Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

Dementors

“You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful.” – J. K. Rowling

I am assuming you are familiar with Harry Potter. I read all the books and watched all the movies. J. K. Rowling created a fascinating world. Let’s take a somewhat light-hearted look at how Dementors might apply inside your firm.

When you read the following meaning of Dementors, I wonder what it brings to mind.

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. … If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil.

I know I am weird, but it brings to my mind, some managers in CPA firms who seem to “suck the life out of people.” Thankfully, it doesn’t apply to all managers.

Some Managers are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the accounting firms that are stuck in the past and glory in the status quo. They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. If they can, the Manager will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like themselves – uncaring and demanding.

J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope.”

I have said all of that to remind you that, as firm owners, you must invest in the non-technical training and education of your managers. Managers need to be people developers. In some firms, they are simply highly-trained technicians charged with getting the most work out of subordinates. They don’t know how to build strong relationships and engage with the people they supervise.

I’ve been working in public accounting for decades. I have heard many stories about inadequate managers. And yes, they have been described as “sucking the life out of people.” I have also heard the same about some partners.

  • We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
  • J. K. Rowling

Monday, August 30th, 2021

How Does A Prospective New Client View Your Firm?

“Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” – Steve Jobs

Those of you who know me, know that I am, and always have been, an Apple fan. I had the first Mac when it looked like a little robot box and of all things, it had something called a Mouse! Our son had an Apple IIe when he was in middle school. I wish I had bought stock back then!

I came across a great article via Inc. A story about a Windows devotee who had an Apple Store experience. Take a few minutes and read it. See if there is something you can learn about client service from the story.

I love this one sentence in the article, “I’m deathly allergic to inauthenticity.”

Here’s the story, “I Spent $2,000 at the Apple Store and Got an Invaluable Lesson in Consumer Psychology.”

  • You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out.
  • Steve Jobs

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Punctuality

“Lots of professional jobs require punctuality.” – Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady)

Punctuality still matters. Even if you are working a flexible schedule or a hybrid culture, professionals are judged on their punctuality. You ARE a professional.

I’ve blogged about it SO many times:

January 8, 2020 – – – January 18, 2019 – – – March 11, 2021. Do a search on the right side of this webpage to find more of my blogs about punctuality.

Adopt the marching band member commitment, “If you are on time, you are late. If you are early, you are on time.”

Read Suzanne Lucas’ article: Why punctuality Absolutely Still Matters–Even For Remote Jobs.

  • Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

Your Value Proposition

“When you bring your best to the table, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you bring out the best in others. And soon, you start to realize, that, in turn, helps them bring out the best in you.” – Bruce Tulgan

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I admire Bruce Tulgan. Tulgan is an American writer specializing in management training and generational diversity in the workforce. He is a dynamic and informative speaker. When I first read his book It’s Okay To Be The Boss, I was hooked and have read and followed his books and articles for years.

I was fortunate to hear him speak live and got to meet him and have him sign my copy of It’s Okay.

In a recent article Tulgan addresses the topic of an employer value proposition. If you want to have an advantage as an employer, begin with defining a clear value proposition for potential new hires.

Keep in mind that not one value proposition fits every role. Tulgan lists many questions an employer must ask themselves before they can define a purposeful staffing strategy.

Be sure to read the article to learn more and to learn about the eight Dream Job Factors.

  • Leverage your uniqueness.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Firms Are Adapting

“We look forward to this next chapter on our journey to be the Firm of the Future.” – Matt Snow, CEO DHG

There has been a lot of talk about how firms will adjust their workforce model going into the future.

Back in July, I shared some news about one large firm’s new office and how it is designed to serve future needs.

Recently, CPA Practice Advisor shared some news about DHG’s new hybrid workforce model. DHG, in September, will be unveiling something they call “DHG Anywhere”. The workforce model will create flexibility within reasonable boundaries and is being called “Freedom Within a Framework.”

Their plan makes a lot of sense to me and I expect many other firms to make similar adjustments in the coming months and years.

Be sure to read the article to get the full details.

  • The future depends on what you do today.
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Focus On Your Remote Culture

“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.” – Mark Sanborn

It is pretty much a given now that many accounting firms will continue to have remote workers. Some will be completely remote and some will be hybrid. Hybrid is what seems to be favored by most firms. Be sure to define what hybrid means for each individual.

The old firm culture seems to have disappeared. So, how do you reignite your culture and keep it healthy and vibrant with many remote workers?

The most important activity is communication. In almost every firm I encounter, feedback from staff indicates that communication is one of the firm’s biggest issues. It will be an even bigger challenge when you have permanent remote workers.

Your managers are key in building and maintaining a vibrant culture whether you have remote workers or not. Managers must be truly managing other people, something that wasn’t happening prior to COVID. Firm owners must help their managers by providing more training and ongoing encouragement from owners.

Some tips for managers:

  • Clearly set expectations when assigning work.
  • Be flexible about when the remote person does the work as long as the engagements get completed on time and accurately.
  • Communicate frequently and keep staff informed of deadlines. Use email, texts, phone calls, video chats and determine which form of communication is more comforable for the individual.
  • Managers must be good listeners. Inquire but don’t micromanage.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to engage with each other in an informal way so that they get to know each other on a personal level and realize they are part of a team.
  • Celebrate small successes and develop ways to continually show staff that they are trusted and appreciated.
  • People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t. And a lot of people are actually saying that they’re more productive now.
  • Mark Zuckerberg

Monday, August 16th, 2021

A Strong Foundation

“In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation that can support your success.” – Chris McClure

Building a strong foundation, personally, is very important. It will be the guiding light that supports your success and leads you to even greater heights. As mentioned in the quote above, you have to do deep inner work. “Learning your trade” is one way you build a strong, personal foundation as a CPA. In addition to work experience, reading is critical to building a strong personal foundation. Read everything you can. Read business books, of course, but also read for pleasure. You can often find meaningful inspiration from reading fiction.

This same theory applies to your busy accounting firm. As an owner or leader, you let yourself get so busy that the firm just molds itself around you. You might even be so busy that you let your culture form on its own. That could be dangerous.

For 2020 and 2021, you have been busy, busy, busy. You reacted quickly to build a remote work environment to serve clients and to simply get you through the pandemic. During these times, it hasn’t mattered if the foundation was solid or shaky, you had to get the work done and you did. 

Hopefully, now that 2021 is evolving, I hope you will take some time to really contemplate the foundation of your firm. Your work processes and procedures make up the foundation of your firm. You must be prepared to inform current staff and new staff “How we do it here.” You need to have high expectations and then set the best example so that your culture reflects your beliefs.

Perhaps you had some well-developed processes but they all went by the wayside during the previous hectic months. Refocus. Seek input from your people and your clients. Shore up your foundation so you are prepared to move forward into the new normal.

Foundational pieces of an accounting firm, in addition to how your complete engagements and handle workflow, are: HR policies, internal accounting (billing and collection, monthly firm financial statements, etc.), technology processes, onboarding,  training, and marketing/sales activities.

Remember, from the quote above, “In order to achieve great results, you first need to do the deep inner work to build a solid foundation.”

  • The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.
  • Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

Starting Salaries

“When it comes to landing a good job, many people focus on the role. Although finding the right title, position, and salary is important, there’s another consideration that matters just as much: culture.” – Adam Grant

In my local newspaper today, I read a brief article that should make you think about raising starting salaries and not forgetting about the other perks.

An excerpt:

“Hardly a day goes by without a big bank announcing a significant rise in starting salaries for its youngest employees. JPMorgan Chase Citigroup, UBS, and Morgan Stanley are now paying first-year bankers $100,000, while Evercore, Jefferies, and Goldman Sachs will pay $110,000. In most cases, first-year salaries were $85,000-$95,000.”

I have observed that many accounting firms have not significantly increased their starting salaries over the last ten years! Of course, it depends on the size of your firm and on your location. But, boundaryless recruiting is changing all of that. Big firms are “raiding” the midwest and offering big city salaries without the person living in a big city.

What are you going to do about starting salaries? The old dilemma then arises. You have three-year staff making less than beginning staff. Other perks are also very important.

Here’s a link to the NYT article. Your partner group needs to discuss and identify how to address this challenge.

  • If you want to be a generous giver, you have to watch out for selfish takers.
  • Adam Grant

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

The Childcare Hurdle

“Working from home doesn’t solve the childcare problem.” – Suzanne Lucas

Want to differentiate your firm and be able to attract career-minded CPAs? Consider offering some sort of childcare benefit.

While we often believe that receiving substantial unemployment benefits is the reason people quit working, many are saying the real factor is the high cost, or even the existence, of childcare.

In a recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@realevilhrlady), she makes the case for employers to help employees with this high-cost, career hampering burden. The title of the article: The Number 1 Reason the Unemployed Turn Down Jobs. Here’s an excerpt:

Childcare work pays a ridiculously low wage–on average, $11 an hour. If these workers are part of the 1.8 million who turn down jobs because unemployment offers more, then higher wage earners can’t turn to work either. If schools don’t open reliably and daycare centers can’t hire enough people, not everyone can return to work.

It is a complicated issue. Read the article to learn more and then consider how your firm can subsidize childcare in some fashion.

The childcare issue is nothing new in the CPA profession. Young CPAs just beginning their families have faced this same issue for years and it usually falls on the female’s shoulders. She puts her career on hold to be able to stay at home with her children. It becomes an interrupted career path for many.

  • Even if unemployment insurance ends, why would you take a child care job for $11 an hour when you can walk across the street and get a job in retail or restaurants for $15?
  • Suzanne Lucas

Friday, July 30th, 2021

Gossip & Rumors – Friday Flashback

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse.” – Simon Sinek

I’ve been thinking about how a firm culture evolves. Much is dependent on communication. Gossip and rumors thrive when communication from the top is inadequate. Read More here.

  • One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that's happy with its success.
  • Mark Parker