Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, December 6th, 2019

First Impressions Do Count

“A good first impression can work wonders.” – J. K. Rowling

When we think of first impressions, we naturally think about how we come across to clients, prospects and other professionals in our business network. We worry about how our firm appears to outsiders. Is our brand positive and strong?

First impressions also make a huge difference when we make a new hire. When a new employee arrives, what is their first impression? How effective is your onboarding program?

I STILL hear horror stories.

  • It is apparent to the new hire that the front desk person has no clue who they are.
  • There is a scramble to find where they will actually sit.
  • And, the one I hear most often, there is no computer available and ready for them.

Hopefully, your firm has a New Hire IT Checklist that has been completed and it is part of your Onboarding Manual.

  • I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.
  • Lemony Snicket

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Three Little Words – But Not “Those” 3 Little Words

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill

Don’t you love to hear those three little words?

Sure you do, everyone wants to hear “I love you.” I hope you hear them and say them daily. But wait, that’s not the “three little words” I’m talking about.

The three little words I’m referring to are three you do not want to hear. You probably hide from them and deny them.

I hear the following comment often from CPA firm managing partners, “We don’t have a succession plan. There is just no one at our firm who can take over from me and do what I do.”  I ask them, “Whose fault is that?” And, the answer is three little words – Baby It’s You.

If you are the managing partner at a firm (or a sole proprietor), you are in charge. The future of the firm is in your hands.

  • If your people are not good managers, relationship builders or passionate about the firm
  • If your managers are not coaching less experienced team members
  • If your team spends too much time on the web and social media for personal reasons during the day
  • If they put too much time in a job because they don’t have a budget
  • If they make you cringe some days because of the way they are dressed

The responsibility for all of these kinds of issues comes back to the leader – Baby, it’s you.

  • The task of the leader is to gt his people from where they are to where they have not been.
  • Henry Kissinger

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Succession Planning – What Are You Forgetting?

“The truest wisdom is a resolute determination.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

CPAs have been immersed in the process of succession planning for years.

As the Baby Boomers have aged and retired succession planning for firms took on a whole new life. How will the firm survive without me? Who will take over my client relationships? And, the continuing statement made by retiring partners, “We don’t have anyone who can replace me!”

When I hear that statement I always ask, “Whose fault is that?”

As you approach succession planning, I am sure you are making sure that your successors have all the experience and technical knowledge that public accounting demands. But, they need more.

According to Bruce Tulgan, a writer specializing in management training and generational diversity in the workforce, “One of the hardest things about succession planning is what I refer to as ‘wisdom transfer’—passing on institutional knowledge and soft skills to new leaders. How are you tackling wisdom transfer in your organization?”

What are you, as a firm and as individual senior partners, doing to be sure that you are making that “wisdom transfer” to the next generation of firm leaders?

  • Foolishness is a twin sister of wisdom.
  • Witold Gombrowicz

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

A Job Description Is Important – But, There Is More

“Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” – Margaret Walker

Offering individualized job descriptions to your staff is definitely something you should be doing. I find that in smaller firms, job descriptions are something that is not always offered. Employees just learn what they should do and they do it.

The next-gen workforce (Gen Z) wants to know exactly what will be expected of them. Career development is a must. They are ambitious and desire opportunities for advancing in their careers. Set clear, concise expectations for them.

There are probably several people on your team who might bristle when asked to do a certain task. They are thinking, and probably don’t say it out loud, “that’s not in my job description!”

The truth is, there are many things that you must do in an office environment that are not spelled out on your job description.

Seth Godin, in one of his blog posts, listed things that are missing from your job description if you work in an office. Below, are a few (read the entire list here.)

  • Ask why
  • Treat customers better than they expect
  • Feed the plants
  • Highlight good work from your peers
  • Cut costs
  • Organize a bookshelf
  • Smile a lot
  • Leave things more organized than you found them
  • and many more

Here are some that apply to an accounting office. I bet you can add more!

  • Never leave a mess at the coffee station
  • Don’t mess with the thermostat
  • Don’t eat someone else’s lunch that is in the frig
  • Greet every client who might be sitting in the lobby
  • Always offer a visitor a coffee or soft drink
  • If you have an issue with a peer, talk to them about it and no one else
  • and many more!

Read about my CPA Firm Courtesy Policy here.

  • Good manners and graciousness pave the way for future favors. Bad manners crumble the road.
  • Terri Guillemets

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Words Are Currency – Spend Them Wisely

“A fool is made more of a fool when their mouth is more open than their mind.” – Anthony Liccione

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone spews words in a never-ending dialogue that is pretty much meaningless? It seems they just enjoy hearing themselves talk.

I believe that communication within CPA firms needs to be continuous and enlightening but that doesn’t mean too many meetings where certain people ramble on and on. I recently read the following and realized how meaningful it is to CPA firm meetings.

Joe had always considered individual words as finite units of currency, and he believed in savings. He never wanted to waste or unnecessarily expend words. To Joe, words meant things. They should be spent wisely.

That’s why Joe despised meetings where he felt the participants acted as if they were paid by the number of words spoken and, as a result, the words began to cheapen by the minute until they meant nothing at all. In Joe’s experience, the person who talked the most often had the least to say. (C. J. Box, author)

Does this apply to someone at your firm? Is it you?

  • Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about themselves, and small people talk about others.
  • John C. Maxwell

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Tone It Down

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” – Zig Ziglar

You are in a firm meeting. It could be a partner meeting, a staff meeting, a committee meeting or an admin meeting. Someone complains (gripes.. bitches…) and another person joins in and soon there are several on the bandwagon.

Think about it. It probably happens all too frequently. In some cases, the person running the meeting (a manager, partner, firm administrator) actually joins in. They feel like they are sympathizing and showing support for the concerns.

If you are leading a meeting that suddenly turns into a gripe session, don’t join in. Tone it down! You might think you are building camaraderie but you are actually undermining your own credibility.

Take immediate steps to turn these bitch sessions into productive, problem-solving meetings. You might simply say, “Wait a minute, I hear the problem. Let’s talk about solutions.” Enlist the entire group into voicing possible solutions.

  • Everyone has to make their own decisions. I still believe in that. You just have to be able to accept the consequences without complaining.
  • Grace Jones

Friday, November 8th, 2019

Accountants & Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness.” – Justin Bariso

There has been a lot of talk and many things written about accountants having a fairly low EQ (Emotional Intelligence). CPAs are often cautious, conservative, reserved and hesitant to show any emotion. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on raising your level of emotional intelligence.

Last December I did a post titled, You Are Business Smart. Are You Feelings Smart? I mentioned Justin Bariso and his 3-Second Trick (to help with EQ).

Bariso recently wrote another article to help with EQ in his column via Inc. Take This 5-Minute Test to See if You Have High Emotional Intelligence. I hope you will take 5 minutes to see where you stand. Do you think before you speak? Do you learn from negative feedback? –and several more good questions to ask yourself.

  • Paying attention to body language, eye movement, and tone of voice helps emotionally intelligent people to distinguish what's going on in others.
  • Justin Bariso

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Tune-In To Individuals

“The way management treats associates is exactly how the associates will treat the customers.” – Sam Walton

I follow Bruce Tulgan on Twitter. I have read his books and heard him speak in person. He speaks my language! If you are working in a CPA firm and manage people, he speaks your language, too.

Last week, I sent a copy of It’s Okay To Be The Boss to a young millennial who was just promoted to Manager in one of the “big” firms. She is charged with managing other millennials (even younger) and already realizes the challenges she is facing. So, it is not only baby boomers and GenX who wonder how to manage younger workers.

I hope you follow him on Twitter, also. I hope you also follow me on Twitter!

Here’s a recent tweet from Tulgan:

Customization is the holy grail of effective management today. The more you can tune in to the individual wants, needs, strengths, and weaknesses of each individual, the better you are able to guide and support them.
tulgan

  • Management is nothing more than motivating other people.
  • Lee Iacocca

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Be Clear About Your Purpose

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”  Winston Churchill

The partners go away for a couple of days and come back with a firm mission statement. Does that inspire you? I doubt it. In many firms, it is just another “flavor of the month” and soon no one will even be able to recite it.

I like the new trend in calling it (mission statement) a statement of purpose. What is the purpose of your firm? What are you trying to achieve?

Many owner groups struggle with defining and living, their purpose. Some even copy a purpose from another firm and roll it out to their team as if it has real meaning to the owners.

Per an interesting article via Harvard Business Review, a truly powerful purpose statement is one that achieves two objectives: clearly articulating strategic goals and motivating your workforce.

If you want to find and retain top talent, they must know and understand your firm’s purpose – I mean really, not just some fancy words.

Surveys tell us that a large percentage of employees don’t feel fully connected to their firm’s purpose, they don’t see the value they create and that their jobs don’t allow them to fully leverage their strengths.

This adds up to a crisis of purpose. And, what follows along is a communication crisis. As I continue to say – most problems I encounter inside accounting firms can be traced back to poor, or lack of, communication.

Read and share the HBR article with your firm leaders. It is titled, Why Are We Here? Good question.

  • Workers feel lost. And over time, a lack of direction saps motivation; people begin backing away from the challenges required to achieve the firm’s articulated goals.
  • Sally Blount & Paul Leinwand, authors HBR

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Find Time to Laugh

“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” – Robert Frost

My husband and I frequently watch British comedy shows. He, not me, is a huge fan of the movie Month Python and the Holy Grail. He and my son can quote most of the script. Recently, we have watched The Detectorists via Acorn TV. The comedy is very subtle and we find it hilarious. We also love Doc Martin.

Anyway, it is healthy to laugh. Inside accounting firms, there is a lot of drama but I find that there is also much to laugh about. Look for the humor and spread it. Observe the drama and don’t take part in it!

Here’s a quote from John Cleese of Monty Python:

“I used to think comedy was a luxury, but now I see it’s much more important. As I’ve aged, I’ve found the world far, far more ridiculous than I used to think. I think some of us reach a point when we look at the world and think, This place is so crazy that I really can’t take it very seriously anymore.”

Honestly, in my consulting work, I often hear stories of happenings inside an accounting firm that are so serious and unbelievable that I just have to laugh!

Laugh inside your firm….. not at your firm.

 

  • The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
  • Mark Twain