Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Managers Must Give Honest Feedback

“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult but not dealing with them can be worse.” – Paul Foster

A person should be promoted to Manager when they are beginning to manage other people. Then, they must hone their skills on exactly how to manage other people.

I find that in CPA firms, people are promoted to manager because:

  • They have longevity with the firm.
  • They are great technicians and producers.
  • The partners are afraid that if they don’t promote them to Manager they will quit.

One of the most important things a Manager does is provide HONEST and timely feedback. Today’s workforce is demanding that they DO receive feedback on a continual basis – you can’t save it up for an annual performance review or even semi-annual or quarterly.  

Here is something I learned long ago when I was promoted and became the boss of my peers. Because of poor performance, we had to fire an administrative person. The MP always did the firing back then. He asked me to sit in. The person became angry and it was not an easy session. (My first firing and I remember it well.)  After it was over, he said to me, “You will never be an effective boss until you have had to fire someone.”

That first “firing” inspired me to never let anyone be surprised about being outplaced. One of the last outplacements I did, the young man came into my office and said, “I know why I’m here. I’m being let go, right?” 

If your managers are struggling with giving meaningful feedback, have them read, It’s Okay To Be The Boss by Bruce Tulgan. Get them each a copy, make reading it an assignment, and then meet with them for a discussion about what they read.

  • "The day firing becomes easy is the day to fire yourself."
  • Tom Peters

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Fear of Failing

“Don’t let your failures break your enthusiasm.” – Tom Bilyeu

CPAs are obsessed with not making mistakes. They strive to never make even one mistake. When it comes to compliance work for clients, they have all kinds of safety nets (review steps) to avoid mistakes. That’s a good thing.

When it comes to internal operations the fear of making mistakes still applies. That’s a bad thing. I like the following quote from Scott Cochrane (@WScottCochrane) and it applies to firm leaders:

“When the team misses a goal, secure leaders say, ‘Let’s learn from this and do better next time.’ Insecure leaders say, ‘It wasn’t my fault.'”.

Leaders, if they want their firm to move forward, must be willing to try something new. Are you too comfortable with the status quo? To take the danger out of trying something new, I always recommend that you test it. Experiment with a new idea in just one area of your firm. If it works out and seems beneficial, roll it out to the entire firm.

Don’t let the fear of failure hinder your firm’s progress toward efficiency. Don’t always wait for other firms to discover something new and then follow in their footsteps.

Now more than ever, firms need to be willing to nurture innovation and creativity. Periodically, ask your employees what the firm needs to do to make the firm more efficient and productive. Also, ask them what the firm can do to make it a better place to work.

  • "The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure."
  • John C. Maxwell

Monday, July 26th, 2021

The Latest On Accounting Firm M&A

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

If you haven’t seen the recent interview of Allan Koltin by Russell Shapiro, it’s time you took a few minutes and watched it.

CPA firm leaders need to keep current on the latest trends in M&A and there is no one more in-tune than Allan Koltin.

  • "It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
  • Herman Melville

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Professional Courtesy – Flashback Friday

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Has professional courtesy completely disappeared? Do you talk to people and they are not even looking at you, they are looking at their phone or computer. Check out this post from 2019 about what a school is doing to instill professional courtesy in their students.

Have a nice weekend. I love summer!

  • "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

What Your Team Expects

“Trust me is easy to say, especially when you mean it, but hard to hear.” – Seth Godin

As a result of all the changes firms have faced in the last sixteen to eighteen months, progressive firms are updating their employee handbooks. Many new and changing guidelines need to be explained and documented so that your team members know what is expected as a member of your firm’s team.

Even in your old handbook, is it possible that what you are saying contradicts what they are seeing?

Again, I am talking about setting a good example. I have learned through experience, that the partners are the ones who do not follow the documented processes and procedures that are clearly spelled out in the handbook.

People are now expecting many things to be different but they’ve been taught through experience not to believe that things are actually going to be different.

A quote from Seth Godin: “If you’ve read ten employee handbooks that say one thing when the company does another, you’re likely to not believe the eleventh one.”

Be sure to read Godin’s blog post about this topic. It is titled, Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • "Showing tends to beat telling."
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Steady On

“Frantic work is never your best work.” – Dan Rockwell

I enjoy reading tweets and blog posts by @LeadershipFreak (Dan Rockwell). His recent one, A Dairy Farmer’s Path to Success, has many good lessons for accountants. I especially liked the following excerpt:

Steady on:

I asked a farmer how he was doing and he said, “Steady on.”

You never see a farmer running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (Apologies to chickens.)

Days are long on the farm, so you pace yourself. Medium speed allows you to work all day.

Frantic work is never your best work.

Read the blog post from Dan to learn more success tips from dairy farmers.

  • "The future isn’t predictable. Instead, it’s created by informed decisions, bold action, and agile responses."
  • Dan Rockwell

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Visible To The Outside World

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

What do your clients say about your firm? What do your employees say about your firm?

Clients talk to their employees, families, friends, and business associates. Employees talk to their families and friends. What they say is a reflection of your firm’s culture.

I continually urge you to focus on culture. Yes, it is more difficult when your team members are working remotely. You should still focus on maintaining a healthy, vibrant culture. If you, as leaders, don’t work diligently to form an attractive, supportive culture, one will form on its own and it might not be a culture that you relish.

  • "Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one."
  • Lara Hogan

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Considering A CRM For Your Firm?

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

When I worked at a CPA firm, I was always proud of the fact that the firm was on the leading edge when it came to new ideas, processes, and software tools. We were paperless very early on but waited several years for a Document Management System that actually fit the CPA profession.

One technology tool we never purchased and one that I hesitate to recommend for CPA firms is a CRM (Client Relationship Management). Data is only as good as what is fed into the system. I knew that our partners would simply not expend the extra effort to record important client information and conversations into the system. The old slogan applied: Garbage in, garbage out.

That is why I enjoyed a recent article by Gene Marks (the famous guy you see on TV) who is a CPA. The title: On CRM: The Best CRM For An Accounting Firm Is Probably No CRM.

He explains particular things that apply to accountants that make them poor candidates for a CRM. His company has even tried and failed to implement CRMs in a dozen firms.

Be sure to read his article. I am sure the reasons for CRM failure will sound very familiar to you!

  • "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."
  • Henry Ford

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Words Are Powerful

“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” -Rachel Wolchin

Early in my career, I remember my firm’s partners providing feedback to me in the form of words. Yes, simple words. I have always remembered those words and I still think that keeping feedback simple is the best policy.

Right now, many of you are involved in providing feedback to your employees about their performance during busy season. Read this Flashback Friday post about evaluating people using words.

  • "The secret of being boring is to say everything."
  • Voltaire

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Learn From History

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” – Abraham Lincoln

My husband and I are history buffs, especially Civil War history. We have visited many battlefields and other sites. Ken Burns’ Civil War has taught us so much and a movie I always recommend is Gettysburg. It tells the story from both sides and is quite informative. It was actually filmed on the National Battlefield site in Gettysburg, one we have visited many times.

At Gettysburg, you, of course, think of Lincoln. Last week we did a road trip (the first one since COVID) and visited Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky (and Jefferson Davis’ birthplace, also in Kentucky). Here’s the memorial at Lincoln’s birthplace.

Our road trip also took us to Graceland and Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo. We visited Shiloh National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park. I refer to this road trip as the birthplace and battlefield trip.

Now, think back on the history of your accounting firm. How has it evolved over time and what can you learn from your triumphs and your failures? I have observed that some firms that historically had a more dictatorship type of leadership changed to a very laid-back culture when new leaders took over. I have also seen the opposite happen. A very casual, and honestly disorganized type of leadership changed to a very structured and even rigid culture when the next generation took over.

What is your culture like now? Is it the type of culture you are proud of? Does your culture (and your brand appear attractive to potential employees and potential clients? Exploring your firm’s history might be quite eye-opening like American history is to me.

More pictures – the Jefferson Davis birthplace and, of course, Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo MS.

  • "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
  • Abraham Lincoln