Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

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

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Circumvent The Problem

“One day’s delay is another day’s lack of progress.” – Stuart Bowen

There is a difficult conversation that needs to happen. There is a big decision that you are not ready to make. There are two or three things that should have been implemented months (or years) ago.

Circumvent! (Avoid, get around, find a way around, evade, get past, bypass, sidestep, dodge, delay – you get the message!)

It is time to stop allowing irritations to annoy you and drag on, and on. Deal with nagging, and sometimes small, problems before they become a big deal.

Need to talk to someone about a performance issue? Don’t wait until summer.

  • The mark of the man is how he responds to situations. You're not going to avoid tough times. We're all over the barrel some of the time. What are you going to do about it?
  • Martin Short

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Busy Week = Short Blog Posts. Topic: Drama

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” – Sean O’Casey

If you provide tax services, this might be your busiest week of the year. That is why I am going to keep my daily blog posts very brief this week.

When I ask CPAs if they have any drama in their office I usually get a big chuckle. I don’t think I have ever found a firm without some drama among their team members.

Set a goal, for after tax season, to decrease the drama in your office. It usually comes from a lack of conversations. There are elephants in the room (and in the firm) and no one wants to talk about them.

Never avoid difficult conversations.

  • Don't waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.
  • Mandy Hale

Friday, March 29th, 2019

Courtesy Policy

“Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.” – Madame De Stael

You have had an extremely busy week. You are spending SO many hours with your co-workers. You are probably working this weekend and long hours next week. It is natural to become aggravated, at times, with those around you.

I read this small excerpt in an article:

Politeness is the cornerstone of any civilized society. In essence, it is respect for other people’s feelings. This respect is reflected in both thought and action . . . in considering other people’s points of view and behaving in sensitive ways. Unfortunately, in many areas of life, politeness seems to be outdated.

Maybe your firm needs a Courtesy Policy to help remind people that civility is alive and well in your firm and in the CPA Profession. Here’s a sample:

Sample Firm Courtesy Policy

  • If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private.
  • Use positive conversation.
  • Blame a system, not a person.
  • Apologize and make restitution if someone is upset by your actions.
  • When you talk about a person who is not present, speak as if they are listening to your conversation. Use the person’s name in each sentence in which you refer to them.
  • Speak very politely using a person’s name – – “please” and “thank-you” as a minimum.
  • Greet and farewell everyone by name and with eye contact.
  • Tell the truth.

 

  • The toughest thing about being a celebrity, I suppose, is being polite when I don't want to be.
  • Eric Clapton

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Discussing Fees

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett

I hear stories that have a similar theme:

  • I inherited the firm from a sole proprietor. The clients are just not used to paying what would be a normal fee.
  • I am working so many hours and need to increase my fees. But, I am afraid I will lose too many clients.

I ask, “How do you describe your fees to clients?” What I usually discover is that the CPAs who have such a great fear of losing clients are not actually talking about fees WITH the client, at all. I also learn that CPAs who charge an appropriate fee don’t talk with clients about the fees either.

My friend, Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting gives us some excellent advice:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Describe the services you will provide
  • Present your fees with clarity
  • Write it down
  • Don’t be defensive

Read more about each of these points on Sarah’s blog post. Take the time to teach your entire team how to talk about fees with clients.

  • The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.
  • Meister Eckhart