Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

It Takes More Than An Email

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Accounting firms have been faced with introducing a lot of new technologies recently. Some of it has been in almost an emergency mode.

But think back to how a new technology task was rolled-out BEFORE you were faced with COVID. I have observed that the technology team in accounting firms and the accountants speak two different languages.

Maybe the new technology task is something simple like how to log-in and work remotely. The IT team carefully put together a lengthy and elaborate email to explain how to do it. Simple.

Because the accountants didn’t quite understand all of the detailed instructions in the email, they emailed back with questions. The tech team answered, another email and another answer…. another email (of course “to all”) and another answer.

After about five or six back-and-forths, most people will just quit reading the emails.

Anytime you are implementing a new policy or procedure, whether it is about technology or tax processing, it takes more than an email. Communicate in person. Invite small groups of people to be trained face-to-face. You can do this using Zoom for your remote workers.

When you are all back in the office and can meet in larger groups, have the person responsible for the new tech, tax, or office procedure lead the session and answer all questions. Again, it takes more than an email.

  • "I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way round somewhere along the line."
  • Elvis Presley

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Here’s What Is Important

Sometimes we forget what is important. Thinking, planning, and discussing are important. But, none of that matters if you do not get busy and do things.

  • "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Oh, No! Another Meeting!

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer the meetings the better.” – Peter Drucker

I hate to admit it but I write about this topic very often. The trouble is, this problem never seems to go away or even improve.

Right now, rather than in-person meetings at the firm, people are becoming exhausted because of too many ZOOM meetings! I hear this from many people who are now working remotely.

This topic has been addressed, very humorously by Dilbert, on many occasions:

Boss: We’re having a meeting to discuss employee retention.

Dilbert: Tell them that employees quit because there are too many useless meetings.

Boss: We won’t be getting into reasons at the first meeting.

Seriously, does your firm have too many meetings? It is an on-going danger inside CPA firms because:

  • Partners want to be sure they are communicating with everyone.
  • Partners want to show their people that they care about their opinion.
  • Partners and managers think that what they discuss is of interest to everyone.
  • Partners have a strong “need to know” about way too many things!
  • Partners think they have to be in on every decision.

Some suggestions:

  • Don’t make most meetings mandatory.
  • Invite and involve fewer people.
  • Invite and involve the right people.
  • Be sure the technology works for everyone.
  • Always have an agenda.
  • Set an end time and stick to it.
  • Leave the meeting with Action Steps.

If you involve people in meetings that are important and they don’t talk or contribute. Don’t invite or involve them again.

The most recent story I heard is that one manager had so many ZOOM meetings that she had to actually conduct the meetings in a closet because it was so disturbing to the rest of her family because her spouse and even her children were also working online.

  • "A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. "
  • James T. Kirk

Friday, May 29th, 2020

The Power of Recognition

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” – William Shakespeare

This week for my Friday Flashback post, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about the importance of “Hello. Good Morning. Thank-you.”

It’s a post from April 2014 and it still applies today. You might even find the 3-minute video helpful that is referenced in the post.

You are probably beginning to welcome people back into the office. Keep in mind that your people need appreciation and recognition, in person, and also when they are working remotely.

Have a great weekend.

  • "We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."
  • Cynthia Ozick

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Do Some Planning

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.” – Earl Nightengale

Many of you know and remember Rebecca Ryan. She spoke at many CPA management conferences a few years back and work with several firms focusing on planning for the next generation. She is a futurist and economist.

Ryan’s recent post, “What to tell your team when everyone’s freaked out” is something that I highly recommend you read.

As she notes, “A great antidote to being scared is to do some planning.” She talks about Assumptions, First Principles, Pivot plan, financial contingency plans, and shares some personal reflections from another tough time we went through (the Great Recession).

I think you will find her thoughts very helpful as you plan for the future of your firm and your people. Click here to read her post.

  • "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
  • Mary Oliver

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Admin – The Super Team

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

I have always been a strong advocate for the CPA firm administrative team. I have observed that they are often the heart and soul of a firm.

During the last three months I have heard from many firms that the only employees going into the office are the admin team members. They went in to do scanning, take care of mail, distribute supplies, and more. Some firms had drop-boxes outside the office door where clients could drop off their tax information. The admin team checked the drop-box daily and scanned the information needed by the accountants. The firm administrator is often responsible for some technology support activities.

Often, the CPA firm’s admin team is under-appreciated. That is why it made me happy to hear the following story from an experienced firm administrator. I am hoping that you are very proud of your admin team, too.

The admin staff and I have been working at the office all through the Pandemic, and have each taken some well-deserved time off since April 15th. The partners recognized that it was the admin team that was taking the biggest risk AND enabling our entire staff and most of the partners to continue to serve our clients while they all worked from home. I bring this up because for the first time ever the admin staff and I all received a really nice bonus on April 15th to show the partners’ appreciation.

Besides doing the firm administration and helping the admin team, I also help everyone with their IT issues. We have a strong IT infrastructure and an outsourced vendor for network support. This is what got us through the pandemic. We also use CCH Axcess which has been such a blessing. I think other firms that are not in the cloud, or don’t have a good infrastructure to allow their staff to work from home are going to have to ramp up their IT spend to stay in the game.

The reason I bring up the admin staff in this email is – as you know, typically firms cherish their professional staff, and the admin staff is not held in the same regard. This has now proven how essential the admin staff is to the firm! I hope other firms recognize this too!

  • "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
  • Booker T. Washington

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Show Them

“A good example has twice the value of good advice.” – Albert Schweitzer

Nothing works better than a good example.

You are beginning to bring people back into the office. You have worked very hard to develop a plan that will ensure everyone’s safety. You have guidelines prepared to help everyone adapt to the new normal.

Extensive cleaning and sanitizing practices are in place. No group meetings will be held, in person. Team members should eat at their desk and not gather in the lunch room. Everyone should have a mask and wear it when they are not at their desk or in their office.

Some firms have very extensive rules and guidelines. The most important rule? All partners must adhere to the guidelines and set the example. They will be watched and imitated.

Whenever I ask a live audience made up of people who work at CPA firms who broke the rules at their firm the answer was always the same. The partners!

The rules and guidelines are even more important now.

  • "I have ever deemed it more honorable and more profitable, too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one."
  • Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 25th, 2020

A Memorial Day Memory & A Call to Action if You Can Play the Trumpet or Bugle

“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” – Adlai Stevenson II

It’s Memorial Day. It is memorable for me in a strange way. In high school, it was the annual Memorial Day parade in my little town. I carried the flag in the marching band. It was very hot that day.

I did fine during the parade, probably a mile to a mile and a half. The band was standing at attention in the cemetery as the speaker said a few words. His few words seemed like an eternity to me. I began to see black closing in around the corner of my eyes. It kept getting darker and I began to sway. Yes, I almost fainted and would have completely blacked out if a band mother hadn’t grabbed me, sat me on a low tombstone and forced my head down toward my legs. That was a close call and the only time in my life I have been near to fainting.

This year, there will be no parades but Steve Hartman of CBS news and retired Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva want to keep the spirit of the holiday alive.

Hartman and Villanueva are asking veterans, musicians, teachers, and students of all abilities and ages to sound Taps on their front lawns, porches, and driveways at 3 p.m. local time this Monday, May 25th.

It is only 24 notes but few can play it perfectly. Here’s a link for more information. I’ll be listening at 3:00p today.

  • "A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom."
  • Bob Dylan

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Flashback Friday – Performance Feedback

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Many firms are postponing their annual performance feedback sessions. During these unusual times and because due dates for taxes have been pushed back, firm leaders declare that they just don’t have time right now.

I hope this is not the case in your firm. Feedback should be on-going, not saved up for some formal, boring, dreaded annual ordeal.

Read this flashback post on the topic of performance feedback.

  • "Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
  • Francis of Assisi

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Are You Also Responsible for Marketing?

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” – – Milan Kundera

Many firm administrators and managing partners are also charged with the role of Marketing Director. The vast majority of CPA firms are not of the size to support a full-time Marketing Director. If your firm is large enough, I am sure your Marketing Director is one of the busiest people in your firm.

Whether you are a smaller firm or larger firm, it takes discipline to effectively market your practice and reinforce your brand. A few years ago we thought Fall was marketing season for CPA firms. Today, it is a 24/7/365 activity.

Go through some simple exercises with all partners and managers:

  • Gather information about your firm’s uniqueness in your market. Identify any weaknesses and focus on strengths.
  • Make a list of each CPA and each community or charitable organization where they are active. Are there, key, high profile organizations where your firm is absent?
  • Have each CPA list their referral sources (bankers, attorneys, etc.) and identify the referrals they have given you in the last year. Are you referring more their way than they are your way? Are there some of the same referral sources on everyone’s list and some powerful ones that are missing altogether?
  • Have each CPA (no matter what their title) create a marketing action plan and report each month on their activities.
  • Hold pipeline meetings at least monthly.

Don’t let summer (or a pandemic) cause a lapse in vigorous attention to marketing activities. See my post from yesterday!

The Association for Accounting Marketing‘s annual conference has been canceled this year but you or your marketing director should put next year’s conference on your calendar. Here’s the message on their website:

We regret to announce the cancelation of our 2020 Summit due to the current projections of the coronavirus pandemic. We will hold our next Summit at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, May 24-27, 2021. We will announce when registration opens for 2021.

  • "Content is fire, social media is gasoline."
  • Jay Baer