Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

It Takes More Than An Email

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Accounting firms have been faced with introducing a lot of new technologies recently. Some of it has been in almost an emergency mode.

But think back to how a new technology task was rolled-out BEFORE you were faced with COVID. I have observed that the technology team in accounting firms and the accountants speak two different languages.

Maybe the new technology task is something simple like how to log-in and work remotely. The IT team carefully put together a lengthy and elaborate email to explain how to do it. Simple.

Because the accountants didn’t quite understand all of the detailed instructions in the email, they emailed back with questions. The tech team answered, another email and another answer…. another email (of course “to all”) and another answer.

After about five or six back-and-forths, most people will just quit reading the emails.

Anytime you are implementing a new policy or procedure, whether it is about technology or tax processing, it takes more than an email. Communicate in person. Invite small groups of people to be trained face-to-face. You can do this using Zoom for your remote workers.

When you are all back in the office and can meet in larger groups, have the person responsible for the new tech, tax, or office procedure lead the session and answer all questions. Again, it takes more than an email.

  • I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way round somewhere along the line.
  • Elvis Presley

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Oh, No! Another Meeting!

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer the meetings the better.” – Peter Drucker

I hate to admit it but I write about this topic very often. The trouble is, this problem never seems to go away or even improve.

Right now, rather than in-person meetings at the firm, people are becoming exhausted because of too many ZOOM meetings! I hear this from many people who are now working remotely.

This topic has been addressed, very humorously by Dilbert, on many occasions:

Boss: We’re having a meeting to discuss employee retention.

Dilbert: Tell them that employees quit because there are too many useless meetings.

Boss: We won’t be getting into reasons at the first meeting.

Seriously, does your firm have too many meetings? It is an on-going danger inside CPA firms because:

  • Partners want to be sure they are communicating with everyone.
  • Partners want to show their people that they care about their opinion.
  • Partners and managers think that what they discuss is of interest to everyone.
  • Partners have a strong “need to know” about way too many things!
  • Partners think they have to be in on every decision.

Some suggestions:

  • Don’t make most meetings mandatory.
  • Invite and involve fewer people.
  • Invite and involve the right people.
  • Be sure the technology works for everyone.
  • Always have an agenda.
  • Set an end time and stick to it.
  • Leave the meeting with Action Steps.

If you involve people in meetings that are important and they don’t talk or contribute. Don’t invite or involve them again.

The most recent story I heard is that one manager had so many ZOOM meetings that she had to actually conduct the meetings in a closet because it was so disturbing to the rest of her family because her spouse and even her children were also working online.

  • A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.
  • James T. Kirk

Friday, May 29th, 2020

The Power of Recognition

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” – William Shakespeare

This week for my Friday Flashback post, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about the importance of “Hello. Good Morning. Thank-you.”

It’s a post from April 2014 and it still applies today. You might even find the 3-minute video helpful that is referenced in the post.

You are probably beginning to welcome people back into the office. Keep in mind that your people need appreciation and recognition, in person, and also when they are working remotely.

Have a great weekend.

  • We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
  • Cynthia Ozick

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Flashback Friday – Performance Feedback

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Many firms are postponing their annual performance feedback sessions. During these unusual times and because due dates for taxes have been pushed back, firm leaders declare that they just don’t have time right now.

I hope this is not the case in your firm. Feedback should be on-going, not saved up for some formal, boring, dreaded annual ordeal.

Read this flashback post on the topic of performance feedback.

  • Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
  • Francis of Assisi

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Are You Also Responsible for Marketing?

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” – – Milan Kundera

Many firm administrators and managing partners are also charged with the role of Marketing Director. The vast majority of CPA firms are not of the size to support a full-time Marketing Director. If your firm is large enough, I am sure your Marketing Director is one of the busiest people in your firm.

Whether you are a smaller firm or larger firm, it takes discipline to effectively market your practice and reinforce your brand. A few years ago we thought Fall was marketing season for CPA firms. Today, it is a 24/7/365 activity.

Go through some simple exercises with all partners and managers:

  • Gather information about your firm’s uniqueness in your market. Identify any weaknesses and focus on strengths.
  • Make a list of each CPA and each community or charitable organization where they are active. Are there, key, high profile organizations where your firm is absent?
  • Have each CPA list their referral sources (bankers, attorneys, etc.) and identify the referrals they have given you in the last year. Are you referring more their way than they are your way? Are there some of the same referral sources on everyone’s list and some powerful ones that are missing altogether?
  • Have each CPA (no matter what their title) create a marketing action plan and report each month on their activities.
  • Hold pipeline meetings at least monthly.

Don’t let summer (or a pandemic) cause a lapse in vigorous attention to marketing activities. See my post from yesterday!

The Association for Accounting Marketing‘s annual conference has been canceled this year but you or your marketing director should put next year’s conference on your calendar. Here’s the message on their website:

We regret to announce the cancelation of our 2020 Summit due to the current projections of the coronavirus pandemic. We will hold our next Summit at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, May 24-27, 2021. We will announce when registration opens for 2021.

  • Content is fire, social media is gasoline.
  • Jay Baer

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Don’t Rescue

“Let others perform. Ego creates silos.” – Dan Rockwell

An on-going complaint by CPA firm managers – “The staff person didn’t finish the job. They sent it back to me!”

What’s rather sad about this scenario is the fact that while the manager complains, they just go ahead and take the work back, finish it or fix it.

The team member almost always sends the job back to the manager, unfinished, because they don’t know what to do next. They came upon an issue that they were unfamiliar with and have learned that if they give it back to the manager, the manager will finish it!

Dan Sullivan (@LeadershipFreak) says, “It’s dangerous to do other people’s work for them. When you rescue competent people, you minimize talent and promote disengagement.”

Managers defend their actions with the excuse of having to get the job moving, out the door and not put too much more time in the job. Don’t rescue them, send the job back, and help them address the unfamiliar issue.

Here is a simple, 4-step training method that seems to make so much sense for interns and new hires working in accounting firms.

  1. I do – You watch
  2. I do – You help
  3. You do – I help
  4. You do – I watch

If you keep rescuing them, they will never gain the knowledge and experience for career success.

  • The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
  • William Arthur Ward

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

What Are You Doing?

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” ~ Andrew Carnegie

People are watching what you do.

Whether you are a firm leader or a first-year accountant. People are watching what you do.

Do you live what you say? Or, do you say one thing and do another?

During this unusual time, firm partners are doing things they have never done before. Everyone is serving clients in a way they have never done before. You get distracted. Sometimes you feel invisible because you don’t have much face-to-face contact. Does that change how and why you do things?

You are not invisible. People are watching you. It’s up to you to set a good example.

  • Look at people for an example, but then make sure to do things your way. Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Queen Latifah

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Bringing People Back

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell

There are a lot of discussions going on in the accounting firm world about what to do when firms begin to bring team members back into the office.

It is also important to be able to advise the firm’s clients on how to reopen offices safely.

Theresa Richardson, Chief Talent Officer of Withum has some great advice and guidelines in a post on the Withum website.

She explains the five factors to measure before reopening your business

  1. Communication
  2. Prevention
  3. Social Distancing
  4. Empathy
  5. Health Procedures

Read the article to learn about each factor – Returning to the Workplace: Post-Pandemic Considerations.

  • Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.
  • Karl Augustus Menninger

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Be A Good Zoom Citizen

“A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You have been participating in Zoom calls for a while now. Are you a good Zoom citizen?

I don’t often post a complete Seth Godin post but I think this one will be helpful to many of you working in CPA firms.

Zoom Tips For The Modern Age

If you’ve ever joined more than three people on a Skype or Zoom conference call, I hope you’ll appreciate these tips, and perhaps share them:

  1. Sit close to the screen. Your face should fill most of it.
  2. Use an external microphone or headset. Regardless of how you’re amplified, remember that the microphone is only a foot away, which means you don’t have to strain or raise your voice. Also, consider Krisp if you have background noise issues.
  3. When you’re not talking, hit mute. If you’re on mute, press and hold the space bar and you can be heard.
  4. Don’t eat during the meeting.
  5. When you’re on mute during an audio call, you can do whatever you want. But when you’re on mute on a video call, you need to act like you’re truly engaged. Nod your head. Focus on the screen. Don’t get up and feed your dog.
  6. Don’t sit with the window behind you. A little effort on lighting goes a very long way.
  7. When you’re talking, spend some time looking at the camera, not the screen. You’ll appear more earnest and honest this way.
  8. When you’re talking, go slow. No one is going to steal your slot.
  9. Don’t walk if you’re using a phone. And if you’re using a laptop, don’t put it on your lap.
  10. Please (!) do not use an animated background. Do not use a funny one either. If we’re noticing your background, you’re doing it wrong.

These are obvious. They are generous. They’re effective.

And almost no one puts in the effort to consistently deliver on them. It’s worth it.

  • Rudeness is the weak person's imitation of strength.
  • Eric Hoffer

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Don’t Forget! – Feedback!

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

So many things are on your mind right now. How will we cope in the new normal? How will we permanently establish a remote workforce? Which team members should be in the office and which ones should stay away? What about the most vulnerable on our team?

Yes, lots of challenges and so much to do. But, don’t forget one of the most important things your team needs… feedback. You don’t see them in person and most of your contact is via email so you might forget that important ingredient to a person’s success in their job.

Here’s a flashback post about feedback – it’s Flashback Friday. Stay Safe.

  • Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.
  • Tim Fargo