Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Field Trips

“Research in education has shown that we remember field trips long into adulthood. I remember visiting the post office in second grade and looking at the sorting machine. I have vivid memories of that when I don’t even remember the name of the teacher who took me.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Many people working in an accounting firm never have an opportunity to visit a client site. With technology playing a much larger role in compliance work, team members who used to do what we call fieldwork don’t even do that as much as in the past.

Why not choose one of your best clients, a small manufacturer, a candy maker, even a winery and ask if you can bring your entire team for a tour of their business. Of course, if you are a large firm you will have to work out taking smaller groups to different client sites.

One of the basics of business networking I learned many years ago was to begin a conversation with a business owner, simply ask them, “Tell me about your business.” They love their business. It’s their baby and they enjoy talking about it.

You know your clients well and can easily identify the ones who would love to show visitors around and talk about their business.

I have talked to several firm leaders who have already tried this and it is appreciated by the client and the team.

amazonI recently toured an Amazon Fulfillment Center near Louisville, KY. What an eye-opening and interesting experience. It had four floors and the square footage was the size of 28 football fields!

  • "Only now have I finally realized that my life has been an unending field trip. And I have tried hard not to be a tourist. But to be an adventurer, a traveler, an explorer, a learner, and a pilgrim."
  • Robert Fulghum

Monday, December 9th, 2019

Attracting & Developing Top Talent

“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” – John Wooden

Everyone is hiring. It used to be a seasonal event for accounting firms. Now, progressive firms have adopted a plan for continuous hiring. Firms are growing and it is important to hire before you have to.

My questions for accounting firms (and some things for you to consider):

Do you have a rigorous focus on professional development? Maybe this is why there is so much worry about succession. Why not be more generous with education dollars for your younger staff. Of course, you must give them technical training but don’t forget about the “success skills” (formerly known as soft skills) if you want them to become business advisors earlier in their careers.

Have you attracted and retained the smartest people? Young people are drawn to public accounting because they appreciate being able to work with smart, successful, creative, and hard-working people. Do the majority of your people fit this description? Do you keep too many mediocre performers?

Do your young all-stars have vast opportunities? Or, do they have to wait ten years to become a manager?

Do you reward your best performers with salaries beyond being competitive? Or, do you try to get by with the minimum of just keeping pace with average firms?

  • "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."
  • Bill Gates

Friday, December 6th, 2019

First Impressions Do Count

“A good first impression can work wonders.” – J. K. Rowling

When we think of first impressions, we naturally think about how we come across to clients, prospects and other professionals in our business network. We worry about how our firm appears to outsiders. Is our brand positive and strong?

First impressions also make a huge difference when we make a new hire. When a new employee arrives, what is their first impression? How effective is your onboarding program?

I STILL hear horror stories.

  • It is apparent to the new hire that the front desk person has no clue who they are.
  • There is a scramble to find where they will actually sit.
  • And, the one I hear most often, there is no computer available and ready for them.

Hopefully, your firm has a New Hire IT Checklist that has been completed and it is part of your Onboarding Manual.

  • "I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong. "
  • Lemony Snicket

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Communication & Inclusiveness

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”  – Jack Welch

To develop an enthusiastic and loyal team it is important to communicate and be inclusive. Firm leaders should be doing this every day.

Many firms take the opportunity to do this on a higher level at least once a year with a full firm retreat, state of the firm event or similarly named gathering. I had the wonderful opportunity yesterday to be part of Kirsch CPA Group’s full firm event in Hamilton, Ohio.

IMG_0878The three partners, John Kirsch, Chad Williams, and Pete Abner each talked to the team about firm performance, future focus and the unveiling of a new training program that will provide each team member with a full-fledged career development plan that is backed up with extensive educational opportunities.

Recruiting and retaining isn’t enough. Now it is about attracting and developing. You want talented accountants to seek out your firm because your brand is a strong magnet for people who want to advance their careers in public accounting.

  • "Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position."
  • Brian Tracy

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

The Challenge of What Gift to Give Your Employees

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” – Andy Rooney

A very common topic this time of year among CPA firm administrators (and partners) is what kind of gift to give the employees for Christmas.

This difficult task usually lands in the COO/Firm Administrator’s or HR Director’s lap. And, it’s a dangerous minefield. Different generations appreciate different things and finding a “one size fits all” can be a daunting task.

Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady, gives us a great list this year. She notes: Here are some ideas, gleaned from real, actual humans, and not marketers. You’ll notice some are contradictory. This isn’t bad editing on my part. It’s reality. Get to know your employees!

Here are a few of the suggestions – but, be sure to read the entire list. Money is always a good choice!

  • My husband’s boss gives his managers steak. We have really appreciated that!
  • If anything, something “consumable.” I don’t want or need any more do-dads. Food is good–a nice bottle of olive oil, a good bottle of balsamic vinegar, anything that can be used and enjoyed and then gone!!
  • $100 gift cards to a nice restaurant have always been my favorite.
  • "Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white.'"
  • Bing Crosby

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

My Ramblings About Mergers

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

You have observed it. In the last several years, many mid-size firms have merged-up into the Top 100 (the AICPA calls this group the Major Firms Group).

The firms in the Major Firm Group have also joined forces to form even larger CPA firms. It is an interesting time in the CPA profession. The big get bigger and many firms I have known and admired for years have disappeared.

An interesting statistic from the AICPA, almost 40% of the Major Firms Group from the year 2000, no longer exists.

This week’s announcement about Skoda Minotti joining Marcum brought all this to mind. Read the press release here. Marcum has had phenomenal growth and success under Jeffrey Weiner’s leadership.

So, mid-size firms are disappearing. However, mergers don’t always lead to a happy life once the honeymoon is over. A lot of the big mergers will result in spin-offs and smaller firms will form and thrive.

  • "I always say, complacency is the kiss of death."
  • Shari Redstone

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

They Are So Much More Than A Receptionist

“I’m just a friendly person; that runs in my family.” -Dolly Parton

The person who greets your client and other visitors is so much more than a receptionist. It is such an important role, especially if you, like many firms, have an office where people feel comfortable just stopping by.

Many firms are now titling their receptionist the Director of First Impressions and that is exactly what they are. Visitors to your office, whether they are a client, a prospective client, a delivery person, an interviewee or a person making a sales call, will talk about your firm. Make sure they are saying, “Wow, what a friendly place!”

Little things make the biggest difference in this area. Does your DOFI offer refreshments? Do they hang up the client’s jacket/coat in a cedar-lined closet? Do they have a menu prepared that lists the types of beverages you have available? Do they engage in small talk in an informative, entertaining and helpful manner?

They are truly an ambassador for your firm. It is not a job that should be looked down upon by other people on the admin team.

If you have an all-star in this role, I hope you are paying them a premium. I know a firm that once won a huge client partly because they liked the way they were treated when their executive team visited the firm’s office.

Read this interesting and helpful article by Jeffrey Gitomer called Receptionist Selling.

  • "We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better."
  • Jeff Bezos

Thursday, November 28th, 2019

I Love to Share This on Thanksgiving.

ThanksgivingEvery day is a time for being thankful. Enjoy family, friends, and food. Most of all, be sure your day is filled with laughter.

I love this, from WKRP in Cincinnati, and share it often on Thanksgiving.

I am especially thankful for all of you, followers of my blog – thank-you for reading!

  • "When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude."
  • Gilbert K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Three Little Words – But Not “Those” 3 Little Words

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill

Don’t you love to hear those three little words?

Sure you do, everyone wants to hear “I love you.” I hope you hear them and say them daily. But wait, that’s not the “three little words” I’m talking about.

The three little words I’m referring to are three you do not want to hear. You probably hide from them and deny them.

I hear the following comment often from CPA firm managing partners, “We don’t have a succession plan. There is just no one at our firm who can take over from me and do what I do.”  I ask them, “Whose fault is that?” And, the answer is three little words – Baby It’s You.

If you are the managing partner at a firm (or a sole proprietor), you are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

  • If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the firm
  • If your managers are not coaching less experienced team members
  • If your team spends too much time on the web and social media for personal reasons during the day
  • If they put too much time in a job because they don’t have a budget
  • If they make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed

The responsibility for all of these kinds of issues comes back to the leader – Baby, it’s you.

  • "The task of the leader is to gt his people from where they are to where they have not been."
  • Henry Kissinger

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

New Rules of Work

“Disruption requires us to think differently about work.” – Sharlyn Lauby

I’m sure you have noticed, finding, hiring, and retaining talented people has become more and more difficult. The AICPA PCPS 2019 Top Issues names Finding Qualified Staff as the top issue in every firm size category (except sole proprietors).

In the accounting profession, everyone is talking about disruption and the need to change how things have been done in the past. The work and the workforce has changed and it requires us to think differently about work.

Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender) has written an excellent post: The 7 New Rules of Work – Workforce Readiness In the Digital Age. I urge you to read it and share it with all the partners and HR leaders in your firm.

The rules she describes come from a keynote she heard by Polly LaBarre, author of the New York Times best-seller “Mavericks at Work: Why The Most Original Minds in Business Win.”

It is important to create rules that apply all the time and to let those rules drive company culture.

The rules are:

  1. Everyone has power
  2. Nobody is smarter than everyone
  3. All ideas are heard
  4. Challenging ideas is acceptable and encouraged
  5. Passion is the most powerful currency
  6. People design their own jobs
  7. Values rule decision-making and accountability

Please read the article. It gives good advice to managers and HR leaders about these seven rules. Staying current on trends in hiring and retaining will help you win the talent wars in the CPA profession.

  • "Company values should already be the guiding principles of the organization."
  • Sharlyn Lauby