Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

A New Year – No More Excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

People working inside busy accounting firms always seem to have a lot of excuses.

  • I would have finished that tax return but I have been waiting on information from the client.
  • I could have gotten that engagement to you for review sooner but the staff person worked so slowly!
  • The year is almost gone, we can’t possibly work on that new process until after tax season.
  • We can’t adopt that new technology, it is just too expensive.
  • She is not meeting expectations but we need an extra pair of hands, especially in tax season. We’ll talk to her in the Spring.

Realizing that you have problems to deal with is often very frightening. When you make excuses and put off taking action it prevents the firm, and its people, from growing and prospering.

As firm leaders, you own the problems. Deal with them as they come. If you don’t, who will?

  • He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Are You Getting Two 4-Day Weekends?

Some of you are getting some extra time off this holiday season. I did a casual survey to see what CPA firms were doing about giving their teams time off since Christmas and New Years falls on Tuesdays this year.

Here are my findings:

  • 17% will close their offices for two 4-day weekends. Both New Year’s Eve and Christmas are holidays.
  • 56% will close Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and be open on December 31.
  • 11% will close one-half day for Christmas Eve and a full day for Christmas and New Years Day.
  • 16% will be closed only for the traditional holidays – Christmas and New Years.

Several firms noted that many people will take PTO to extend their holiday time but the firm offices will be open.

I periodically ask questions to a group of CPA firm administrators and HR directors. If they respond to my question, they receive a summary of all of the answers from various firms around the country. If you would like to be part of my “Advisory4Keller” group, email me and let me know.

 

  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
  • Helen Keller

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Making Your CPA Firm Successful

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” – -Émile Coué 

Sometimes you fool yourself thinking something magical (or lucky) will happen and then your firm will become all that you want it to be.

You want to have employees who are truly engaged and passionate about the success of the firm. You want top performers. You want the firm to be more profitable. You want processes that really work and ones that people consistently follow. You want partners to be more visionary. The list goes on and on.

Nothing magical or lucky will happen. Overnight success is a myth.

The most successful firms did not become successful overnight. They worked to make small improvements every day. The secret is small, CONTINUAL, improvements in all areas of the firm.

Focus on the day that is ahead. I always describe it as taking baby steps. You can’t take a magic wand, wave it over the firm, the partner group, the staff and make things better.

Take that first baby step today.

  • The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.
  • Robert Greene

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Emails From Partners

“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” – W. Edwards Deming

If you are working in a CPA firm, first of all, good for you. For the most part, they are wonderful places to work. You learn so much, no matter how long you have worked there and you are in a profession where you are helping people.

One of the challenges of working inside a CPA firm is email. It is a beast and a beast that you are constantly attempting to train and control.

One of the complaints I have heard many times over the years is the fact that partners (and sometimes managers) send work-related emails to you at any time from 5:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. Of course, many come during business hours but often several come during non-business hours.

Those frequent emails during the business day interrupt your train of thought and your concentration on client work that you are attempting to complete in a timely and efficient manner. There are many methods to handle those emails, such as turning off notifications and responding to emails three times per day. I have written many posts on the topic of emails, just type email in the search box on my website and browse through them.

So, what about those emails you receive late in the evening or early morning even before you wake up? You might make the assumption that the sender expects you to answer ASAP. That is not often the case. If your firm does not have clear guidelines about the handling of emails, it is time you create a policy that documents the expectations. If there is an urgent situation that needs immediate attention, it should be communicated in person, by phone or maybe even text. Make it clear that emails should be used for non-time-sensitive communications. Here’s a great article about all of this via HBR – Protecting Company Culture Menas Having Rules for Email.

As for emails, in general, remember that work and life have become blended. If receiving an email from a work colleague during personal time bugs you, consider your time spent in the office. Have you ever sent a personal email or a text, checked social media, scheduled a doctor’s appointment, dealt with a child’s issue on company time?

  • Permission marketing is marketing without interruptions.
  • Seth Godin

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Foot-dragging

“If I see something sagging, bagging or dragging I’ll get it nipped, tucked or sucked.” – Dolly Parton

Does your firm have a foot-dragging problem?

foot-drag·ging
/ˈfo͝otˌdraɡiNG/
noun
  1. reluctance or deliberate delay concerning a decision or action.
    “bureaucratic foot-dragging has continued to delay the project”

You come back from a conference with a great idea. Or perhaps you read about a good idea on this blog. It is not something that is too complicated but it is not something the firm has tried before.

Some partners are excited but a few pooh-pooh the idea, so it never gains enough momentum to survive. Staff watch, shake their heads and smile at another avoidance of change.

Maybe your firm has one or two partners who are passionate and one or two who are completely happy with the status quo. The passionate partners are pulling the heavy wagon of change up the steep hill and the other partners are dragging their feet.

The foot-draggers don’t even have to help pull. All they have to do is pick up their feet!

  • Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
  • C. Northcote Parkinson

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Listen to the Ideas of Others

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”  – John Steinbeck

The managing partner knows a lot and maybe even thinks he/she knows more than others.

The partner group knows a lot and maybe even think they know exactly what needs to be done at the firm.

The managers know a lot and maybe even think they are always right.

The accounting team knows a lot and maybe even more than the partners!

The admin team knows a lot and often has even more insight than anyone else.

Build a culture where people are very comfortable sharing their ideas and what they know without the threat of being discounted or even ridiculed. Sometimes the “higher-ups” ignore and discount ideas and sometimes the “lower-downs” do the same. It goes both ways.

  • An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Inside An Accounting Firm – Find Happiness

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…. not for another hour, but this hour.” – Walt Whitman

I think about accounting firms a lot. I talk with so many of you who are faced with challenges and even worry about how you will move forward into the enchanting future that awaits the accounting profession.

Because it is Thanksgiving week here in the USA, it is a good time to count your blessings. Count the ways you have found happiness working in the accounting profession. CPA firms are wonderful places to work!

Try some of these ideas to maintain and increase your happiness at work:

Live and let live – – Don’t micromanage. Don’t gossip and worry about what other employees are doing.

Be giving of yourself to others – – put some structure around your mentoring activities. Mentoring happens naturally inside CPA firms – enhance it and help others.

Sundays should be holidays – – When I began my career in a CPA firm, no one at our firm EVER worked on a Sunday. It had nothing to do with religion, specifically, it was just that our founder believed that everyone needed a day of rest, a time to recharge. The more hours you work in a week the bigger chance you will make errors or poor decisions.

Stop being negative – – I see this all the time.  I continually say to people working in CPA firms – STOP WHINING!  Public accounting is an honorable, prestigious career, you work with intelligent people, you work in beautiful offices, you make friends with other top-quality professionals, you get to see businesses grow and prosper (with your help), you become admired by others in the business community for your expertise – – focus on the positive!

  • Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Treating People With “Ignore”

“Over and over I marvel at the blessings of my life: Each year has grown better than the last.” – Lawrence Welk

Do you have one of those people (usually a partner) in your firm that treats people with “ignore”?

They come in the front door in the morning and don’t say a word or make eye contact with anyone else. They hurriedly walk to their office.

They come into the break room first thing in the morning to get a cup of coffee, quickly pour it and exit without acknowledging the presence of several others in the room.

They rarely, if ever, even say good morning to anyone.

The rarely, if ever, say thank-you when a team member provides something for them or passes an assignment along to them for review.

If these descriptions sound like you, wake-up! Be aware! Show people you appreciate them and care about them.

If this is someone you know, do what I always do – “kill them with kindness!” Smile at them and always say “Good morning.” Ask, “How are you today?” Ask if there is anything you can help them with. Tell them a brief, amusing story about something happening within the firm.

Sometimes, their distant behavior might be caused by more serious things, things you are not aware of. Be kind and count your blessings, especially this week.

  • When you are grateful - when you can see what you have - you unlock blessings to flow in your life.
  • Suze Orman

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Leaders Aren’t Parents

“There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more… secure.” – Jim Butcher

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I follow @leadershipfreak (Dan Rockwell) and often retweet him and read his blog.

A while back he did a blog post on the topic of businesses saying that they “are like families.” He asks the question, “Is your organization/leadership like a family or like a sports team?”  I hear the family description used by many public accounting firms.

It is important that you keep in mind that your employees are not your family. My main concern with this whole topic is the fact that you find it very difficult to fire a family member. You stand by them and protect them no matter what the behavior. So, if you have a poor performer you do not deal with it very well. You even retain people who are, in no stretch of the imagination, expertly performing the duties expected of their role in the firm.

As Leadershipfreak notes:

Family style organizations find it difficult to bring up tough issues and wait too long to address poor performance. Feelings run the show. The issues you can’t discuss limit potential and hinder growth.

Read his thought-provoking post here and see if you can relate it to your accounting firm.

  • Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.
  • David Ogden Stiers

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

How Do You Feel About Smells?

“Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells.” – J. Paul Getty

I read Real Simple magazine. I like things to be really simple.

On the last page of the November issue, they featured “Thank-you notes I dream of receiving.” The imagined notes were light-hearted but meaningful. One example of a thank-you note made me think of CPA offices.

Have you ever walked into your firm’s lobby to the welcoming smell of burnt popcorn? Perhaps, the smell of something even worse? First impressions matter. How your co-workers feel about your eating habits matter.

Be kind and considerate to each other.

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  • A cynic is a an who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
  • H. L. Mencken