Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Choose Calm Over Panic

“The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.” – Henry David Thoreau

Seth Godin’s blog post from last Friday is so meaningful during these confusing times.

Here is one passage that spoke to me.

Twitter has been engineered to maximize panic. Calm is penalized, panic is amplified. And if you are hanging out in real life with people who spend a lot of time on social media and news sites, you’ve invited all of those people into your circle as well. – Seth Godin

I use Twitter for communication and for sharing helpful information for CPAs and their teams. So many people don’t. I don’t follow them. You shouldn’t either.

  • He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.
  • Plato

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

You Are A Star

“It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

When you work for Disney all employees are referred to as cast members. Cast members refer to every employee, not just the ones who portray Disney characters.

473CB98A-3331-416C-BE99-D52F25AD638CThis method came from Walt Disney himself. He wanted to create a theme park that was a magical place for all the visitors. To him, each day, the employees were putting on a show, a magical show. It is about managing the guests’ experience.

You can bring this line of thinking into your busy, successful CPA firm. You are the same as Disney – you are providing a service and a wonderful experience for your customers (clients). You want each client, potential client, visitor or vendor dealing with your firm to have the same Smith, Jones & Company experience whether it is the Mr. Big Shot client or the Elderly Lady client.

So, when things get back to normal (after working remotely for a while), walk into the office and remember that you are going on stage. You are a star in your firm’s production. As you work from home, you can apply the same process. You will be talking with clients via phone, texting and emailing them. Let your “on stage” personality shine through.

Later on, help your firm develop some guidelines for the client experience at your firm and train future employees on how to manage the client experience.

Here are some “secret” rules for Disney employees.

  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
  • Walt Disney

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Two Words

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

When I am meeting with team members (without the partners) in a CPA firm or during my sessions at CPA management conferences, I ask the group to quickly write down two words that describe their firm at that very moment.

Here are some examples of what I have received:

  • Organized – Chaos
  • Continually – Frustrated
  • Caring – Challenged
  • Dynamic – Dysfunction
  • Forward – Backward
  • Need – Help
  • Fiefdoms – Abound (one of my favorites)
  • Growing – Pains
  • Fun – Growing
  • No – Decisions
  • Under – Construction
  • And from a sole proprietor – For – Sale!

Two words I like to hear about firms:

  • Relentless – Perseverance
  • Eternally – Optimistic

As leaders, don’t you wonder what two words your team members would use to describe your firm to an outsider?

  • Comfort is the enemy of progress.
  • P. T. Barnum

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Stay Home When You Are Sick

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

It is tax season. There is a lot of pressure to work extra hours and keep the work flowing through the office and out the door by March 15 and April 15.

I worked in a CPA firm for many years and I rarely missed a day. It was very unusual for a “professional” to call in sick. Sometimes people would drag themselves in, persevere for part of the day and then go home early. This, of course, just help spread the germs throughout the office.

Even if management urged people to stay home when they were sick, it made little difference. Tax season meant you must be at work unless you were drastically sick.

Thank goodness, times have changed. Progressive firms have enabled everyone to do their work remotely. Yet, I still talk with firm leaders who do not offer connectivity to EVERYONE.

A recent study found that 90 percent of the American workforce admits to coming into work when they are not only feeling under the weather but know they are contagious.

Make sure your team members believe you when you tell them to stay home when they are sick.

  • There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

Why Women Leave CPA Firms

“What is not acceptable is watching talent walk out the door.” – Joey Havens 

I recently read a great article via the Journal of Accountancy by Joey Havens, Why Women Leave Firms – And What We Can Do About It. 

He tells us two troubling stories about real-life situations for female CPAs in public accounting.

Havens notes: “I’m making the decision to get up from this gut punch and work even harder to make sure we shine the light on a better path forward. I commit to help elevate our profession until we are known as a place where every individual has an equitable playing field and opportunities to pursue their full potential and dreams.”

Then he goes on to give us some steps to take to prevent women from walking out the door!

  • Many of us in this profession are clinging so tightly to working the way we always have.
  • Joey Havwens

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

I Call It the Bad Apple

“To keep poor performers in place is to risk the future of the firm.” – Ron Baker

Recently, I read a great article by Ron Baker (you all know Ron Baker!).

His title for the article is Negative human capital and how it affects your firm. I simply call it The Bad Apple and have blogged about it several times. That being said, you MUST read Baker’s article.

Here’s an excerpt:

We do people no favors when we let them languish in a job they are not capable of performing well, or for which they have no heart. The philosophy, “hire slow and fire quick,” is sound advice. How do you know when it is time to let someone go? Ask yourself if you would hire this person again. Think how you would feel if this person came to you and said he or she was leaving to pursue another opportunity.

It is simply unacceptable to other team members to keep people in the firm who are not meeting expectations. The negative morale effects are significant, and will ripple throughout the company. Poor performers are not good role models, do not make good mentors, and may even be damaging customer relations. If the leaders don’t make these tough decisions regarding the most important form of intellectual capital in their firms, who will?

In my consulting work, I have observed that partners make excuses upon excuses for why they can’t let some go even when the entire staff would breathe a sigh of relief. Even when the person has caused repeated turnover because people cannot put up with their bullying.

It only takes 7 minutes to read the entire article.

  • We do people no favors when we let them languish in a job they are not capable of performing well, or for which they have no heart.
  • Ron Baker

Monday, February 24th, 2020

The Real Problem

From my experience, CPAs ignore the real problem. This came to mind when I read the following quote by Stephen R Covey:

“All the well-meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we’re not even addressing the real problem.”

It also often comes to mind as I advise my valued clients. They hire me to get them on track, investigate and uncover troubling issues within the firm, make recommendations on how they can become future-ready, etc.

Very often, I give them advice that they don’t really want to hear. It is advice about once and for all addressing the real problem within their firm.

Many of them tell me that there is always “an elephant in the room” when they have their firm retreat and no one addresses it. Others are aware of a very troublesome employee or even a partner that no one wants to deal with. They are unwilling to outplace disruptive people. In other cases, their young people are sending them strong messages about a software, a procedure or a process that needs to be changed but the older partners simply will not listen.

To me, building a team of engaged, enlightened, energetic and passionate people who are willing to work as a team for the good of the firm is a foundational piece of the puzzle. This year, why don’t you finally address THE REAL PROBLEM.

  • Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.
  • Charles DeMontesquieu

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Thoughts on Committees

“A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour.” – Elbert Hubbard

“To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” – Robert Copeland

If you are working in the CPA profession, I am sure you have been involved in committees. There are various firm committees and you also donate your time and talent to civic and charitable committees and boards.

This is just my opinion, so be forewarned. I don’t like to see TOO MANY committees inside a CPA firm and I do not like to see partners/owners on many, if any, committees.

Having a Tax Committee and an A&A Committee makes sense to me. It is a long-standing activity and I see the value. A partner is the chair of the committee – he or she is responsible for the well-being of the firm in these areas. They involve staff at all levels. It is a good way to give younger team members experience and a voice.

As firms grow, there will come a time when they need an executive committee and a partner compensation committee. Both of these are for larger firms where it is unproductive to have all partners involved in these issues. The membership of these committees rotate and are chaired by the managing partner.

Various committees to focus on the management of the firm are unnecessary. The managing partner and the firm administrator (COO, Practice Manager, etc.) are charged with efficient and effective firm management. You do not need other partners involved. Yes, informed, but not involved. This management team reports to the Board of Directors (the partner group, as a whole).

I have observed that some firms have an HR committee, a technology committee, a marketing committee and so on. They have partners serving on all these committees and it usually becomes a huge waste of time. Let the people charged with firm management, manage. The leaders of HR, technology and marketing report to the management team. Client service partners should be maintaining client relationships, bringing in business and mentoring younger, less experienced staff.

Do you ever become restless in a long-winded committee meeting because it goes on and on and no decisions actually get made? Don’t let this happen inside your firm.

 

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

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