Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, December 30th, 2019

Think About The Good Stuff

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson

As the year draws to a close, I hope you take some time to think about all the good things that have happened at your accounting firm this year and the things that made you smile and laugh. Often, we focus too much on mistakes and all of the negative drama that happens in the workplace.

  • How often has someone stepped in and helped you without asking?
  • How often has a mistake created a reason to simply laugh out loud?
  • Wasn’t the sack race at the firm picnic a hoot?
  • How did the team look in their Halloween costumes?
  • Didn’t that group of women from your firm have a great time at that Habitat for Humanity project?
  • Wasn’t it nice when that law firm provided donuts for the entire team?
  • Didn’t that particular manager do a great job of training everyone on that new software?
  • Wasn’t it amazing how hard those two young partners worked to land that huge client?
  • How did you feel when that special client sent a referral your way?
  • Life is not just about the good things or not just about the bad things. It is both. It all depends where you focus your attention.
  • Ann Marie Aguilar

Friday, December 27th, 2019

What People Think About Their Manager (Boss)

“Management’s job is to convey leadership’s message in a compelling and inspiring way. Not just in meetings, but also by example.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Here is some feedback from employees regarding what matters most to them in relation to their manager (or leader). It will serve as some food for thought if you are a leader in your accounting firm.

“Practicing humility, that is, serving your people rather than insisting that they serve you.”

“A willingness to get into the trenches. In college, I worked for a deli. When we were very busy, my boss would get behind the counter and ask, “OK, what do you need me to do?”

“The best leaders have the ability to express kindness. My last two managers (one in a huge company and one in a small company) took the time to get to know me as a person and find out what motivated me.”

“Leaders need to be consistent in their principles. When you are unpredictable and make declarations based on whims, you paralyze the people beneath you.” 

“A leader should separate friendships from professional relationships. I loved one manager because she asked for input from every person on staff instead of playing favorites. She didn’t always give the easiest jobs to her “friends.”

“I like a person who has the ability to help people with opposing viewpoints find common ground.” 

What kind of leader/manager will you be as you begin your journey through 2020?

  • Many people hear your words, but they feel your attitude.
  • John Maxwell

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Want To Feel Good?

“Music can change the world.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Every year around this time, I take a few minutes to watch Darlene Love sing Baby Please Come Home on YouTube.

It was an annual event on the David Letterman show for years and her last performance on his show was December 2014 as his show was coming to an end.  It gives you a-rockin’ good feeling and certainly injects some joy in the Christmas season for me.

If you want to see a mashup of her Letterman performances over the years (and see how her looks have evolved), click here.

  • Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can't.
  • Johnny Depp

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

Carve Out Some Sanity Time

“My imagination functions much better when I don’t have to speak to people.”
― Patricia Highsmith

Devote yourself to finding some sanity time over the holidays. Sneak away if you have to and find a quiet place where no one you know is near you (and don’t talk to strangers like I usually do).

Find a coffee shop, a library or a bookstore and do nothing worthwhile for 45 minutes to one hour. Don’t spend the entire time looking at your mobile device! Take time to do some THINKING with no particular agenda. You could even do this in the waiting room of your doctor’s office.

I hope you will include sanity time in your holiday activities.

  • I was quiet but I was not blind.
  • Jane Austen

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Listen to Learn What Clients Need

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz

We have heard it over and over again from speakers at conferences and read it over and over again in CPA marketing publications. It is seven times easier to sell services to current clients than it is to obtain a brand new client. Client loyalty is priceless.

As with many activities inside a firm, you need a system, a process, a questionnaire or a checklist. You need some type of tool to help your accountants actually explore the future needs of current clients.

Some firms call it the Additional Services Checklist.  Others may call it The Expanded Services Questionnaire or The Enhanced Opportunity Checklist.  No matter what you name it, it is a sales tool that your team can use to find out how the firm can truly better and fully serve your clients. Once they have the checklist/questionnaire, they can simply listen more intently when they are talking with a client or working in the client’s office.

The goal is to bring extra value to your clients.  CPAs call it value-added as if their normal services don’t have much value. In these changing times, compliance services are looked upon as only a way to discover advisory services that the client needs.

Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits:

  • Know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location?
  • Been educated/informed about all of the firm’s service offerings?
  • Know what to do if they recognize an opportunity and who to refer it to inside your firm?

If you answered “no” to any of these, take action.  Host a lunch & learn in early January and talk about all the value-added services your firm offers. Provide the entire team, including the admin team, with a listing of questions/items to apply to the clients and give them the name of the partner to seek out for guidance if they identify an area where your firm can bring more value to the client.  Just having this simple questionnaire or checklist seems to give everyone more confidence.

During the lunch and learn, experienced partners and managers can speak-up and give practical advice to the less-experienced team members.

  • Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
  • Steve Jobs

Monday, December 16th, 2019

Have We Become Afraid of Hard Work?

“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vidal Sassoon

I enjoy reading airline magazines. I find they contain interesting news items and articles about a variety of topics.

I remember reading an opening editorial a few years ago, written by the then CEO of Delta. He made a statement that CPA firms could certainly utilize: “At Delta, we take great pride in our culture of hard work, creativity, teamwork, and a simple commitment to get the job done right.”

Did you notice the two words – hard work? The CEO communicates it clearly – they are not ashamed of their culture of hard work. They take pride in it.

It seems, in recent years, we have become almost afraid of communicating with our employees that public accounting is hard work. If you work hard you can become very successful.

Do you communicate that to your people? Are you proud of your culture of hard work?

  • A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.
  • Colin Powell

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