Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Where Is Your Bus Going?

“Good is the enemy of great.” – Jim Collins

We hear it and read about it often – get the right people on the bus!

Getting the right people on the bus comes from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.

The question is, where is the bus going? Wouldn’t you rather know where the bus was going before you get on?

I like a recent post by Seth Godin. I have included it below. It mentions something that CPA firms deal with all the time. The leader(s) seek to build consensus and try not to leave anyone out. Why not announce where your bus is going first and those who don’t want to go can get on another bus!

From Godin:

Where Does This Bus go?

One approach, which is tempting in the short run, is to wait until people are on the bus and then ask each person where they want to go. Seek to build consensus. Try not to leave anyone out.

The other approach, which works far better if you have a fleet of available buses, is to announce in advance where the bus is going. That way, anyone who wants to go where you’re headed can get onboard.

Enrollment is critical. Enrollment allows leaders to lead. Not by endlessly querying those that they seek to serve, but by announcing their destination and then heading there, with all deliberate speed.

  • Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.
  • Jim Collins

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Disappointed & Embarrassed

“She overcame everything that was meant to destroy her.” Sylvester McNutt III

Women have been slowly but surely gaining ground within the CPA profession. I have been very proud of associations and firms that have made the commitment to provide the leadership development assistance and other resources women need to advance in their careers. These organizations follow through on those commitments.

Then there are others. The news this week is very disheartening. I was disappointed and embarrassed for the CPA profession. I was not shocked that this happened at one of the “big” firms. But I was shocked at what was presented to a group of female executives.

It is my observation that women are a foundational piece in almost every public accounting firm. Here’s the Male/Female professional staff breakdown via the Rosenberg survey:

  • Firms over $20M: 48%/52%.
  • $10-20M firms: 45%/55%
  • $5-10M firms: 43%/57%
  • $2-5M firms: 41%/59%
  • Under $2M: 35%/65%

Here are two different news articles covering the fiasco.

Empowerment Seminar Tells women They Have Small, Pancake-Like Brains

Ernst & Young training seminar told women not to “flaunt” bodies

  • The most dangerous woman of all is the one who refuses to rely on your sword to save her because she carries her own.
  • R. H. Sin

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

More Advice on Handling Email

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” – Harvey Mackay

I blog about it often, but I want to keep offering you solutions to your email misery. Don’t brag (or moan) about how many emails you get each day. Take positive steps to decrease the time you spend reading emails.

Matt Plummer gives us some good advice on how to spend less time on email every day in his article via HBR. A simple solution is to simply check email less often. His research says most professionals check their email 15 times per day. I believe that CPAs and their employees check email more often than that!

Keep in mind that most emails DO NOT need your immediate response. Set the expectations with your clients and let them know that you check email at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00 and 4:00. When you don’t respond right away, they will soon learn to expect your answer in a few hours.

I believe that your staff deserves a slightly higher priority. If you are a partner or a manager and you don’t reply to a staff question within a reasonable length of time, you may be damaging their productivity and halting workflow. I still hear stories of partners who may take days to answer an inquiry from staff!

Read the article and learn about the five ways we unnecessarily lose time dealing with emails.

  • I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
  • William Shakespeare

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Use Twitter to Keep You Current

“LinkedIn is for the people you know. Facebook is for the people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know” ~ Source unknown

I can’t remember much about my first tweets. I do know that I did not hesitate, contemplate, or question my reasoning – I just jumped in. I had so much I wanted to share with people in the CPA profession. I joined in 2008 and have now tweeted over 18,000 times.

CPAs are more tentative in adopting something new. Twitter is no longer something new. It is a major force in society today. I also observe that very few CPAs actually Tweet. It’s not too late to get started.  I urge you to jump-in, set-up an account and pick a few people/organizations to follow so you can understand how it works and figure out how you can use it for efficiency – Yes, I said efficiency.

Here’s my approach – – I follow a few people/organizations because I want to use Twitter to keep me informed. I selected a few news sources and CPA management resources (and some family members) and I check Twitter every morning – very early – to get the latest world and national news. I can keep current much quicker than reading a newspaper or watching TV.

I check it only two or three times during the day (takes 30 seconds) and I tweet throughout the day, especially if I am attending an event that is of interest to CPAs. I want to share information (that’s the whole point).

To me, CPAs are in the best possible position to tweet. They have unbelievable knowledge to share, especially with clients. Many CPAs who do tweet use a service that does it for them. I hope that you will tweet yourself and express your own views and share the extensive knowledge you possess.

Think about it as 2020 approaches – – Right now is a great time to start a blog or begin tweeting tidbits of information for your clients about year-end tax planning. Once you begin, promote it and educate your clients (so they know that important business thoughts are available to them if they just join Twitter and follow YOUR tweets).

A word of warning. Don’t get sucked into spending too much time on Twitter or any social media. There is so much hate out there – be sure to only follow people who inspire you or provide positive information. I do not follow very many people. Read my tweets and follow me here.

  • The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Who Is My Boss?

“There is nothing so exasperating as a confused chain of command.”

I read the above quote in a novel a long time ago. It came to mind recently when I was working with a client. In many CPA firms, there is a partner group and a manager group and it seems all other employees work for all of them.

You have a managing partner. Do his/her directives out-weigh the requests made by other partners? Where does the Firm Administrator or COO fit in the picture? The Firm Administrator is responsible for a smooth workflow and efficient processes and procedures. Is it widely assumed that any partner can by-pass those established procedures?

Many firms seem to lack focus when it comes to establishing a chain-of-command. Some partner groups govern as a committee. Most partner groups govern by consensus. If you have ever been part of a committee you know how slowly things move and how much time is wasted on endless discussions. If you have had the task of gaining complete consensus you also know how frustrating that can be.

Even if the formal management structure is not a committee, client service partners want to be involved in all of the “management” decisions, even things as small as the weight of the paper that is selected for firm letterhead. Yes, I still hear these stories!

As more senior partners retire and firms transition to new leadership (a new managing partner), I hope they will better define the chain of command and the organizational structure of the firm.

Consider a firm governance model that is shared throughout the firm.

Publish a firm Champion List. It is a guide that identifies the go-to person for expert advice on each software package used at the firm or for each segment and discipline inside the firm.

Lay-out a simple organizational chart that shows the chain-of-command and where each person “fits” in the firm. It helps newcomers and even more experienced team members understand where the firm administrator fits or how the partner group governs itself. An org chart can be helpful in large firms and small firms alike.

  • Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.
  • General George Patton

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Fighting The Talent Wars

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson,

If you want to attract and keep outstanding people, you need to create a culture where top talent can shine. Your people systems matter most.

When was the last time you updated your people systems to keep pace with current trends?

Here’s a list. Get busy.

  • Recruitment
  • Orientation, Onboarding, and Training
  • Performance Management
  • Development and Opportunity
  • Leaders Leading by Example
  • The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

How To Say It

“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” – Colin Powell

In accounting firms, you spend lots of time and money teaching and training younger, less experienced accountants the technical aspects of their job.

You give them extensive training on how to prepare tax returns, how to perform the various steps in an audit and how to make QBO hum.

How much time and money do you spend on helping them learn how to talk to a client? How do they learn to inform a client that they still owe $65,000 in tax and it is due next week? How do they learn how to convince a client that a new software package would make them more profitable when they love their old, often outdated software?

One of the most important steps in growing your team’s success skills is to give them first-hand experience. It is simple but something that is often forgotten by partners and managers. Partners rush off to lunch with a client and they go alone. Partners and managers speak to the board of directors of a non-profit client and they go alone.

Less experienced people learn from listening and observing. Involve them, include them and take them along.

Here’s a good article via the Journal of Accountancy on how to deliver bad news to a client.

  • More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it's bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.
  • Simon Sinek

Monday, October 14th, 2019

A Shadow Board

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” ~Erica Jong,

Are you aware of the term “shadow board?” I have been a proponent of the concept for many years but had never heard it called a shadow board.

Per an informative article via Harvard Business Review by Jennifer Jordan and Michael Sorell:

A lot of companies struggle with two apparently unrelated problems: disengaged younger workers and a weak response to changing market conditions. A few companies have tackled both problems at the same time by creating a “shadow board” — a group of non-executive employees that works with senior executives on strategic initiatives. The purpose? To leverage the younger groups’ insights and to diversify the perspectives that executives are exposed to.

Read the success stories in the article about major companies that have had great success with shadow boards.

One of your major tools for engaging your younger team members should be, what I call, a Staff Advisory Board (or Team Advisory Board, TAB). Invite a small group of younger employees to meet with the managing partner or executive committee on a regular basis to provide feedback and ideas about issues facing the firm.

Another idea, to make it more accessible, is to select the participants from an open application process. It might surprise you who applies. Rotate members of the TAB over time, maybe having them serve two-year terms. It depends on the size of your firm.

Provide the TAB with meaningful issues such as how to improve the firm’s scheduling system, or what additional employee benefits might be appropriate. Adjust your Team Advisory Board program as it matures and you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Long-time partners often forget what it’s like to be a 3-year staff person. Plus, times have changed. It’s not the “good old days” any longer.

  • The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.
  • Hannah Whitall Smith

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Immediate Feedback

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

I have been recommending it for years. Many firms seem to have difficulty implementing it (doing what they say they will do). I’m talking about immediate feedback.

Our younger generation of workers wants immediate feedback at the push of a button. They do not want to wait for an annual performance feedback session or even a quarterly feedback session.

That’s why I loved a recent post by Ed Mendlowitz – Uberize Staff Evaluations:

Uber passengers are asked to evaluate their ride as soon as they get out of the car, and the drivers are also asked to evaluate the riders immediately. This seems like it would be a good idea for accounting firms.

Bruce Tulgan calls it “hands-on management.” Managers touch base with those they manage on a daily basis. Accounting firm managers need to improve and be more proactive with their people-management skills. Read Tulgan’s book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss.

As Mendlowitz and Tulgan (and I) suggest, keep it simple. I still hear stories of beginners preparing a tax return and hearing back from a manager or partner three (or more) weeks later that they did something wrong.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard