizeRenderAs March 15th nears, every year, I think of all the people I know working inside growing, successful accounting firms.

They have been working tirelessly beginning more slowly in January picking up speed (and extra hours) throughout February and putting renewed effort leading up to the March 15th due date.

CPA firm leaders, please consider giving your entire staff a real weekend on March 18 and 19 – the first weekend after the March 15th due date.

We did this at my firm for years and it was greatly anticipated and appreciated by our people.

Now, the good news is that many accounting firms have eliminated Saturday work during tax season completely (except for those die-hard partners that always work weekends).

Your team will come back to work on Monday morning with renewed vigor to focus on the tasks ahead, leading up to April 18. Their families will also be very happy.

  • "There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."
  • Aristotle

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Create An Inspired Workplace

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Recently, Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender, posted a story about Kronos (a provider of human capital management cloud solutions) and how they have created an exceptional candidate and employee experience.

“Being a great place to work is quite literally one of a small number of high-priority imperatives that are communicated to all employees each year as part of the company’s overall business strategy. In other words, being a great place to work is every bit as important as our traditional business priorities as a global software provider, such as application development and migrating customers to the cloud.”

Can your CPA firm make a similar statement?

Here are 3 ways to improve the candidate experience. The headlines are from the article, the descriptions are mine directed to public accounting:

Make it easy for job seekers to find and apply for jobs – Visibility on the college campus is imperative. For experienced hires, you have to be where candidates are and that means social media. One experienced tax manager I met recently told me she joined my client firm because she moved to their city and found them online. From her online assessment, they looked like a firm she would enjoy… and she does!

Create a robust internship experience – I strongly recommend that you treat your interns like full-time employees.  Subsidize their parking, provide them with business cards, involve them in all team meetings and in some committee meetings or task forces. The MP should take them to lunch, individually and in small groups, etc.

Give candidates a realistic job preview – Be very open and honest when you talk to candidates. I know a very successful CPA firm that has an extensive interview process. People of all levels are involved and they tell the truth! Working in public accounting requires intelligence, hard work and flexibility. There will be extended hours during certain times of the year.

Read the full article to learn about 3 Way to Improve Employee Experience, too. Upward feedback is part of it!

  • "Human resources isn't a thing we do. It's the thing that runs our business."
  • Steve Wynn

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Top Blogs & Websites for Accounting & Tax Pros

blogaware“Awards can give you a tremendous amount of encouragement to keep getting better, no matter how young or old you are.” – Alan Alda

I am delighted to be included in the 2017 Feedspot ranking of Top 100 CPA Blogs and Websites For Accounting & Tax Pros.

Feedspot allows you to read all your favorite blogs in one place. I am No. 45 on the list.

Maybe you aren’t aware of all the great blogs being written for CPAs. This list will be a valuable resource for you when deciding which blogs to follow and maybe inspire you to write a blog yourself!

Thank-you, Feedspot!

  • "To refuse an award is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal."
  • Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Excuses!

No excuses“Don’t make excuses, make good. – Elbert Hubbard

Sometimes, I see a lot of finger-pointing going on inside CPA firms. “Mary told me to do it that way.” “The partner didn’t tell me it was due today.” “The client won’t return my calls.” – – and so on. You have all heard them or maybe even made several excuses yourself.

I read a term this week – – EFE – Excuses for Everything.

After working a CPA firm for thirty years, I can assure you that I have heard a lot of excuses!

Some excuses are self-imposed – “I don’t have enough experience.” “I’ve never prepared that type of return before.” “I need more time to study.”

Some excuses are truly finger-pointing – “Mary said it was okay if I left early every day this week.” “Joe says we always do it this way on non-profit audits.” “No one told me the client was leaving town.”

Rather than focusing on all of the why’s you can’t do something, how about stop making excuses and move into action.

I have observed that in some firms, a lot of time is wasted trying to find out who was at fault for some mistake or miscommunication. Forget who is at fault, fix the problem and move forward.

If YOU are at fault, admit it, apologize and move on. Don’t waste time on excuses. Banish EFEs from your firm.

  • "Don't do what you'll have to find an excuse for. "
  • Proverb

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

How Do You See Yourself?

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

A very interesting topic was explored in an article via Accounting Today last week by Bill Tsotsos – – Do accountants have low self-esteem?

In his opening, he describes what I have observed, first-hand, in dealing with probably thousands of CPAs over the last 30 years.

Many male CPAs, to me, have split personalities. Or, maybe to describe it better, they have a public persona and a private persona.

Outside the firm, they project (and I think many of them force themselves to do it) a fun-loving, knowledgeable, highly intelligent professional. They have all the answers and love to help clients. They love being around people.

Inside the firm, they display many of the characteristics listed in the article:

  • Poor communication skills and poor social skills;
  • Don’t make/sustain eye contact with others;
  • Don’t engage with others;
  • Don’t take risks (risk-averse);
  • Unable to discern who and when to trust;
  • Fear and anxiety of making a mistake, being rejected, looking foolish or inadequate;
  • Self-focused: Only viewing and thinking of what goes on around them on the basis of their own wants and needs; and,
  • Rigidity: Motivated by fear of doing something wrong and receiving negative feedback. Those with LSE seem to narrow their choices to be safe from erring.

Demonstrating these characteristics does not mean they do not care about their clients, their team members or the quality of services they provide.

I like to describe it as they are not truly aware of their worth, the value they bring to the marketplace. This always comes out when it is time to bill – – they dread billing the client for the dollars revealed in WIP and usually bill them less. They can’t imagine what value pricing would be like!

I once talked with a CPA partner, very well-known and respected in his business community. He built his image up over many years and yet he disclosed that he dreaded networking and when a client came in to talk one-on-one, his stomach hurt before the meeting because he was dreading it.

I have not observed as much of this “split” in female CPAs. They need more of the outside persona.

My message: YOU are worth it! You have spent thousands and thousands of dollars getting your education and keeping current on financial and tax topics. What’s in your head is VERY valuable to others – don’t under rate yourself.

You provide your clients with peace of mind. What a great mission – enjoy it.

  • "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."
  • Buddha

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Georgia Society of CPAs – March Madness

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“The key is not the will to win, everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” – Bob Knight

Many thanks to the Georgia Society for featuring my article, Lessons Learned: Two Kinds of March Madness, in March/April 2017 issue of their magazine, Current Accounts.

I hope all of you who are members of the Georgia Society will read the magazine or access it online.

If you are a non-member, I will be using the article in my upcoming newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Hint: There is the AFMM March Madness and there is the NCAA March Madness. Of course, AFMM stands for Accounting Firm March Madness.

  • "Once you are labeled - the best - you want to stay up there, and you can't do it by loafing around. If I don't keep changing, I'm history."
  • Larry Bird

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – The Generations

“Life your life and forget your age.” – Norman Vincent Peale

The Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation have, for the most part, left the workforce. You are dealing with Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials. Generation Z is approaching your doorstep.

Here’s a recent run down on the numbers. Gen Z, as you can see, will bring big numbers into the workforce.

Have a great weekend!

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  • "A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age."
  • Robert Frost

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

John Garrett – The Recovering CPA

“Comedy is tragedy plus time.” – Carol Burnett

I enjoyed an interesting conversation recently with John Garrett. John is a CPA-turned corporate comedian on a mission to strengthen teams.

John-Garrett-wpJohn found me via a mutual friend, Rob Nance, who recommended John talk with me. Rob was right, I certainly enjoyed talking with John and learning about what he is doing to improve that age-old stereotype – that accountants work all the time and are basically, boring.

As far as boring goes, I know that is not true. I have been working in the CPA profession for over 35 years and I haven’t been bored one minute!

John’s mission is, through comedy, to help accountants expand their universe and share what they really enjoy doing outside of work. He explores this topic on his Green Apple Podcasts. He talks with rock star professionals who stand out at work by focusing on being different in order to get ahead. Accountants, consultants, lawyers and other professionals are doing some cool things after they leave the office.

Sometimes CPA partners are way too secretive about their personal lives. You can actually do a better job of engaging people by sharing more about yourself and what you are passionate about outside of work.

I hope you will help John with his research on corporate culture by taking part in a brief survey on his Green Apple website – it’s anonymous and it takes less than 2 minutes! Also, check out his homepage and learn about all his speaking activities and more.

John has spoken at many CPA conferences, events and to team members at various accounting firms. Maybe he would be a good addition to your Firm Day agenda.

  • "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious."
  • Peter Ustinov

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck

During the month of February, Richard Branson featured many posts on the topic of happiness. He even provided a happiness playlist.

Have you recently thought about how happy you really are?  I recommend it.

Today, I want to talk about the happiness of your team. As a CPA firm leader, are you at all focused on what makes your team happy or are you just trying to keep up with what the competition is doing so you have a good chance at retaining people?

An accounting firm has a variety of roles and a variety of people filling those roles. It can be quite challenging trying to keep people happy.

That doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Make happiness the core of your workplace and begin by listening to your people. Often, some very small things can make them happy – it not always about more financial gain.

I have observed some amazing CPA firms during my many years working in the profession. They offer their people so much – a beautiful office, an outstanding menu of employee benefits, 10 or more paid holidays, four, five or more weeks PTO, competitive salaries, great technology, the chance to work with some really smart people, the opportunity to assist some very successful and innovative clients, recognition in the business community, free continuing education, flexibility and more. But, that’s not enough.

You need to try very hard to always think of new things to keep the team energized and happy. Maybe it’s a chair massage during busy season, a mini-golf outing, a bowling outing, a special catered dinner, theme dress-up days, seasonal parties, etc. Keep trying to surprise them!

The most important thing you can do to keep your team happy is to simply listen. They know what they want and it can be as simple as better communication from the partners or quicker turnaround on review.

This spring, you might want to ask them via an upward feedback survey.

If you recognize people on your team who are not happy at your firm, don’t hide from it – talk to them and if it is something you can’t remedy, help them find a position where they can find happiness in their work – no hard feelings.

  • "You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination."
  • Roman Payne

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

If You Still Don’t Think Things Are Rapidly Changing – Take a Look at TALK

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Think about it. Things that used to take you hours and hours to complete can now be mastered in a matter of minutes. The CPA’s most important tool is technology.

I shudder because I still interact with some practitioners who are not even PAPERLESS! They still cannot review a tax return ON SCREEN!

Talk_logo_bright_green-07663d94ffbd16b53ca1e60cd21c721aLast week I received information about a new app called TALK. TALK can now do the books for a business owner – you should pay attention to this – for no other reason than to realize that change is coming very fast. To put it briefly, your client could talk to the app and it would do the bookkeeping.

Here’s the press release and below is a link to the website where you can watch a short video.

22 Million Small Business Owners and Sales People Struggle With
Bookkeeping and Mileage Tracking.  It Stops Today.

If you can take a picture of a receipt or sales order and talk into your phone, TALK does your books.

TALK Accounting of Tucson announced a new phone app today that lets anyone, regardless of their accounting skills, to stop worrying about bookkeeping or tax deductions.  

Founder KC Truby says “Because of new voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the process is 10- second simple. The app codes, verifies and post your transactions right into a spreadsheet, QuickBooks or other software.”

To assure accuracy TALK automatically double checks the transaction against your current list of customers, vendors and deductions, right before your eyes.  No more receipts.  No more lost deductions.  No more worries about IRS questions.

What if you forget to TALK in a credit card charge?  No problem.  TALK has partnered with Finicity to review all your credit and debit transactions daily. KC says “if we see you forgot to TALK about something, we’ll send you a notification at the end of the day asking for the missing details, long before you forget.”

Tax returns made easy.  When you get a 1099 or other critical documents in the mail just take a picture and talk about it.  The documents are stored online – ready for your accountant.  No more ‘all-nighters’ on April 15th looking for lost documents. 

IRS ready mileage logs, automatically. TALK has also partnered with Automatic.com to intercept a GPS recording of where your car has been. This is data directly from the vehicle without draining your phone’s battery. After a trip, TALK will quietly ask if you’d like to include a business purpose for the miles driven. Just answer the question in one sentence and you have an IRS ‘bomb proof’ log ready for expense reports or tax returns. 

No learning curve. TALK has teamed up with Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanner for 1 button push to upload documents whenever needed from a scanner. On the app side, the artificial intelligence codes your transactions for you – that means you don’t need accounting skills, just follow the app’s instructions and you’re left with rock-solid books.

Here’s a link to more information on the TALK site. Be sure to watch the short video at the top of the page.

 

  • "Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant."
  • Colin Powell