Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

A Jerk Free Firm

“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.” – Bill Watterson

Recently, a comment from Allan Koltin caused me to give some thought to what a jerk-free firm might be. Koltin noted that if you had a jerk-free firm, the firm would be more likely to have appeal as a merger candidate.

I have observed that most CPA firms have at least one jerk at the leadership level. It could be a partner, a manager, a male, or a female but their jerkdom is well-known and dreaded. Sometimes they are even ridiculed among the team members. Usually, interns can identify the jerk within a week or so and can often do a great job of doing a comic imitation of that person.

Here is a link to where you can read about jerks in the workplace. But how do you define a jerk personality in an accounting firm?

Someone who:

  • Talks excessively but never listens.
  • Takes credit for other people’s ideas.
  • Is always last minute causing chaos close to due dates.
  • Doesn’t respect other people’s time.
  • Leaves a mess in the lunch room for admin to clean up.
  • Ignores the FIFO method for processing work and puts their jobs first.
  • Seems to have no understanding that you have a personal life.
  • Rarely express appreciation of gives recognition for a job well done.
  • Openly makes fun of other people (staff/clients) and gets involved in the grapevine.
  • Dodges client calls when they know there is a problem and delegates it to someone else.

I could go on but you can add to this list if you want.

I suggest you strive to develop a jerk-free culture by establishing some guidelines and goals. Be sure you have identified the firm’s core values and expect all partners to live by them and set a good example

Here is an example of some values that help make a jerk-free workplace;

  • Client focused – Always sriving to provide awesome client service
  • Focused on excellence pertainig to hiring, establishing processes and working environment.
  • Keeping our word – I always think of something Sam Allred said at a retreat many years ago as it applies to partners: “I will do what I say I will do, on time, without reminders.”
  • Team oriented – Everyone at all levels are expected to give and receive feedback to help themselves and the entire team to continually improve.
  • Self-sufficient – I will be a problem solver; not one who creates problems for others to solve.

Be able to say without hesitation, “We are a jerk-free firm!”

  • Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars.
  • Warren Buffett

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Check-Ins – Flashback Friday

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

Now that you don’t actually see many of your employees every day, it is more important than ever to have frequent check-ins to find how they are doing and how they are progressing on their goals.

Read more in this Friday flashback post.

I HOPE you will enjoy this 3-day holiday weekend although I know that probably isn’t the case for many of you with the September due date just around the corner.

  • Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.
  • Bear Bryant

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

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

Friday, August 20th, 2021

Things Are Not Always Easy – Flashback Friday

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

Sometimes you just have to do things that make you uncomfortable. Read this Friday Flashback post – Uncomfortable Things Will Often Make You More Successful. I think we can all relate to most of them.

Have a great weekend”

  • The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable.
  • Conor McGregor

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

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

SALY

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” – Brady Paisley

This term has been used by CPA firms for decades. SALY – Same As Last Year.

Do you remember when a new team member was assigned a routine individual tax return and the partner or manager would send the client’s file with a note simply stating SALY? Everyone knew what that meant. You just had to follow what notes were in the file and draft this year’s return similarly to last year’s return. Simple.

SALY became a way to train new recruits and I’m sure it was very boring for those newbies.

The point of this is that you can no longer sidestep your responsibility for training by simply indicating SALY. The workforce has evolved and young people are more curious and demanding.

Besides that, you are still working through a pandemic. It seems it just won’t go away. You are also constantly dealing with new technology. Going forward nothing will ever be the “same as last year” again.

  • We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
  • W. Somerset Maugham

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

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Four Pillars

“The tower of success stands on the pillars of vision, action, patience, and the character to withstand criticisms.” – Amit Ray

Something that Allan Koltin said in his recent interview with Russell Shapiro is so important for all of you leading, managing, and growing accounting firms.

He talked about the four things a professional service firm needs to replenish every 10 years. He calls them the Four Pillars:

  1. Leadership – Someone who can run the business, manage the firm and provide critical feedback to the partners. This is one of the most difficult because accountants didn’t become accountants so they could become CEOs.
  2. Rainmaking – In this business you either grow or die a slow death. In most firms, founders were able to bring in business but they could only bring it in if they had people to do the work. So, they hired technicians. When those founders retired, technicians were left to do rainmaking and that is a challenging transition. Firms need a growth engine that continues to run.
  3. Technical – This is tax and audit and most can handle this one without difficulty.
  4. Client relationships – It is a people business. Your clients must not only like you and trust you, you must be their most trusted advisor. You are the person they think of first for help making any business decision.

How about your firm? Are you repopulating these four pillars every decade? Have you done it even once? Maybe you are doing one or two, but not all four. Something to think about, discuss and then take action.

  • Opportunities don't happen, you create them.
  • Chris Grosser