Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Get Rid of Drama!

This is a sad statement for me to make, however, when I noticed this comment by the author, Jon Gordon I thought of CPAs and their firms. Here is his tweet:

“Complaining is like throwing up. Afterward, you feel better but then everyone around you feels sick.”

How much complaining goes on inside your firm? I have heard from many, well…. most of my clients that there is entirely too much drama inside the firm. Someone always seems to be complaining about someone else.

I have frequently observed a strange reaction from a partner group. They decide on a new policy, procedure or event. Then they hear that one person has complained about their decision. They quickly react and often reverse or modify their decision. Don’t do it!

Keep another famous quote in mind:

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time” (Poet John Lydgate as made famous by Abraham Lincoln).

When you make decisions always keep in mind… “for the good of the firm”.

  • I can't tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.
  • Ed Sheeran

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Be Sure To Take Part in the AICPA PCPS Top Issues Survey

“He who has no opinion of his own, but depends upon the opinion of others, is a slave.” – Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

There are just a few days left to weigh in on the top issues facing your firm!

Take 10 minutes for the AICPA PCPS Top Issues Survey and help set the direction for the resources they develop.

Survey closes 5.17.19 http://bit.ly/302prW6 

  • It is not truth, but opinion that can travel the world without a passport.
  • Walter Raleigh

Monday, May 13th, 2019

What About Your Elephants?

“Productive conversations turn conflict into collaboration, reduce costly mistakes and create a culture of accountability.” – Marlene Chism

It’s the beginning of partner retreat season for public accounting firms.

From my experience and from many conversations with CPA partners and practice managers, during these retreats, there always seem to be an “elephants in the room.”

Elephant in the room definition from the urban dictionary:  n. A very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about. Perhaps a sore spot, perhaps politically incorrect, or perhaps a political hot potato, it’s something that no one wants to touch with a ten-foot pole. 

From my experience in pre-retreat preparation, partners will individually tell their facilitator that they want the elephant in the room topic to be approached and solved but as a group, they want to avoid it completely.

The staff also are aware of the elephant in the room topic. It is difficult to address for various reasons, including power structures and cultural issues but putting it on the back burner time after time is even more disruptive.

This year actually discuss your elephant in the room. Here’s a helpful article from Marlene Chism – The undiscussables: How to address the elephant in the room. The article will also help you better express your concerns when you are giving performance feedback.

You can follow Marlene on Twitter: @StopYourDrama

  • Knowing your feelings won't change the facts, but knowing the facts can change your feelings.
  • Marlene Chism

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

After Tax Season Debriefing

“Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.” – Oscar Wilde

Every year, in late April or early May, CPA firms have a debriefing to uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly of tax season. What worked well, what was a disaster and how do we do better next year? You can read some suggestions on my blog of several years ago.

This year, Roman Kepczyk, Director of Consulting for Right Networks shares a Tax Season Debriefing Checklist in his article in CPA Practice Advisor.

Maybe this checklist will help you structure your debriefing in a more production format.

  • Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not?'
  • Robert F. Kennedy

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Snooze Is Not For You

“The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.” – Seth Godin

On rare occasions, I provide a complete post by Seth Godin. Today is one of those days. Why? I observe so many CPA firms that delay decisions and then delay them again and again.

I also observe that CPAs have an email Inbox that houses hundreds of emails. I once knew a tax manager that had thousands of emails in her Inbox. That is when we began limiting the digital space that accountants could use for their email. Please consider small, everyday decisions and larger partner group decisions as something you should deal with and then move on!

SNOOZE IS A TRAP

There’s a button on my email program that allows me to postpone an incoming email to a future day.

Sort of like a snooze button.

The snooze button is a trap. It’s a trap because not only do you have to decide later, but you just expended time and energy to deciding to decide later.

Do it once, move on.

‘Decide once’ is a magical productivity commitment.

There is a certain class of decision that benefits from time. Decisions where more information is in fact useful.

But most of the time, we’re busy making decisions that should be made now or not at all. You end up with a ton of decision debt, a pile of unanswered, undecided, unexplored options. And you’re likely to simply walk away.

If you open an email, you’ve already made the commitment to respond and move on. Not to push it down the road.

In or out, yes or no, on to the next thing.

Snooze is not for you.

  • How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Generations at Work

“Older generations are living proof that younger generations can survive their lunacy.” – Cullen Hightower

I have been talking and writing about how to deal with the different generations in the workplace for years. My first project in this area was a survey of Gen-X and a report to advise practitioners how to deal with them. At the time, they were a mystery to the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers. Many old-timers called them “slackers.” All they actually wanted was some work-life balance!

We still have some of those Silent Generation people in some firms. True, they are in their mid-70s but you probably know some or know of some. And, now we have Generation Z coming on the scene (born after 1997). Many are still in college and some have now graduated and are working at your firm or are your intern pool. That’s five generations communicating in different ways.

  • Silent Generation (or Traditionalists)
  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millennials (or Generation Y)
  • Generation Z

Via the AICPA Insider, we have been given some tips on ways to communicate with Generation Z (and all generations):

  • Establish protocol
  • Think about the individual
  • Present the same information in various ways
  • Make sure written messages are mobile friendly
  • Be authentic
  • Don’t discriminate

Take the time to read more about each tip in this informative article here.

  • I have to study politics and war so that my sons can study mathematics, commerce and agriculture, so their sons can study poetry, painting and music.
  • John Quincy Adams

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

A Key Communication Issue

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

Through my consulting activities, I almost always find that inside an accounting firm, communication is one of the biggest perceived issues. Staff members consistently rank lack of communication as a major issue for their firm.

Leaders tell me they have an annual State of the Firm event to share information about the firm. Of course, everyone enjoys the annual event where the managing partner provides some highlights of the previous year (or tax season) and provides some motivational comments for moving forward. It is a form of communication and transparency but, with this scenario, I don’t think once a year is quite enough.

The most aggravating communication issue for staff relates to clients. They are charged with performing the client engagement quickly and accurately while helping, as best they can, the client be more successful. Often they learn, after-the-fact, that the partner has had discussions with the client and failed to inform the staff member. Sometimes work has to be re-done because the staff member lacked pertinent information.

Some firms have solved this issue by utilizing software programs that keep everyone informed about conversations with a client. It works wonderfully if the partners, managers, and others remember to use it.

  • Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.
  • Charlie Kaufman

Monday, April 15th, 2019

What Are The Minimum Hours You Expect Staff To Work?

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare

The number of hours you expect your team members to work, throughout the year, is something that should be clearly communicated. Some firms expect significantly increased hours during February, March and half of April and also during the Fall busy season. More and more firms are adopting a four-day workweek during the summer months.

Kimberly Hawkins of Thomas, Head & Greisen (Anchorage AK), allowed me to share how their “Seasonal Schedule” works. I think it is rather creative and very reasonable compared to most CPA firms.

At the bottom of this page is more information from Kim about how they handle holidays, PTO days, etc.

We have what we call a seasonal schedule. Our work weeks range from 50 hours during tax season, to 32 hours during the summer and late fall. During our 32 hour work weeks, staff schedule a day off, which is typically a Monday or a Friday. This is our schedule for this year:

Seasonal Schedule 2018-2019-Minimum hours we would like someone to work due to the seasonal nature of our business:

Wk # Begin Date End Date Std Hrs
1        10/1/2018 10/6/2018           50
2        10/7/2018 10/13/2018         50
3        10/14/2018 10/20/2018       40
4        10/21/2018 10/27/2018       32
5        10/28/2018 11/3/2018         32
6        11/4/2018 11/10/2018         32
7        11/11/2018 11/17/2018       32
8        11/18/2018 11/24/2018       32
9        11/25/2018 12/1/2018         32
10       12/2/2018 12/8/2018          32
11       12/9/2018 12/15/2018        32
12       12/16/2018 12/22/2018      32
13       12/23/2018 12/29/2018      32
14       12/30/2018 1/5/2019          32
15       1/6/2019 1/12/2019            40
16       1/13/2019 1/19/2019          40
17       1/20/2019 1/26/2019          40
18       1/27/2019 2/2/2019            45
19       2/3/2019 2/9/2019              45
20       2/10/2019 2/16/2019          50
21       2/17/2019 2/23/2019          50
22       2/24/2019 3/2/2019            50
23       3/3/2019 3/9/2019              50
24       3/10/2019 3/16/2019          50
25       3/17/2019 3/23/2019          50
26       3/24/2019 3/30/2019          50
27       3/31/2019 4/6/2019            50
28       4/7/2019 4/13/2019            50
29       4/14/2019 4/20/2019          40
30       4/21/2019 4/27/2019          40
31        4/28/2019 5/4/2019           40
32       5/5/2019 5/11/2019            40
33       5/12/2019 5/18/2019          40
34       5/19/2019 5/25/2019          40
35       5/26/2019 6/1/2019            40
36       6/2/2019 6/8/2019              32
37       6/9/2019 6/15/2019            32
38       6/16/2019 6/22/2019          32
39       6/23/2019 6/29/2019          32
40       6/30/2019 7/6/2019            32
41       7/7/2019 7/13/2019            32
42       7/14/2019 7/20/2019          32
43       7/21/2019 7/27/2019          32
44       7/28/2019 8/3/2019            32
45       8/4/2019 8/10/2019            32
46       8/11/2019 8/17/2019          40
47       8/18/2019 8/24/2019          45
48       8/25/2019 8/31/2019          50
49       9/1/2019 9/7/2019              50
50       9/8/2019 9/14/2019            50
51       9/15/2019 9/21/2019          40
52       9/22/2019 9/28/2019          45
53       9/29/2019 9/30/2019            8
Year End Total                             2080

If a holiday is on a Monday and that is the day staff take their Seasonal Day, they can choose another day in the same week (Sunday – Saturday).  Staff can only have one Seasonal Day in a week.  I’ve also attached our Seasonal Variance Schedule.  If staff work on different projects, for example, 990’s, they may choose to take their Seasonal Days in different weeks, with approval.  Our staff takes PTO by days, so if they are on vacation during a 32- hour week, they only have to release 32 hours of PTO.  Once staff has selected their day off we add them to our vacation calendar and also to ProStaff.  ProStaff pushes an appointment to our Outlook calendars, blocking off our Seasonal Days.  We add this to the vacation calendar so we can easily see at a glance everyone out of the office that day.  Our staff also update their status in PM showing they are taking a Seasonal Day.

  • If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Friday, April 12th, 2019

Managing Remote Employees

“A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.” – Simon Sinek

It is finally becoming fairly commonplace in the world of public accounting. Firms are hiring more and more remote employees. Firms also seem to be struggling with exactly how to manage these somewhat invisible people.

First of all, don’t let them be invisible. There are just too many technology tools available today that can make a remote employee feel almost like one working inside your office.

Google, who employs nearly 100,000 workers spread over 150 cities in more than 50 countries (on five continents) did a study of more than 5,000 employees. They measured well-being, performance, and connectedness (and other things). They came up with recommendations on how to keep things consistent.

Here are three things they recommend for remote teams:

  1. Get to know your people
  2. Set clear boundaries
  3. Forge connections

Read this article via Inc. and learn more about these three things and how to make remote employees (and your firm) more successful.

  • "We were happy to find no difference in the effectiveness, performance ratings, or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires collaboration with colleagues around the world versus Googlers who spend most of their day to day working with colleagues in the same office,"
  • Veronica Gilrane, Manager of Google's People Innovation Lab

Monday, April 8th, 2019

Podcast – Issues Facing CPA Firms Today

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo

Thanks so much to Brannon Poe of Poe Group Advisors for talking with me about CPA firm management and for featuring our conversation on his recent podcast.

Brannon-PoeBrannon began facilitating successful accounting practice transitions in 2003 and pioneered a consulting-based approach to transitioning accounting firms, which culminated in Poe Group Advisors’ unique process – The Seamless Succession™.

I know it is a busy week but bookmark the podcast and listen while you are commuting or next week, when you are recuperating from tax season.

  • Yesterday I was clever, so I changed the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
  • Rumi