Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

D I Y

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill

You see the abbreviation all the time now – DIY (Do It Yourself). Many people have learned to do many things (with the help of YouTube) while staying at home during the pandemic.

Doing things yourself is almost always cheaper than buying something you can make or hiring an outsider to fix something that you can fix yourself.

All of this was brought to mind when I came upon a question asked in a novel by Agatha Christie. The question: Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

To me, that translated into CPA firm jargon means…. Why hire people to do the work and keep doing the work yourself?

A partner thinks: I won’t send this back to the preparer, I’ll just fix it myself.

A manager thinks: I won’t delegate this job to a senior. I know my billing rate is higher but I can do it twice as fast.

It’s that ongoing issue inside many firms – younger people do not learn to do more difficult things because more senior people cling to work.

So, not that your employees are dogs, but…. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  • Do what you can, with hat you have and do it now!
  • George Washington Carver

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Do More

“Always do more than is required of you.” – George S. Patton

You have probably heard the well-known saying about volunteering. It seems to have been used mostly in the military. My husband was in the Army and he probably heard the advice, “Don’t volunteer for anything” in basic training. It seems to have originated with soldiers.

I think the above quotation by General George S. Patton is better advice. I did some Googling of the statement and found that in the military there are more success stories about volunteering than there are stories with devastating consequences. One military person said, “I would rather volunteer than be voluntold.”

How does this apply to life in a CPA firm? If you are a beginning accountant, always volunteer. You will become more skilled more quickly than if you wait for someone to come to you.

An experienced partner once told me he was discouraged by the lack of ambition of many of his young team members. He observed that they would wait, with nothing to do, for someone to bring work to them. This partner’s dream staffer would be someone who would often stick their head in his office door and ask, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

  • The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Where The Buck Starts in Many Firms

“If you are passing the buck, don’t ask for change.” – David Gerrold

Dan Hood, in his post on April 1st asked, “Where does the buck start?” He was referring to innovation inside accounting firms. I have an answer to that question that applies to many firms. In a lot of accounting firms, innovation has been, and is, started with the firm administrator or COO.

Large firms can afford and have hired, chief innovation officers. In the majority of small to medium-sized accounting firms, this role has been embraced by the firm’s experienced firm administrator or COO. The person in this role is not distracted by providing services to clients. They live and breathe adding efficiency to the firm’s internal processes. Their personal mission is to keep the firm on pace with current trends.

I have observed that the firm administrator is the one who recognizes the bottlenecks and faces the extreme challenge of getting partners to step out of their comfort zone and embrace new ideas.

The firm administrator attends the CPA Firm Management Association conferences and chapter meetings. They network with other firms via the CPAFMA discussion board. They read CPA firm management publications, blogs, and newsletters. Again, they have time for this because the firm is their ONLY client. They are the ones who play a major role in implementation.

The FA leads a team of internal professionals and this group, supported by the managing partner is where the “buck starts” in many small to medium-size firms that are recognized as the best places to work.

  • The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Monday, April 5th, 2021

A Good Leader is Self-Aware

“Know thyself.” – Socrates

How do you know if you are a good leader?

You are an experienced CPA. You have supervised and mentored people for several years. People take your advice and do what you say. Does that make you a good leader?

Being a leader is rewarding. Yet, sometimes being a leader can be challenging and puzzling. An important part of being a leader is being self-aware.

In CPA firms, as people advance they receive feedback from various supervisors, coaches and mentors along the way. Once a person becomes a partner (shareholder/owner) feedback often ceases. You are “the boss” and people don’t question your motives.

That is when self-awareness becomes an important tool for a leader. You have to reach out to others. I hope your firm has a periodic upward feedback process for all partners. But, that isn’t enough. You need to reach out personally.

At least a couple of times per year, interview the people who report to you. Talk with your peers, too. Use the Keep, Stop, Start method: What should I keep doing? What should I stop doing? What should I start doing?

Compile the information you receive from the personal interviews and use it for reflection. Take time every day, 15 minutes in the morning or 15 minutes at the end of the workday to reflect on your leadership behaviors. Ask yourself if you are focusing on the most important things each day and if you are learning new things.

If you learn you are not progressing, that you are stuck with the status quo and that you need to set a better example, hire an executive coach or enlist the help of a trusted advisor to hold you accountable.

  • Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.
  • David Lloyd George

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Being a Leader

“If you don’t want to be a thief then be on time.” – Steve Keating

Being on time is always important. For a CPA, being on time during tax season is even more important. Sure, you are busy. So are your clients and your employees. Never waste another person’s time by being late.

On March 11th my blog, Always Be On time, reminded you of the importance of punctuality.

This week, I read a blog post by Steve Keating titled, Being on Time Matters. Please read his blog post. If you are too busy now, bookmark it to read after April 15th. With the extended deadline, I hope you will have more breathing room after 4/15.

I enjoyed reading his story about being on time and its importance. I know you will benefit from it, too, if you want to be an exceptional leader at your firm.

  • When it comes to time there seems to be two major groups of people. Those who believe being on time matters and those who believe it matters that other people be on time.
  • Steve Keating

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Stay Afloat

“Sometimes getting smaller and faster can lead to opportunities and growth we would have missed by being too big and slow.” – Joey Havens, CPA

I always enjoy reading Joey Havens’ articles and posts. His recent article via the Journal of Accountancy, in my opinion, hits the nail on the head. It is titled, Don’t Let Dead Weight Sink Your Ship.

What is going on inside your firm that slows the firm down? What keeps you from being one of the fastest-growing firms? What causes you to lose talented people? What causes you to lose clients to your competitors?

I sometimes talk about partners in a boat. Some are rowing and some are throwing out anchors. A few partners are pulling a heavy wagon up a hill and there are a few who are constantly dragging their feet. These partners are so-called leaders who are not leading. Slowly your boat is sinking.

Then there are the clients who complain about your fees, always pay slowly after much effort is spent trying to collect, and clients who are rude and disrespectful to your team members. I bet you have clients that make you cringe when you see, on your mobile, that they are calling you. You probably do not answer their first call. Slowly, those clients are sinking your boat.

Do you have partners/managers who are not teaching, mentoring, coaching, and motivating? In fact, they are actually driving top talent away. Slowly, your boat is sinking.

Read Havens’ post!

  • Once you know the right thing, do you have the discipline to do the right thing and, equally important, to stop doing the wrong things?
  • Jim Collins

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

Does Your CPA Firm Need to Restart?

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” – Mark Zuckerberg

I have observed that many accounting firm really do need to hit the restart button.

Why don’t they? They are afraid, afraid of losing employees, afraid of losing partners and, generally, afraid of the unknown.

I recently read a great article via Accounting Today about Sensiba San Filippo, one of the largest CPA and business consulting firms in Northern California. Here’s an excerpt:

When you hear “firmwide reboot,” most people think about cutting costs, trimming staff aggressively, and cutting back on travel and client entertainment. SSF took a radically different approach: Essentially, they asked themselves: “Why are we really in business?”

Everyone at all levels of the firm had to address three fundamental questions:

1. If you were a client, what would you want in a CPA?
2. If you were just graduating from college, would you want to work at your firm?
3. If your parents walked into one of our offices, would they be proud of the way they saw people treat each other?

Those aren’t the kinds of questions you’ll find on the CPA Exam or in an MBA textbook, although maybe they should be.

Sensiba San Filippo drastically changed their partner compensation program among other things. They lost partners and employees who were not on board with the new vision. Most firms are afraid to take that risk. Are you?

Read the article here.

  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
  • T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Motivate Your Team

“Issues inside an accounting firm almost always can be traced back to someone’s communication failure.” – Rita Keller

I am very pleased that the AICPA asked me to do a guest blog post. It was featured yesterday on the daily CPA Letter Daily.

Check it out and learn 5 Ways to Motivate Your Team During Tax Season.

Keep in mind that tax season is showtime for CPAs and their teams.

  • People who cease to grow can't inspire others. Leadership begins with challenging oneself.
  • Daisaku Ikeda

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Always Be On-Time

“Soldiers should be minutemen. Punctuality is one of the most valuable habits a soldier can possess.” –Christopher Columbus Andrews, Hints to Company Officers on Their Military Duties, 1863

I bet the people inside your firm have had many conversations about “other” people inside your firm.

One of the most frustrating topics is the person who is always late. They are late for internal meetings (Zoom or in person). They are late for client meetings, for lunch appointments and even for CPE classes.

Their lack of punctuality often keeps groups of other people waiting and wastes a lot of time. In some cases, people just get used to it and don’t even plan on the person to ever be on time. Few people, if any, respect or admire them.

George Washington was known for his punctuality. Once his secretary arrived late to a meeting, and blamed his watch for his tardiness, Washington quietly replied, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”

I once knew a very high-profile (and very expensive) personal coach who worked with prominent corporate executives and some CPA partners. One of the first things he taught them was punctuality. Monthly calls were established and the partner had to place the call to the consultant. If they were a few seconds late, the coach would not accept their call the they had to pay the session fee anyway – no refunds and it was expensive. Every person I knew who used this coach benefitted greatly from the life lessons they learned from the experience.

Read more about George Washington’s punctuality and other important factors about being punctual here.

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