Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Frustration

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is in sight.” – Jack Welch

We all like to tell our recruits and potential new-hires that “our firm is different”  – – I find that in the hundreds of firms that I have interacted with, nearly all of them have many of the same issues and frustrations.

Are you often frustrated? – “The firm” isn’t changing fast enough. New initiatives often get delayed. Leaders are not setting a good example. People leave messes in the kitchen!

All this reminds me of a story. Stories and quotations inspire me and hopefully, they do the same for you. When I was actively working inside an accounting firm, a friend of mine gave me some good advice. When something really frustrates you just substitute the word fascinated for frustrated.  When you go to get coffee, the pot has about 1/25th of an inch of coffee in it….. isn’t that fascinating?

I could elaborate more fully on the fascination of surviving in a CPA firm. But, the purpose of this blog is to communicate what you can do to make things run smoother, better, faster and more efficient.

I hope you also follow me on twitter:  @cpamanagement.

  • Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
  • Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Building An Inclusive Culture

“Exclusion is always dangerous. Inclusion is the only safety if we are to have a peaceful world.” – Pearl S. Buck

Over my years in the public accounting arena, I have found that to motivate your team you must develop a culture of inclusion. Young people, and new hires, want to be in on things. So, I am including today’s post from Seth Godin in its entirety.

Apply this to your CPA firm:

YOU CAN’T SAY YOU CAN’T PLAY

Lenny Levine was a great kindergarten teacher. And he ran his class by this one rule.

It means that if another kid comes along, you need to include them in your game.

That’s it.

It changes everything. It puts an emphasis on connection, not exclusivity. It changes the dynamics of belonging. It weaves together a foundation that crosses traditional boundaries.

It’s a bit like giving every kid in the class a valentine’s day card. Some say that it cheapens the sentiment because it’s not about selection, it’s about inclusion. I think we’ve got plenty of selection already.

In the adult world, open doors create possibility and that leads to insight and productivity.

 

  • Inclusion and fairness in the workplace is not simply the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do.
  • Alexis Herman

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Allow Your Team to Set Their Own Goals

“Focusing on strengths is the surest way to greater job satisfaction, team performance and organizational excellence.” – Marcus Buckingham

Does your CPA firm, as part of the performance feedback system, give employees certain goals to attain? Sometimes it makes sense but not always.

One firm told me they have one goal for all new college graduates entering the firm. That one goal, until it is achieved, is to pass the CPA exam. Maybe, even this one important goal, doesn’t make sense any longer.

According to Marcus Buckingham, goals that are pushed down from on high are un-goals. Goals should have meaning for the individual and, thus, should be created by that individual for themselves.

Firms should be creating meaning for everyone in the firm. Do your people know and understand what the firm is trying to achieve and where it is going in the future? Do they realize that the firm is a service organization focused on improving the lives and financial success of their clients? Do they understand the firm’s purpose? More importantly, have you effectively communicated the firm’s purpose?

If your people truly understand the purpose of the firm and buy-in to that journey, they will be able to set meaningful goals for themselves.

Read this interesting article about goals via Marcus Buckingham titled, “The best leaders do not set goals. Here’s what they do instead.”

  • You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses.
  • Marcus Buckingham

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Who Do You Trust?

“Listening is an important skill for building trust.” – Jennifer Collins

I remember hearing that Johnny Carson began his career as a game show host. When I typed in the title of this blog post, it jogged my memory, so I Googled it.

Who Do You Trust? (1956–1963) Married pairs of contestants were asked to answer questions, the husband deciding whether he or she would answer. The original emcee Edgar Bergen was later replaced by Johnny Carson.

My question is who do YOU trust at work?

I have facilitated numerous upward feedback surveys for CPA firms. If I receive several questions about how confidential the survey is I know that there is a lack of trust in firm leaders. There is almost always a fear of retaliation.

My wish is that there would be enough trust in a firm that all employees are comfortable telling the partners exactly what they think without that nagging fear.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post by Skip Prichard that prompted my blog post. His description sure sounded like a CPA firm to me!

From Skip:

Simply put, servant leaders build a culture of trust.

Why is that key? Because without trust—for the leader, for coworkers, for the organization at large—everyone will be focused on survival rather than success. Because the opposite of a culture of trust isn’t simply “a culture without trust.” It’s a culture of fear.

What does that mean? I think of a company I worked at that, when I started, I saw a complete lack of trust. Management spent time looking for new tools to track and manage staff. It was all about analytics aimed at finding people who weren’t “working hard enough” (according to the definitions attached to the tools, at least). Those people could be put on a list and micromanaged, reprimanded or even fired.

I have often found that partners (owners) don’t trust the staff and the staff doesn’t trust all of the partners. Think about what you can do about this situation as you work your way through busy season.

  • The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
  • Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Consequences

“Unresolved offenses become excuses for poor performance.” – Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell

Leaders in CPA firms often establish rules and guidelines for employees of their firm. Then, when someone ignores the rules/guidelines what happens? Usually, nothing!

At a full team meeting, the managing partner introduced a new rule – something about documentation. One experienced manager asked THE question, “What are the consequences if people ignore this step?” The leaders basically side-stepped the question.

One time an experienced Director of Technology in a firm said to me, “We adopt guidelines but we actually manage by exception.”

Ignoring offenses says volumes about your leadership style. Addressing an offense doesn’t always mean some sort of punishment. You can forgive an offense but don’t ignore it.

 

  • When you can’t resolve offenses, YOU become toxic. The Dead Sea is dead because it hangs on to everything.
  • Dan Rockwell

Friday, January 31st, 2020

Tax Season Is Not Complaining Season

I saw the following tweet by Greg Bell and thought of CPA firms:

“Would you like to spend time with someone who is constantly complaining about life, their job, gossiping about friends and coworkers, or putting themselves and others down? Or would you rather spend time with someone who is upbeat despite the challenges they face?” – Greg Bell (@gregbellspeaks)

Sad, isn’t it, that I think of CPA firms after reading this?

I have observed that when you get deep inside many accounting firms there is a lot of this going on.

In my personal experience working inside a firm, I found tax season to be a time when the general population of the firm was too busy to complain much. Almost everyone was focused, dedicated and possessed a sense of urgency.

The sad part is that after April 15th the moaning and groaning returned! I hope you are doing surveys so you can address some of the relevant issues. If it turns out that you have people who match-up with the quote above, you have the wrong people.

Address the issues and work to develop a No Whining culture!

  • You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.
  • Shirley Chisholm

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Ask Your Clients For Help

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” -Sam Walton

One popular question on any CPA firm client survey has told us that your best clients want to help you get more clients.

The survey question: Have you ever recommended us to any of your business friends/associates? The one answer we most often get is, “No one at the firm has ever asked me for referrals.”

You will be talking with so many clients during the next couple of months. Ask them if they are happy with your services and if you are meeting their expectations. Then, take the opportunity to ask them to recommend you to their friends and acquaintances. If you are providing awesome client service, they will be more than happy to talk about your firm to others.

Simply ask, “If you have been pleased with the service we provide, would you be willing to recommend us to others?” Hopefully, they are pleased!

  • Satisfaction is a rating. Loyalty is a brand.
  • Shep Hyken

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Banish the Interruptions

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” – Josh Billings

You arrive at the office very early ahead of everyone else. Maybe you get up at 4:30 a.m. and work from home a couple of hours before you leave.

You need more time to get your work done because during the traditional work hours – 8 to 5 – you have too many interruptions. You cannot even walk down the hall to the coffee station without getting stopped by someone asking a question.

You are a “go-to” person and you always give people answers. Maybe you should stop.

Why are people constantly coming to you for answers and guidance? If you have hired the right people, they will not need constant guidance. If you hire B players you will be continually stuck in a squirrel cage. Hire people smarter than you. You have heard that piece of advice for years but do you actually do it?

Develop your team and shield yourself from phone calls, emails and a line outside your door.

Firm administrators, managers, and managing partners – I am talking to you!

 

  • The oldest, shortest words – ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – are those which require the most thought.
  • Pythagoras

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Keeping Your Clients Informed

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” – Carl Sagan

Recently, I wrote about doing unexpected and helpful things for your clients. I am always surprised by the number of CPAs I talk to who do not send a newsletter to their clients. I always think of that old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” It applies to CPAs.

Use your newsletter software to also send important reminders to your clients. These reminders are certainly unexpected and helpful.

Here’s a great example from Snyder & Company in Lancaster, Ohio that I received last week:

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  • Friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions.
  • Samuel Johnson

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

CPA Management Newsletter

“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment. If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My January Solutions For CPA Firm Management newsletter went out yesterday. If you did not receive a copy and would like to – sign up here.

Hopefully, it will help you keep pace with the changing world of CPA firm management.

  • You'll never get bored when you try something new. There's really no limit to what you can do.
  • Dr. Seuss