Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Monday, May 13th, 2019

What About Your Elephants?

“Productive conversations turn conflict into collaboration, reduce costly mistakes and create a culture of accountability.” – Marlene Chism

It’s the beginning of partner retreat season for public accounting firms.

From my experience and from many conversations with CPA partners and practice managers, during these retreats, there always seem to be an “elephants in the room.”

Elephant in the room definition from the urban dictionary:  n. A very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about. Perhaps a sore spot, perhaps politically incorrect, or perhaps a political hot potato, it’s something that no one wants to touch with a ten-foot pole. 

From my experience in pre-retreat preparation, partners will individually tell their facilitator that they want the elephant in the room topic to be approached and solved but as a group, they want to avoid it completely.

The staff also are aware of the elephant in the room topic. It is difficult to address for various reasons, including power structures and cultural issues but putting it on the back burner time after time is even more disruptive.

This year actually discuss your elephant in the room. Here’s a helpful article from Marlene Chism – The undiscussables: How to address the elephant in the room. The article will also help you better express your concerns when you are giving performance feedback.

You can follow Marlene on Twitter: @StopYourDrama

  • Knowing your feelings won't change the facts, but knowing the facts can change your feelings.
  • Marlene Chism

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Make Your Website (and your Brand) Unique – Here’s a Great Example!

“If you want success, be unique.” – Natalie Massenet

Occasionally, I like to share CPA firm unique websites. I see so many that are static, boring and usually blue. Last year, I featured Bernie & Jason Ackerman of BNA CPAs & Advisors, one of my favorites. I love how they tell visitors to their site how they deliver a tax return in 3 days.

Logo

This year, I just had to share the site of my good friends at Barton CPA & Associates. Their light-hearted and fun approach to business is simply refreshing.

When you get to their homepage, page down to see a picture of their lobby – tasteful, contemporary and colorful. Keep paging down to see other pictures: Part of their team, their conference room and a team picture at some kind of celebration. It sure looks festive and I don’t use the word “festive” about CPA firm websites often – well, never!

Check out the pictures on Greg Barton’s Twitter site. I love the March 23 tweet showing Greg in his office. Does your office look this good (and clean)?

Browse around the site. They have an Instagram account and Facebook, of course. I hope it gives you some ideas for taking action soon to update your site and inspiration to not take yourself too seriously.

A big thanks to Greg and Dee Dee for allowing me to share their excellent branding efforts and their uniqueness!

  • Uniqueness is what makes you the most beautiful.
  • Lea Michele

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

The Benefits of the Cloud

“Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.” – Dale Evans

I often talk to firms who are still hesitating on whether to be “in the Cloud” or not. Most are still nervous about where their data will be and how it can be safer than it is on their own servers.

Roman Kepczyk has seen it all when it comes to CPA firm technology and has over thirty years of experience advising firms on technology matters. In his recent article via AccountingWeb, he gives you Seven Reasons Firm Workflow Should be in the Cloud.

Here are the seven reasons…. read the article to learn more about each reason:

  1. Remote Access
  2. Data Centralization
  3. Improved Collaboration
  4. Reduced Maintenance
  5. Improved Support
  6. Managed Cost
  7. Security

Conclusion: Firm owners need to educate themselves on how digital workflows and cloud technology can improve teamwork and client service. Discussing the seven items above before renewing any software license will allow the firm to focus more clearly on the optimal solutions that cloud provides.

  • Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.
  • Vivek Kundra

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Everyone Loves Them

“Safety and comfort come with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.” – Elijah Wood

Many firms are already providing stand-up desks to their team members. Most of what I have heard has been very positive. While I don’t have one myself, I have visited several clients and checked them out first-hand. It seems they are greatly appreciated.

If you want to provide them to your people, you can do it in phases to make it more affordable. Big surprise, certain partners got them first but now firms are even providing them to the entire admin team.

Here’s a real-life report from Karen Farino, Firm Administrator at Pasquesi Sheppard LLC, Lake Forest, Illinois:

“I definitely recommend the sit/stand desks. If you can I highly suggest purchasing a sit to stand desk rather than a unit that sits on top of the desk.

We have replaced 90% of our desks over the last two years with Sit to Stand desks from Haworth. They are “L” shaped and we had them custom made. It is really very affordable. Everyone here LOVES them. Our managing partner likes his so much that we bought one for his home too.

standupdeskThe L desk is 69” in each direction from the corner, and 29” deep. You can custom size them smaller. I am attaching a photo – it isn’t the greatest but will give you an idea as to what we did.

Our admin staff is stuck with the Varidesk units on top of their desks. They like them but don’t love them because when you are standing there is still a lot of items that are on the desk that they have to access which means it is inconvenient and you have to bend down. Not optimal. They also all have two monitors (by choice). If they had three the Varidesk units would not work. I’ve yet to see a decent three monitor sit-to-stand desktop unit. Each admin has their own printer and scanner at their desk.”

How about an office refresh project for your firm this summer?

  • Instead of being 'heads down' we should be 'heads up' so we can spot trends.
  • Josh Linkner

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

After Tax Season Debriefing

“Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.” – Oscar Wilde

Every year, in late April or early May, CPA firms have a debriefing to uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly of tax season. What worked well, what was a disaster and how do we do better next year? You can read some suggestions on my blog of several years ago.

This year, Roman Kepczyk, Director of Consulting for Right Networks shares a Tax Season Debriefing Checklist in his article in CPA Practice Advisor.

Maybe this checklist will help you structure your debriefing in a more production format.

  • Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not?'
  • Robert F. Kennedy

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Stale and Repetitive

“Repetition doesn’t create memories. New experiences do.” – Brian Chesky

A lot of accounting work is repetitive. People get bored with repetitive.

Inside firms, a lot of HR and career development programs become very repetitive. If you want to keep people engaged and positive, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your performance evaluation process stale?
  • How about the way you provide CPE (Continuing Professional Education)?
  • Is there anything unique about the employee benefits package you offer your team?
  • Do you keep some people on the same client engagements for years and years?

If you never refresh and redesign your employee feedback process, the people receiving the feedback and the people providing the feedback will both begin to dread the process.

Are you assessing the need for training and providing the same resources that you have for five or ten years? The types of training and the way it is delivered have changed drastically over the last several years. There is still time to make a change in this area this year.

I have visited several CPA firm websites where they list their complete benefits package on the website. Do you do this? Have a summary of your benefits as a hand-out for everyone interviewing with the firm. What do you offer that is unique? Flexibility is not unique any longer but it is something that you will definitely want to offer.

I have heard the arguments for years and years…. “our clients want to see the same people on their engagement EVERY year.” That is often true but it does not allow for career growth. Young accountants, in public accounting, learn by continually being assigned to more and more difficult work. Don’t let your managers cling to the more interesting assignments because they have become too comfortable. Ask your less experienced people step-up to more challenging assignments.

  • Better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.
  • D. H. Lawrence

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Generations at Work

“Older generations are living proof that younger generations can survive their lunacy.” – Cullen Hightower

I have been talking and writing about how to deal with the different generations in the workplace for years. My first project in this area was a survey of Gen-X and a report to advise practitioners how to deal with them. At the time, they were a mystery to the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers. Many old-timers called them “slackers.” All they actually wanted was some work-life balance!

We still have some of those Silent Generation people in some firms. True, they are in their mid-70s but you probably know some or know of some. And, now we have Generation Z coming on the scene (born after 1997). Many are still in college and some have now graduated and are working at your firm or are your intern pool. That’s five generations communicating in different ways.

  • Silent Generation (or Traditionalists)
  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millennials (or Generation Y)
  • Generation Z

Via the AICPA Insider, we have been given some tips on ways to communicate with Generation Z (and all generations):

  • Establish protocol
  • Think about the individual
  • Present the same information in various ways
  • Make sure written messages are mobile friendly
  • Be authentic
  • Don’t discriminate

Take the time to read more about each tip in this informative article here.

  • I have to study politics and war so that my sons can study mathematics, commerce and agriculture, so their sons can study poetry, painting and music.
  • John Quincy Adams

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Exceptional Service

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” – Kevin Stirtz

Want to attract new clients? Then make your current clients say, “Wow!” Providing exceptional service is your best marketing activity.

This is from Tom Peters:

There’s a big Bain study I quote: 8% of customers think the service they RECEIVE is “exceptional.” 80% of companies think the service they GIVE is “exceptional.” I call it “the 8-80 chasm.”

If you want your clients to say, “Wow!” you have to do something unique, out of the ordinary. Enlist the help of all your people. What do they think you could do to achieve Wow?

Read more about your clients saying WOW.

  • Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
  • Henry Winkler

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Don’t Waste The Rest of The Year

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

Be sure to take a few days to recover from tax season. Then get busy! Don’t make excuses the rest of the year.

April 16th – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, we have to have some downtime for a while after April 15th.

May 1 – We can’t work on the new orientation/onboarding project now because everyone is taking some vacation since tax season is over.

June 1 – We can’t tackle revising our performance feedback system, it’s time to do them and we’ll have to wait until this year’s process is over.

July 1 – We can’t right now… too many people on vacation.

August 15th – We can’t do an upward partner feedback survey, it’s time to focus on the September 15th due date.

September 17th – We can’t possibly work on that organizational alignment project, we have to focus on the October due date.

October 15th – We’ll work on our succession plan after the partner retreat.

November 1 – Let’s see what we can get done in November!

December 1 – We’ll have to put a halt on that workflow project because we are so busy in December with tax planning.

January 1 – We’ll have to wait until after April 15th.

Sound familiar?

  • Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
  • Dale Carnegie

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Get A New Job

“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” – Pearl S. Buck

It has been a stressful, busy and maybe frustrating few months. In a few days, it will be over. You can recuperate for a week or so and then it will be on to new deadlines and responsibilities. Sometimes, we get burned out and our attitude slips downward.

I found this fascinating excerpt from Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin. I recommend it highly.

When I first read the following chapter, I immediately thought of the CPAs, firm administrators and the entire administrative team. It could apply to anyone working inside a CPA firm.  I have posted it before, several years ago, but I think this is a good time to read it again. See what you think:

Getting a New Job Without Leaving

One day, Binny Thomas stood up.

She stood up, spoke up, and started doing a new job.  She didn’t leave her organization, didn’t even get a new title or new responsibilities.  Instead, she started doing her old job in a new way.  Binny stopped going to meetings with the goal of finding deniability or problems to avoid. Instead, she started leaning in and seeking out projects where she could make a difference.

Suddenly, Binny was inspired. She was looking for opportunities instead of hiding from blame. She was putting herself on the line, pushing through the dip, and making things happen. The fascinating (and universal) truth is that the opportunities came after she was inspired – she wasn’t inspired by the opportunities.

Binny’s old job was just fine. She did it extremely well. She followed the map, followed instructions, did what she was told and got paid what she was worth.  Binny wasn’t in danger of losing her job, but she had already given up her soul. She had plateaued, this was the end. Then she changed her mind.

Six weeks later, she got a huge promotion and another, even better new job than the new job she had given herself. Binny is now running a worldwide program of motivated scholars. All it took was a choice. Binny didn’t ask for permission to do her job better; she merely decided to.

Are you looking to others to make your job better, more enjoyable?  Are you sometimes in denial? Are you doing an adequate job but feel like you have plateaued?  Read the last sentence of the chapter, above, again.

 

  • Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt