Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

D I Y

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill

You see the abbreviation all the time now – DIY (Do It Yourself). Many people have learned to do many things (with the help of YouTube) while staying at home during the pandemic.

Doing things yourself is almost always cheaper than buying something you can make or hiring an outsider to fix something that you can fix yourself.

All of this was brought to mind when I came upon a question asked in a novel by Agatha Christie. The question: Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

To me, that translated into CPA firm jargon means…. Why hire people to do the work and keep doing the work yourself?

A partner thinks: I won’t send this back to the preparer, I’ll just fix it myself.

A manager thinks: I won’t delegate this job to a senior. I know my billing rate is higher but I can do it twice as fast.

It’s that ongoing issue inside many firms – younger people do not learn to do more difficult things because more senior people cling to work.

So, not that your employees are dogs, but…. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  • "Do what you can, with hat you have and do it now!"
  • George Washington Carver

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Decisions

“Do it once, move on.” – Seth Godin

The following is a post from Seth Godin posted a couple of years ago. I am sharing it with you today because the year is passing by quickly.

CPAs are famous for delaying decisions. “Let’s wait and see what other firms do.” “Let’s put that on the agenda for next year’s retreat.” “Let’s not decide right now, let’s wait until we are not so busy.”

What you are doing is hitting the Snooze Button. You hit snooze on emails and even on major decisions. Don’t do it.

SNOOZE IS A TRAP

There’s a button on my email program that allows me to postpone an incoming email to a future day.

Sort of like a snooze button.

The snooze button is a trap. It’s a trap because not only do you have to decide later, but you just expended time and energy to deciding to decide later.

Do it once, move on.

‘Decide once’ is a magical productivity commitment.

There is a certain class of decision that benefits from time. Decisions where more information is in fact useful.

But most of the time, we’re busy making decisions that should be made now or not at all. You end up with a ton of decision debt, a pile of unanswered, undecided, unexplored options. And you’re likely to simply walk away.

If you open an email, you’ve already made the commitment to respond and move on. Not to push it down the road.

In or out, yes or no, on to the next thing.

Snooze is not for you.

  • "If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done."
  • Bruce Lee

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Do More

“Always do more than is required of you.” – George S. Patton

You have probably heard the well-known saying about volunteering. It seems to have been used mostly in the military. My husband was in the Army and he probably heard the advice, “Don’t volunteer for anything” in basic training. It seems to have originated with soldiers.

I think the above quotation by General George S. Patton is better advice. I did some Googling of the statement and found that in the military there are more success stories about volunteering than there are stories with devastating consequences. One military person said, “I would rather volunteer than be voluntold.”

How does this apply to life in a CPA firm? If you are a beginning accountant, always volunteer. You will become more skilled more quickly than if you wait for someone to come to you.

An experienced partner once told me he was discouraged by the lack of ambition of many of his young team members. He observed that they would wait, with nothing to do, for someone to bring work to them. This partner’s dream staffer would be someone who would often stick their head in his office door and ask, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

  • "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, April 16th, 2021

No Whining – Flashback Friday

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

Maybe, just maybe, you heard some whining from team members during the last couple of months. Maybe you have been hearing whining for a day, week, month, year, decade? Now is the time to stop the whining.

Read this post from 2011 titled, No Whining Allowed. It still applies in 2021.

  • "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"
  • George Carlin

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

April 15 – Thinking About the Taxman

“When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.” – George Harrison

TAXMAN – The Beatles

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman  

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman  

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.  

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman  

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.    

Songwriter: George Harrison   Taxman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC Want to hear it? Click here.

  • "Gossip is the Devil's radio."
  • George Harrison

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Where The Buck Starts in Many Firms

“If you are passing the buck, don’t ask for change.” – David Gerrold

Dan Hood, in his post on April 1st asked, “Where does the buck start?” He was referring to innovation inside accounting firms. I have an answer to that question that applies to many firms. In a lot of accounting firms, innovation has been, and is, started with the firm administrator or COO.

Large firms can afford and have hired, chief innovation officers. In the majority of small to medium-sized accounting firms, this role has been embraced by the firm’s experienced firm administrator or COO. The person in this role is not distracted by providing services to clients. They live and breathe adding efficiency to the firm’s internal processes. Their personal mission is to keep the firm on pace with current trends.

I have observed that the firm administrator is the one who recognizes the bottlenecks and faces the extreme challenge of getting partners to step out of their comfort zone and embrace new ideas.

The firm administrator attends the CPA Firm Management Association conferences and chapter meetings. They network with other firms via the CPAFMA discussion board. They read CPA firm management publications, blogs, and newsletters. Again, they have time for this because the firm is their ONLY client. They are the ones who play a major role in implementation.

The FA leads a team of internal professionals and this group, supported by the managing partner is where the “buck starts” in many small to medium-size firms that are recognized as the best places to work.

  • "The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses."
  • Napoleon Hill

Monday, April 12th, 2021

Change Your Image

“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

An interesting article via FastCompany about Major League Baseball needing to attract younger fans. The average TV viewer for MLB is 57 years old. How old is your average client? Think about it.

An example of being stuck in the past (via FastCompany) is the Boston Red Sox. Their logo and colors (red, of course and a pair of socks) have been the same for years.

Nike’s new uniform for the team (it debuts on the field on April 17) features none of that old stuff. The new uniform is yellow/gold with “Boston” written in a modernist, light blue script. Check it out here. As for me (not being a Boston fan), I like it a lot. I notice the cap still has the traditional “B”.

Now, what about your firm? Look how Boston is written on the front of the uniform – very contemporary. Does your firm’s logo and website say:

  • We’re an old-fashioned firm.
  • We have been around for years.
  • We are traditional and conservative.
  • We do taxes.
  • We could be called Old School.

Are your colors dark blue or burgundy? If you have a partner named Green is your website color green?

There is lots of conversations going on right now about accountants needing to be more creative. Put refreshing your image on your to do list for 2021.

  • "The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves."
  • Steven Spielberg

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Exceptional Service

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach

It’s Friday and time for a flashback post. It is something that I hope you have practiced a lot recently during your busiest time of year. I call it making your clients say, “Wow!”.

To make clients say wow you have to do something unique. Read more here.

  • "How you think about your customer influences how you respond to them."
  • Marilyn Suttle

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Foster Creativity

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

I wonder why the above quote is so foreign to CPA firms.

When you tie everything down so tightly, insisting that every work effort must conform to firm processes and procedures and every minute should be chargeable how will anyone have the time or desire to THINK and experiment. Maybe there is a better way but no one has the time or freedom to pursue it. Their entire work life is micro-managed.

Be that firm that has a culture of creativity, experimentation, and implementation of ideas. If the experiment doesn’t work out never be afraid to say, “Oh well, that didn’t work so well. Let’s try something else.”

Hopefully, you are hiring smart people. Encourage your smart people to bring their creative ideas to the table and allow them time to do so.

  • "Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum."
  • Miles Anthony Smith

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
  • George Bernard Shaw