Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, May 7th, 2021

A Book For CPAs – Flashback Friday

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

I am assuming (and hoping) that, as a leader, you have read most of the prominent business books.

Here’s a flashback post about a book I think all people working in a public accounting firm should read – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

  • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
  • Groucho Marx

Thursday, May 6th, 2021


“The contradictions are what make human behavior so maddening and yet so fascinating, all at the same time.” – Joan D. Vinge

As you successfully manage your public accounting firm, you will encounter many contradictions. Here are a few I have observed:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.
  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a good listener.
  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.
  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.
  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.
  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.
  • You expect the entire team to follow all the policies and procedures.
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2021 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
  • Pablo Picasso

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Mission – Vision – Purpose

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis

I still encounter some confusion about how to write a meaningful mission, vision, or purpose statement for your firm or organization.

Some CPA partner retreats actually get bogged down in this endeavor while crafting their strategic plan.

purpose statement provides the reason or reasons you exist. It is about why you exist, whereas the mission is about what you do and for whom. … Some organizations find that a mission statement alone suits their needs, whereas others prefer to use a purpose statement.

Read more about the difference between these statements in this brief, informative article.

  • The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
  • Helen Keller

Monday, April 26th, 2021

Do You Believe?

“I never believe anyone at all you see, I know human nature so well” Miss Marple

Who do you always believe? What do you always believe?

These are tough questions for anyone and especially applicable to those working in public accounting. Who and what do you believe in your work life?

Firm leaders devoted time and effort to establish the firm mission/purpose, vision, and core values. Do you believe in them?

Do you believe your peers? Example: A co-worker says to you, “You should hear what Fred said about you!”

Do you believe your manager? Example: You have been assigned to what everyone says is a difficult client engagement. Your manager says, “Don’t worry about being on the Jones job with me. It’s really a fairly easy job.”

Do you believe the firm partners? Example: “We will be completely and absolutely paperless before the end of the year.” They said that three years ago. “We are going to add a few more employee benefits so we can attract the most talented people.” They said that two years ago. I could go on!

A very important one – do you believe what your clients tell you? Be careful in this area.

I have observed that in public accounting, you can believe most people and things you hear or are told. But don’t be too gullible. Keep in mind the quote above from Miss Marple.

  • Be open minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out.
  • Groucho Marx

Friday, April 16th, 2021

No Whining – Flashback Friday

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

Maybe, just maybe, you heard some whining from team members during the last couple of months. Maybe you have been hearing whining for a day, week, month, year, decade? Now is the time to stop the whining.

Read this post from 2011 titled, No Whining Allowed. It still applies in 2021.

  • Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
  • George Carlin

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021


“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Confused Clients

If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.” – Tom Peters

This tax season brings unique and never before experienced situations for many of your clients.

Perhaps, they are contacting you, maybe too often with all kinds of questions and concerns. You might even be getting frustrated with all of those questions, some of which you have no answers for!

Why not host a Zoom session for your clients in a question-and-answer format? Keep it informative yet simple. Hit the highlights of what you are seeing and experiencing and let them ask questions. Inform them beforehand of the time limit (yes, because you are busy).

You could host the session once a week for the next few weeks. If you have a huge response, keep doing it. Rotate partners to act as host. Allow 30 minutes and don’t over prepare. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, just tell them the truth.

This might lead to less phone calls, emails or texts from clients and show your clients how much you care. Having fewer confused and worried clients is a big win for the firm.

  • Confused? Confusion is good. It's an excellent place to learn something new from.
  • Henna Inam

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Motivate Your Team

“Issues inside an accounting firm almost always can be traced back to someone’s communication failure.” – Rita Keller

I am very pleased that the AICPA asked me to do a guest blog post. It was featured yesterday on the daily CPA Letter Daily.

Check it out and learn 5 Ways to Motivate Your Team During Tax Season.

Keep in mind that tax season is showtime for CPAs and their teams.

  • People who cease to grow can't inspire others. Leadership begins with challenging oneself.
  • Daisaku Ikeda

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Always Be On-Time

“Soldiers should be minutemen. Punctuality is one of the most valuable habits a soldier can possess.” –Christopher Columbus Andrews, Hints to Company Officers on Their Military Duties, 1863

I bet the people inside your firm have had many conversations about “other” people inside your firm.

One of the most frustrating topics is the person who is always late. They are late for internal meetings (Zoom or in person). They are late for client meetings, for lunch appointments and even for CPE classes.

Their lack of punctuality often keeps groups of other people waiting and wastes a lot of time. In some cases, people just get used to it and don’t even plan on the person to ever be on time. Few people, if any, respect or admire them.

George Washington was known for his punctuality. Once his secretary arrived late to a meeting, and blamed his watch for his tardiness, Washington quietly replied, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”

I once knew a very high-profile (and very expensive) personal coach who worked with prominent corporate executives and some CPA partners. One of the first things he taught them was punctuality. Monthly calls were established and the partner had to place the call to the consultant. If they were a few seconds late, the coach would not accept their call the they had to pay the session fee anyway – no refunds and it was expensive. Every person I knew who used this coach benefitted greatly from the life lessons they learned from the experience.

Read more about George Washington’s punctuality and other important factors about being punctual here.

  • Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Be Positive – Keep Smiling

“Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” – Marilyn Monroe

As I have said before, there is way too much drama going on inside accounting firms.

I always explain to young people just beginning their careers that they should keep in mind that CPAs have been trained for auditing. Their role is to question, research, explore and look for mistakes. So, don’t be offended if they are critical of almost everything. Smile, learn and move on.

Experienced CPAs provide something called review notes to their subordinates. They review the less experienced persons work and give them written notes on what they did wrong. I have known groups of beginners to laughingly compare…. “I got 15 review notes from old Joe!” “That’s nothing, I got 28 from him last week!” Smile, learn and move on.

Betty, the long-time firm bookkeeper has been with the firm for 32 years. She is often gruff and demanding. So, you better not make a mistake on your expense report. Smile, learn and move on.

All of this is fodder for drama inside the firm. Don’t let it get to you. Keep Marilyn Monroe’s quote in mind: “Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”

  • Fear is stupid. So are regrets.
  • Marilyn Monroe