Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Do You Have People Who Aren’t Self-Aware In Your Firm?

“I am dating a woman now who, evidently, is unaware of it.” – Gary Shandling

Research shows that although 95% of people think they are self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

In a recent article via HBR, you probably can find them in your office. It is my observation that you definitely find them in CPA firms!

These are people who have solid qualifications and are intelligent, yet they have no clue as to how they come across to their co-workers or employees. They are not only frustrating, but they can also cause increased stress and decreased motivation for others on the team.

Sometimes it is hard to identify that the real problem is lack of self-awareness. Some things to consider are that they don’t accept critical feedback, they lack empathy, they have an inflated opinion of their contributions and they are hurtful to others without realizing it.

Sometimes upward feedback surveys can bring the issues to the surface. In other cases, if you recognize it in others, you might have that crucial conversation with the person yourself.

Read the entire article. Plan to deal with these situations rather than sweep them under the carpet and risk driving top performers away from your firm.

 

  • There must be a happy medium somewhere between being totally informed and blissfully unaware.
  • Doug Larson

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

You Are A Star

“It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

When you work for Disney all employees are referred to as cast members. Cast members refer to every employee, not just the ones who portray Disney characters.

473CB98A-3331-416C-BE99-D52F25AD638CThis method came from Walt Disney himself. He wanted to create a theme park that was a magical place for all the visitors. To him, each day, the employees were putting on a show, a magical show. It is about managing the guests’ experience.

You can bring this line of thinking into your busy, successful CPA firm. You are the same as Disney – you are providing a service and a wonderful experience for your customers (clients). You want each client, potential client, visitor or vendor dealing with your firm to have the same Smith, Jones & Company experience whether it is the Mr. Big Shot client or the Elderly Lady client.

So, when things get back to normal (after working remotely for a while), walk into the office and remember that you are going on stage. You are a star in your firm’s production. As you work from home, you can apply the same process. You will be talking with clients via phone, texting and emailing them. Let your “on stage” personality shine through.

Later on, help your firm develop some guidelines for the client experience at your firm and train future employees on how to manage the client experience.

Here are some “secret” rules for Disney employees.

  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
  • Walt Disney

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Always Look Successful

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” Chris Grosser

You ask your clients for a substantial amount when you provide services. You are a professional and it has taken a lot of investment in college education, your continuing professional education and simply keeping current on trends in your area of expertise.

I believe your fees should reflect your expertise, professionalism and your success. How do your clients know you are professional and successful? They base it on what they see and how you act.

You should never feel guilty about charging clients what you are worth! But, I believe you need to show them that you are successful. They base their opinions on things like:

  • How you dress each business day.
  • The kind of car you drive.
  • Where you live.
  • Where you dine.
  • Where you are visible in your business and charitable community.
  • Your conversational skills.
  • Your abilities to write proficiently and speak confidently.

Even if you are a new CPA, you are a professional working in a professional firm. Clients sometimes see you and often talk with you via phone. They assume because you are a CPA, that you have all the technical skills. They judge your professionalism, your success, and your worth by a lot of other things. This is especially true when you are interacting with potential clients, successful business people who really don’t know you.

  • The starting point of all achievement is desire.
  • Napoleon Hill

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Complacency Is Your Biggest Enemy

“Safety and comfort come with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.” – Elijah Wood

Experienced CPAs who have survived, long-term in public accounting work hard. However, they love the work, it’s not a penalty or a chore. They love their clients and helping them survive taxation and other financial challenges. They love helping clients build successful businesses that will provide for a comfortable retirement down the road.

After doing this for many years, they become a partner in a CPA firm and make a lot of money. They love the work and they make great money doing what they love. Life is good.

Sure, at times they do have people challenges… you know, employees and partners. Maybe even at home.

But, over the years they have become complacent. Often, almost unknowingly, they begin to strongly avoid change. They want to maintain the status quo. They are comfortable.

What are they missing? What more could they do for their people, their clients, and even their family?

If this sounds anything at all like you, here’s the question – – Are you comfortable or are you stuck?

  • One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.
  • Voltaire

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Managers Play A Key Role In Engagement

“’No news is good news’ should not be an employee recognition program.” – Sharlyn Lauby

Partners and owners in public accounting firms rely heavily on those experienced employees who have significant experience. They have learned and evolved over the years and are now managers in the firm.

Firm managers are on the frontline when it comes to all the other team members (supervisors, seniors, staff, associates, bookkeepers, etc.) who make up the remainder of the accounting/tax team.

Thus, managers play a key role in the training, development, and motivation of others. They make a big difference in the daily lives of your entire staff.

One big issue I have observed is that owners don’t often provide enough training for managers in the art of actually managing. “The firm” sends them to various CPE courses and encourages them in their online training in the technical skills they need to succeed. In other words, they invest in teaching them tax, audit, and accounting. Learning people skills is left to chance.

Lots of articles and surveys have told us that employees do not leave a company (firm), they leave a manager. So, lessening turnover and increasing employee engagement is the responsibility of the manager.

How can your managers create a great day for employees? Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), an HR pro give us eight tips:

  1. Deliver a learning moment.
  2. Use the employee’s strengths.
  3. Tell employees they made an impact.
  4. Recognize an employee’s accomplishments.
  5. Offer inspiration.
  6. Help employees make progress toward their goals.
  7. Create collaborative opportunities.
  8. Let employees make it theirs.

Read more about each of these eight tips in this recent post from Lauby.

  • The goal is with every interaction to provide employees with an engaging experience.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Treating Everyone The Same

A quote I recently read from Tom Peters brought to mind some situations I have observed in accounting firms. Here’s the quote:

“Every team in the world is very diverse!!! Think of symphonies or sports teams or classrooms. The good conductors/coaches/teachers treat every member differently every day.” – Tom Peters

Some firm leaders try to make everything fair by treating everyone the same. It is a hopeless struggle. I like the current term we use in managing people in public accounting firms: One size fits one.

Think about the ways you have set yourself up for failure by requiring the same behavior from all your team members. Things such as:

  • All associates must get 1700 chargeable hours.
  • All seniors must pass the CPA exam before they can be promoted to supervisor.
  • All partners and managers must be mentors in our mentoring program.
  • Everyone must be in the office and ready to work by 8:00 a.m.
  • During our busy season, everyone must work in the office on Saturday morning.
  • No administrative people are allowed to work overtime.

Simple solutions: Be more flexible. Allow individuals to do more work where they use their strengths rather than focusing all your energy on trying to help them improve their weaknesses.

  • I've known people who thought that reaching their potential would come from shoring up their weaknesses. But do you know what happens when you spend all your time working on your weaknesses and never developing your strengths? If you work really hard, you might claw your way all the way to mediocrity! But you'll never get beyond it.
  • John C. Maxwell

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback

“Nobody’s perfect. We all have blind spots and perspective gaps. We need negative feedback if we’re going to grow.” – Justin Bariso

Are you afraid of feedback? I hear stories from many CPA firms about the lack of support for upward feedback surveys and client feedback surveys. Once a firm leader told me that her partners were afraid of upward feedback – afraid it would be negative and hurtful. Another leader stated, “Our partners don’t want to do an upward feedback survey. They said they don’t care what our people think.” Oh, my.

Elon Musk recently made the following statement (tweeted) relating to his solar tile product. “Please let us know what improvements we can make to any aspect of Tesla SolarGlass roof! Critical feedback is much appreciated.”

The key statement here is the last sentence: Critical feedback is much appreciated.

Are you, as a firm leader, appreciative of critical feedback?

Tell us what we can do better. – – That should be the statement you are continually making to your clients and to your people. Then, listen and take action.

Read this informative article by Justin Bariso (via Inc.).

  • When the feedback comes, don't view it as an attack. Rather, see it as a gift--a chance to learn.
  • Justin Bariso

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Lack of Self-Confidence

“Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I bet you have heard the classic line: “I didn’t major in accounting so that I could become a salesperson.”

If you are working in public accounting, you must embrace marketing and sales. It is the lifeblood of a growing and successful firm.

Many accountants actually have a fear of attempting to “sell” services to a potential client. I always claim that you can land new clients if you simply like people. It is about connecting to others and building relationships.

Begin by building your own self-confidence. You have SO MUCH valuable knowledge – you are worth every penny a client pays you. You have helped so many clients in the past. Take that air of success with you as you approach potential clients. Tell success stories.

Jeffrey Gitomer (famous sales guru) recommends that you keep the story of “The Little Engine That Could” in mind – “I think I can. I think I can.” He says that thinking you can is 50% of the outcome. Never show doubt or uncertainty – you are a winner and can be such an asset to that potential client’s future success.

  • Attitude drives actions. Actions drives results. Results drive lifestyles.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Teaching Staff the Secrets of Marketing & Sales

“I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called a Professional Building. I felt better right away.” – George Carlin

Are you teaching your young accountants how to become successful as rainmakers? If they want to be on the ownership track, they need to be able to bring in new business to the firm. That’s an overwhelming assignment for new hires.

The journey begins in their first week by having new recruits meet with your marketing director as part of orientation. The MD will simply explain how it all works and share all the tools the firm has available to help them succeed.

No expectations are set (that happens later down the road) except that the beginner CPA needs to be visible and attend business, civic and charitable events along with a more experienced CPA.

A helpful exercise is to host a lunch and learn where two or three of the firm’s best business developer partners participate in a panel discussion about how they became successful at attracting new clients to the firm. Each partner will have a slightly different success story and the entire staff is invited to the lunch and learn to listen and ask questions.

Never let marketing/sales be a surprise to your team members. Make it part of your culture and provide the tools necessary to help them succeed.

  • Nine tenths of education is encouragement.
  • Anatole France

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Frustration

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is in sight.” – Jack Welch

We all like to tell our recruits and potential new-hires that “our firm is different”  – – I find that in the hundreds of firms that I have interacted with, nearly all of them have many of the same issues and frustrations.

Are you often frustrated? – “The firm” isn’t changing fast enough. New initiatives often get delayed. Leaders are not setting a good example. People leave messes in the kitchen!

All this reminds me of a story. Stories and quotations inspire me and hopefully, they do the same for you. When I was actively working inside an accounting firm, a friend of mine gave me some good advice. When something really frustrates you just substitute the word fascinated for frustrated.  When you go to get coffee, the pot has about 1/25th of an inch of coffee in it….. isn’t that fascinating?

I could elaborate more fully on the fascination of surviving in a CPA firm. But, the purpose of this blog is to communicate what you can do to make things run smoother, better, faster and more efficient.

I hope you also follow me on twitter:  @cpamanagement.

  • Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
  • Kurt Vonnegut