Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

I Can’t. I Am Too Busy.

“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?” – Marie Dressler 

Oh, my. That busy word again.

Look at the quote, above, and think of the partners and staff working at your accounting firm. Everyone thinks they are too busy. Even your clients think you are too busy. What does that tell them?  Do they shy away from asking questions or asking you to work on a new project because you are just too busy?

How much time do you waste? How much time does your team waste?

I changed the quote: “If staff are so busy, how come they find time to take an extra-long lunch, chat with each other about last night’s football game or spend 30 minutes eating breakfast in the lunchroom when they arrive in the morning?”

  • I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I couldn't find the time to do it.
  • Todd Stucker

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Find Time to Laugh

“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” – Robert Frost

My husband and I frequently watch British comedy shows. He, not me, is a huge fan of the movie Month Python and the Holy Grail. He and my son can quote most of the script. Recently, we have watched The Detectorists via Acorn TV. The comedy is very subtle and we find it hilarious. We also love Doc Martin.

Anyway, it is healthy to laugh. Inside accounting firms, there is a lot of drama but I find that there is also much to laugh about. Look for the humor and spread it. Observe the drama and don’t take part in it!

Here’s a quote from John Cleese of Monty Python:

“I used to think comedy was a luxury, but now I see it’s much more important. As I’ve aged, I’ve found the world far, far more ridiculous than I used to think. I think some of us reach a point when we look at the world and think, This place is so crazy that I really can’t take it very seriously anymore.”

Honestly, in my consulting work, I often hear stories of happenings inside an accounting firm that are so serious and unbelievable that I just have to laugh!

Laugh inside your firm….. not at your firm.

 

  • The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
  • Mark Twain

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

New Beginnings

“When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision.” – Paulo Coelho

Whether you are a new college graduate or someone with experience joining a different CPA firm, you will make mistakes. It is expected and your new bosses (partners/managers) understand.

One of the most common complaints I have heard over my many years working with CPAs and one I continue to hear on almost a weekly basis is about the issue of people learning from their mistakes. I hear:

  • They keep making the same mistakes over and over.
  • They don’t listen.
  • They don’t learn from their mistakes.

Repeating a mistake is something your new bosses don’t understand. I love the above quote. Read it again and commit to not making the same mistake twice!

  • Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

What If They Stay?

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

I see it all the time, there are people who need to go. Owners hope and pray they will eventually quit. In fact, they subtly take steps to encourage departure. But, what if they stay? Is it worth demotivating your top performers because poor performers experience no consequences for their lack of engagement, low performance, and bad attitudes?
Here’s a tweet from Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay To Be The Boss:
Of course, there are employees we don’t want to lose. But who are you afraid will stay? Identify those people. Are they low performers? Do they have an attitude problem? Are they simply not engaged? If you can fix the problem, do it! Otherwise, you’ve got to let those people go.
  • No man goes before his time; unless the boss leaves early.
  • Groucho Marx

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

More Advice on Handling Email

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” – Harvey Mackay

I blog about it often, but I want to keep offering you solutions to your email misery. Don’t brag (or moan) about how many emails you get each day. Take positive steps to decrease the time you spend reading emails.

Matt Plummer gives us some good advice on how to spend less time on email every day in his article via HBR. A simple solution is to simply check email less often. His research says most professionals check their email 15 times per day. I believe that CPAs and their employees check email more often than that!

Keep in mind that most emails DO NOT need your immediate response. Set the expectations with your clients and let them know that you check email at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00 and 4:00. When you don’t respond right away, they will soon learn to expect your answer in a few hours.

I believe that your staff deserves a slightly higher priority. If you are a partner or a manager and you don’t reply to a staff question within a reasonable length of time, you may be damaging their productivity and halting workflow. I still hear stories of partners who may take days to answer an inquiry from staff!

Read the article and learn about the five ways we unnecessarily lose time dealing with emails.

  • I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
  • William Shakespeare

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

How To Say It

“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” – Colin Powell

In accounting firms, you spend lots of time and money teaching and training younger, less experienced accountants the technical aspects of their job.

You give them extensive training on how to prepare tax returns, how to perform the various steps in an audit and how to make QBO hum.

How much time and money do you spend on helping them learn how to talk to a client? How do they learn to inform a client that they still owe $65,000 in tax and it is due next week? How do they learn how to convince a client that a new software package would make them more profitable when they love their old, often outdated software?

One of the most important steps in growing your team’s success skills is to give them first-hand experience. It is simple but something that is often forgotten by partners and managers. Partners rush off to lunch with a client and they go alone. Partners and managers speak to the board of directors of a non-profit client and they go alone.

Less experienced people learn from listening and observing. Involve them, include them and take them along.

Here’s a good article via the Journal of Accountancy on how to deliver bad news to a client.

  • More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it's bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.
  • Simon Sinek

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Expand Your Phrases

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Do you use the same, stale phrases to attempt to motivate people? One of the standards is, “Just do your best.” When you say that it seems like you really don’t expect much and you are abandoning them.

Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady, gives us Ten Things to Say Instead of “Do Your Best” in a recent post for Inc.

If you want to motivate people to do the right kind of work, here are ten phrases you should use instead.

  1. I know you’ll do a great job.
  2. Let me know what resources you need to accomplish this.
  3. We have a strict deadline for X. It will be impossible to do this perfectly in this amount of time. I trust your judgment on which corners to cut.
  4. Let me know what help you need to get this project done. I’m happy to help.
  5. I know you’re concerned that you lack the skills to do this, but I know you can figure it out. I’m here as support.
  6. This project is critical, and it needs your top attention. Make it your priority and let me know what you need to drop.
  7. This is new, and we’re not quite sure how to accomplish it, but I know you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to figure it out. 
  8. This isn’t a huge priority. It does need to get done, but don’t stress out over it.
  9. Give it your best shot, and we’ll correct any errors later.
  10. I just need a rough draft/estimate/outline/whatever.

The reality inside CPA firms is that you do expect a lot from them AND you are not abandoning them. You are there to advise and train.

  • It's not enough to just do your best. You must continue to improve your best."
  • Kenneth Wayne Wood

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Always Too Busy

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Harvey Mackay

You are thinking:

  • I would like to investigate that new niche opportunity.
  • I have heard that XXXXX software has really improved its performance. I should check it out.
  • I need to make phone calls to my top 10 clients every quarter.

BUT, I don’t have time.

Most people DO have time, they just choose to do some things and not others.

Many people desperately need some basic time management education.

Leaders often get caught up in the short term and postpone spending valuable time on long term planning because short term might be more profitable.

Schedule your time. Determine what is essential to your career and firm growth. Find your time-wasters and eliminate them. Re-think your routine and how you can capture more time to do the things you actually WANT to do.

  • You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
  • Charles Brixton

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Men Mentoring Women

“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” — Junot Diaz

If you have followed me for a while, or know me personally, you know that I have been a loud voice on the topic of mentoring inside a CPA firm.

I believe it is the foundation of the CPA profession – an older, more experienced person advises and teaches a younger, less experienced person (a new college graduate). That’s the way most CPAs learned their trade.

I attribute all I know and have achieved to having other people mentor, advise, coach and teach me. Almost all of my mentors were men.

In light of the MeToo era, men are becoming hesitant and even confused about how to appropriately mentor younger (or even not-so-young) females.

It is important to initially establish comfort levels and establish boundaries. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post by @leadershipfreak  (How men overcome discomfort mentoring women) as he interviews Joan Kuhl:

Joan Kuhl, author of Dig Your Heels In, offers three practical suggestions for men who feel uncomfortable mentoring women.

  1. You can’t have different rules for men and women. You might prefer public spaces or coffee shops for mentoring conversations. If you take male mentees to sporting events, you must include female mentees.
  2. Establish trust from the start. Be willing to listen to hard feedback about company culture.
  3. Focus on goals and skills. Make the relationship development specific to the business.

Be sure to read the entire post and also watch the video of the interview. It can be used for education/training inside your own firm. Mentoring matters! You don’t want to lose mentoring opportunities just because people are wondering how to proceed.

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

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Monday Morning

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

Here it is again, Monday. For some, it’s a clean slate and the chance to begin again and have a successful, productive week.

For most, it’s a drag. You’ve slept in over the weekend and even getting up earlier on Monday starts things off with dread. Of course, you know that experts tell us to keep our sleeping hours routine – get up at the same time on weekends as you do during the week. We lose sight of that when Friday night arrives!

One good tip to conquer Monday mornings is something that I hope you have been doing for years. Update your to-do list on Friday BEFORE you leave and identify the specific things you need to do on Monday.

Experts tell us that on Monday, begin with a few of the easy things on your list and fairly quickly dive into the more difficult tasks. Getting them out of the way will give you a brighter outlook for the entire week.

  • Mondays are the start of the work week which offer new beginnings 52 times a year.
  • David Dweck