Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Friday, May 29th, 2020

The Power of Recognition

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” – William Shakespeare

This week for my Friday Flashback post, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about the importance of “Hello. Good Morning. Thank-you.”

It’s a post from April 2014 and it still applies today. You might even find the 3-minute video helpful that is referenced in the post.

You are probably beginning to welcome people back into the office. Keep in mind that your people need appreciation and recognition, in person, and also when they are working remotely.

Have a great weekend.

  • We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
  • Cynthia Ozick

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Admin – The Super Team

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

I have always been a strong advocate for the CPA firm administrative team. I have observed that they are often the heart and soul of a firm.

During the last three months I have heard from many firms that the only employees going into the office are the admin team members. They went in to do scanning, take care of mail, distribute supplies, and more. Some firms had drop-boxes outside the office door where clients could drop off their tax information. The admin team checked the drop-box daily and scanned the information needed by the accountants. The firm administrator is often responsible for some technology support activities.

Often, the CPA firm’s admin team is under-appreciated. That is why it made me happy to hear the following story from an experienced firm administrator. I am hoping that you are very proud of your admin team, too.

The admin staff and I have been working at the office all through the Pandemic, and have each taken some well-deserved time off since April 15th. The partners recognized that it was the admin team that was taking the biggest risk AND enabling our entire staff and most of the partners to continue to serve our clients while they all worked from home. I bring this up because for the first time ever the admin staff and I all received a really nice bonus on April 15th to show the partners’ appreciation.

Besides doing the firm administration and helping the admin team, I also help everyone with their IT issues. We have a strong IT infrastructure and an outsourced vendor for network support. This is what got us through the pandemic. We also use CCH Axcess which has been such a blessing. I think other firms that are not in the cloud, or don’t have a good infrastructure to allow their staff to work from home are going to have to ramp up their IT spend to stay in the game.

The reason I bring up the admin staff in this email is – as you know, typically firms cherish their professional staff, and the admin staff is not held in the same regard. This has now proven how essential the admin staff is to the firm! I hope other firms recognize this too!

  • If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
  • Booker T. Washington

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

What Are You Doing?

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

People are watching what you do.

Whether you are a firm leader or a first-year accountant. People are watching what you do.

Do you live what you say? Or, do you say one thing and do another?

During this unusual time, firm partners are doing things they have never done before. Everyone is serving clients in a way they have never done before. You get distracted. Sometimes you feel invisible because you don’t have much face-to-face contact. Does that change how and why you do things?

You are not invisible. People are watching you. It’s up to you to set a good example.

  • Look at people for an example, but then make sure to do things your way. Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Queen Latifah

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Bringing People Back

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell

There are a lot of discussions going on in the accounting firm world about what to do when firms begin to bring team members back into the office.

It is also important to be able to advise the firm’s clients on how to reopen offices safely.

Theresa Richardson, Chief Talent Officer of Withum has some great advice and guidelines in a post on the Withum website.

She explains the five factors to measure before reopening your business

  1. Communication
  2. Prevention
  3. Social Distancing
  4. Empathy
  5. Health Procedures

Read the article to learn about each factor – Returning to the Workplace: Post-Pandemic Considerations.

  • Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.
  • Karl Augustus Menninger

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Let Go Of The Past

“Treat people with their strengths in mind, not their past offenses.” – Dan Rockwell

We hear and read about lots of different ways to build on your strengths. You should also be guiding others in your firm to do the same.

What really happens inside some CPA firms? The managers and partners have very long memories.

I have heard the stories for years. “Don’t give me Tony for this engagement. Remember how he messed up on that John Doe job?” “I don’t want Brenda for this assignment. She has no clue about (fill-in the blank).”

Tony messed up that job three years ago during his first year with the firm. Brenda had no clue about whatever five years ago!

I think it is somewhat part of human nature. Well, accountants’ nature anyway. People remember the bad things that happen and so often forget to recognize the good things.

Be more in tune with how people progress in your firm. Some beginners catch on fast and some not so fast. Don’t give up on them too quickly. Learn to build on people’s strengths and down-play their weaknesses. Even when giving feedback, don’t always make it constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a term used all to often within CPA firms. Criticism is criticism and the person receiving the criticism only hears criticism (not constructive).

Take advantage of the great resource of strengths of the people working in your firm. Downplay, and even forget, past mistakes.

There are plenty of resources out there:

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton

Here’s a good article via Forbes.

  • With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, April 20th, 2020

It Will Never Be The Same

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

We are beginning to hear talk of moving our country, maybe state by state, back toward normal operations.

Disregard the word normal because what we knew as normal will not return for a very long time and probably never.

I bet you have heard the phrase “When the dust settles.”

When the dust settles we will get back to regular office hours. We will have most of our people working in the office. We will have staff meetings again. We will send people to conferences soon.

The thing is, the dust never should settle. You have been forced into significant change. Keep changing and don’t ever let the dust settle.

  • Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don't let these feelings stop them.
  • T. Harv Eker

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Surveillance

“When you hire AMAZING people and give them FREEDOM, they do amazing stuff.” – Seth Godin

As I do occasionally, I am offering you a complete blog post by Seth Godin. It struck me as something that accounting firm leaders will find helpful.

Over the years, I have observed many different ways that partners attempt to monitor the productiveness of their various team members. Some leaders even become obsessed with it. I hope you agree with No. 3:

The Panopticon

There are three ways to tell if people are hard at work in an office:

  1. the boss can watch them go to meetings. And they can watch each other in meetings as well.
  2. the boss can watch them sit at desks in an open office.
  3. we can make promises to each other and then keep them.

It seems as though only the third one is a useful, long-term way to allow us to do our best work together. The first two can help along the way, but if a meeting or an open office exists as a convoluted way to do surveillance, you’re probably wasting precious energy and trust.

And while transferring our work to home makes #1 even easier and #2 irrelevant, I’m still lobbying for #3.

  • Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost ALWAYS fails because it’s too late.
  • Seth Godin

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