Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Monday, November 11th, 2019

The Problem Might Be You

“Influence means your behaviors matter. The people around you – to some degree – reflect you.” – Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

If you are a partner in the firm and it bothers you when people are not punctual yet, you often come into the office late, others think it is okay.

If you are the manager on a review engagement and because you are experienced, you cut a corner or two, others think it is okay.

If you are at the Senior level in a firm and you are not completely accurate and punctual recording your time on jobs, others think it is okay.

If you are the firm administrator and you occasionally take an extended lunch hour for no particular reason, others think it is okay.

No matter what your title, your peers and others observe what you do and are influenced by your actions. What you do and the behaviors you adopt make a difference – you are an influencer.

You can also strive to be a GOOD example. That also influences others.

 

  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
  • Albert Schweitzer

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

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Where Is Your Bus Going?

“Good is the enemy of great.” – Jim Collins

We hear it and read about it often – get the right people on the bus!

Getting the right people on the bus comes from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.

The question is, where is the bus going? Wouldn’t you rather know where the bus was going before you get on?

I like a recent post by Seth Godin. I have included it below. It mentions something that CPA firms deal with all the time. The leader(s) seek to build consensus and try not to leave anyone out. Why not announce where your bus is going first and those who don’t want to go can get on another bus!

From Godin:

Where Does This Bus go?

One approach, which is tempting in the short run, is to wait until people are on the bus and then ask each person where they want to go. Seek to build consensus. Try not to leave anyone out.

The other approach, which works far better if you have a fleet of available buses, is to announce in advance where the bus is going. That way, anyone who wants to go where you’re headed can get onboard.

Enrollment is critical. Enrollment allows leaders to lead. Not by endlessly querying those that they seek to serve, but by announcing their destination and then heading there, with all deliberate speed.

  • Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.
  • Jim Collins

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Putting Out Fires

“We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” – Desmond Tutu

The above quote made me think of CPAs. Of course, almost everything I read makes me think of CPAs!

It has been my observation that inside public accounting firms, a lot of people are constantly “putting out fires.” Firm administrators and some managing partners tell me that they can’t find time to address important firm initiatives because it seems like every day is a fire drill.

Have you ever stopped to contemplate what is causing the fires in the first place?

  • My normal routine is pretty much putting out fires all day.
  • Vera Wang

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Top Heavy

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

When it comes to MAP (Managing an Accounting Firm), one of the many things CPAs have focused on over the years is leverage. Leverage and a well-managed pyramid are key ingredients for a profitable CPA firm.

We have been talking about it for years….. Bill Reeb calls it the Upside Down Pyramid. It’s where partners work and work until they are “full” and then they push down to managers who work and work until they are “full” and only then do they push down to the staff. Meanwhile, staff members are sending emails asking for assignments!

upsidedownMany firms have evolved into a top-heavy culture because:

  • Generational issues, including the Baby Boomer bubble, Gen Xers and Millennials.
  • Lack of a firm-wide people plan with effective, consistent recruiting and staff development processes. Leaders don’t have a process to see enough new faces and they let people hang around too long.
  • Promoting non-partner-track people or sometimes marginal folks to higher positions because “We’re preserving staff continuity” and “it’s best for the client” – – when perhaps it is just the path of least resistance, or you have no one else to fill the role.
  • Partner compensation plans that focus on chargeable time. Partners stay busy first. Managers are doing staff work and no one has an incentive to push work down.
  • It’s just easier to do it myself and, besides, I’m a lot more efficient at it.

Do these sound familiar to you?

  • What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Who Is My Boss?

“There is nothing so exasperating as a confused chain of command.”

I read the above quote in a novel a long time ago. It came to mind recently when I was working with a client. In many CPA firms, there is a partner group and a manager group and it seems all other employees work for all of them.

You have a managing partner. Do his/her directives out-weigh the requests made by other partners? Where does the Firm Administrator or COO fit in the picture? The Firm Administrator is responsible for a smooth workflow and efficient processes and procedures. Is it widely assumed that any partner can by-pass those established procedures?

Many firms seem to lack focus when it comes to establishing a chain-of-command. Some partner groups govern as a committee. Most partner groups govern by consensus. If you have ever been part of a committee you know how slowly things move and how much time is wasted on endless discussions. If you have had the task of gaining complete consensus you also know how frustrating that can be.

Even if the formal management structure is not a committee, client service partners want to be involved in all of the “management” decisions, even things as small as the weight of the paper that is selected for firm letterhead. Yes, I still hear these stories!

As more senior partners retire and firms transition to new leadership (a new managing partner), I hope they will better define the chain of command and the organizational structure of the firm.

Consider a firm governance model that is shared throughout the firm.

Publish a firm Champion List. It is a guide that identifies the go-to person for expert advice on each software package used at the firm or for each segment and discipline inside the firm.

Lay-out a simple organizational chart that shows the chain-of-command and where each person “fits” in the firm. It helps newcomers and even more experienced team members understand where the firm administrator fits or how the partner group governs itself. An org chart can be helpful in large firms and small firms alike.

  • Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.
  • General George Patton

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Fighting The Talent Wars

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson,

If you want to attract and keep outstanding people, you need to create a culture where top talent can shine. Your people systems matter most.

When was the last time you updated your people systems to keep pace with current trends?

Here’s a list. Get busy.

  • Recruitment
  • Orientation, Onboarding, and Training
  • Performance Management
  • Development and Opportunity
  • Leaders Leading by Example
  • The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.
  • Steve Jobs

Monday, October 14th, 2019

A Shadow Board

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” ~Erica Jong,

Are you aware of the term “shadow board?” I have been a proponent of the concept for many years but had never heard it called a shadow board.

Per an informative article via Harvard Business Review by Jennifer Jordan and Michael Sorell:

A lot of companies struggle with two apparently unrelated problems: disengaged younger workers and a weak response to changing market conditions. A few companies have tackled both problems at the same time by creating a “shadow board” — a group of non-executive employees that works with senior executives on strategic initiatives. The purpose? To leverage the younger groups’ insights and to diversify the perspectives that executives are exposed to.

Read the success stories in the article about major companies that have had great success with shadow boards.

One of your major tools for engaging your younger team members should be, what I call, a Staff Advisory Board (or Team Advisory Board, TAB). Invite a small group of younger employees to meet with the managing partner or executive committee on a regular basis to provide feedback and ideas about issues facing the firm.

Another idea, to make it more accessible, is to select the participants from an open application process. It might surprise you who applies. Rotate members of the TAB over time, maybe having them serve two-year terms. It depends on the size of your firm.

Provide the TAB with meaningful issues such as how to improve the firm’s scheduling system, or what additional employee benefits might be appropriate. Adjust your Team Advisory Board program as it matures and you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Long-time partners often forget what it’s like to be a 3-year staff person. Plus, times have changed. It’s not the “good old days” any longer.

  • The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.
  • Hannah Whitall Smith

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Down to the Wire

“Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting” – Mike Rowe

Another due date is approaching. Usually, in public accounting, the same thing happens with every deadline, whether it is Spring or Fall.

There is a last-minute push to get that final return out the door. It is hectic and stressful for everyone. Deadlines in most firms are dreaded, especially by the administrative team.

The accountants breathe a sigh of relief. Things are off their desk and it is time for the celebration to begin at 4:30 in the lunchroom. While the party is ramping up and pats-on-the-back are exchanged, the administrative team is still frantically working. They are processing those last returns, they are waiting on Last Minute Larry (client) to stop by to sign something or they must actually get in their car and deliver something to a client.

Progressive firms have worked on this issue and devised a proper scheduling system so that tax returns and other projects do not hit the reviewer’s desk with little time to spare. Reviewers keep the flow moving steadily so that the admin team does not have to rush around at the last minute (and miss the after-party, as usual).

Usually, this scenario is blamed on the client. Why not establish a more aggressive system for obtaining client source data? Why not outplace clients who are repeat offenders? Clients can be trained.

 

  • An expert is someone called in at the last minute to share the blame.
  • Sam Ewing