Friday, July 10th, 2020

Partners Doing Partner Work – Friday Flashback

“Money often costs too much.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you want your firm to be as profitable as it can be? Read this flashback blog post from July 17, 2019: Partners Doing Partner Work.

This is the last weekend before the July due date. I hope you are not working all weekend but I suspect many of you are. Maybe you should seriously consider training your clients.

  • "Differentiate to succeed."
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

A Strong Foundation

“In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation that can support your success.” – Chris McClure

Building a strong foundation, personally, is very important. It will be the guiding light that supports your success and leads you to even greater heights. As mentioned in the quote above, you have to do deep inner work.

This same theory applies to your busy accounting firm. You let yourself get so busy that the firm just molds itself around you (and your partners).

For over one-half of this year, you have been busy, busy, busy. You have quickly reacted to build a remote work environment to serve clients and to get you through the pandemic. It didn’t matter if the foundation was solid or shaky, you had to get the work done – you are essential.

Soon it will be July 15th, that new magical due date. Hopefully, you will have some time to really contemplate the foundation of your firm. Your processes and procedures are the foundation of your firm. You must be prepared to inform current staff and new staff “How we do it here.”

Perhaps you had some well-developed processes but they all went by the wayside during the last few hectic months. Refocus. Seek input from your people and your clients. Shore-up your foundation so you are prepared to move forward into the new normal.

Foundational pieces of an accounting firm, in addition to how your complete engagements and handle workflow, are: HR policies, internal accounting (billing and collection, monthly firm financial statements, etc.), technology processes, training, and marketing/sales activities.

Remember, from the quote above, “In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation.”

  • "Successful people begin where failures leave off. Never settle for 'just getting the job done.'" Excel!"
  • Tom Hopkins

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Women In Accounting

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher

Here are some current stats about women in accounting from Catalyst research.

  • More than half of all accountants and auditors are women
  • Women are 61.7% of all accountants and auditors in the United States
  • Women are 50% of all full-time staff at CPA firms but make up just 27% of partners and principals.
  • The percentage of women on management committees is growing: 33% in 2019 compared to 19% in 2014.
  • Women make up nearly half of directors (41%) and senior managers (44%).

Read more here.

  • "A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

It Is Not Easy

“Don’t join an easy crowd: you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.” – Jim Rohn

The above quotation certainly applies to the CPA profession. It applies if you are the managing partner of the firm or if you are the Director of First Impressions.

If you work in the accounting profession, you are not part of “the easy crowd.”

It is a demanding business. So many clients to serve with so many problems. Due dates that always seem to be looming on the horizon. A technical work product that must be absolutely, positively correct.

Appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Always step-up to the challenge and you will continually grow in knowledge, expertise and reputation.

Personally, I have always felt like I did my best when the demands and expectations were high. I enjoy a culture where there is a sense of urgency and where you know that what you do makes a positive difference.

I hope you feel that way, too. Sure, there are times when you are tired, over-worked, and cynical. But let those moments be just fleeting moments and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

  • "If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed."
  • Sylvia Plath

Monday, July 6th, 2020

When The Dust Settles

“Normal is the wrong name often used for average.” – Henry S. Haskins

Maybe you have said it yourself. “When the dust settles we can get back to normal.”

We are living in different times. Our lives have been altered to a degree that we never imagined was possible.

Almost nothing is the same nor is it what we consider normal. We serve clients but we don’t see them in person, we don’t shake their hands and greet them in familiar ways.

The same goes for our team members. We have seen some people face-to-face every workday for twenty-five or thirty years. Now, we don’t see them daily or in person. We communicate via email and text and often by video. It’s just not the same.

It’s time we think differently. Don’t wish for the dust to settle and for things to get back to normal. Normal, for many of you working in the accounting profession, wasn’t working all that well anyway.

Try to keep things stirred up, evolving and changing. That is how you get better. Keep working with each other in different ways. Continue to serve clients in different ways. Many of these different ways are much better ways.

Don’t let the dust settle. Perhaps, in your firm, normal became too comfortable.

  • "If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be."
  • Maya Angelou

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Relax. Enjoy.

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

You and your team have been working so hard and tax season has certainly been a long one and it’s not over yet.

I hope you can take time off and enjoy this 3-day weekend!

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July.

  • "The essence of America—that which really unites us—is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion—it is an idea—and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things."
  • Condoleezza Rice

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

People Problems

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I wrote the following article for the June issue of my newsletter. If you are not on the mailing list, you can sign-up here.

If you are on the mailing list and are not receiving my newsletter, check your spam folder. Some people are reporting that is where they find their issue.

I heard from several readers that they really enjoyed this article and could definitely relate. Here are some of the comments:

I just wanted to send you a note, I usually don’t get to read your newsletter the same day you send it, but boy am I thankful I did…..the People Problems – that’s me!!!!!!!!

I LOVE your article!!!  It made me roll with laughter.  I resemble the PM in the role as the’ air conditioner adjusting monitor’.  Had I only had the fortitude to be more like the maintenance person. 

So true. As a firm administrator that also takes care of
our 25 person office, I can relate so much! Smiles for the day!

People Problems

You got the job! You are now the CPA firm’s Practice Manager (COO/Firm Administrator). You will be “in” on all the management activities of the firm, deal directly with all the partners and be on the front line dealing with operations and people. You know you will be good at it because you really like people.

A year later, you finally admit you really don’t like people! 

Of course, this is an exaggeration. But, the people game is a very complicated and frustrating game inside accounting firms.

As Practice Manager (and sometimes it is the managing partner), you deal with problems and, most of these problems are caused by people. The vast majority of the problems are not anything serious. Actually, most problems are rather petty. 

Here’s a classic story (and a true one). It’s a story of trying to please everyone and, as you know, that’s not possible!

In a mid-size CPA firm, the bookkeeping department (or CAS as they call it now) is staffed by five females ranging in age from thirty to fifty-five. The members of this group cannot agree on the room temperature. It is always too hot or too cold. They continually complain to the Practice Manager about the heating/air conditioning. 

One member of the team says it is too cold in their area. The Practice Manager asks the building maintenance man to adjust it for them. So he brings in a ladder, opens a section of the ceiling and, adjusts the heating/cooling for that area. They agree that it is much better and they are all happy, for a while.

A week or two later, a different member of that team reports that it is way too hot in their area. The maintenance man goes through the same exercise. Over the period of six months, he repeats it several times and after each adjustment for a while, they are all happy.  

The Practice Manager is kept in the loop by the maintenance man. Finally, the PM asks, “Don’t you get aggravated with having to adjust the heating/cooling all the time with that group?” His reply, “I don’t adjust anything. I just get up in the ceiling and pretend I’m doing something, then they are all pleased for a while.”

Practice Managers in accounting firms have similar and unique personalities and characteristics. They enjoy the challenge of dealing with problems, solving them and, also dealing with the many people problems with patience and perseverance. And yes, they really do like people.

The problem in this example was, at least temporarily, solved by having everyone working remotely. They could control their own thermostats. Many new and unforeseen problems and challenges are now being faced by the practice manager as the firm begins to bring people back into the office.

The following quote is attributed to the poet John Lydgate and later adapted by President Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

You Are Public. You Are a Professional

“Professional is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.” – David Maister

Here’s a recent tweet by @LeadersBest:

Every time you open your mouth to speak in public, you are representing yourself and displaying your character. Choose words carefully. Say what you mean… Mean what you say. Be clear and concise.

You are a CPA (Certified PUBLIC Accountant). You are not a CPA but you work in a CPA firm (not certified yet, accountants, administrative, HR, marketing, sales, training, etc.). Never forget that you are in the public eye. People listen to you when you talk, especially when you talk about your firm. They repeat things they hear about you and your firm.

If you whine to your golf group about your work or the firm, they will tell others. If you complain about a project you were assigned to your parents/spouse or other relatives, they will form an opinion about your firm and repeat it.

Never casually talk about a client to anyone outside your firm. What you say becomes public and people will repeat it and it will probably get back to your client.

CPAs and their team members are held to a higher standard than most. No matter what your role in a firm, you are a professional.

Warn your employees, the ones who frequently go out to lunch together, that they should not discuss a client in a public place where others might overhear what they say.

I like this definition of a professional: To most people, acting like a professional means working and behaving in such a way that others think of them as competent, reliable, and respectful. Professionals are a credit not only to themselves but also to others.

  • "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."
  • Vidal Sasson

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Convergence Coaching Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey

“Best Efforts will not substitute for knowledge.” – W. Edwards Deming

In case you are not aware, the 2020 ConvergenceCoaching® Anytime, Anywhere Work™(ATAWW) Survey is currently open for participation. The survey seeks input on remote and flexible work practices in accounting and consulting firms across the country.

ConvergenceCoaching is offering participants the summary results along with best practices and strategies to implement these programs and maintain a competitive advantage. They’re requesting only one entry per firm, so be sure you coordinate with other leaders in your organization.

Here is the link to participate: https://bit.ly/2020ATAWW. The survey is open through July 31st. We encourage you to participate in this important study!

  • "Dream more than others think practical…Expect more than others think possible."
  • Howard Schultz

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Things That Don’t Matter

“It’s frustrating to keep doing things that don’t matter anymore.” – Dan Rockwell

It is amazing how many things have changed just during the last four months. March, April, May and June 2020.

You went into March just as you do for any March in tax season. Then things changed. Schools closed, universities moved all classes to online. Businesses and restaurants closed yet, work continued for accounting firms. They are essential.

You also sent your employees home and asked them to work remotely. You did it quickly and for many firms it was efficient and easy.

Now you are moving your team, in stages, back into the office. Not all will come back, they will continue to work remotely.

You have learned that it doesn’t matter anymore where people sit to do their work.

A big question you need to contemplate now is what have you always done that you no longer need to keep doing? Don’t force people back into behaviors, processes, and/or procedures that no longer seem logical.

  • "I still catch myself feeling sad about things that don't matter anymore."
  • Kurt Vonnegut