Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

A Strong Foundation

“In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation that can support your success.” – Chris McClure

Building a strong foundation, personally, is very important. It will be the guiding light that supports your success and leads you to even greater heights. As mentioned in the quote above, you have to do deep inner work.

This same theory applies to your busy accounting firm. You let yourself get so busy that the firm just molds itself around you (and your partners).

For over one-half of this year, you have been busy, busy, busy. You have quickly reacted to build a remote work environment to serve clients and to get you through the pandemic. It didn’t matter if the foundation was solid or shaky, you had to get the work done – you are essential.

Soon it will be July 15th, that new magical due date. Hopefully, you will have some time to really contemplate the foundation of your firm. Your processes and procedures are the foundation of your firm. You must be prepared to inform current staff and new staff “How we do it here.”

Perhaps you had some well-developed processes but they all went by the wayside during the last few hectic months. Refocus. Seek input from your people and your clients. Shore-up your foundation so you are prepared to move forward into the new normal.

Foundational pieces of an accounting firm, in addition to how your complete engagements and handle workflow, are: HR policies, internal accounting (billing and collection, monthly firm financial statements, etc.), technology processes, training, and marketing/sales activities.

Remember, from the quote above, “In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation.”

  • Successful people begin where failures leave off. Never settle for 'just getting the job done.'" Excel!
  • Tom Hopkins

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

It Is Not Easy

“Don’t join an easy crowd: you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.” – Jim Rohn

The above quotation certainly applies to the CPA profession. It applies if you are the managing partner of the firm or if you are the Director of First Impressions.

If you work in the accounting profession, you are not part of “the easy crowd.”

It is a demanding business. So many clients to serve with so many problems. Due dates that always seem to be looming on the horizon. A technical work product that must be absolutely, positively correct.

Appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Always step-up to the challenge and you will continually grow in knowledge, expertise and reputation.

Personally, I have always felt like I did my best when the demands and expectations were high. I enjoy a culture where there is a sense of urgency and where you know that what you do makes a positive difference.

I hope you feel that way, too. Sure, there are times when you are tired, over-worked, and cynical. But let those moments be just fleeting moments and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

  • If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed.
  • Sylvia Plath

Monday, July 6th, 2020

When The Dust Settles

“Normal is the wrong name often used for average.” – Henry S. Haskins

Maybe you have said it yourself. “When the dust settles we can get back to normal.”

We are living in different times. Our lives have been altered to a degree that we never imagined was possible.

Almost nothing is the same nor is it what we consider normal. We serve clients but we don’t see them in person, we don’t shake their hands and greet them in familiar ways.

The same goes for our team members. We have seen some people face-to-face every workday for twenty-five or thirty years. Now, we don’t see them daily or in person. We communicate via email and text and often by video. It’s just not the same.

It’s time we think differently. Don’t wish for the dust to settle and for things to get back to normal. Normal, for many of you working in the accounting profession, wasn’t working all that well anyway.

Try to keep things stirred up, evolving and changing. That is how you get better. Keep working with each other in different ways. Continue to serve clients in different ways. Many of these different ways are much better ways.

Don’t let the dust settle. Perhaps, in your firm, normal became too comfortable.

  • If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
  • Maya Angelou

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Flashback Friday – Procrastination

“If you are not passionate about what you mostly do, you better find another job.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

When you are driven by deadlines – like March 15, April 15 and this year July 15, it seems to allow many CPAs to put things off until the last minute. You even allow clients to facilitate your procrastination.

Read this flashback post – Fight it! – Procrastination.

  • 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

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

What’s The Problem?

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

I had to smile at this tweet by Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak):

I asked a group, “What aspects of work suck the life out of you?” Every response pointed to a “P” word – people.

  • Blabbermouths.
  • Office politics.
  • Disconnected management.
  • Constant tweaking.
  • Complainers.

Maybe you should ask the question to your team. It would have to be completely anonymous if you want people to be honest.

I don’t know how many times I have heard CPA partners say, “I just want to help clients. I don’t want to deal with all of the inside-the-firm people problems!”

So, what aspects of work suck the life out of you? If your answer is similar to the ones above, are you one of those people?

  • As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Strong/Weak

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein

Take a close look at your partner (owner) group.

What I hope you see is a balanced group. In some firms, all partners appear to be very similar. They went to the same schools, they live in the same suburb, they drive similar cars and even their family lives appear to be very similar.

In the office, I hope they are diverse. Partners become partners because they can’t possibly know everything themselves.

Of course, mid to large size firms have an audit partner, a tax partner, a business valuation partner, etc. But look a little deeper. Do they have a partner who cannot possibly have a tough conversation with an employee? That’s okay if they have a partner who is very at ease at giving bad news or critical feedback. Do they have a partner that is a strong negotiator where other partners are not?

A successful partner group has members who are strong where others are weak, partners who are weak where others are strong. It applies to technical expertise and also to personal behaviors.

  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
  • Thomas Edison

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Your Remote Workforce

“Engaged employees are the name of the game if your firm wants to hold on to talent.” – Sandra Wiley

Not that long ago, it was very important to CPA owners (partners) to be able to SEE people working. I always called it the “butts in seats” mentality. If a seat was empty in a cubicle or a manager didn’t appear in their office on a certain day, they were not working!

We have seen gradual change in that thinking in recent years and then in 2020 the big game-changer happened.

Now, partner and managers are faced with the never-before task of Normalizing Remote Work. That is the title of a recent article by Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting.

Per Wiley:

As many firms have learned over the past couple of months, working with remote teams isn’t as simple as handing everyone a laptop. If having your employees working from home recently was challenging, the problem was likely a failure to set expectations rather than remote work itself.

With a remote team, you’re forced to set objectives and establish key performance indicators and communication frameworks. You can’t measure an employee’s productivity by the fact that you’ve seen them working long hours in the office. It’s easy to feel like your on-site team has accountability for just showing up, but directions are less tangible when people are working off-site.

Be sure to read Wiley’s entire article to learn some strategies and tools you should consider when establishing your remote work policies.

  • Accomplishing the impossible means only the boss will add it to your regular duties.
  • Doug Larson

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Followership & Servant Leadership

“Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility. – Herb Kelleher

I have written about the importance of followership and servant leadership on a few occasions. Most recently on May 18, 2020.

Over my many years working in public accounting, I have observed many outstanding leaders who were, in their formative years, excellent followers. I have also observed many partner teams who were missing good followers.

Last week, I read an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby (@HRBartender) titled: Servant Leadership: Excellent Leaders are Good Followers.

She shares a quote by a leader I always admired, Herb Kelleher – “To be an excellent leader, you have to be a superb follower.”

Lauby gives us some background on servant leadership and the importance of followership as part of that.

Read her article to learn more about Robert Greenleaf who is credited with starting Servant Leadership. Also, learn more about some basic competencies associated with servant leadership.

  1. Commitment to developing people
  2. Empathy
  3. Listening
  4. Conceptualization
  5. Foresight
  6. Awareness

When it is time to choose a new partner or a successor for your current managing partner, consider their followership and servant leadership skills.

  • Don't assume, because you are intelligent, able, and well-motivated, that you are open to communication, that you know how to listen.
  • Robert Greenleaf

Monday, June 8th, 2020

The Worst

“The worst solitude is to have no real friendships.” – Francis Bacon

As a leader in your CPA firm, do you always consider the worst thing that could happen?

Decisions are deferred because the partner group is afraid of risk. New policies are not implemented because someone might complain.

I offer this quote from Agatha Christie in her novel The Pale Horse:

“Always envision the worst. You’ve no idea how that steadies the nerves. You begin at once to be sure it can’t be as bad as what you might imagine.”

Most decisions made in a CPA firm are not life or death. What’s the worst that could happen? Will someone die? Of course not.

A new idea is approved. Someone complains. Keep in mind that someone will complain no matter what you do.

If the new idea/policy/procedure turns out to be a flop. Simply say, “Oh well, that didn’t work out very well. Let’s try something else.”

(Note: The Pale Horse on Amazon Prime right now is absolutely nothing like the novel. Read the novel.)

  • I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.
  • Walt Whitman

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Here’s What Is Important

Sometimes we forget what is important. Thinking, planning, and discussing are important. But, none of that matters if you do not get busy and do things.

  • To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson