Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Communicate Your Thoughts On Hybrid

“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” – Linus Pauling

So many firms right now are sticking their toe into the hybrid work schedule waters. Do we or don’t we? How will it look? How will we keep communication and culture strong? Maybe we just go to a four-day workweek. If everyone works whatever schedule they want, will it create chaos? Will client service suffer over the long term? What will we do about the administrative team?

Many decisions need to be made and I hope you can make them quickly. The most important things is to communicate to your team. Don’t leave them wondering all summer long what the firm will do in the Fall.

Here’s a message Tim Cook of Apple sent to the team last week:

In an email to staff, Apple CEO Tim Cook has told office employees that they are expected to return to their workspace three days a week starting in September. The iPhone maker said it wants most office workers to show up Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. “For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” he wrote in the email. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

What goes through my mind is how will this building look empty for the long term.

  • For now, let me simply say that I look forward to seeing your faces.
  • Tim Cook

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

Your People Want to Tell You

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” – Sybil F. Stershic

Per Gallup, your people really want to tell you what they need and how they feel. So, it is up to you to ask them. In doing so, you can gain so much valuable information and receive guidance on how to proceed through the weeks and months ahead.

Great advice from Gallup:

  • Since no one can know how long a crisis will last or what the outcomes will be, the most sensible thing to do is address your employees’ current needs.
  • Gathering employee feedback sends a positive message in times of crisis.
  • Asking your workforce what they think and then taking no action after getting their answers is always the wrong move.
  • We live in counterintuitive times – – now is not the time to “go with your gut.”

Many accounting firms are now doing pulse surveys. A staff pulse survey is a short, quick survey that is sent out to employees on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, etc.). This survey is essentially a check-in, providing a pulse check on topics such as employee satisfaction, job role, communication, relationships, and work environment.

Gallup says that garnering employee feedback through surveys or other channels benefits the organization and employees alike. Gallup has found that understanding and acting on employee feedback from engagement surveys is directly related to organizational resiliency. Teams perform better during tough times (i.e., recessions, disruptions) if they have:

  • clear expectations
  • the materials and equipment they need
  • the opportunity to do what they do best
  • coworkers across teams who are committed to quality

Here’s a link to the Gallup article.

  • Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.
  • Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Don’t Delay!

“Ideas are useless unless used. The proof of their value is in their implementation. Until then, they are in limbo.” – Theodore Levitt

To be able to run an efficient and profitable accounting firm you need to do more than talk about the changes you need to make. Talking about change is an active exercise inside firms. Actually, implementing and executing the steps necessary for change is another topic altogether. This is where many firms settle on a plateau rather than to continue climbing the mountain.

In my early days in public accounting I worked for the founder of the firm, a person in what we now call the Veteran (or Mature) Generation. If we had an issue or challenge he would proceed with Ready, Aim, Fire. We would research solutions (ready), adopt them to fit our size firm (aim) and then implement (fire). He did not hesitate.

As the Baby Boomers took over leadership of firms or founded firms, many of them seemed to find implementation more difficult – for various reasons. Even today, I observe so many firms that have adopted: Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim……

In today’s rapidly changing environment in public accounting and especially in technology and in the nature of our workforce, practitioners (Gen-X and Millennial leaders) must be able to Fire, Fire, Fire if they want the firm to stay ahead of the competition.

In dealing with succession, many firms are still in the “aim, aim, aim, aim” mode.

  • Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.
  • Guy Kawasaki

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

What Do You Think?

“To think that in such a place I led such a life.”

I am in a reflective frame of mind this morning. My granddaughter graduated, summa cum laude, from Miami University (of Ohio) on Sunday. She is off to begin a new life adventure.

The above quote is an inscription on a statue sculpted by a Miami undergraduate. Miami uses the quote extensively and especially at graduation time. I imagine that any new graduate, at any university, could apply the quotation to themselves.

My reflective question for you is, could you apply this thought to your career at your CPA firm? I can.

I hope you can apply the thought not only to your firm but to your home, your neighborhood, and your city or town. As with the college experience, you must often move on and explore new opportunities, maybe in another firm, neighborhood, or town. Hopefully, with good memories. I have.

  • Take care of your memories for you cannot relive them.
  • Bob Dylan

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Show Them

“Businesses that forget that their primary business is the people business will not last.” – Steve Keating

Steve Keating’s post on May 16 certainly struck a chord with me. He addressed the issue of companies establishing titles for people in hopes that a person with a title would make employees feel more included and appreciated. He says that there are too many “buzz word” titles floating around. I certainly see this in the CPA profession.

Keating says, “Instead of endowing people with fancy titles that say “we care” how about actually caring? How about showing you care for everyone equally instead of saying it again and again?”

Calling people “human capital” has always grated on my nerves and I have heard it too often from CPA firm leaders. I always try to remind CPA leaders that they are not in the numbers business, they are in the people business. Be sure to read Keating’s post.

  • When the company shows they care about their people, all their people, equally, they don’t need fancy titles.
  • Steve Keating

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Passive Observers

“Passive observers don’t belong at the table.” – Dan Rockwell

Per Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak), once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%.

I have observed, by attending a huge number of partner meetings and retreats, at my own firm and with my many clients, that there are way too many passive observers in those meetings.

When a delicate topic or a confrontation arises, the biggest percentage of the partners in attendance look at their laps. They look down so the facilitator cannot make eye contact and they might not be expected to take a stand.

The same thing happens in other types of meetings in accounting firms. I love the one brave soul on the team who will raise their hand and ask the dumb question. The remainder of the team has the same question in mind but they don’t want take a chance of embarassing themselves.

It is up to you, the leader of the meeting, to run a great meeting. As Rockwell says, “Poorly run meetings offend the talent at the table.”

Here are Rockwell’s 3 words that make meetings great:

#1 – Specific – Two or three action items are enough for most meeting agendas.

#2 – Shorter – Stick to the time allotted, don’t turn a 20-minute briefing into an hour lecture.

#3 – Smaller – No passive observers. Decide and deliver.

Read Rockwell’s post here.

  • Mediocre meetings reflect and produce mediocre organizations.
  • Dan Rockwell

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Contradictions

“The contradictions are what make human behavior so maddening and yet so fascinating, all at the same time.” – Joan D. Vinge

As you successfully manage your public accounting firm, you will encounter many contradictions. Here are a few I have observed:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.
  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a good listener.
  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.
  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.
  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.
  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.
  • You expect the entire team to follow all the policies and procedures.
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2021 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
  • Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

A Great Manager is an Employee Benefit

“Just as a bad manager can ruin a good job, a great manager can make a good job even better.” – Gallup

I have written and talked about the danger of having bad managers in the CPA profession many times and quoted Gallup saying, “People don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers.”

That’s why, when I came upon a recent article from Gallup titled, “The No. 1 Employee Benefit That No One’s Talking About.” Guess what that benefit is…. good managers!

Bad managers can even affect the health of your team members. The stress they feel at work goes home with them and is a factor in their overall well-being.

People leave good jobs because of bad managers then why don’t they look for good managers when seeking a new job? It is because companies don’t advertise or promote the fact that they have great managers.

I hope your firm is investing in the success of your managers. Accounting firms spend significant dollars on TECHNICAL CPE for managers as they advance in their careers. It’s time to spend more money helping them become great people managers.

There are many great leadership programs for managers and future partners in the CPA profession. Make the investment to send your managers. Then find ways to let the world know you have good managers.

Gallup has advice for building a healthy and thriving organization, starting with your managers. Read the article to learn more.

  • Research reveals that about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage.
  • Per Gallup

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Mission – Vision – Purpose

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis

I still encounter some confusion about how to write a meaningful mission, vision, or purpose statement for your firm or organization.

Some CPA partner retreats actually get bogged down in this endeavor while crafting their strategic plan.

purpose statement provides the reason or reasons you exist. It is about why you exist, whereas the mission is about what you do and for whom. … Some organizations find that a mission statement alone suits their needs, whereas others prefer to use a purpose statement.

Read more about the difference between these statements in this brief, informative article.

  • The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
  • Helen Keller

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Here I Go Again

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” – Warren Buffett

I have said and written about the following things over and over again for YEARS! The sad part is I continue to observe that these basics of CPA firm management need to be implemented.

  • FIRE CLIENTS who suck up more of your time trying to collect than you do with helping their business.
  • Outplace poor performers more QUICKLY.
  • Update your website so that visitors see timely information that is of IMMEDIATE value.
  • Put partner performance and accountability under the MICROSCOPE.
  • Make it a WIN-WIN for partners who have retired in place to exit gracefully.
  • Spend money on continually educating your people – client service, internal management, and administrative team member. It’s called CPE. Don’t forget the CONTINUING part.
  • Become a MARKETING organization that provides accounting and tax services.
  • Hire a firm administrator/COO who can help the firm MAKE MORE MONEY.
  • Critically assess your PROCESSES.
  • ENFORCE the guidelines, rules, and adherence to the processes OR don’t bother wasting all the time it takes to establish them.
  • EMBRACE change, marketing, technology, social media…..
  • Figure out how your firm can be UNIQUE, different from your competition.
  • Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.
  • Alfred Adler