Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Training

“Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now and ends where the learner is more successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more.” – Julie Dirksen

I have been thinking about training.

You attend an internal, tax update training session and you learn so much. Then what? You go to (or attend online), a state CPA society course and you learn so much. Then what? You go to a national conference, spend a lot of money, learn so much, and get so many great ideas. Then what?

When the training is over, it becomes a distant memory, something that occasionally comes to mind.

Some firms tell me that they need to improve the way they train people. The secret is not in the training itself, it is what you do with that training. With new hires, you provide training, lots of it at first. The secret to success is constantly reinforcing that training. Are they practicing what they have learned? You add more training as they become more experienced. Again, you must continually reinforce the training. Focus on the results and give the new hires feedback.

You attend a conference and hear so many good ideas from so many wonderful speakers. You take elaborate notes and are thinking about so many things you need to do when you return to the office. Again, it is not the actual training your receive, it is what you do with it. Do you take action?

Or, do those notes get buried in your training folder or, if paper notes, are they sitting in a pile of other notes in your office. For training to be worthwhile and benefit you and your firm, you must take action.

  • A "deliverable" isn't worth much, including all training. It's the result of the deliverable, the outcome, that may be valuable (which is seldom true of training when it isn't supported on the job). Most training is just to get a "ticket stamped" on the way to other positions.
  • Alan Weiss

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Mistakes Happen

“The public seldom forgive twice.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

When I first joined a CPA firm, I was actually amazed at the lengths the partners and staff went to assure that the work they did for the clients was absolutely correct. At that point in my life, my work experience had always demanded: “do it right the first time.”

In the accounting firm, my administrative work was proofed and reviewed. The work performed by the accountants was checked, reviewed, corrected, reviewed again, (corrected again, if need be), quality reviewed, and then checked by a partner before they signed off. I was amazed at the review steps that were part of everyday life in an accounting firm.

I was, and still am, puzzled by the fact that more focus isn’t put on doing it right the first time. When things are checked and reviewed so much, I imagine it is easy to hurry through a task and just hope your reviewer will catch any mistakes.

Once in a great while, a mistake happens. Oh, no! It is a small mistake and you have all experienced them. It is usually the wrong address used when mailing something. A simple typo in a communication to a client. A label affixed to an envelope that is crooked (remember, everything going to a client must be perfect, it is the little things that matter). Have you ever mailed a tax organizer to a dead person? The family is not pleased.

However, rarely, a more major mistake slips through the review process. The client brings it to your attention. You apologize profusely to the client and go about correcting the error. They seem to understand. They are loyal and forgiving. They don’t even consider leaving the firm.

That is why making mistakes when serving CPA firm clients is so rare and why so much caution is applied to the processes. Because if you make another mistake with that same client, you will probably lose the client and damage the firm reputation.

Keep today’s quotation, above, in mind and develop training methods that encourage your team to do it right the first time.

  • If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
  • John Wooden

Friday, May 6th, 2022

Non-CPA Managers – Flashback Friday

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” – Thomas Fowell Buxton

The shortage of CPAs wanting a career in public accounting has been on my mind for months, maybe years. Many firms limit the career growth of accountants working at the firm if they have not passed the CPA Exam.

Studies tell us that college accounting majors say they don’t want to be a CPA because they don’t want to pass the exam and they don’t want to work that hard.

If the Exam is a barrier and you have lots of work for qualified accountants already at your firm, you may be able to attract other qualified accountants if you provide a manager-level position for non-CPAs. Here’s a flashback post that shares one firm’s story.

  • Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
  • Henry Van Dyke.

Monday, April 25th, 2022

The Managing Partner (CEO)

“If you are the CEO, you are the brand.” — George Farris

The above quotation inspired this post. If you are the Managing Partner, you are the brand.

CPA firms operate under the partnership model even if they are not legally a partnership. There is a group of owners, usually titled partners. They elect one partner to take on the role of Managing Partner (MP), meaning he/she is the person charged with managing and leading the firm.

Larger firms have mostly evolved to a more structured system where an executive committee, led by the MP, deals with most firm management decisions. But, the majority of firms in the U.S. are considered smaller and the MP leads the firm. The role has great responsibility but yet, the other partners still want to be involved in almost everything! Still, the MP is expected to be out and about in the community being the visible “face” of the firm. The MP is on various community and charitable boards, attends many civic events, and speaks at various venues when given the opportunity. The MP really does generate and develop a brand for the firm.

Something I have often heard from MPs is the fact that they have become the firm’s MP because no one else wanted the job! Makes me sad. It is such an opportunity if you do it right, for the individual and for the firm. A great MP should be rewarded substantially because of the management duties plus they are expected to have a significant client load. They should be bringing in business and passing it along to other partners.

My simple reminder today is that as MP, you should never lose sight of the fact that you have a responsibility to build the firm brand. The firm brand determines how many clients you will attract and how many accounting graduates and other prospective employees decide to join the firm.

If you want to learn more about the role, there is a great webinar coming up on May 3 titled, The Role of the ManagingPartner: A Guide for Managing Partners to Achieve Greatness for Their Firms. It is via CPA Leadership Institute and presented by Gary Adamson.

  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
  • Warren Buffett

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Keeping People

“But day in and day out, the most stimulating part of the work is being a member of a team of so many very bright, articulate and talented professionals.” – – Randy West

We are hearing so much about CPA firms losing people. I continue to hear about and read about the Great Resignation and also that women are often forced to make choices that put family ahead of career. Here’s an idea that may help you retain more females AND males.

Consider embracing a career lattice culture rather than a career ladder culture. Not everyone achieves success in the same way. Often there are many detours along the way.

Research has shown that public accounting loses a lot of good people (and many females) when they believe public accounting will not accommodate their personal and career choices. Women want to start a family so they think they must leave public accounting. Don’t let your young talent make this assumption. Most successful firms have already embraced flexibility offering remote and hybrid schedules as a formal part of their culture.

I urge you to paint a picture for your young professionals of a career lattice. Communicate to them: If there comes a time in your life whether you are male or female, when you need or want less (or more), a reduced schedule, more regular hours, less travel, more travel, less responsibility, or really want to accelerate your advancement in the firm – talk to us!

The lattice, as opposed to a career ladder, allows people to stay at a certain level, move sideways, or even step downwards for a time and still not put their career progression in danger.

  • Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energy moving forward together towards an answer.
  • Denis Waitley

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Plan It Now – Your CPE

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” – Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

For the most part, depending on which state you are in, the bulk of tax work is now behind you. You suffered through a tax season without as big of a workforce as you would have preferred. You tolerated way too many tardy clients. You kept it going even when, earlier this year, some of your team contracted COVID. You can breathe a sigh of relief and you can kick back somewhat.

Don’t go into the ATSC (After Tax Season Coma). I have observed it for many years. It is the, I need to relax, I need a vacation, I need a change of scene, I need to catch up on my emails time of year. Lots of excuses for not doing what needs to be done to propel your firm forward and to focus on your own personal growth.

One thing that often sits on the back burner for many months is obtaining your personal Continuing Professional Education credits. They have become easier to obtain via videos, webinars, and other remote opportunities. You do not have to travel somewhere, in person, to obtain the necessary credits. Yet, you procrastinate often until the last month of your reporting period.

Save yourself some hassles and draft your CPE plan for the remainder of 2022. Get it documented now and get it off of your procrastination list.

  • You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.
  • Bill Watterson

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Virtual Mentoring

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

A Gallup survey last fall revealed that working from home — including various hybrid arrangements — is trending permanently. Last September, 45% of U.S. employees were working partly or fully remotely, and 91% of them planned to continue some level of remote work post-pandemic; in fact, 58% would consider leaving their current jobs if access to remote arrangements vanished.

By now, you have learned that remote/virtual training can be accomplished. You had no choice. I want to encourage you to continue your mentoring program that embraces a method of having a virtual mentor/mentee, someone you do not see face-to-face every working day. It can be done and while you have not been forced to do it, as with training, it can be done successfully.

Many people assume that mentoring relies on being physically together at least from time to time. However, that is not true. I will offer myself as an example.

I have successfully mentored, coached and guided CPA firm managing partners, HR directors, firm administrators, and even marketing directors for many years, most of them I have never met in person. Sometimes we use Zoom or Teams for our sessions but mostly it is simply via phone conversations. Of course, there is some structure to our conversations and action steps that are identified and achieved just like it is with in-person mentoring.

My advice to you, if you cannot be a mentor or mentee in person you can, just simply talk to each other. Often, it is easier to talk to a person via phone (not seeing their face). Think about helplines for people with various troubles and challenges. They do to see the person they are talking to but they soon learn that the person on the other end of the conversation cares, can be trusted, and has sound advice.

Don’t exclude your virtual employees from the benefit of mentoring. It is a fundamental part of building a career in public accounting – a more experienced person guides a less experienced person to help them achieve career success.

  • Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Real Work vs. Busy Work

“The No. 1 cause of burnout is doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing results.” — Steve Kaczmarski

I am convinced that if CPA firm workers were able to do more REAL work, they could easily get it done working four days per week. Of course, I mean more chargeable/billable work. This applies whether you still bill by the hour or by the project.

Here’s a good article for you titled: People spend more than half their day doing busy work, according to a survey of 10,000-plus workers.

Constant interruptions have resulted in some workers saying their attention span is shorter than it was a year ago. Checking email and other tech platforms often result in being “on-call” 24/7. Often this will result in burn-out. You may have noticed some of your team are definitely stressed. They must deal with technology interruptions and also questions from other team members.

Check out my post about interruptions – and read the article referenced above.

Sahar Yousef, a cognitive neuroscientist at UC Berkeley says, “Having a clear beginning and ending to the day is important to not only avoid burnout but it also helps people feel good about their work.”

  • Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
  • Etty Hillesum

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Dress Appropriately

“Elegance is a question of personality, more than one’s clothing.” — Jean-Paul Gaultier

People are beginning to return to offices. They have become accustomed to wearing sweatpants, flip-flops pajama bottoms, etc. Now they are faced with wearing something that doesn’t have an elastic waist!

I recently discovered that Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, when she was HR leader at the company, reduced their several-page dress code to two words: Dress appropriately.

If you are a plumber, you dress appropriately for your work. If a plumber showed up at my door dressed to run a marathon. I would not be impressed.

I went to see a dentist once, in an emergency situation, he was not dressed like my regular dentist dressed and he actually seemed creepy to me.

Many CPA firms before the pandemic embraced a dress appropriately policy. I think that is a good policy and should be continued. But, has “appropriately” changed in light of the remote work world? Try to determine what your clients will think of you and dress appropriately.

  • The way you dress is an expression of your personality.
  • Alessandro Michele

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

Hard Work

“Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.” – Lou Holtz

I agree with the above quote by Lou Holtz. If you want to be successful and reap financial rewards, hard work is part of the equation.

We, working in the CPA profession, know about hard work. It is part of a professional career whether you are a CPA, a lawyer, an engineer, or a medical professional.

It is also hard work to be working in technical support, as an Amazon distribution employee, or as an employee of a construction company.

No matter what the career path, hard work pays off. I feel like I am a good example. I worked long hours when I was at a firm, not only during tax season but all year long. I enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the knowledge I gained. I loved it.

Make sure you enjoy or even love, the work you do and it really doesn’t seem like hard work. As Holtz says, if you work hard, you just might become a winner. If you see your work as punishment, get another job.

  • It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.
  • Lou Holtz