Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Interruptions

“We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.” – C. S. Lewis

It never seems to end, the constant parade of people outside the door of the managing partner or firm administrator, often standing in line just to ask a quick question. During COVID times, people are seeking a quick Zoom meeting with you. And then, there is the dreaded, huge number of emails in your inbox.

Do you sometimes think this is crazy and it must be something you are doing wrong? I used to think the same thing. However, over the years I’ve developed a new perspective on this “take a number” circus that surrounds a great many firm administrators (or managing partners).

Some of the highest level CEOs in the country have the same challenges with an “open door” for those that depend on them for guidance and they are operating daily with constant interruptions. Just like a CEO of a large company, your people depend on YOU.

Firm administrators, you have built your reputation inside the firm as the “go-to person.” The successful, smooth, day-to-day operation of the firm must constantly be nourished. You have the responsibility of nourishing it via your administrative and support team. It might be a quick 10-minute conversation with the Technology Manager, a 5-minute chat with the firm’s Controller, or even an unscheduled one-hour meeting with the Marketing Director. These interruptions that might drive some managers crazy are the lifeblood of your day.

We all have good intentions of MBWA (managing by wandering around), but how often do we actually work it into our busy schedules? If people aren’t coming to your office – – go find them!

If you are working remotely, don’t wait for people to come to you. Randomly, check-in on people who report to you. It can be done quickly. Ask them, “What do you think?” “How can I help.”

  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

It Is Inside Every CPA Firm

“Solve drama. Don’t create it.” – Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak

When doing presentations to CPA audiences, I will often ask, “You don’t have any drama inside your firm, do you?” Sad to say, this would get a big laugh from the audience.

What does that say about your firm?

Stay on track to a successful career by following these six rules for keeping your work-life drama-free.

Rule #1: If You Did it When You Were 15, Don’t Do it Now. – It is easy to catch yourself doing things that are more worthy of high school hallways than the office.

Rule #2: Save the Venting for Outside the Office. – Resist the urge to talk about your co-workers and boss while you are in the office.

Rule #3: When in Doubt, Wait to Reply. – An email can set you off! Don’t reply immediately. Wait. Think.

Rule #4: Know When It’s Time to Talk it Out. – To avoid unnecessary drama, you have to realize the point at which it’s better to simply talk to someone, in person.

Rule #5: Have (and Use) a Go-to Escape Phrase. – To avoid getting roped in to a drama situation, be prepared with a go-to-escape phrase. (“I can’t help you with that.” “I’ve got a deadline, I need to get back to work.”)

Rule #6: Never Assume Negative Intent. – To avoid drama, simply work under the assumption that your co-workers and manager are there to help you, support you, and challenge you to do even better work.

These rules come from an article by Katie Douthwaite Wolf, “6 Basic Rules You Need to Follow if You Truly Want to Avoid Office Drama”.

Read the entire article to learn much more about each rule. You might even change it into a No Drama policy to officially adopt for your firm.

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

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Do They Like You?

“People prefer to say yes to those that they like.” Robert Cialdini 

I hear stories, all kinds of stories.

Working and interacting with hundreds of accounting firms over the last thirty years I, of course, hear stories. I hear, from the partners, what a great firm they have, how progressive they are, and how they do so much for their people. I do believe most of this.

I hear from the professional support team and the accounting staff how, while it is a good firm, they struggle with getting questions answered, getting changes approved and dealing with some of the partners. I do believe most of this.

The question for you to ponder today, as a shareholder, is influenced by the above quotation. Do your people actually like you?

If you are friendly, smile often, show caring/concern for individual team members, and are approachable, they will like you. They will work harder for you and strive to meet your expectations. They will respect you.

I remember when I was new to a CPA firm. One CPA partner would occasionally ask how I was doing and would ALWAYS say thank-you when I completed various tasks for him. That partner’s tasks always ranked higher on my to-do list than the other three partners.

The old English proverb, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, means that it is much easier to get what you want by being polite rather than by being rude and insolent.

  • Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

Just Keep Ascending

“Wake up wild one! Your mind is a cageless bird waiting to fly to uncharted lands. Like the phoenix, you’ll rise again with renewed vigor, clarity, compassion and insight.” – Melody Lee

I read the following on Jon Gordon’s Instagram site. It applies to you and your accounting firm. Just keep soaring.

“The only bird that dares to peck an eagle is the crow. The crow sits on the eagles back and bites his neck. The eagle does not respond, nor fight with the crow; it does not spend time or energy on the crow instead he just opens its wings and begins to rise higher in the heavens. The higher the flight, the harder it is for the crow to breathe and eventually the crow falls off due to a lack of oxygen.

Learn from the eagle and don’t fight the crows, just keep ascending. They might be along for the ride but they’ll soon fall off. Do not allow yourself to succumb to the distractions….keep your focus on the things above and continue rising!!”

Source: Original Author Unknown

  • Keep going, because there is nothing worse in this world than to stop. Simply keep flying.
  • Vidhya Thakkar

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

The Sloth

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few years ago we enjoyed a unique trip to Costa Rica. We didn’t go to a resort or spend time at a tourist beach. We saw the country via land, sea, and air – the middle, the south, and the north.

We were lucky to observe sloths in the wild. The ones we saw didn’t move. We watched one for a couple of hours one afternoon leading up to sunset. No movement.

Is your leadership style like the sloth? Some of your team members might think so. They want decisions made quickly. Do you do that? They are promised that a certain change will happen but it’s delayed and delayed again.

At partner retreats, some important and needed decisions are put off until after the next tax season or put on the list for next year’s retreat.

Sloths are amazing creatures and have been called the world’s laziest animal, slow to do almost everything. It’s not true.

Are your partners viewed much the same? I hope it’s not true.

Here are 10 Incredible Facts About the Sloth – it is very interesting.

  • Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness ... in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.
  • Eugene H. Peterson

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Smile

“Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile.” – Petteri Tarkkonen

Today’s quote certainly applies to accounting firms.

I have heard so many stories from CPA firm citizens about their partners. Here are a few:

  • Some of our partners never smile.
  • Partners don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
  • Some of our partners walk right by you in the hall and never even acknowledge you.
  • I wish all of our partners would simply say Good Morning.
  • I wish all of our partners would say thank-you more often.
  • When I was hired, they said they have an open-door policy but it seems like every time I need to talk to a partner they seem to be too busy.
  • I need to ask a partner a question but they never answer my emails.

Partners and managers, you may not have a lot to smile about during COVID, during tax season or when client expectations are unreasonable. Your team members don’t know what pressures you are under. That doesn’t mean you can’t smile and be congenial towards all of those people who are often suffering right along with you.

One of my favorite phrases, MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around) still applies. If some of your team are in the office, walk around and briefly check-in on them. The same applies to your remote workers. You can email, call or video chat with them and use the same words – – “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Did you know that people can tell when you smile when answering the phone?

Smiling is part of simply being polite. Maybe your firm needs a Courtesy Policy.

  • Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.
  • Madame De Stael

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Superhero CPAs

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” – Carol S Dweck

In a public accounting firm, the employees look up to the partners. They want their leaders to always set a good example. They want their leaders to always tell them the truth – good or bad. They want their leaders to be kind but also want them to be tough when tough decisions need to be made. They want their leaders to make decisions quickly. They want leaders to outplace poor performers more quickly. They want their leaders to seek the best possible candidates to join the firm team.

“They” expect a lot. The team wants leaders who are extraordinary. It sounds like a job for a Superhero. Do you represent that for your followers?

  • Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with.
  • Iron Man

Monday, February 1st, 2021

The Partner Pyramid

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James M. Barrie

You are a leader in an accounting firm. You have worked very hard to reach the level of authority and responsibility that you now enjoy. You are now a partner. Congratulations, but beware! Things have changed.

Some CPAs, climbing the ladder of success, believe that becoming a partner means they are off the hook. They can control their own work lives. They will have many people working under their guidance to get the work done. They can relax a bit. They have reached the top of the pyramid. They can play more golf.

Wrong! Take a minute and a half to learn about the Partner Pyramid.

  • Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.
  • Ezra Taft Benson

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Getting Better

“To learn about excellence you must study it.” – Marcus Buckingham

You want your firm to get better and better. You want it to gain more and more visibility and to continually build and enhance the firm reputation.

How do you and your firm get better? You learn from others.

Inside your firm, your team members continually learn and improve. This applies to new college graduates, the administrative team, your support professionals, and very experienced CPAs. All of these people learn so much from more experienced people.

Your firm also gets better by learning from other CPA firms that are growing, profitable, and over-all successful.

When I was new to CPA firm management, I attended all of the CPA firm management conferences that I could. There I met people from successful firms. These people would describe how they were doing this or that and if it was something I wanted to pursue, I got acquainted with the person from that successful firm. Over the years, I have made lifelong, personal friends from my contacts in other CPA firms.

When attending these events (in person or virtual now), reach out to others with more experience. CPA management conferences are filled with people who are willing to share their successes and help you and your firm get better.

One of the best resources is The CPA Firm Management Association. Join and learn. The members share their experiences and you can post questions on their discussion board and get immediate answers and advice.

So, to get better, reach out to others and also share your successes and failures with the others you meet. As today’s quote (above) says, “To learn about excellence you must study it.

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Accountants Are Picky

“Invariably, micromanaging results in four problems: deceit, disloyalty, conflict, and communication problems.” – John Rosemond

First of all, I want you to know that I do believe in hands-on management. You can’t leave people in a void, wondering what your expectations are. It’s all about communication and how you go about communicating.

However, I have worked with accountants long enough to know that they tend to be perfectionists. Yes, the work produced by CPAs must be absolutely accurate. How you arrive at that state is another topic.

I remember my first days in a CPA firm. I was amazed at how thoroughly my work (simple typing projects) was proofed and reviewed. I came from an educational and training background where you did it right the first time. You proofed your own work. That seemed to be completely absent inside the CPA firm. I soon learned that it wasn’t just me being scrutinized, it was an important part of the process of achieving accuracy in financial matters.

The goal is still there and accuracy is a given. How you arrive at that point is through extensive training and responsible review of work. There is a fine line between supervision and micro-management. Beware. Micro-managing is not something to be proud of.

A recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@realevilHRLady) certainly made me smile. She featured a tweet that said: “Tell me you’ve worked for a micromanager without telling me you’ve worked for a micromanager.”

The replies would be hilarious if they weren’t so disturbing. They did make me smile because during those first years in the CPA profession I had to change many financial statements several times after each review step and I don’t mean the numbers – it was personal preference about phrasing and punctuation from multiple reviewers.

An example of the tweets featured in the article:

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you that I went to the bathroom.”

“We talked for over an hour about the 1 missing period in the 40 slide deck.”

Read the article – Here Is What Micromanagement Looks Like.

You might recognize some people in your own firm!

  • None of us should wait to be told what to do, or how to do it. Micromanagement kills initiative, judgment and creativity.
  • David H. Maister