Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Friday, September 7th, 2018

A CPA Partner’s Primary Mission – Flashback Friday

“Make each day your masterpiece.” – John Wooden

If you are a partner in a CPA firm or if you want to be a partner in a CPA firm, one simple act can set the tone for the entire culture of the firm. Set a good example.

As I talk with firm administrators, practice managers, marketing directors, HR directors and staff inside CPA firms around the country, almost all tell me that the people who do not follow the processes and guidelines are the partners.

Here is a post from 2016 about setting a good example. Are you a Dynamo or a Cruiser?

  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
  • John Wooden

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Fight Your Urge to Procrastinate

“Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.” – George Canning

You are working your way through some strategic planning with your partners. An item comes up that has been discussed on many occasions. One or more participants might say:

  • “Let’s put that one in the parking lot for later.”
  • “It is too late in the year to take that one on.”
  • “We can’t deal with that now, let’s wait until after tax season.”

It is the procrastination dance that many accountants know all too well.

From Psychology Today:

Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.

I hope you quickly address items that need to be resolved. Either deal with it or take it off the table permanently.

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Hold People Accountable

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

If your partners and managers do a poor job of giving feedback, a culture of accountability probably does not exist.

Many accountants (because they are nice people) are uncomfortable giving feedback even when it is needed desperately.

If you procrastinate on giving feedback when people don’t meet deadlines or are not punctual, others observe and assume deadlines can be pushed back a week and it’s okay to be late for a staff meeting.

The more feedback you give, the easier it becomes. Make it part of your daily MBWA (manage by wandering around).

This also applies to partners and managers. They must be accountable to those they supervise. I have always been fond of a partner commitment statement I learned from Sam Allred: “I will do what I say I will do, on time, without reminders.”

  • Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders.
  • Tom Peters

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We Are Like Family – Maybe Not

“What people really want advice on is the interpersonal weirdness that comes with having a job.” – Alison Green

As I read an article via The New York Times – Your Workplace Isn’t Your Family (and That’s Ok!), I definitely thought about how the article should be read by many of you working inside accounting firms.

The article is an interview with Alison Green, author of a book titled: Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work.

I have heard it over and over from firms of varying sizes over many years – “we are like family.” I have always struggled with this topic. I have seen it used to avoid difficult conversations and to justify continuing to employ a poor performer over a long period of time. I have also seen it used to make unreasonable demands like working unreasonable hours and even seven days per week.

As you work at your accounting firm, always remember that this is business, not family, no matter what some people might think.

From the author: I want people to know it’s all right to treat work like work. We’re being paid to be there, and most of us wouldn’t show up otherwise. We don’t need to pretend that’s not the case.

Employment, underneath it all, is a contractual situation. It is a transaction:  I pay you and you do the work. You pay me and I do the work.

Be sure to read the article/interview.

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • Colin Powell

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Skilled Leaders Know How to Delegate

“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

It is a common problem inside accounting firms. As people gain experience and move up the ladder – staff to senior, senior to manager, manager to senior manager, senior manager to partner – they often cling to familiar work and hesitate to delegate.

It is a big step to move from doing to leading. You want to develop successors. You need future leaders for your firm. Delegate.

I have observed that in many accounting firms, partners are doing manager work and managers are doing senior work, seniors are doing staff work and staff are looking for work.

Why not reverse this long-time tradition? Adopt a different long-time tradition used at the large national firms – push work down to the lowest skill level. Staff members are super busy, seniors are pressing managers for more challenging work and managers are managing seniors and staff and asking partners how they can lighten their load. Partners are doing consulting work, maintaining client relationships, mentoring young people and most importantly, bringing in new business.

As you gain more experience and get promoted if you don’t delegate you will soon find yourself coming in earlier, staying later and feeling like the firm cannot survive without you.

I like this passage from an HBR article – How to be a great leader, you have to learn how to delegate well.

While it may seem difficult, elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: You need to be more essential and less involved. When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential. But the two are not the same — just as being busy and being productive are not necessarily equal.

As you address your workload this week, take a moment and ask yourself – How can I be more essential and less involved?

  • Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

Monday, August 6th, 2018

The Bus

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey

You’ve heard it many times – get the right people on the bus and get the wrong people off the bus. You have probably been working on that for a while and perhaps making slow progress.

Today, I am sharing a complete post by Seth Godin. I want you to ask yourself something. Is your firm the right bus? Is it the right bus for high-performers, people wanting to get somewhere, somewhere in the future, people who are not satisfied with the status quo and implementation that moves at a snail’s pace?

The Wrong Bus

Your first mistake was getting on the A53 bus, the one that goes crosstown instead of to where you’re going.

Mistakes like this happen all the time.

The big mistake, though, the one that will cost you, is staying on that bus.

I know it wasn’t easy to get on the bus. I know you got a seat. I know it’s getting dark outside. But you’re on the wrong bus, and staying on the wrong bus won’t make it the right bus.

If you really want to get where you set out to go, you’re going to have to get off the wrong bus.

  • On a bus, your eyes, ears, and pores are open absorbing in the variety the wonder, and the magic of the city. It's a wonderful way to get to know the city.
  • George Takei

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Outside & Inside

“The wrapper matters, but so does the experience within.” – Seth Godin

Your website is very important. It helps support the firm brand that is visible to the outside world.

You have spent years building that brand. The firm is viewed as successful and progressive. The firm is often said to be the best CPA firm in town.

You broadcast that your firm is the best place to work and it has been around for a substantial number of years. The firm has an extensive menu of services. It has well-known niche experts. You have made it to that short-list of firms that bankers and attorneys recommend to their client.

All of that matters. However, what goes on inside the firm matters more.

 

  • Create a beautiful inside and you will look beautiful on the outside.
  • Charles F. Glassman

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Drama at the Office

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

Some words about drama from Seth Godin’s recent post hit home with me. I have observed SO MUCH drama inside CPA firms, when I worked at one and as I have consulted with many.

Here’s an excerpt from Godin’s post titled, Two Ways to Solve a Problem and Provide a Service.

With drama. Make sure the customer knows just how hard you’re working, what extent you’re going to in order to serve. Make a big deal out of the special order, the additional cost, the sweat and the tears.

Without drama. Make it look effortless.

Talking behind people’s backs, gossiping, cliques, whining, blaming others are just a few of the descriptors. Stop doing it. You are not in high school anymore.

If you must vent, do it outside the office. If you are tempted to send a quick, harsh reply to an email, wait an hour before you type.

Most drama could be reduced if you made it a rule to avoid triangulation. That means if you have an issue with someone, talk only to them and don’t involve a third party.

Reduce the drama inside your firm by practicing The Four Agreements.

  • What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.
  • Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Six Habits of Mind

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

Alan Wurtzel, the former CEO of Circuit City, spent three years exploring the rise and fall of his company. He offers some important Habits of Mind. He wrote a book titled, Good to Great to Gone. Here are his Habits of Mind:

6 Habits of Mind:

1. Be Humble; Run Scared. Constantly doubt your understanding of things. Say, “I may not be right.”

2. Curiosity Sustains the Cat: Answers end curiosity. Keep curiosity alive by saying, “That’s a great answer are there other options?”

3. Confront the Brutal FactsIf you don’t confront the brutal facts now, they’ll confront you later.

4. Boldly Follow Through: Big ideas require bold leadership and attract loyal followers.

5. Mind the Culture: Create a caring and ethical culture where employees can make mistakes without fear of adverse consequences.

6. Encourage Debate: Encourage and learn from dissent.

  • There is no failure except in no longer trying.
  • Chris Bradford

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Accounting Firm Websites

 “If you want success, be unique.” – Natalie Massenet

Many firms I have talked to recently are focusing on updating their website this summer. Your website is so important. It is the first impression that a new client has of your firm. Does it look modern and trendy or does it look conservative, boring and old?

BNA logoI look at a lot of CPA firm websites and my favorite remains BNA CPAs & Advisors in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Their site is modern and trendy, clean and sleek and so are their offices and attitudes.

I met Bernie and Jason Ackerman many years ago at a conference and have stayed in touch over the years. They have been so proactive in improving their firm and its processes. They embrace technology to the fullest. Their focus remains on how they can provide even better client service.

Visit their site and explore. Learn how BNA delivers tax returns in 3 days. Then, compare it to your website. How do you stack up?

  • My personal ambition remains the same - to be creative, to be modern, to stay one step ahead, to enjoy life.
  • Natalie Massenet