Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Your Kind of Firm

 “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”- Walt Disney

What kind of service do your clients want? I bet you have both kinds, the kind that likes a lot of personal attention and the kind that want streamlined, technology focused service.

That should cause you to consider what kind of firm you want to be and maybe you shouldn’t do what so many firms do. They try to be all things to all people. That’s a tough road to travel.

Kyle Walters, in his article for Accounting Today asks – What kind of firm do you want to create?

Walters describes two different approaches to client service – high touch and high-tech.

Which type of firm do you want to be? Can you be both? According to Walters, you can’t be both.

  • How you think about your customer influences how you respond to them.
  • Marilyn Suttle

Monday, March 1st, 2021

Succession Planning

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

There are many different ways to address succession planning and client transition. This topic is often discussed inside accounting firms. Some firms have elaborate and formal succession plans that are well-documented.

I have observed that many firms, especially small to medium-size firms have not dedicated the time and effort to define a more formal plan.

This topic was discussed recently on the CPAFMA Discussion Board. If you are not a member, you should be.

One member admitted that they did not have a formal document but they do have a list to guide their planning for partner retirements. Tricia Duncan, CPA with Jones & Roth shared their firm’s method. I think you will find this plan helpful if you do not have a formal plan. This one is simple, yet effective. Here is Duncan’s comment on the topic:

We don’t have a formal document – we generally start 3-4 years out from the retirement year.  We develop a plan for each individual that addresses:

  • Client relationship
  • Technical expertise
  • Firm responsibilities
  • Community/Niche/Referral relationships
  • Mentor/Team Responsibilities

Generally, start the planning and execution 1-2 years out.  We try to have client relationships transitioned 1 year out so the last year the Partner is on board is more as an advisory role if questions come up. Our new CRM manages the entire relationship.  This has been critical for us.

We’ve successfully transitioned 5+ partners in the last 5 years.


  • If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
  • Yogi Berra

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Personal Connection – Flashback Friday

“Communication – the human connection – if the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

If you want to enhance employee engagement, it is important to develop human connections. You can offer all kinds of employee benefits but don’t forget the importance of personal relationships.

Accountants are not usually the out-going, people-oriented types. They, of course, are better at relationships with their clients, it’s part of the job. They sometimes seem cool, distant and removed from the lives of their own employees.

This post from 2019 provides more and it still applies to these times of remote workers.

Enjoy your week-end.

  • I have always believed that personal relationships are vital in business and that people should be directly accountable for their actions.
  • Richard Branson

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Managing a Hybrid Environment

“Workers will fit into new personas, such as a homesteader, office dweller, and coffee shop traveler, and managers will need to properly manage distributed teams.” – Jeff Schwartz, Deloitte Consulting

By now, you have all realized that having a hybrid environment for your workforce will be needed going forward. Some firms have already made great strides and the need will increase once vaccines are available to everyone.

In a recent article via Fast Company, Stephanie Vozza directs us to a book written by Jeff Schwartz, founding partner of Deloitte Consulting’s Future of Work practice.

It is no longer work/life balance. Work and life have become fully integrated and being able to offer choices and manage hybrid workers is a necessity for partners and managers.

You will need to determine what works best for each individual worker and be flexible so that they can change their minds depending on personal situations.

Read the article here. It is only a four-minute read. You should also read Schwartz’s book, Work Disrupted: Opportunity, Resilience, and Growth in the Accelerated Future of Work.

  • Now as we think about what it means to go back to the office, we can’t use an old map to explore a new world.
  • Jeff Schwartz

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

It Is Inside Every CPA Firm

“Solve drama. Don’t create it.” – Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak

When doing presentations to CPA audiences, I will often ask, “You don’t have any drama inside your firm, do you?” Sad to say, this would get a big laugh from the audience.

What does that say about your firm?

Stay on track to a successful career by following these six rules for keeping your work-life drama-free.

Rule #1: If You Did it When You Were 15, Don’t Do it Now. – It is easy to catch yourself doing things that are more worthy of high school hallways than the office.

Rule #2: Save the Venting for Outside the Office. – Resist the urge to talk about your co-workers and boss while you are in the office.

Rule #3: When in Doubt, Wait to Reply. – An email can set you off! Don’t reply immediately. Wait. Think.

Rule #4: Know When It’s Time to Talk it Out. – To avoid unnecessary drama, you have to realize the point at which it’s better to simply talk to someone, in person.

Rule #5: Have (and Use) a Go-to Escape Phrase. – To avoid getting roped in to a drama situation, be prepared with a go-to-escape phrase. (“I can’t help you with that.” “I’ve got a deadline, I need to get back to work.”)

Rule #6: Never Assume Negative Intent. – To avoid drama, simply work under the assumption that your co-workers and manager are there to help you, support you, and challenge you to do even better work.

These rules come from an article by Katie Douthwaite Wolf, “6 Basic Rules You Need to Follow if You Truly Want to Avoid Office Drama”.

Read the entire article to learn much more about each rule. You might even change it into a No Drama policy to officially adopt for your firm.

  • Don't waste words o people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.
  • Mandy Hale

Friday, February 19th, 2021

A Business – Not A Committee

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” – Jimi Hendrix

As firms grow, things must change. Every shareholder cannot be involved in every decision.

Here’s my Friday Flashback Post – Run Your Firm Like a Business.

  • Muddle is the extra unknown personality in any committee.
  • Anthony Sampson

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Misconceptions

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.” – Mark Twain

I was recently reading an article from National Geographic that explained how our mental maps of the world are probably wrong. I discovered that mine was! There are many common geographic misconceptions. For example, you might think that South America is directly south of North America.

Here’s an excerpt:

For instance, we all know that South America is south of North America, of course. But you may be surprised by the fact that virtually the entire South American continent is east of Florida. There are lots of possible reasons for geographical misconceptions like this one, says cartographer John Nelson. Mental maps are necessarily simplifications, and Nelson suspects the misplaced Americas may be partly a result of their names. After all, it’s not called Southeast America.

How does all this relate to managing your CPA firm? I believe there are many misconceptions flourishing inside accounting firms. Many of these misconceptions are quite large and often resistant to correction.

  • Partners don’t care about people they just want to make a lot of money.
  • Staff don’t care about the firm, they just want to put in 8 hours and then go home.
  • Non-CPAs working at the firm are not as smart as the CPAs.
  • The partners are stingy.
  • The staff are careless.
  • Our firm is the best one in our market.
  • Our firm is the worst one in our market.

I corrected my misconceptions about how countries and continents are aligned and how they appear on maps by education myself, by exploring and reading.

How are you going to battle the misconceptions swirling around inside your firm?

  • If you see a blatant error misconception about yourself, you really want to set it straight.
  • Jimmy Wales

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

The Sloth

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few years ago we enjoyed a unique trip to Costa Rica. We didn’t go to a resort or spend time at a tourist beach. We saw the country via land, sea, and air – the middle, the south, and the north.

We were lucky to observe sloths in the wild. The ones we saw didn’t move. We watched one for a couple of hours one afternoon leading up to sunset. No movement.

Is your leadership style like the sloth? Some of your team members might think so. They want decisions made quickly. Do you do that? They are promised that a certain change will happen but it’s delayed and delayed again.

At partner retreats, some important and needed decisions are put off until after the next tax season or put on the list for next year’s retreat.

Sloths are amazing creatures and have been called the world’s laziest animal, slow to do almost everything. It’s not true.

Are your partners viewed much the same? I hope it’s not true.

Here are 10 Incredible Facts About the Sloth – it is very interesting.

  • Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness ... in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.
  • Eugene H. Peterson

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Smile

“Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile.” – Petteri Tarkkonen

Today’s quote certainly applies to accounting firms.

I have heard so many stories from CPA firm citizens about their partners. Here are a few:

  • Some of our partners never smile.
  • Partners don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
  • Some of our partners walk right by you in the hall and never even acknowledge you.
  • I wish all of our partners would simply say Good Morning.
  • I wish all of our partners would say thank-you more often.
  • When I was hired, they said they have an open-door policy but it seems like every time I need to talk to a partner they seem to be too busy.
  • I need to ask a partner a question but they never answer my emails.

Partners and managers, you may not have a lot to smile about during COVID, during tax season or when client expectations are unreasonable. Your team members don’t know what pressures you are under. That doesn’t mean you can’t smile and be congenial towards all of those people who are often suffering right along with you.

One of my favorite phrases, MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around) still applies. If some of your team are in the office, walk around and briefly check-in on them. The same applies to your remote workers. You can email, call or video chat with them and use the same words – – “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Did you know that people can tell when you smile when answering the phone?

Smiling is part of simply being polite. Maybe your firm needs a Courtesy Policy.

  • Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.
  • Madame De Stael

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Superhero CPAs

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” – Carol S Dweck

In a public accounting firm, the employees look up to the partners. They want their leaders to always set a good example. They want their leaders to always tell them the truth – good or bad. They want their leaders to be kind but also want them to be tough when tough decisions need to be made. They want their leaders to make decisions quickly. They want leaders to outplace poor performers more quickly. They want their leaders to seek the best possible candidates to join the firm team.

“They” expect a lot. The team wants leaders who are extraordinary. It sounds like a job for a Superhero. Do you represent that for your followers?

  • Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with.
  • Iron Man