Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Helping

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou

The above quote is another one that immediately reminded me of CPAs.

When you are a recent college graduate with an accounting degree you just want to get hired and begin to explore your career in public accounting. It is an exciting time, a stressful time. You work hard, and often long hours, to become more knowledgeable and to gain skills in dealing with clients, peers and bosses. It takes both hands… and a lot more.

Helping is a word to keep in mind as you advance in your career. When you began, you soon discovered that you were needed to help others. You became the person that new hires came to with questions and depended on for guidance.

When you became a manager and then, perhaps, a partner, you found that you had matured and began to think more like the above quote. You do not sell something to clients, you help them become more successful. You still use one hand to advance your own success but you never forget to use the other hand to mentor and coach your team and to advise and guide your clients.

  • No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
  • Charles Dickens

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

Fake Deadlines

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” Seth Godin

Every so often, I feature a complete post from Seth Godin. I do it because I feel like it has special meaning for those of you involved in the management of a public accounting firm.

Have you ever established a fake deadline for tax due dates? I know some of you have. Here is Godin’s post titled Fake Deadlines:

FAKE DEADLINES

Slack enables systems to function with more efficiency. That’s because unavoidable delays and errors compound in a system that doesn’t have enough buffer space.

But fake deadlines don’t solve this problem. Fake deadlines exist when we can’t trust others (or ourselves) to be clear about our progress or prioritize honestly. So we invent a date before we actually need something to arrive.

The challenge is that fake deadlines compound. Once someone on another project realizes that they’ve been outfoxed by a fake deadline, they’ll simply escalate their urgency as well. Or perhaps the provider realizes that we’ve been faking the deadlines, and so now there’s a whole new level of guessing about what the real deadline is.

Professionals don’t need fake deadlines and don’t respect them. Instead, we have the chance to build in appropriate slack, get our priorities straight and keep our promises.

  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Need A Degree?

“Just because I don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean I am not smart.” – Emma Stone

Are you only hiring people for your CPA firm who have a degree?

I have observed that in many accounting firms there are many people who do not have a college degree. On the other hand, I have also observed, in some accounting firms, even the administrative people have a degree.

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services, and so on.

With Client Accounting Services (CAS) becoming more and more lucrative, many firms are desperate for experienced bookkeepers and they are almost always people without a four-year degree.

Does it really require a degree to do much of the work inside a CPA firm?

You may have noticed that many college graduates are being hired to do jobs that their parents could get right out of high school.

Read this informative article via Inc. – Why Your Barista Probably Has a College Degree

  • I don't have a college degree, and my father didn't have a college degree, so when my son, Zachary, graduated from college, I said 'My boy's got learnin'!
  • Robin Williams

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Business Development

“Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Times have changed and the pandemic has caused marketers to rethink their activities and strategies.

Sales calls are becoming a thing of the past. Plus, a prospective client already knows SO MUCH about the firm because they study your website and check you out on social media.

In a very informative article in the July issue of Inside Public Accounting (I hope you have read your copy), Carrie Steffen, founder, and president of The Whetstone Group says relationships can be nurtured even if meetings aren’t in person.

  • Check in with clients (use Zoom)
  • Check in with prospects and referral sources (organize a virtual networking lunch).
  • Move forward (if a prospect check-in meeting goes well, pursue the relationship further).
  • Use technology (be proficient with your video software – no fumbling around! Email is also still a good tool.)
  • Find profitable opportunities. (Revisit your definition of an “A” client and match prospects to the profile.)

Read the entire article for much more information. It is titled, Business Development In A Recession: Outrun The Competition With A Digital Strategy And Strong Relationships

  • Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
  • Thomas Jefferson

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

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

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

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Flashback Friday – Procrastination

“If you are not passionate about what you mostly do, you better find another job.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

When you are driven by deadlines – like March 15, April 15 and this year July 15, it seems to allow many CPAs to put things off until the last minute. You even allow clients to facilitate your procrastination.

Read this flashback post – Fight it! – Procrastination.

  • In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt