Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Just Ask!

“One common thing about great achievers is that they keep asking useful questions every day. They ask questions like; “What do I want and what do I need to do to get it?” 
― Israelmore Ayivor

Over the years, I have had the following conversation with many firm administrators, marketing directors, HR directors, IT directors and others working in an accounting firm.

Rita: “Are you going to attend (fill-in the blank) conference this year?”

     Team member: “No, I won’t be able to go. It is too expensive and my partners would never   approve it.”

     Rita: “Did you actually ask them?”

     Team member: “Well, no. But I know they would never allow it.”

Please don’t assume. Prepare your case and then present it to the managing partner. Explain the benefits for you and the firm. Networking with people in your position at other firms and attending presentations by well-known CPA profession leaders has a pay-back much bigger than the expenses incurred.

Don’t delay – just ask!

 

  • The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
  • Thomas Berger

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Finding the Best Person for the Job

“We need constant change, technological innovation capability, and high productivity to survive in the fiercely competitive environment.” – Joe Kaeser

Firms merge, people leave, people retire and a new firm administrator (Practice Manager) is needed. The role is a very critical one for an accounting firm. The person in this role can make all the difference in how the firm moves into the future, how staff turnover is reduced, how training is developed and presented and how the owner group operates.

If you are a Practice Manager, Office Manager, Firm Administrator or COO here are the characteristics and actions that will make you successful. If you are searching for a new person to fill this role in your firm, use these attributes in your hiring decision.

18 Attributes of an Effective Practice Manager, Firm Administrator or COO

  1. Technical knowledge of the area being managed.  They learn the area, hone skills and stay on top of technological developments.  It earns respect from subordinates and peers.
  2.  Cheerleader.  They are adept at motivating all people.
  3.  Educated to help deal with peers and colleagues.  They have a solid educational background (many firms require a bachelor’s degree now) and continue learning through seminars, webinars, trade journals, newsletters, online research, and reading Rita Keller’s Blog.
  4.  Innate managerial mentality.  This includes being alert, dependable and willing to carry out a commitment.
  5.  Team player.  Grandstanders are not allowed.  He/She solves problems in other departments, as well as in administration because the objective should be collectively beneficial.
  6.  Ability to anticipate potential problems.  He/She is painfully aware of Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will).  Contingency planning is a key tool for practice managers.
  7.  A natural sense of fairness and integrity and emotionally well balanced.  Natural is the keyword.  If he/she has to consult a manual to know what’s fair, frustration will be constant.  Also, immature managers can hurt the employees and the firm they represent.
  8.  Courageous, resolute, strong convictions and socially conscious.  He/She works with management and staff with an overall goal of quality client service.   They often deal with egotistical personalities and partners unwilling to “let go.”
  9.  A good follower, not resentful of instructions or constructive criticism.  Anyone secure enough to demonstrate mature leadership will understand the reasons for recognizing the proper chain of command.  Observing protocol demonstrates respect for the system.
  10.  Have initiative and be creative, imaginative and resourceful.  Preventing problems is the most sublime form of problem-solving.  Successful practice managers act without being told to do so.
  11. Energetic.  The practice manager sets the pace.  Most work 2,300 hours or more per year (that number includes PTO, holidays, CPE, etc., working the hours required to get things done.
  12. Reliable, even temperament.  You can’t constantly change your personality.  Nothing goes right all the time, and if you care, you’re going to get upset once in a while.  You don’t have to be apologetic for losing your cool when provoked.
  13. Competitive, unafraid of conflict.  A competitive person is not afraid to set standards never before attained, nor is he or she afraid to fail.  Such a person realizes there can be growth in failure if there is learning.  In managing conflicts, the effective practice manager must know how to come out on top or graciously back off.
  14. Positive.  A positive attitude is a catalyst for creativity.
  15.  Excellent communication skills.  A successful practice manager should be able to write clearly and crisply, speak articulately and succinctly and listen intently.
  16.  Logical, capable of making decisions.  Managers must make tough decisions without fear of making a mistake.   Procrastination could be worse than the decision made.
  17.  Appreciation of technology and social media.  Successful practice managers see technology and social media as tremendous resources and continually lead the firm to advance in these areas.
  18.  Organized, self-disciplined.  Orderly thinking results in orderly living and managing.
  • Most of life's actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.
  • Robert McKee

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Unplug

 “Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.” – Walter Reisch

If you work in a public accounting firm, you probably took some time off immediately after April 15th. For many, it is just a day or two and for others, it might be a full week or more. It is something you do every year.

If you are not one of those people, you are probably still intending to take some time off soon. How did (or how will) you spend your time off?

Studies have shown us that to really renew your zest for work, you should unplug from being part of our hyper-connected world even if it is for a few minutes. Did you know that your blood pressure rises when you talk on a mobile phone?

Research has revealed that intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults. Follow the link to the research and read the list of findings. The list contains many points that describe what young adults in CPA firms are asked to do.

So, when you take that mental break to relieve tax season stress, or when you go on your family vacation, unplug from computers and mobile devices for a few hours or an entire afternoon. Better yet, go off the grid for a full day!

  • I can think. I can sleep. I can move. I can ride my bide. I can dream.
  • Bill Walton

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

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Spring Cleaning

“If you always add and never subtract, you will eventually bury yourself.” – Peter Walsh

Maybe you aren’t really too busy today. Anyway, you are probably still recuperating from tax season.

This would be a great day to clean your desk (and your office)!

Right, I know you are paperless (cough, cough). But do you spend time looking for stuff? Studies have found that we lose precious work minutes every time we go searching for a lost paper on a cluttered desk or office.

This doesn’t just apply to paper items. Studies have also found that information workers lose up to two hours a week frantically searching for lost digital documents.

In her article via HBR, Libby Sander tells us that cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus. Workplace stress costs American businesses up to $190 billion every year in health care costs alone. Read the article here.

I have toured many accounting firm offices over the years. I can always tell, without being told, which office belongs to a tax partner or manager (because of the stacks of papers, files, mail, magazines, etc.)!

This is the day to unclutter your desk, office, and your mind!

  • Clutter smothers. Simplicity breathes.
  • Terri Guillemets

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

What Being on Salary Really Means

“When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘it’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?” I say, your salary.” – Alfred Hitchcock

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, when an employee is paid on a “salary basis,” this means essentially that she receives regular pay on a regular basis, and that this amount doesn’t fluctuate in regard to the quality or quantity of work actually performed.

Salaried positions often have a higher perceived status and job titles that seem more professional. Being salaried is viewed as having to work extra hours for no additional pay, but if you work less than 40 hours per week, you still get paid your salary. Salary allows for some degree of flexibility and stability.

How does this apply inside your accounting firm? You would think that salaried people would not be monitored as closely as hourly employees. However, as one client said to me recently, “We put them on salary but we treat them like hourly.” What are the benefits of being salaried at your firm?

I have observed that flexible scheduled and part-time people seem to receive more perks and are treated more equitably than full-time, salaried people.

  • I came into the game when I broke into the major leagues, the minimum salary was seven thousand dollars, and I'd have to go home in the wintertime and get a job.
  • Nolan Ryan

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Exceptional Service

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” – Kevin Stirtz

Want to attract new clients? Then make your current clients say, “Wow!” Providing exceptional service is your best marketing activity.

This is from Tom Peters:

There’s a big Bain study I quote: 8% of customers think the service they RECEIVE is “exceptional.” 80% of companies think the service they GIVE is “exceptional.” I call it “the 8-80 chasm.”

If you want your clients to say, “Wow!” you have to do something unique, out of the ordinary. Enlist the help of all your people. What do they think you could do to achieve Wow?

Read more about your clients saying WOW.

  • Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
  • Henry Winkler

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

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Get A New Job

“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” – Pearl S. Buck

It has been a stressful, busy and maybe frustrating few months. In a few days, it will be over. You can recuperate for a week or so and then it will be on to new deadlines and responsibilities. Sometimes, we get burned out and our attitude slips downward.

I found this fascinating excerpt from Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin. I recommend it highly.

When I first read the following chapter, I immediately thought of the CPAs, firm administrators and the entire administrative team. It could apply to anyone working inside a CPA firm.  I have posted it before, several years ago, but I think this is a good time to read it again. See what you think:

Getting a New Job Without Leaving

One day, Binny Thomas stood up.

She stood up, spoke up, and started doing a new job.  She didn’t leave her organization, didn’t even get a new title or new responsibilities.  Instead, she started doing her old job in a new way.  Binny stopped going to meetings with the goal of finding deniability or problems to avoid. Instead, she started leaning in and seeking out projects where she could make a difference.

Suddenly, Binny was inspired. She was looking for opportunities instead of hiding from blame. She was putting herself on the line, pushing through the dip, and making things happen. The fascinating (and universal) truth is that the opportunities came after she was inspired – she wasn’t inspired by the opportunities.

Binny’s old job was just fine. She did it extremely well. She followed the map, followed instructions, did what she was told and got paid what she was worth.  Binny wasn’t in danger of losing her job, but she had already given up her soul. She had plateaued, this was the end. Then she changed her mind.

Six weeks later, she got a huge promotion and another, even better new job than the new job she had given herself. Binny is now running a worldwide program of motivated scholars. All it took was a choice. Binny didn’t ask for permission to do her job better; she merely decided to.

Are you looking to others to make your job better, more enjoyable?  Are you sometimes in denial? Are you doing an adequate job but feel like you have plateaued?  Read the last sentence of the chapter, above, again.

 

  • Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Who Are You Traveling With?

“As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was about to happen.” – Winnie The Pooh

I read two quotes yesterday made me think about CPAs and CPA firms:

“In life, it’s not where you go..it’s who you travel with.” – Charles Schulz

“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.” – Elizabeth Green

During the past couple of months, you have been spending a lot of time with your team members, ALL the people who work in your firm or office.

How do these two quotes apply to you? Are you accomplishing extraordinary things?

Even tax season can be fun and meaningful when you are traveling through it with the right people.

  • I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
  • Mark Twain