Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Your Staffing Model

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.” – George Carlin

I have been thinking that maybe CPA firms would be busier than ever in 2020. But, maybe I have been thinking wrong.

I read this morning that Friedman, a well-known Top 100 firm laid-off 50 people on March 26. You can read all about it here via goingconcern.  A recent survey found that 41% of accountants believe job cuts will happen at their firm because of COVID-19.

The article makes it sound like Friedman did not handle the situation very professionally. One person’s comment:

The person knew something was up when they were locked out of their computer on Thursday morning. So they called IT.

“They immediately slammed the phone down. I guess they knew I was on the fired list,” the person said.

What about your firm? Do you have a people plan ready for moving forward in 2020 after the tax crunch is over? I still believe that there will be so much work that needs to be done helping clients understand all the new rules and guidelines and also, helping them with budgeting and planning how they will survive into the future.

 

  • When I was 16, I worked in a pet store. And they fired me because they had three snakes in there, and one day I braided them.
  • Steven Wright

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Keep Communicating With Your Clients

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

I happen to be on the mailing list of many CPA firms and I have been so pleased to see how well you are all communicating with your clients.

Now is the time they need reassurance from you. They will need lots of assistance in the days, weeks and months ahead and you are their “go-to” person.

I have assembled some of the communications as inspiration for you. You can download a copy of my compilation of just a few of the emails firms are sending to clients.

 

  • Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The New Challenge of Leading People Remotely

“Being supportive is always important—but in times of crisis and separation, it’s critical.” – Dolly Daskal

In my office at work, many years ago, I had a magnetic sign stuck on the side of a metal file cabinet (remember those?) that said in big letters “Shit Happens.” It was where no one could see it but me! One of the partners gave it to me.

That pretty much described my focus back then. I was the firefighter, the policewoman, the physical Wikipedia and lots of challenges came my way. I welcomed the challenges but sometimes it was very frustrating (thus the sign). Things do just happen.

Now, as a leader in your firm (managing partner, HR director, Practice Manager, COO) lots of challenges have come your way (Big S— Has Happened).

If you are seeking help on how to do your management job in a remote environment Dolly Daskal has written an informative post.

Here are some tips:

  • You should be more supportive than ever.
  • You should be more present than ever.
  • You must keep people more informed than ever.
  • Be sure to show that you care more than ever.
  • You should bring more clarity than ever.
  • You should lead by example more than ever.

Daskal gives you more explanation for each of these tips in her post. Be sure to read the entire article.

  • It’s harder to show caring from a distance, but a time like this, when people are feeling anxious and isolated, is when a personal touch is most needed.
  • Dolly Daskal

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Do You Have People Who Aren’t Self-Aware In Your Firm?

“I am dating a woman now who, evidently, is unaware of it.” – Gary Shandling

Research shows that although 95% of people think they are self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

In a recent article via HBR, you probably can find them in your office. It is my observation that you definitely find them in CPA firms!

These are people who have solid qualifications and are intelligent, yet they have no clue as to how they come across to their co-workers or employees. They are not only frustrating, but they can also cause increased stress and decreased motivation for others on the team.

Sometimes it is hard to identify that the real problem is lack of self-awareness. Some things to consider are that they don’t accept critical feedback, they lack empathy, they have an inflated opinion of their contributions and they are hurtful to others without realizing it.

Sometimes upward feedback surveys can bring the issues to the surface. In other cases, if you recognize it in others, you might have that crucial conversation with the person yourself.

Read the entire article. Plan to deal with these situations rather than sweep them under the carpet and risk driving top performers away from your firm.

 

  • There must be a happy medium somewhere between being totally informed and blissfully unaware.
  • Doug Larson

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Choose Calm Over Panic

“The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.” – Henry David Thoreau

Seth Godin’s blog post from last Friday is so meaningful during these confusing times.

Here is one passage that spoke to me.

Twitter has been engineered to maximize panic. Calm is penalized, panic is amplified. And if you are hanging out in real life with people who spend a lot of time on social media and news sites, you’ve invited all of those people into your circle as well. – Seth Godin

I use Twitter for communication and for sharing helpful information for CPAs and their teams. So many people don’t. I don’t follow them. You shouldn’t either.

  • He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.
  • Plato

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Don’t Get Too Busy To Provide Feedback

You only have to do very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” – – Warren Buffett

Inside your firm this busy season you have interns and new-hires, first-year CPA candidates.

During the hiring process for these young, future CPAs you talked to, listened to, entertained them. The firm leaders were on their best behavior.

Then when these young, high-potential employees enter the firm they are often greeted with silence. Sure they go through training but often it’s do-this, do-that, follow-this guideline and so on.

When young people enter your accounting firm, keep the conversations going – – not some sort of formal feedback session after 60-days or 90-days – talk to them daily. Create a culture of communication – clear, concise, honest and often.

Seth Godin says the best way to change long-term behavior is with short-term feedback. The opposite is not true. We rarely change short-term behavior with long-term feedback.

There is a lot of whining surrounding performance evaluation systems inside CPA firms. It creates a culture of dread. If you want to change your culture and attract top talent – start with feedback.

  • How was your day? is a question that matters a lot more than it seems.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Two Words

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

When I am meeting with team members (without the partners) in a CPA firm or during my sessions at CPA management conferences, I ask the group to quickly write down two words that describe their firm at that very moment.

Here are some examples of what I have received:

  • Organized – Chaos
  • Continually – Frustrated
  • Caring – Challenged
  • Dynamic – Dysfunction
  • Forward – Backward
  • Need – Help
  • Fiefdoms – Abound (one of my favorites)
  • Growing – Pains
  • Fun – Growing
  • No – Decisions
  • Under – Construction
  • And from a sole proprietor – For – Sale!

Two words I like to hear about firms:

  • Relentless – Perseverance
  • Eternally – Optimistic

As leaders, don’t you wonder what two words your team members would use to describe your firm to an outsider?

  • Comfort is the enemy of progress.
  • P. T. Barnum

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend

Wondering if the handshake will become a thing of the past? Maybe the Vulcan greeting sign might be the answer.

  • May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with Humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.
  • Spock

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Managers Play A Key Role In Engagement

“’No news is good news’ should not be an employee recognition program.” – Sharlyn Lauby

Partners and owners in public accounting firms rely heavily on those experienced employees who have significant experience. They have learned and evolved over the years and are now managers in the firm.

Firm managers are on the frontline when it comes to all the other team members (supervisors, seniors, staff, associates, bookkeepers, etc.) who make up the remainder of the accounting/tax team.

Thus, managers play a key role in the training, development, and motivation of others. They make a big difference in the daily lives of your entire staff.

One big issue I have observed is that owners don’t often provide enough training for managers in the art of actually managing. “The firm” sends them to various CPE courses and encourages them in their online training in the technical skills they need to succeed. In other words, they invest in teaching them tax, audit, and accounting. Learning people skills is left to chance.

Lots of articles and surveys have told us that employees do not leave a company (firm), they leave a manager. So, lessening turnover and increasing employee engagement is the responsibility of the manager.

How can your managers create a great day for employees? Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), an HR pro give us eight tips:

  1. Deliver a learning moment.
  2. Use the employee’s strengths.
  3. Tell employees they made an impact.
  4. Recognize an employee’s accomplishments.
  5. Offer inspiration.
  6. Help employees make progress toward their goals.
  7. Create collaborative opportunities.
  8. Let employees make it theirs.

Read more about each of these eight tips in this recent post from Lauby.

  • The goal is with every interaction to provide employees with an engaging experience.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Set Clear Expectations For Your Clients

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I admire firms that are proactive with their clients. So many CPAs just wait on the client to call if there is an issue they need help with. Surveys have told us over and over again that clients want their CPA to be more proactive.

Be more proactive when it comes to obtaining the client’s tax information. For most firms, it is an annual, painful drama. Here’s a message one firm has sent out (in late February) to their clients. It went out in an email. It is a simple thing to do and guess what? It might help!

fluence

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 11, 2020. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2019. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.
  • Stephen R. Covey