Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Discussing Fees

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett

I hear stories that have a similar theme:

  • I inherited the firm from a sole proprietor. The clients are just not used to paying what would be a normal fee.
  • I am working so many hours and need to increase my fees. But, I am afraid I will lose too many clients.

I ask, “How do you describe your fees to clients?” What I usually discover is that the CPAs who have such a great fear of losing clients are not actually talking about fees WITH the client, at all. I also learn that CPAs who charge an appropriate fee don’t talk with clients about the fees either.

My friend, Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting gives us some excellent advice:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Describe the services you will provide
  • Present your fees with clarity
  • Write it down
  • Don’t be defensive

Read more about each of these points on Sarah’s blog post. Take the time to teach your entire team how to talk about fees with clients.

  • The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.
  • Meister Eckhart

Monday, March 25th, 2019

How To Keep Firm Initiatives Moving Forward

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”  – Mother Teresa

Have you heard some of these comments inside your firm?

  • Our partners are so busy that they never seem available for questions.
  • We have a retreat every year but we should just video it and play it again next year since we always talk about the same issues year after year.
  • The managing partner is more focused on clients than he/she is on firm initiatives.
  • The managing partner is our best rainmaker – we don’t want him/her focused on the day-to-day issues.
  • We are trying to identify our next managing partner but no one seems to want the job.
  • Our managers don’t seem to be very good at mentoring others.
  • There is definitely a communication problem inside our firm.

What’s the solution to a lot of the above comments and the following:

  • How do you enable your partners to be focused on client service, client relationship-building, and business development?
  • How do you enhance the communication inside your firm?
  • How do you create a mentoring program that really inspires young people?
  • How do you investigate your processes and procedures and make them more efficient?
  • How do you make sure the firm is following all of the most current trends in human resources?
  • How do you create a cool culture, a fun culture and move your firm into the digital world?

Heres the answer – Hire a qualified, professional practice manager/firm administrator. Make it their responsibility to keep initiatives, important to the inside health of your firm, OFF of the back burner and ON the front burner.

  • Those who are wise won't be busy, and those who are too busy can't be wise.
  • Lin Yutang

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Dealing With The High Volume of Tax Season Emails

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.” – William Shakespeare.

During tax season, a few years ago, I sent an email to one of my clients, a CPA managing partner. In response to my email, I received the following message:

Greetings, Friends & Clients:

 Due to the normal tax season intense workload, and to allow me to completely focus on the tasks at hand, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail daily at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm CT. You & your email is important to me and at the scheduled times, I will respond.

If you require urgent assistance, please contact my assistant (name and phone number) or you can email her at (he provided her email address).

Even though you get this auto-response, rest assured that I do receive and am able to view the email you sent. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more and serve you better.

Sincerely,

It was a first for me. I had never received one like it. Of course, I had to ask the partner how this move toward winning the email battle was working for him. I’m sure most of you are fighting this same email overload challenge.

He replied that he was glad that I was not offended and that the feedback has been mostly positive. He added, “Email is the biggest challenge I have and many people (who don’t email you a lot), have an expectation of an instant response.”

I was absolutely not offended. I knew right away he had received my email and when he would get back to me. Simple as that. Don’t you hate it when you never hear anything at all (for two days or more)? You just wonder if they received your email or not. Don’t leave your clients wondering.

  • Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
  • William Penn

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Save The Small Talk

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer

In your role in CPA firm management, other people are under your care and guidance.

Partners, managers, practice managers, HR managers, IT managers, marketing directors, and controllers usually have other people looking to them for direction and advice. It might be for some short-term issue with a process within the firm or a long-term career path decision.

You talk to people every day but I imagine it is mostly what could be termed as small-talk. You talk about the traffic or maybe the weather. Of course, you also talk about the work.

Keep in mind that studies have told us that people who take part in more substantive conversations and less trivial chit chat experience more feelings of satisfaction with work and life.

That is why it is important to not let mentoring and coaching conversations fall aside as you make your way through busy season. It is good for you and your team to talk about feelings, sentiments and what makes you happy and makes life worthwhile.

  • You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.
  • Epicurus

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Ghosting

“Our feet are planted in the real world, but we dance with angels and ghosts.” – John Cameron Mitchell

Maybe your firm has done it. I know a lot of firms where it happens. Someone interviews with the firm for an accounting position. You interview them and end with the normal “We’ll get back to you” comment. But no one does get back with them. You have made the decision to hire another candidate but you don’t get back with every one you interviewed to let them know. Someone dropped the ball.

Maybe payback can be expected. Applicants and employees are now ghosting their employers in greater numbers. Per USA Today:

Workers are ‘ghosting‘ interviews, blowing off work in a strong job market. … A growing number are “ghosting” their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions – all without giving notice.

I have heard some amazing stories from firms. Many of the cases are people in administrative positions. They report for the first day and then never show up again. One firm even told me a new admin person left at lunch on the first day and never came back. It sounds amusing (when you are not involved) but it is not that unusual any longer.

Here’s a great article via Suzanne Lucas @RealEvilHRLady.

Make sure your firm has systems in place to facilitate the interview and selection process so no one feels ghosted.

  • Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.
  • Stephen King

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

The Impression You Make

Did you know the phrase, “the clothes make the man” is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius tells his son Laertes to dress well because “apparel oft proclaims the man“; this phrase is now expressed in modern parlance as “the clothes maketh the man“.

I think the phrase could be construed to fit both males and females in accounting – “how you are dressed often speaks volumes before you utter a single word”.

Several years ago I was the featured speaker for a state society. It was a luncheon to honor women of influence in the CPA profession in that state. Four women were being honored. They were different ages and from different employers or self-employed. One was a sole proprietor, one worked for a mid-size firm, one from corporate and one from the big four.

I met and chatted with them before the event and then I watched as the room began to fill for the luncheon. Because of the nature of the event, most gentlemen were in coats and ties and the women were also dressed professionally.

One gentleman entered the room and immediately I thought “he’s a big four partner”. He, too, was dressed professionally. His haircut, his posture, his expressions, and the quality of his clothing clearly stated professionalism that was above any other person I had noticed in the room. Yes, I was right. He greeted the lady from the big four firm and he was later introduced as a partner at XXX firm.

That impression has stayed with me for many years. What do people think when I walk into a room? What do they think about you?

  • A good first impression can work wonders.
  • J. K. Rowling

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

The Welcome Letter

“To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” – Helen Keller

A new client is landed by one of the firm’s partners. They met several years ago at Chamber of Commerce business event. The client knows the partner but how much does he/she know about the firm?

It is important that clients become attached to the firm and not just the partner – for various reasons that some of you know all too well. You don’t want clients to leave the firm just because one person leaves.

Begin building the relationship with the firm at the beginning. In some firms, the first written piece of information a client gets fro the firm is an invoice.

Progressive firms, after a new client is added to the client list, send out a warm and friendly welcome letter. Make it different, put it in writing, on paper and mailed (USPS) to them. It should have a real, written signature on it.

It should come from the managing partner or firm administrator. This helps the client know that there is another person they can contact right away if needed. Eventually, they will get acquainted with the engagement team and build relationships with several people at the firm. However, in the very beginning, they may have many questions and not feel somewhat lost.

Express your appreciation for them joining the firm. It is also a great time to make sure they are aware of your billing and collection policies. Most new clients always wonder about that but have been hesitant to ask.

If you are not doing this or something similar and need a sample, let me know.

  • The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
  • Emily Dickinson

Monday, March 4th, 2019

Write About It

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

You are a CPA. You work in public accounting. You have several years of experience. You have done many things, big and small, that have helped many of your clients.

Write about it.

Your firm administrator or marketing person begs you to write an article for your firm newsletter or for a blog post. Simply write one of your success stories each month – keep it simple and it won’t be such a chore!

  • You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page.
  • Jodi Picoult

Friday, March 1st, 2019

Procrastination Might Have Paid Off

In 2015, I did a post about the new trend of having an open office environment. During that year and in years prior, I featured more posts about the increased collaboration that happens with an open office.

Scratch that.

Things change. Researchers are now telling us that open offices kill teamwork. It seems that a large percentage of people working in open offices cocoon themselves with headphones and they simply text each other.

“If you’ve ever sought refuge from the goldfish bowl of an open-plan office environment by cocooning yourself with headphones, or if you’ve decided you’d rather not have that challenging conversation with a colleague in front of a large group of your peers, and opted to email them instead, then these findings will come as little surprise.” – Christian Jarrett

So, if you procrastinated on adopting an open office plan it might have just paid off. Please don’t procrastinate on other important decisions!

Read more about the findings here.

  • Give yourself more opportunities for privacy, when you are not bombarded with duties and obligations. Privacy is not a rejection of those you love; it is your deserved respite for recharging your batteries.
  • Wayne Dwyer

Monday, February 25th, 2019

Have A Grateful Week

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I remind you often to remember to simply say, “thank-you” to your team members. No matter what your role in the firm, say it to each other. It means a lot from the boss but it also means a lot from a peer. Sometimes, it is even shocking when an employee says thanks to the boss.

On a recent blog post by Grammarly, they noted that it’s nice to form a thank-you in a different way, rather than the usual thanks or thanks so much.

Here are some alternatives, use them this week.

  • Thank you for all your hard work on this.
  • Thanks again we couldn’t have pulled this off without you.
  • Thank you, you’re amazing!
  • I’m so thankful for everything you bring to the table.
  • Thank you kindly.
  • Thanks a million.
  • Many thanks.
  • Warmest thanks.
  • I truly appreciate your hard work.
  • I truly appreciate you.

Plus, there are more. Read them here.

I am “beyond grateful” that you read this blog!

  • Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.
  • Aesop