Thursday, March 29th, 2018

It Is Time To Review Your Performance Review

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

You have probably read the articles. Many accounting firms are eliminating the annual performance review.

I think this statement can be very misleading. What they are eliminating are the annual ranking and written feedback comments.

Employees still need feedback and managers still need to give feedback. However, the widely-used formal feedback process is way too time-consuming for partners and managers and dreaded by both managers and employees.

It will soon be performance feedback time (after busy season). Revisit your process now and identify ways to transform your “performance evaluation” process into an entire “performance management” system.

Here are some ideas:

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

Would Your Employees Cheer If You Eliminated Formal Performance Evaluations?

It is More Than Performance Review.

  • "There is always stuff to work on. You are never there."
  • Tiger Woods

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Getting Partners to Change

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

I hear comments like the following over and over again:

  • We’re stuck.
  • We’ve plateaued.
  • We have this one partner who won’t budge.
  • I know my partners and they are not going to change, so let’s focus on our young accountants.
  • Our partners are too comfortable.
  • I honestly don’t want the hassle involved with trying to get them to change.
  • Our owners simply don’t value firm management.
  • He is our rainmaker and he’s going to do things his way.
  • Most of our partners just aren’t very good businessmen.
  • We are just waiting for some of them to retire.
  • Our partners don’t want feedback from staff. They don’t want to hear it.

These are REAL comments I have heard in my discussions with managing partners and I could give you many more.  I know firms who have hired very expensive marketing and sales consultants to help their partners learn how to bring in new business.  I know firms who have hired extremely high-level ($25,000 plus for six months) personal coaches to help owners develop better relationship skills (relationships with other partners, staff, and even their own families).  Short-term change happens but it doesn’t last for very long.

When I hear these stories, it makes me sad.  I shake my head in sympathy (that’s usually what the whiner wants at that point in the conversation) and then I ask, “What are YOU going to do about it?”  That question is something they don’t want to hear.

I agree that you can’t change the basic personality of a CPA partner, but that partner can change their behaviors. If they want to. Most people inside CPA firms, who really need to change their behaviors to help make the firm more successful, really do not want to.  They have no reason to change.

You must develop a culture of accountability. I recommend applying constant, gentle pressure to complacent partners. Don’t back-off.  Plus, YOU have to give them a reason to change.

  • "By not holding your partners accountable, you are promoting mediocrity, rather than excellence."
  • Gary Boomer

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Only You Can Do It

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” – Eleanor Roosevelt

You are working inside a busy accounting firm. It is the busiest time of the year. Everyone is working very diligently and working lots of extra hours.

Perhaps:

  • You made a mistake and received an extensive list of review notes.
  • A group of your peers decided to go down the street for a quick lunch and didn’t invite you.
  • You emailed one of the partners with a couple of questions about a client engagement you are trying to complete. The partner has not replied and it’s been three days.
  • The shift key on your keyboard keeps sticking and tech support has not gotten back to you.
  • You know you are expected to work this Saturday but it’s your nephew’s birthday party.

Why doesn’t someone help you? Why can’t people be more responsive? Why do the partners expect SO much this time of year? Why don’t you get a larger pay increase? Why don’t you get to go to out-of-town CPE classes? Why don’t people ask you to go to lunch more often?

Here’s the thing: You want other people to improve your life but really, you know, nobody can do that but yourself.

  • "People won't have time for you if you are angry or complaining."
  • Stephen Hawking

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Listen Carefully

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

During my presentations over many years, I have often asked my audience of CPAs if they ever had any sort of listening training or done their own research on how to become a better listener. Rarely, did I get even one positive response.

Most people take it for granted that they listen. Experts tell us that most people while waiting for their turn to talk are thinking about what they will say next.

Here’s the scene most often observed in an office inside a CPA firm:

A person enters the office to discuss a situation with a partner (could be a manager or anyone with their own office). The staff member sits down across the desk from the partner and begins talking. There is some back and forth conversation. During the exchange, the partner (or the person behind the desk) keeps glancing at his/her computer screen. Worse yet, they keep glancing at their mobile device. The person feels discounted and unimportant. The sad part is that the partner doesn’t even realize they are doing this.

Could this be you? Remember to:

  • Keep eye contact
  • Put your mobile device out of your eyesight
  • Review what was said – repeat things back to the visitor.
  • Ask questions but DO NOT INTERRUPT
  • "Listening is a master skill for personal and professional greatness."
  • Robin S. Sharma

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Generalizations

“Very few of us are what we seem.” – Agatha Christie

Early this morning, in the dark, I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. A brief passage from the book caused me to pause and think about life in a CPA firm. Also, about life in general in our current world.

Generalization can be described as the act of making vague or indefinite statements. Read the passage, below. Think about it. Do you ever attempt to address problems in your firm by making generalizations?

I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalize. Generalizations are seldom if ever true are usually utterly inaccurate. – from Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder at the Vicarage.

Maybe you can find 30 minutes to read this weekend.

  • "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."
  • Agatha Christie

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

It’s The Little Things That Keep Clients Coming Back

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy

The bathroom facilities at Disney Parks are clean. It’s not a profit center. They don’t make them clean because they’re going to charge you to use them. They make them clean because if they didn’t, you’d have a reason not to come.

Take this thought process inside a CPA firm. Your clients judge you on little things. That is why the work is reviewed, reviewed again and again. The content of the tax return, financial statement, or other report being delivered to the client must be absolutely accurate.

The client assumes you are accurate in your work. That is why they hired a CPA in the first place. You know how to do things they do not know how to do. They assume you know accounting, tax, estate planning, profitability consulting, etc. if you offer those services. They judge you on the little things.

The client will judge you on:

  • A smudge on a page of their financial statement.
  • A crooked label affixed to an envelope.
  • Misspelling their name!
  • Sending something to the wrong mailing address.
  • Misspellings in emails.
  • The appearance of your office.
  • The way they are treated by your Director of First Impressions.
  • Not offering to hang up their coat.
  • Not offering them beverages.
  • Not having tissues available in the lobby.
  • Not returning their emails and phone messages quickly.

And, the one many of us have done but just hate it because it happened – sending an organizer or correspondence to someone who is deceased!

Why do you want to pay special attention to all these little things? If you don’t it might give them a reason not to come back.

  • "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Get Motivated – Take Action

joey-havens2_18-748750-edited“We need a wake-up call.” – Joey Havens

I follow Joey Havens, Executive Partner at Horne LLP on Twitter. His tweets often lead me to his blog posts and, to put it simply, he writes really good stuff!

Here’s one of his posts I want to encourage you to read – Mind the Gap: A Wake-Up Call for Professional Services Firms.

We see it every day—automation, implemented well, reduces the amount of compliance work we perform.

We experience it every day—fierce competition from outside our profession pursuing our clients. 

We feel it every day—the market for professional services is demanding and opening the door for “higher value services.”

You know you have to become a true business advisor and consultant but for some, it is a big leap from doing the comfortable compliance work. Take a minute or two to read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

  • "It is always a wake-up call to get beat."
  • Usain Bolt

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

The Truth About Your Legacy – An Important Message From Alan Weiss

“Just because you are over 50 it doesn’t mean you are finished.” – Alan Weiss

I am sure many of you are aware of Alan Weiss. If not, read his full bio here. When I began my consulting activities many peers recommended the first thing I should do is read his book, Million Dollar Consulting.

When I recently read the description of his new book, it definitely caught my attention. I believe many CPAs should definitely be building their legacy now. The title is, Threescore And More Applying the Assets of Maturity, Wisdom, and Experience for Personal and Professional Success.

Here is Alan’s message:

In our 40s, most of us are tied to a career that requires considerable investment to nurture and sustain. We overlook the legacy that we are—or are not—creating daily.

“Legacy” is not only what we leave to those we love when we’re gone. Our legacy is actually a daily contribution to others, and our duty is to keep adding to and improving it.

It’s poor planning to try to enhance our corporate performance the day prior to a promotion decision. It’s ridiculous to try to create a particular, lasting impression for others on your deathbed. And it’s insane to think that you can change your relationship with family on the eve of a marriage, divorce, or departure.

Are we all in agreement? The last minute doesn’t work.

We mistakenly look to the distant future for our “legacy” to take shape. But the fact is that each day we write a new page in our growing autobiography. The question is, how interesting and appealing is the book? Or is it filled with boring pages and repetitive chapters?

The horizon is closer. That distant line demarking the border of sea and sky has become more delineated, more visible, more imposing. We still have room between us and the horizon, but we realize every day there’s less of it. There’s less time. Because in our 40s, most of us have already lived far more than half of our productive life.

We go from thinking “there’s plenty of time” to “there’s still time, but for what?” We’re all familiar with the adage that no one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office. But what we don’t acknowledge is that most people don’t fear death so much as they regret the things they never got around to doing.  

That’s why our book has to have new pages daily, new chapters monthly. We can’t stop the approach of the horizon, but we can fill the distance with meaningful productivity and contribution.

With Threescore and More, discover what you can do to create your legacy while the horizon is still in view. Here’s how to increase your power, not surrender it; how to improve your influence, not diminish it; how to utilize your experiences in the future rather than pine after them in the past.

Each day you have left is an opportunity to write a new page in your story.

Order before April 8, 2018 for special bonuses.

P.S. Remember—You can always make another dollar, but you can never make another minute.

© Alan Weiss 2018

 

  • "Ageism is too often an accepted form of bias, even though the facts support the value of aging. "
  • Alan Weiss

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Stay Safe Out There – Two-Factor Authentication

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know that CPA firms are fanatics about protecting the safety of their data. Their clients count on them to treat their information with the highest level of security. I also know that CPAs take this responsibility very, very seriously.

I have observed that some CPAs are not using two-factor authentication with their personal devices and some don’t even know what it is. Perhaps, you feel safe because your devices are tied to your firm and all its security. But, what about your clients and your family?

BillRecently, I have become aware of Bill Hess, founder of Pixel Privacy. On his site, Bill gives advice and creates easy to follow tutorials that anyone can use to protect their privacy and stay safe online, even if they have zero technical knowledge.

Want to learn more? Read Bill’s post, Two-Factor Authentication – What It Is and Why You Should Use it. His post is very informative, easy to understand. I hope you will share it with your team, your clients, and your family.

  • "The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it."
  • Dudley Moore

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Social Media Leaderboard

top socialThanks so much to Avalara for researching and publishing the Accounting Top 100 Social Media Leaderboard. I am so pleased and humbled to be on the list at No. 38.

Be sure to review the entire list to find people you might not know about in the accounting world. The list if full of some amazing people.

I know may CPAs do not use Twitter. If you do not have a Twitter account, please get one. You do not have to tweet anything. Just follow some of the people on this list, scan through your stream a couple times a day and keep current on many happenings and important news relevant to the CPA profession.

  • "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
  • Socrates