Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

D I Y

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill

You see the abbreviation all the time now – DIY (Do It Yourself). Many people have learned to do many things (with the help of YouTube) while staying at home during the pandemic.

Doing things yourself is almost always cheaper than buying something you can make or hiring an outsider to fix something that you can fix yourself.

All of this was brought to mind when I came upon a question asked in a novel by Agatha Christie. The question: Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

To me, that translated into CPA firm jargon means…. Why hire people to do the work and keep doing the work yourself?

A partner thinks: I won’t send this back to the preparer, I’ll just fix it myself.

A manager thinks: I won’t delegate this job to a senior. I know my billing rate is higher but I can do it twice as fast.

It’s that ongoing issue inside many firms – younger people do not learn to do more difficult things because more senior people cling to work.

So, not that your employees are dogs, but…. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  • Do what you can, with hat you have and do it now!
  • George Washington Carver

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Do More

“Always do more than is required of you.” – George S. Patton

You have probably heard the well-known saying about volunteering. It seems to have been used mostly in the military. My husband was in the Army and he probably heard the advice, “Don’t volunteer for anything” in basic training. It seems to have originated with soldiers.

I think the above quotation by General George S. Patton is better advice. I did some Googling of the statement and found that in the military there are more success stories about volunteering than there are stories with devastating consequences. One military person said, “I would rather volunteer than be voluntold.”

How does this apply to life in a CPA firm? If you are a beginning accountant, always volunteer. You will become more skilled more quickly than if you wait for someone to come to you.

An experienced partner once told me he was discouraged by the lack of ambition of many of his young team members. He observed that they would wait, with nothing to do, for someone to bring work to them. This partner’s dream staffer would be someone who would often stick their head in his office door and ask, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

  • The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, April 16th, 2021

No Whining – Flashback Friday

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

Maybe, just maybe, you heard some whining from team members during the last couple of months. Maybe you have been hearing whining for a day, week, month, year, decade? Now is the time to stop the whining.

Read this post from 2011 titled, No Whining Allowed. It still applies in 2021.

  • Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
  • George Carlin

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Is Your Work Your Passion?

“Connecting to your passion is being you, but better.” – Garrison Wynn

I have always thoroughly enjoyed my job, working inside a growing CPA firm and working as a CPA management consultant. CPA firm management has been my passion for many years.

I have known several people over those years who did not enjoy their job. Yet, they remained working at the same place and in the same role for years and years because….. Because of what? Money? Security? I even had one person tell me they stayed because it was an easy commute.

I am not talking solely about people in the CPA profession. I have had acquaintances in other professions or businesses who shared with me that they loved what they did but hated the people they worked with. Some said they loved the people but hated their role.

The above quote says a lot to me. My passion for what I do drives me to be better. I am never content. I always want to know more, do more, learn more, share more and be more.

If you don’t have a strong passion for your work don’t keep doing it for decades. There is so much more out there that could be available to you. Take the leap forward and don’t look back.

If you do have a strong passion for working in a CPA firm, never be content. Keep learning more, doing more, embracing change and taking others long with you into the future.

I love this quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

  • Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
  • Steve Jobs

Monday, April 5th, 2021

A Good Leader is Self-Aware

“Know thyself.” – Socrates

How do you know if you are a good leader?

You are an experienced CPA. You have supervised and mentored people for several years. People take your advice and do what you say. Does that make you a good leader?

Being a leader is rewarding. Yet, sometimes being a leader can be challenging and puzzling. An important part of being a leader is being self-aware.

In CPA firms, as people advance they receive feedback from various supervisors, coaches and mentors along the way. Once a person becomes a partner (shareholder/owner) feedback often ceases. You are “the boss” and people don’t question your motives.

That is when self-awareness becomes an important tool for a leader. You have to reach out to others. I hope your firm has a periodic upward feedback process for all partners. But, that isn’t enough. You need to reach out personally.

At least a couple of times per year, interview the people who report to you. Talk with your peers, too. Use the Keep, Stop, Start method: What should I keep doing? What should I stop doing? What should I start doing?

Compile the information you receive from the personal interviews and use it for reflection. Take time every day, 15 minutes in the morning or 15 minutes at the end of the workday to reflect on your leadership behaviors. Ask yourself if you are focusing on the most important things each day and if you are learning new things.

If you learn you are not progressing, that you are stuck with the status quo and that you need to set a better example, hire an executive coach or enlist the help of a trusted advisor to hold you accountable.

  • Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.
  • David Lloyd George

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Being a Leader

“If you don’t want to be a thief then be on time.” – Steve Keating

Being on time is always important. For a CPA, being on time during tax season is even more important. Sure, you are busy. So are your clients and your employees. Never waste another person’s time by being late.

On March 11th my blog, Always Be On time, reminded you of the importance of punctuality.

This week, I read a blog post by Steve Keating titled, Being on Time Matters. Please read his blog post. If you are too busy now, bookmark it to read after April 15th. With the extended deadline, I hope you will have more breathing room after 4/15.

I enjoyed reading his story about being on time and its importance. I know you will benefit from it, too, if you want to be an exceptional leader at your firm.

  • When it comes to time there seems to be two major groups of people. Those who believe being on time matters and those who believe it matters that other people be on time.
  • Steve Keating

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

Attend a CPAFMA Chapter Meeting

“Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in the world.” – Jonah Berger

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of connecting and learning from others in the profession of CPA firm management. The CPA Firm Management Association chapter meetings are a great way to continually learn and also a way to share your successes. When I was a beginner, many years ago, I learned so much at the first chapter meetings I attended. I continued learning by attending the CPAFMA National Practice Management Conference each year. I made important connections and obtained wonderful life-long friends.

The best thing about CPA firm management is that it is continually expanding and changing. It forces you to keep pace and enables you to never stop growing and learning. I am still learning after over 30 years of attending chapter meetings.

Here’s more from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter on how they plan their meetings.

We were struggling a bit to get people to attend what used to be quarterly meetings.  We sent out an invite for a Zoom call to discuss how we were all handling the pandemic and those who attended loved it so we’re now trying to do it monthly. I send the notes to all of our Chapter members, so that even if they can’t attend they have some information.  I’m hoping they will find the notes helpful enough to want to attend when they can, and that we can build more Chapter participation!

I am particularly enjoying hearing what other firms are doing about employee engagement and trying to maintain their culture, and think some of the ideas for virtual events have been really fun and creative. And, as always, it is such a comfort to know that we’re not alone and that many of my colleagues have the same challenges!

For what it is worth, here are a few of the things I am doing to try to keep the roundtables effective:

–I prepare a list of questions ahead of time.  Sometimes they are the same ones, but it’s nice to gauge what has changed inside the firms.

–When I send out the invite for the meeting, I try to include a “teaser” question or two to give them an idea of what we’d be discussing.

–I definitely moderate the conversation, and try to make sure we aren’t talking over each other, or that some participants haven’t been heard from.

–I encourage, as much as possible, the use of the camera as well as audio for the calls.  I think it helps when we can see each other, and start to build relationships.

–As I said, I take notes (not attributing them to a certain participant so that everyone is comfortable having them distributed), and send them to everyone in the Chapter.

  • Connecting is the key to Influence. Influence is the key to Leading. Leading is the key to Success!
  • John Maxwell

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Keep Connecting

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

One of the most beneficial career boosters for CPA firm administrators, practice managers, COOs, HR directors and, managing partners is the practice of networking and connecting with others working in CPA firm management.

The CPA Firm Management Association has nineteen chapters around the country that provide an excellent opportunity to network, connect and continue to learn the best practices in CPA firm management.

For the last year it has been more challenging to keep those important connections alive and well. Of course, Zoom meetings has helped tremendously. Various chapters have tried different methods to keep those professional relationships strong.

I recently heard from Ronda Lawson of the Northern California Chapter about their efforts to facilitate information sharing.

Rita – You are so wonderful about sharing information with all of us, so I thought you might be interested in these notes from our recent NorCal Chapter Roundtable.  We are having a Zoom call monthly, primarily discussing life during the pandemic.  Let me know if you would like to see notes from our future meetings!  – Ronda

I like that they schedule their meetings every month. Even if you have only six or eight people in attendance, the chance to learn from others and share your own challenges is very valuable. The meetings don’t have to take a lot of time. They could be only one or two hours long.

Here are the topics discussed at a NoCal Chapter recent meeting:

  • Are you currently working in the office? Allowing clients in the office?
  • What precautions are you taking to keep the workplace safe?
  • How are you promoting employee engagement for your remote workers? What are you doing to help employees with their mental and emotional health during the pandemic?
  • How are you monitoring productivity for your remote workers?  What are you doing to help managers manage remote workers?
  • How are you handling your administrative team during the pandemic?  Are they working in the office or remotely?  Can they work remotely?
  • What are your plans for reopening if you haven’t already? What criteria will you use to determine when to reopen? Will you continue to have some remote work even when the office reopens?
  • What affect has the pandemic had on your staffing plans?  Have you had lay-offs, salary freezes, furloughs?  Has this changed your hiring plans?  Will you be doing campus recruiting?  Will you be bringing on interns?
  • What changes has your firm made because of the pandemic?  Are they positive?  Will they continue?
  • Other than the ongoing pandemic, what are the biggest challenges your firm is facing right now?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about how this chapter is handling their meetings. I am hopeful that it will prompt you to not ignore your chapter meetings just because you can’t connect in person.

I believe that having virtual CPAFMA Chapter meetings will continue to thrive after COVID. It is an economical and less time-consuming method of meeting (no commuting!). I know that the Ohio Chapter had people driving three hours one-way to attend some of the Chapter meetings.

  • The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.
  • Tom Ford

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Remember When

“People do what people see. Too many leaders send people where they have never been themselves.” – John Maxwell

CPA firm partners, never, never forget what it is like to be the new kid on the block. Think back to your first day in public accounting. How did you feel?

Times have changed. What most of your team members, especially your new hires, are experiencing are things that you did not experience when you were new.

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habit’s of Highly Effective People is: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

As leaders, make an effort to understand the specific work your various team members are expected to produce. Learn what is most challenging and where most team members struggle.

It is not the same work, done the same way, you did as a beginner twenty-five or more years ago.

As Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

  • Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
  • Stephen Covey