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

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Be Sure You Are Listening

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

You have a lot on your plate, whether you are a partner or a first year team member. It’s a busy time and you are in a constant state of hurry-and-get-this-done.

Keep in mind that THE CLIENT is not realistically aware of the amount of work you are processing. They only know that you and your firm are taking care of THEM. It is important to remain focused on their needs and to keep in mind how you look from their viewpoint.

Never let them think you are TO BUSY for them.

Several years at my firm, we had a ban on the word BUSY. If anyone said the word they had to deposit a small fee into the busy jar. The theory was not to ever let clients, prospective clients and referral sources think we were too busy to take on NEW clients.

How do you communicate your intent? Here’s an example.

The firm that prepares my personal/business tax returns, Nolan Giere in Troy, Ohio, recently sent out their Winter 2017 newsletter. In the comments from the managing partner, Tom Giere states:

“We will do our best to fully understand your unique situation so we can do the very best job for you. We also encourage you to ask questions. We are not too busy, we do not mind the interruptions, and we know that the more informed you are the better can serve you.”

Be sure you are communicating to your clients that you WANT them to ask questions and that you don’t mind interruptions.

  • "The time to relax is when you don't have time for it."
  • Sydney J. Harris

Monday, February 27th, 2017

If You Like My Blog – I Hope You Will Vote

“A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I try to write helpful blog posts for the CPA profession. As most of you know, I have been writing daily for eleven years.

This year my blog has been selected as one of the 50 finalists by WalletHub. They are now seeking votes from readers to determine the BEST blogs being written for tax professionals.

Here’s where you vote – I’m #30:

https://wallethub.com/blog/best-tax-blogs/32604/

I hope you will vote and share the link with others who would be willing to vote for my blog.

It’s Monday, so think positive, get a lot done this week, keep your sense of humor and have fun.

  • "Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best."
  • St. Jerome

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – Time For Something Off Topic

“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. Nobody that matters, that is.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay

I often forget how much I love poetry. Years ago, I would buy poetry books and actually read them cover to cover.

I imagine you have heard this one, First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay, but probably never knew the author.

If you use your imagination, you can probably relate the words of this poem to how many of you feel about the CPA profession.

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But oh, my foes, and oh, my friends-

It gives a lovely light.

  • "Set the foot down with distrust on the crust of the world - it is thin."
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Be Sure to Give Your Employees C.R.A.P.

Kortes“From caring comes courage.” – Lao Tzu

It’s not what you think! This method comes from Jeff Kortes. He is an employee retention speaker, author and expert. Kortes has found that employers don’t give their employees enough C.R.A.P. and it is driving away valuable workers. Here’s the CRAP he’s talking about:

C – Caring

R – Respect

A – Appreciation

P – Praise

I became aware of Kortes this week, visited his blog site and thoroughly enjoyed his posts.

I know that in public accounting you are certainly challenged with attracting, developing and retaining people. Perhaps, the first thing you should do is develop a written employee retention strategic plan. Learn more about it, from Kortes here.

  • "Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness."
  • Harold Kushner

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Signing Bonus

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau

I often get questions about whether firms are offering signing-bonuses to new college graduates. The answer is, yes.

Signing bonuses were a big deal in the early 2000’s, then in 2008 and for a few years afterwards, the signing bonus was actually not needed and many firms discontinued the practice.

As you can imagine with the intense competition for talent, firms have returned to the practice of signing bonuses. I have observed that they usually run from $1,000 to $3,000.

Often, they are an enticement for a quick response to an offer. If you really have an all-star intern, I would think you would pay more than $3,000.

  • "Take free money. No matter how in debt you are, if your employer offers a matching contribution on a 401(k) or other retirement vehicle, you must sign up and contribute enough to get the maximum company match each year. Think of it as a bonus."
  • Suze Orman

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Your World Will Be Unrecognizable

“We won’t recognize the vast majority of CPA firms in five to 10 years.” – Barry Melancon

CPAs working in public accounting, get ready. I’m smiling as I type this because I have been warning, pleading, asking and begging you to “get ready” for about 25 years!

As reported via Accounting Today, Barry Melancon, President/CEO of the AICPA said recently, “The number of changes facing the accounting profession will leave most practices radically altered in the near future.”

Yes, you have been hearing that for years but this time it’s different because time is truly running out.

The businesses you serve are facing changes in a quicker time frame than ever before, why should you think CPA firms would be exempt? CPAs are supposed to be showing their clients the way into the future.

Erik Asgeirsson, President/CEO of CPA.com encourages accountants to dive deep into technology and pursue how it can help them deliver higher value to their clients.

Be sure to read the full article via Accounting Today. Be sure to note the graph that shows the percent of firms implementing cloud accounting in 2017.

  • "People evolve and it's important to not stop evolving just because you've reached adulthood."
  • J. K. Simmons

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Show Appreciation by Utilizing Stay Interviews

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward.” – Albert Einstein

Some accounting firms have been utilizing stay interviews for a while. However, I have observed that there are still many firms that haven’t embraced this excellent tool.

Anytime you devote individualized attention to one of your team members, asking them for advice and feedback, it’s a positive exercise for both sides – management and staff.

Elizabeth (Bitsy) Watson, PHR, the HR Manager for Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen & Russ shared the process they use for stay interviews. It would be a good best practice for you to emulate. Her comments follow:

BitsyWe started out with results from our recent engagement survey and identified about five areas where we wanted more insight, such as, if we felt our scores for recognition could be stronger or we wanted more insights into what aspects of compensation were most important to staff.

We then came up with some questions related to these areas and others (about 10 total). A few examples were:

  • What types of recognition are most meaningful to you?
  • What opportunities for development would you like that you may not be getting?
  • What type of work do you find most motivating or interesting?
  • Of the compensation and benefits we offer, what aspects are most important to you and what could be improved in this area?

We used a representative sample of our employees to participate in the stay interviews. I kept the names confidential. After the meetings were completed, our next steps were to summarize the overall themes and share the summary with the partners, not sharing names. I also included three recommendations for changes or new programs to implement. We’ll then share these new initiatives with the interview group. We want them to know that we really valued their opinions.

I tried to be as transparent as possible with everyone involved on what we were trying to accomplish and how valuable their feedback is. We received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the interviewees. They mentioned feeling like it was helpful to have a channel to be asked questions they might never have been asked. I think the most interesting thing that came from this was bringing to light some wrong assumptions we, as management, had been making.

Our plan is to do this annually utilizing a different group of employees each year.

  • "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
  • Thomas Edison