Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Friday, May 20th, 2022

We Are Closed On Friday – Flashback

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein

It is Friday again and time for my weekly flashback post. This week I am thinking of all of you who are struggling with the decision to close your office on Friday. This post gives you an example of the message one firm sent out to their clients in 2016. Yes, 2016 and some of you are still debating this issue.

Have a great weekend!

  • We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands.
  • Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Be Creative – Do Things!

“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” – Albert Einstein

I have observed that many CPAs wait for other CPA firms to go first and then they will follow that new idea, software, process, or procedure.

So many partners, over many years, have asked me, “What are other firms doing?” I urge you to enlist your entire team in being more creative. What suggestion does that 2-year person have that might save everyone a lot of time? What has your firm administrator been urging the firm to try for a couple of years? So what if it doesn’t work. Try something else.

Once again, I offer a complete blog post from Seth Godin.

EVERYONE ELSE IS

Well, not everyone. Just most people.

When you do something that everyone else is doing, you’re likely to get what everyone else is getting.

But in almost every population, “everyone” leaves out the people who go first, who change things, who are weird and who challenge the status quo. That’s an option, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Mass culture gets us more mass culture. It’s not the only choice.

  • A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Civility

“Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” – Robert Fulghum, author of All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

As you become a manager and then a partner in your firm, if you want to be viewed as an inspiring leader, you better be practicing civility.

There is solid research behind this. This is from Christine Porath via HBR:

“For the last 20 years, I’ve studied the costs of incivility, as well as the benefits of civility. Across the board, I’ve found that civility pays. it enhances your influence and performance and is positively associated with being perceived as a leader.”

Leaders need to demonstrate respect. According to recent studies, being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition, appreciation, inspiring visions, or even learning opportunities.

Be sure to read the informative article.

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

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Getting Ready To Grow or Merge Up

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

As I have for many years (decades?), I urge every CPA practitioner to get their house in order. That means having a solid foundation to build on. Acquirers don’t want to merge with a firm that is unorganized and/or dysfunctional. Future partners don’t want to buy in to something that is not attractive.

There are some very basic things that CPA firm leaders need to do to continually increase the value of their firm. Of course, CPAs must be technically competent, good communicators, and committed to client service. You are in a service business, just like a hotel or restaurant.

Beyond those basics, a couple more foundational items are needed to create firm value.

Culture – You (and your partners, if you have some) should devote your attention to creating a culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values. If you discover employees who do not embrace your core values, they should be encouraged to go elsewhere.

Processes – Another foundational item thing you can do to increase the value of your firm is to implement processes, procedures, and policies that are well-documented in writing. This means the success of your firm is not solely on your shoulders and not dependent on just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed quickly.

  • Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.
  • Dalai Lama

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Mistakes Happen

“The public seldom forgive twice.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

When I first joined a CPA firm, I was actually amazed at the lengths the partners and staff went to assure that the work they did for the clients was absolutely correct. At that point in my life, my work experience had always demanded: “do it right the first time.”

In the accounting firm, my administrative work was proofed and reviewed. The work performed by the accountants was checked, reviewed, corrected, reviewed again, (corrected again, if need be), quality reviewed, and then checked by a partner before they signed off. I was amazed at the review steps that were part of everyday life in an accounting firm.

I was, and still am, puzzled by the fact that more focus isn’t put on doing it right the first time. When things are checked and reviewed so much, I imagine it is easy to hurry through a task and just hope your reviewer will catch any mistakes.

Once in a great while, a mistake happens. Oh, no! It is a small mistake and you have all experienced them. It is usually the wrong address used when mailing something. A simple typo in a communication to a client. A label affixed to an envelope that is crooked (remember, everything going to a client must be perfect, it is the little things that matter). Have you ever mailed a tax organizer to a dead person? The family is not pleased.

However, rarely, a more major mistake slips through the review process. The client brings it to your attention. You apologize profusely to the client and go about correcting the error. They seem to understand. They are loyal and forgiving. They don’t even consider leaving the firm.

That is why making mistakes when serving CPA firm clients is so rare and why so much caution is applied to the processes. Because if you make another mistake with that same client, you will probably lose the client and damage the firm reputation.

Keep today’s quotation, above, in mind and develop training methods that encourage your team to do it right the first time.

  • If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
  • John Wooden

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Committees

“I am not a committee.” —Princess Leia, The Empire Strikes Back

As May the 4th was yesterday, the above quote via Princess Leia caught my attention. Can you believe that Star Wars was released 45 years ago on May 25?

Anyway, back on topic. When I hear the word “Committee” in a CPA firm, I cringe. Please keep in mind that your firm is a business, not a non-profit. Trying to manage by committee will just slow you down and create confusion and power struggles.

Establish a management structure with a qualified, inspired Managing Partner and a professional, skilled, efficient Firm Administrator (Practice Manager) to carry out the routine duties of managing the business.

Occasionally, you might need to establish a Task Force to focus on one specific area or initiative. The best thing about a task force is that it is not ongoing. It completes its duty and disbands. Also, keep in mind how much non-productive time many partners spend if you have them on various committees. The pandemic has shown us just how much people hate meetings!

Major issues such as mergers or firing a partner would, of course, require full participation by the ownership group but day-to-day the “other” partners need to be bringing in business, serving clients, and mentoring staff.

  • If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.
  • Charles Kettering

Friday, April 29th, 2022

Too Much Technology – Friday Flashback

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

Sometimes it seems like technology dominates our life. We are in a state of communication overload.

Here’s a flashback post that gives you a partner’s perspective and also the staff’s perspective.

  • Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.
  • Will Rogers

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Another Season Unfolds

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” Og Mandino

The team and partners have been very busy. Now, they have more time to think about what is going on around them. You might hear comments like:

  • I have a lot more charge hours than Joe. I wonder if I am paid more than Joe?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so hot in the office?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so cold in the office?
  • I mostly work from home, I miss out on the treats people bring into the office.
  • Sally is always late and then she eats breakfast in the lunchroom before she starts to work.
  • Ted actually exits out the rear entrance at 3:00 when the partners are away from the office.
  • The people working in the office get a lot more training than I do.
  • Why do I have to come into the office two days per week?
  • Susie and Joyce Admin chat at the front desk for a half-hour every morning!
  • The firm does so much for people with families. I am single. What special stuff do I get?
  • Joe Partner always leaves such a mess around the coffee machine.

Tax season is over (for now). It is the Dealing With People Season. It always makes me think of Seinfeld:

Elaine: I will NEVER understand people.

Jerry: They’re the worst.

Some of these complaints might seem extreme to you but I bet you can tell me even better “stories” about people complaining. Good luck with Dealing With People Season!

  • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.
  • Dale Carnegie

Monday, April 25th, 2022

The Managing Partner (CEO)

“If you are the CEO, you are the brand.” — George Farris

The above quotation inspired this post. If you are the Managing Partner, you are the brand.

CPA firms operate under the partnership model even if they are not legally a partnership. There is a group of owners, usually titled partners. They elect one partner to take on the role of Managing Partner (MP), meaning he/she is the person charged with managing and leading the firm.

Larger firms have mostly evolved to a more structured system where an executive committee, led by the MP, deals with most firm management decisions. But, the majority of firms in the U.S. are considered smaller and the MP leads the firm. The role has great responsibility but yet, the other partners still want to be involved in almost everything! Still, the MP is expected to be out and about in the community being the visible “face” of the firm. The MP is on various community and charitable boards, attends many civic events, and speaks at various venues when given the opportunity. The MP really does generate and develop a brand for the firm.

Something I have often heard from MPs is the fact that they have become the firm’s MP because no one else wanted the job! Makes me sad. It is such an opportunity if you do it right, for the individual and for the firm. A great MP should be rewarded substantially because of the management duties plus they are expected to have a significant client load. They should be bringing in business and passing it along to other partners.

My simple reminder today is that as MP, you should never lose sight of the fact that you have a responsibility to build the firm brand. The firm brand determines how many clients you will attract and how many accounting graduates and other prospective employees decide to join the firm.

If you want to learn more about the role, there is a great webinar coming up on May 3 titled, The Role of the ManagingPartner: A Guide for Managing Partners to Achieve Greatness for Their Firms. It is via CPA Leadership Institute and presented by Gary Adamson.

  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Little Things – Flashback Friday

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

The client assumes you are accurate in your work. Little things matter to them. That is why a handwritten note can make such a big impression. Read this Flashback post about some powerful words.

  • If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
  • William H. McRaven