Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

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

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Building An Inclusive Culture

“Exclusion is always dangerous. Inclusion is the only safety if we are to have a peaceful world.” – Pearl S. Buck

Over my years in the public accounting arena, I have found that to motivate your team you must develop a culture of inclusion. Young people, and new hires, want to be in on things. So, I am including today’s post from Seth Godin in its entirety.

Apply this to your CPA firm:

YOU CAN’T SAY YOU CAN’T PLAY

Lenny Levine was a great kindergarten teacher. And he ran his class by this one rule.

It means that if another kid comes along, you need to include them in your game.

That’s it.

It changes everything. It puts an emphasis on connection, not exclusivity. It changes the dynamics of belonging. It weaves together a foundation that crosses traditional boundaries.

It’s a bit like giving every kid in the class a valentine’s day card. Some say that it cheapens the sentiment because it’s not about selection, it’s about inclusion. I think we’ve got plenty of selection already.

In the adult world, open doors create possibility and that leads to insight and productivity.

 

  • Inclusion and fairness in the workplace is not simply the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do.
  • Alexis Herman

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Even if you are always busy, find time to read. Of course, read the most beneficial and motivational business books. But, don’t stop there. Read for enjoyment and meaning.

While on a winter get-away, I found a copy of Tuesdays With Morrie in the villa we rented. I’m sure you have heard of it. I hadn’t read it in years so I re-read it. It’s an easy read.

Here is just one takeaway:

“Find someone to share your heart, give to your community, be at peace with yourself, try to be as human as you can be.”

If you are “too busy” to read the book, read these 14 inspiring quotes.

  • If you really want it, then you’ll make your dream happen.
  • Morrie Schwartz

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Who Do You Trust?

“Listening is an important skill for building trust.” – Jennifer Collins

I remember hearing that Johnny Carson began his career as a game show host. When I typed in the title of this blog post, it jogged my memory, so I Googled it.

Who Do You Trust? (1956–1963) Married pairs of contestants were asked to answer questions, the husband deciding whether he or she would answer. The original emcee Edgar Bergen was later replaced by Johnny Carson.

My question is who do YOU trust at work?

I have facilitated numerous upward feedback surveys for CPA firms. If I receive several questions about how confidential the survey is I know that there is a lack of trust in firm leaders. There is almost always a fear of retaliation.

My wish is that there would be enough trust in a firm that all employees are comfortable telling the partners exactly what they think without that nagging fear.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post by Skip Prichard that prompted my blog post. His description sure sounded like a CPA firm to me!

From Skip:

Simply put, servant leaders build a culture of trust.

Why is that key? Because without trust—for the leader, for coworkers, for the organization at large—everyone will be focused on survival rather than success. Because the opposite of a culture of trust isn’t simply “a culture without trust.” It’s a culture of fear.

What does that mean? I think of a company I worked at that, when I started, I saw a complete lack of trust. Management spent time looking for new tools to track and manage staff. It was all about analytics aimed at finding people who weren’t “working hard enough” (according to the definitions attached to the tools, at least). Those people could be put on a list and micromanaged, reprimanded or even fired.

I have often found that partners (owners) don’t trust the staff and the staff doesn’t trust all of the partners. Think about what you can do about this situation as you work your way through busy season.

  • The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
  • Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Quit Making Excuses

“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.” – John Wooden

When talking with accounting firm owners and working with new clients I often hear lots of excuses when I suggest new ways to do things and the importance of keeping up with current trends in the CPA profession. I hear “Yes, but…” over and over again.

I hear:

  • Yes, we have heard other firms are doing that, but at our firm…..
  • Yes, we tried closing on Fridays, but….
  • Yes, we thought about allowing more people to work remotely, but…
  • Yes, as partners, we know we could delegate more to our staff, but….
  • Yes, the partners want to do paperless billing, but….
  • Yes, all of our partners agree that the managing partner needs to delegate more clients to other partners, but….
  • Yes, we would love to have more female partners, but….
  • Yes, we need some up-and-comers, but……
  • Yes, we have some below-average performers, but….

Are you thinking and saying, “Yes, but…” too often?

  • Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.
  • George Washington Carver

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Consequences

“Unresolved offenses become excuses for poor performance.” – Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell

Leaders in CPA firms often establish rules and guidelines for employees of their firm. Then, when someone ignores the rules/guidelines what happens? Usually, nothing!

At a full team meeting, the managing partner introduced a new rule – something about documentation. One experienced manager asked THE question, “What are the consequences if people ignore this step?” The leaders basically side-stepped the question.

One time an experienced Director of Technology in a firm said to me, “We adopt guidelines but we actually manage by exception.”

Ignoring offenses says volumes about your leadership style. Addressing an offense doesn’t always mean some sort of punishment. You can forgive an offense but don’t ignore it.

 

  • When you can’t resolve offenses, YOU become toxic. The Dead Sea is dead because it hangs on to everything.
  • Dan Rockwell

Friday, January 31st, 2020

Tax Season Is Not Complaining Season

I saw the following tweet by Greg Bell and thought of CPA firms:

“Would you like to spend time with someone who is constantly complaining about life, their job, gossiping about friends and coworkers, or putting themselves and others down? Or would you rather spend time with someone who is upbeat despite the challenges they face?” – Greg Bell (@gregbellspeaks)

Sad, isn’t it, that I think of CPA firms after reading this?

I have observed that when you get deep inside many accounting firms there is a lot of this going on.

In my personal experience working inside a firm, I found tax season to be a time when the general population of the firm was too busy to complain much. Almost everyone was focused, dedicated and possessed a sense of urgency.

The sad part is that after April 15th the moaning and groaning returned! I hope you are doing surveys so you can address some of the relevant issues. If it turns out that you have people who match-up with the quote above, you have the wrong people.

Address the issues and work to develop a No Whining culture!

  • You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.
  • Shirley Chisholm

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

Old School

“There’s definitely an old school element to my music, but I also think it’s modern.” – Lenny Kravitz

How is your firm viewed by clients and prospects?

Progressive, innovative, passionate and future-focused or “old school”?

Many firms still have partners, in their 60s or older, who have been long-time rainmakers still out there being the “face of the firm.” Young partners, managers, and staff are often completely happy letting them do it.

The word on the street becomes, “they’re old school.”

Even in the age of online visibility and branding, the importance of being heard and seen in your local business community is still very important for most accounting firms. Educate your entire team about being “on stage” and representing the firm not only during business hours but after hours, too.

Older rainmakers, it is your duty to replace yourself. ALWAYS take a younger person along when you are out and about. Younger, less experienced CPAs – it’s your responsibility to ask them to take you along.

  • I don't exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.
  • J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Ask Your Clients For Help

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” -Sam Walton

One popular question on any CPA firm client survey has told us that your best clients want to help you get more clients.

The survey question: Have you ever recommended us to any of your business friends/associates? The one answer we most often get is, “No one at the firm has ever asked me for referrals.”

You will be talking with so many clients during the next couple of months. Ask them if they are happy with your services and if you are meeting their expectations. Then, take the opportunity to ask them to recommend you to their friends and acquaintances. If you are providing awesome client service, they will be more than happy to talk about your firm to others.

Simply ask, “If you have been pleased with the service we provide, would you be willing to recommend us to others?” Hopefully, they are pleased!

  • Satisfaction is a rating. Loyalty is a brand.
  • Shep Hyken

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Fight it! – Procrastination

“You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

I have observed that accountants are masters at procrastination.

Definition: Procrastinate: delay or postpone action, put off doing something.

You would think that people who are deadline driven would avoid procrastination. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Here’s what I have seen over and over again during my several decades working in public accounting.

Procrastination is practiced throughout tax season and as due dates near, fire drills begin. Thus, hectic and stressful times reign for ten days before the due date.

Procrastination runs rampant after a partner or management retreat. The common excuses are:

  • We are too busy.
  • We can’t work on it now (the firm initiative), we are too busy with performance reviews.
  • The fall due dates are approaching.
  • We have to do so much tax planning in December.
  • We will have to wait until after April 15.
  • After April 15, too many people are taking time off.

Experts tell us that most people procrastinate because they don’t like what they do. If you love what you do, you procrastinate less.

According to Jeffrey Gitomer, there are two things you can do to fight procrastination – 1) Set a false (earlier) deadline, and 2) Enjoy the deadline, instead of lamenting it.

I usually approach completing tasks this way. I do what I dread first and then can enjoy the projects I am passionate about.

If you are not passionate about what you mostly do, you better find another job.

  • In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt