Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Check-Ins – Flashback Friday

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

Now that you don’t actually see many of your employees every day, it is more important than ever to have frequent check-ins to find how they are doing and how they are progressing on their goals.

Read more in this Friday flashback post.

I HOPE you will enjoy this 3-day holiday weekend although I know that probably isn’t the case for many of you with the September due date just around the corner.

  • Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.
  • Bear Bryant

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Build A Marketing Culture

“Doubt is a killer. You just have to know who you are and what you stand for.” -Jennifer Lopez

As baby boomers retire and many of them have already, the firm is usually faced with a shortage of rainmakers. Of course, their knowledge and experience with technical work are also missed.

Firms have spent many years and a lot of money developing technical experts. But, have they spent many years and lots of money developing rainmakers? The answer is no.

It is so important to instill the responsibility and expertise for bringing in new business in everyone working at the firm, especially the younger accountants. I have observed that firm leaders don’t begin early enough to develop future rainmakers. Here are some suggestions on how to build enthusiasm for marketing.

Marketing Education From Day One – As part of orientation, be sure your new hire spends some time with your marketing director (or firm administrator) to learn about firm marketing efforts. One marketing director gives the newbies a “tour” of the marketing closet, showing them the firm marketing collateral and giving them their business cards on the first day. Set a goal for them to distribute their business card to twenty people their first week at the firm. Assure them that they can give it to friends and even relatives, just for the practice. The marketing director has a lot to teach new hires.

Provide Opportunities to Practice – Organize a marketing skills lunch and learn for staff. At my firm, we even talked about the proper way to shake hands and had them practice with each other. Have them develop their elevator speech (how they quickly describe what they do and who they work for in an informative and brief way).

Establish Accountability – A simple, easy-to-use marketing activity report is an important tool for new staff. Sometimes, even managers need marketing education. The marketing activity report is submitted to the marketing director every month.

Leaders Setting The Example – Young people learn from observing others. Do all your partners frequently attend community and business events? Are your partners writing articles for the firm newsletter? Do you have some partners who blog, tweet, or do podcasts?

Always Have A Shadow – Partners and more experienced accountants should always offer to take a beginner along on a prospect meeting. When you have a lunch meeting with a current client, invite a beginner. You can flatter your important client by saying, “Today I have asked Ned Newbie to join us for lunch. He is new to the firm and just learning how CPAs work. I thought he could learn benefit from attending a lunch meeting with an important client like you.”

Building the enthusiasm for marketing doesn’t happen naturally for accountants. Don’t wait until a manager is being considered for partnership before they know that bringing in business is an expectation.

  • Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
  • Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Focus On Your Remote Culture

“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.” – Mark Sanborn

It is pretty much a given now that many accounting firms will continue to have remote workers. Some will be completely remote and some will be hybrid. Hybrid is what seems to be favored by most firms. Be sure to define what hybrid means for each individual.

The old firm culture seems to have disappeared. So, how do you reignite your culture and keep it healthy and vibrant with many remote workers?

The most important activity is communication. In almost every firm I encounter, feedback from staff indicates that communication is one of the firm’s biggest issues. It will be an even bigger challenge when you have permanent remote workers.

Your managers are key in building and maintaining a vibrant culture whether you have remote workers or not. Managers must be truly managing other people, something that wasn’t happening prior to COVID. Firm owners must help their managers by providing more training and ongoing encouragement from owners.

Some tips for managers:

  • Clearly set expectations when assigning work.
  • Be flexible about when the remote person does the work as long as the engagements get completed on time and accurately.
  • Communicate frequently and keep staff informed of deadlines. Use email, texts, phone calls, video chats and determine which form of communication is more comforable for the individual.
  • Managers must be good listeners. Inquire but don’t micromanage.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to engage with each other in an informal way so that they get to know each other on a personal level and realize they are part of a team.
  • Celebrate small successes and develop ways to continually show staff that they are trusted and appreciated.
  • People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t. And a lot of people are actually saying that they’re more productive now.
  • Mark Zuckerberg

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Managers Must Give Honest Feedback

“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult but not dealing with them can be worse.” – Paul Foster

A person should be promoted to Manager when they are beginning to manage other people. Then, they must hone their skills on exactly how to manage other people.

I find that in CPA firms, people are promoted to manager because:

  • They have longevity with the firm.
  • They are great technicians and producers.
  • The partners are afraid that if they don’t promote them to Manager they will quit.

One of the most important things a Manager does is provide HONEST and timely feedback. Today’s workforce is demanding that they DO receive feedback on a continual basis – you can’t save it up for an annual performance review or even semi-annual or quarterly.  

Here is something I learned long ago when I was promoted and became the boss of my peers. Because of poor performance, we had to fire an administrative person. The MP always did the firing back then. He asked me to sit in. The person became angry and it was not an easy session. (My first firing and I remember it well.)  After it was over, he said to me, “You will never be an effective boss until you have had to fire someone.”

That first “firing” inspired me to never let anyone be surprised about being outplaced. One of the last outplacements I did, the young man came into my office and said, “I know why I’m here. I’m being let go, right?” 

If your managers are struggling with giving meaningful feedback, have them read, It’s Okay To Be The Boss by Bruce Tulgan. Get them each a copy, make reading it an assignment, and then meet with them for a discussion about what they read.

  • The day firing becomes easy is the day to fire yourself.
  • Tom Peters

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

What Your Team Expects

“Trust me is easy to say, especially when you mean it, but hard to hear.” – Seth Godin

As a result of all the changes firms have faced in the last sixteen to eighteen months, progressive firms are updating their employee handbooks. Many new and changing guidelines need to be explained and documented so that your team members know what is expected as a member of your firm’s team.

Even in your old handbook, is it possible that what you are saying contradicts what they are seeing?

Again, I am talking about setting a good example. I have learned through experience, that the partners are the ones who do not follow the documented processes and procedures that are clearly spelled out in the handbook.

People are now expecting many things to be different but they’ve been taught through experience not to believe that things are actually going to be different.

A quote from Seth Godin: “If you’ve read ten employee handbooks that say one thing when the company does another, you’re likely to not believe the eleventh one.”

Be sure to read Godin’s blog post about this topic. It is titled, Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • Showing tends to beat telling.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Words Are Powerful

“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” -Rachel Wolchin

Early in my career, I remember my firm’s partners providing feedback to me in the form of words. Yes, simple words. I have always remembered those words and I still think that keeping feedback simple is the best policy.

Right now, many of you are involved in providing feedback to your employees about their performance during busy season. Read this Flashback Friday post about evaluating people using words.

  • The secret of being boring is to say everything.
  • Voltaire

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Gossip & Rumors

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Rumor: A currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

Gossip: A casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

Have you read about, or watched shows about Henry VIII (like The Tudors, etc.)? I was fascinated with the way the royal Court operated on rumor and gossip. It seemed to be very much a part of Royal life. Current day, just consider all the rumors surrounding Harry and Meghan.

It all brings to mind what I call the “Grapevine” inside accounting firms. I have never encountered a firm where there is absolutely no grapevine. I always advise people new to working in a public accounting firm to stay away from The Grapevine.

Gossip and rumors thrive when communication from the top is inadequate. The is why I consider communication as the root of all evil inside firms. Rumors and gossip begin when someone drops the communication ball.

Always make communication a priority. Your people want to feel included; they want to know what is going on. If leaders do not tell them they will form their own opinions that are usually not true.

Some say that malicious gossip led to the death of Anne Boleyn. Don’t let gossip and rumor thrive inside your firm.

  • Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?
  • Sean Covey

Monday, July 12th, 2021

The Good Things

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson

Hopefully, if you had your partner retreat in May or June, you have already scheduled your annual “state of the firm” event. It is a very important event, especially if you are wanting your employees to be “engaged” with the firm.

The annual event is done differently in various firms. Some firms focus on the firm’s performance for the last fiscal year. Some firms use it as a way to obtain feedback from the team.

It is most powerful when firms use it as a way to host a full-firm management day. At this special meeting, the partners report on what they accomplished at their strategic planning retreat and how they think the team members can help them in achieving the strategic initiatives. It is a way to build momentum and focus on the good things the firm has accomplished and the good things that firm leaders want to achieve in the coming year.

At your full firm meeting always review the “good things” that have happened during the past year. Leaders often talk too much and think about the bad things.

At this annual meeting, it is time for positive thoughts and direction. Some firms have a guest speaker to help with motivation and have break-out sessions to explore ideas that can help the firm move forward in the coming year.

Get busy! Focus on the good things!

  • Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.
  • Dennis Prager

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

What One Firm Is Doing

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

Elliott Davis, a business solutions and accounting firm with nine offices across the Southeast,

In the new office, less than 10 employees have assigned workstations while the rest of the firm’s Greenville team members reserve seats a week in advance. By utilizing a reservation system, employees may be able to use a certain type of space at any given time such as a private office, collaboration space or open workstation.

Elliot Davis also added multiple monitors with an integrated web camera in each workstation and equipped meeting spaces with Microsoft Teams video technology to help connect with remote participants.

The above information is from a press release. What is your firm thinking about, planning, and/or doing? Your people will want to know.

  • 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

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

You Know What I Like!

“Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses.” – Tracy Morgan

I recently heard an old song by someone called The Big Bopper. He died on the famous plane crash with Buddy Holly. It happened on February 3, 1959, and has been called “The Day the Music Died.” It was referred to in Don McLean’s classic American Pie. If you are not old enough to remember or have never heard of Buddy Holly, click here.

Anyway, The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) had a novelty song that became a big hit titled Chantilly Lace. In the song he says, over and over, “Oh, baby you know what I like.”

I told you all of that so that I could talk about this – a recent article by Dan Hood of Accounting Today – “Accountants need to explain themselves.” Dan was on a recent Zoom session the AICPA leaders conducted last week. They (the AICPA leaders) urged all of us in the meeting and all CPAs to communicate what is good about the CPA profession. Dan’s article will be helpful to you.

They didn’t need to convince me. I love the CPA profession. But, are you, people working in a busy CPA firm, actively talking about all the good things to LIKE about the CPA profession? Talk to your kids, talk to students, talk to your spouse, your aunts/uncles, and especially your clients about the great rewards of being a CPA.

Read Dan’s article and keep in mind, “Oh, baby, you know what I like!”

  • If anyone asks you what kind of music you play, tell him 'pop.' Don't tell him 'rock'n'roll' or they won't even let you in the hotel.
  • Buddy Holly